The Court of Appeal on Thursday declared former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, as the official presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), overruling a ruling by a lower court which declared Prof. Jerry Gana as the party’s presidential flag bearer.
Backstory: In a unanimous decision by the three-man panel, the appellate court stated that the judgment passed by the High Court which declared Prof. Jerry Gana as the party’s presidential candidate, despite recording 611 votes in comparison to Duke’s 812 votes during the primaries, was “perverse and wrong”.
Following the party’s primaries, Gana had approached the High Court in Abuja to reject the result which declared Duke the winner, on the grounds that his victory went against a zoning arrangement featured in the party’s constitution which stated that, both the party’s presidential candidate and its National Chairman cannot be from the same geopolitical zone.
Considering the fact that both Duke and the party’s National Chairman were both from the Southern part of the country, the court ruled in favor of Gana, nullifying the votes counted towards Donald Duke.
Zoning Formula Unimportant: However, the appellate court in its new ruling, stated that the lower court’s judgment was in direct violation of the former governor’s rights.
It also explained that the zoning arrangement wasn’t binding and served as just a “mere political arrangement”, and as the primaries weren’t in violation of the nationally accepted Electoral Act, Duke’s Southern origin wasn’t enough cause to disqualify him from the race.
The court also referred to an undertaking Gana had allegedly signed ahead of the primaries declaring his support to any candidate who emerges from the presidential primary election.
The court also ordered Gana to pay the sum of N500,000 to all five appellants involved in the case.
Bottom line: This still looks bad for the SDP. It is 25 days to the election, the party is not campaigning because of the legal battles, and if Gana proceeds to the Supreme Court, it could take a few more weeks before a verdict is reached, effectively destroying the party’s already slim odds of victory.