A faction of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) has adopted President Muhammadu Buhari as its candidate for the 2019 election.

The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party made the surprise announcement on Thursday in Abuja, just nine days before the presidential election on February 16.

Mr Buhari is seeking reelection on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

There is a yet unresolved dispute over the presidential ticket of the SDP between a former governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, and a former Minister of Information, Jerry Gana.

Mr Duke won the presidential primary of the party held in Abuja in October last year. He polled 812 votes to defeat Mr Gana who polled 611 votes.

But the runner up, Mr Gana, challenged the result in court, claiming Mr Duke’s participation in the primary was in contravention of the party’s constitution.

According to the claimant, the constitution of the party stipulates a power-sharing arrangement which does not allow the National Chairman and the presidential candidate to come from the same half of the country.

Olu Falae from Ondo State in the South-west is the National Chairman, while Mr Duke hails from the South-south region. Mr Gana is from Niger State in the North-central region.

A Federal High Court in December 2018 granted Mr Gana’s prayers and declared him the winner of the presidential primary election of the party.
But Mr Duke filed an appeal following which the Court of Appeal in January overturned the judgment of the lower court and reinstated Mr Duke as the SDP presidential candidate.

However, Mr Gana said he was still consulting with the party’s National Working Committee on the decision of the Court of Appeal in order to arrive at the next line of action.

It was against this backdrop that the announcement emerged on Thursday that the party had decided to back Mr Buhari for reelection.

However, the party’s spokesperson, Alfa Muhammed, told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview that the endorsement was by a faction led by the National Secretary of the party, Shehu Gabam.

Mr Gabam is also the running mate to Mr Duke in the SDP presidential ticket.

”It is a fraction of the party that did that because they had their meeting which I did not attend,” Mr Muhammed said.

“Even the national chairman was not in the meeting so it is a fraction and many state chairmen did not come. We were aware of the meeting and we are going to respond tomorrow.

”I can tell you categorically that the action was perpetrated by the faction led by the national secretary who is voted to be the running mate to Donald Duke.

“They ganged up and did that with Mr Duke who is nowhere to be found. We have not gotten the details but we are aware that the fraction has been into something since yesterday.”

He emphasised that it was not the entire NEC meeting that came up with the decision to support President Buhari in the coming general elections.

”It is not the NEC, I am a member of the NEC. How can you have a NEC meeting where you do not have the National Chairman, the publicity secretary, the youth leader and numbers of the zonal vice chairmen and Prof Jerry Gana who is also a senior stakeholder?”

Messrs Falae, Gana and Duke could not be reached as at the time of this report. Mr Gabam also did not pick his calls.

This development came less than a month after the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) also announced its decision to back Mr Buhari for reelection.

ACPN made the announcement a day after its presidential candidate, Oby Ezekwesili, pulled out of the presidential race and announced her resignation from the party.

The Independent National Electoral Commission later said the deadline for withdrawal from the race had passed and that it would continue to recognise Mrs Ezekwesili as a candidate.

The SDP was once considered the main party in the group of parties then said to be considering forming a coalition as a “Third Force” as an alternative to the dominant APC and major opposition Peoples Democratic Party.

INEC said 31 parties will be on the presidential ballot on February 16.

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