By Emmanuel Oloniruha
Abuja, Jan. 25, 2019
The Prof. Jerry Gana Presidential Campaign Team says its candidate will appeal the court judgment that recognised former Governor of Cross River, Mr Donald Duke, as the Social Democratic Party (SDP) presidential candidate.
The Director-General of the campaign Team, Mr Ike Neliaku, at a press conference on Friday in Abuja described the judgment as unacceptable and a miscarriage of justice.
The Court of Appeal, Abuja division, in a unanimous decision of the panel, on Thursday recognised Duke at the party’s presidential candidate.
The three-man panel of the appellate court in a judgment delivered by Justice Abdul Aboki on the appeal filed by Duke reversed the earlier judgment of an Abuja High Court which upheld Gana as the party’s candidate.
Neliaku, who said that the team’s confidence in God and the avowed integrity of the judiciary remained intact, however, raised some concerns about the judgment.
The concern according to him include the role played by the party’s National Chairman, Chief Olu Falae, and what he termed as “obviously unfair and skewed composition of the Appeal Court panel.’’
He said that while the chairman had earlier expressed optimism that the judgment was going to be in favour of Duke, he also alleged that two of the panel Justices came from “the home states of either Duke or his running mate.
“We were utterly shocked, dumbfounded and dismayed when the appellant’s lead Counsel thanked the Justices for their adventure into other matters not canvassed by the parties in the Appeal. This absurdity is one of its kind! ‘
“Arising from the above and many other lacunas and contradictions in the judgment, we have carefully weighed the views and options presented by our stakeholders and supporters across the world, and resolved to accede to what is in the long term interest of our democracy.
“It is therefore our considered opinion that the judgment of the Court of Appeal is erroneous, contradictory and a miscarriage of justice. The decision is therefore not acceptable to us.
“Accordingly, our candidate, Gana, has resolved to appeal the judgment at the Supreme Court.
“We believe that, apart from setting the records straight and clarifying matters of Constitutional Order, this will strengthen our electoral law, enrich our jurisprudence, as well as deepen and widen our democracy.’’
Neliaku, however, congratulated Duke for his victory at the Appeal Court and also advised him to commence his campaign.
“While the Court process is ongoing, we expect Duke to urgently launch out and commence his presidential campaign activities nationwide, with the objective of winning the 2019 presidential election for the SDP.
“We came into the race with strong determination, conviction, commitment, strength of character and clearer roadmap to winning the 2019 presidential election, and not to settle for lesser objectives.
“Meanwhile, we will continue to join forces with credible candidates of our Party across the country, to campaign and help them with the requisite mobilisation and support to win their respective elections.
Neliaku appealed to all SDP compatriots across Nigeria and in the Diaspora to remain calm, saying, “ we must keep hope alive, being confident that we remain very much in the race for the 2019 presidential election.
“We shall continue with the battle and the struggle to save the soul of Nigeria. We shall overcome and bounce back soon.’’
He, however, expressed the belief that the SDP structure as presently constituted was in a position to win the presidential election if properly harnessed and mobilised.
Duke had emerged SDP candidate at the presidential primaries held on Oct. 7, 2018 but Gana,who contested the ticket with Duke, instituted a case against the result at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
On Dec. 14, 2018 the court presided over by Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf delivered judgment in favour of Gana, declaring him as the right SDP candidate and directed the party to forward his name to INEC.
However, when the commission published the full list of cleared presidential and vice presidential candidates of parties on Jan. 17, the SDP column carried some remarks: “court order’’ and “party yet to submit name of candidate”.