When President Mohammadu Buhari in 2018, honoured the late Moshood Kashimawo Abiola (MKO) with the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) and Babagana Kingibe with Grand Commander of the Niger (GCON), winners of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential elections, political pundits had predicted that such recognitions would automatically bolster the Social Democratic Party (SDP) on whose platform they contested. The situation is however different as at today as infighting, backstabbing and poor performance had crippled the party.
The name SDP as a registered political party drew sympathy, as politicians jostled to be identified with it notwithstanding that there was no similarity in the SDP of the aborted Third Republican, and the current SDP.
The early signs that all will not be well with the SDP of today is that most of the popular politicians who made the old SDP thick did not identify with the current SDP. In fact, they belong to other political parties.
Trouble started shortly after the party’s convention on November 6, 2018 that produced Donald Duke as its standard bearer as announced by the Returning Officer, Ishaq Abdul, ahead of February 2019 general elections.
In that convention that had 4, 500 delegates, Duke polled 812 votes to defeat former minister of Information, Professor Jerry Gana who polled 611 votes. Then an ally to General T.Y Danjuma, John Dara; former ambassador to Mexico and Canada, Prof. Hagher Iyorwuese; and Pastor Johnson Osakwe scored 104, 72 and 10 respectively.
Dissatisfied with the outcome, Gana after hugging and congratulating Duke, headed to court, challenging the eligibility of Duke to participate.
His argument was that the presidential ticket was zoned to the North and claimed that Duke who was a former governor of Cross River State was aware and still went ahead to contest.
According to the Director General of G19, Ike Neliaku, he said: “I wish to draw the attention of some party leaders to the fact that the presidential ticket was constitutionally zoned to the North. Aspirants from the South should have been accordingly advised. This matter of zoning was ignored.”
Gana maintained that the position was in line with the provisions of SDP Constitution on the principles of rotation and zoning of offices, as contained in section 15.3 (I&ii) (SDP Amended Constitution 2018) which states that: “The office of the President and National Chairman of the party shall rotate between the South and North and amongst the 6 geopolitical zones.”
In his reaction, Duke said he was shocked at Gana’s outburst. He claimed that other contestants embraced the outcome.
According to him, “As for Prof. Jerry Gana, like I said in my opening remark, I had met with him and other aspirants and we agreed on one thing which is brotherhood in our aspiration.
“If you were at the arena and as the results were being announced, almost impulsively, each of the aspirants congratulated me.”
From that day, the structure of the party started wobbling; a deep ditch was created. Two factions emerged. One loyal to Duke and headed by Professor Tunde Adeniran, after the retirement of Olu Falae and the other to Gana governed by Supo Shonibare.
The schism triggered a bazaar of suspension and expulsion; Gana’s camp suspended Adeniran for “unconstitutional and unilateral appointment and announcement as Ag. Chairman of the SDP.”
Adeniran’s camp, through its Publicity Secretary, Yemi Akinbode, while reading Article 19:4; discipline, fired Gana and suspended its own presidential candidate, Duke.
“The National Working Committee of the party shall have exclusive powers to suspend any member of the party for violation of its constitution, anti-party activities or on recommendation of the appropriate Executive Committee to be ratified by the NEC and in cases of gross violation, expel any member of the party, to be ratified by the National Convention (the Constitution of the SDP 2018 , as amended hereby expel Professor Jerry Gana from the party with immediate effect, “ he said.
As for Duke, he said: “for his disrespect for the leadership of the party and relying on the provision of the party’s constitution, the NEC wish to announce the immediate suspension of the party.”
Inability to withstand the impasse, Duke’s campaign Director General, Prof Iyorwuese resigned.
Gana later got judgement, December 14, 2018 from a Federal High Court in Maitama, Abuja, as the candidate of the SDP in the 2019 elections.
In his judgement, Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf held that the regulations contained in the party’s constitution were binding on every member and must be obeyed.
He said the zoning and rotation formula as contained in the party’s constitution stipulated that both the chairman of the party and the flag-bearer should not come from the same zone. But this was short-lived as the supreme court which sat in Abuja, upturned the judgment.
Reacting to the judgement, he frowned at it and said:”it is important to remind ourselves of the saying that, the Supreme Court is not supreme because it is infallible but only because it is the final court of the land. It is only time that will reveal the grave consequences and implications of that judgment.”
He also divulged plans to organise a consultative meeting to chart a new course for his teaming supporters by coming up with what he called ‘New and Credible Political Order in Nigeria.’
“We hope to soon convene a consultative meeting to jointly review and decide our collective future…we will continue to resolutely uphold our collective principles and vision for the emergence of a New and Credible Political Order in Nigeria.”
Since then, the party has continued to fight for political space with no commemorate results. A dirty blow was inflicted on the party in last year’s Kogi State governorship poll when its candidate, Natasha Akpoti was disqualified from the race by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
INEC had claimed that Akpoti picked one Mohammed Yakubu believed to be underaged. More so, the party’s campaign office in Lokoja was viciously attacked by men of the world even though she lost out of the election.
Well, regardless of the hurdles, Professor Adeniran admitted the failure of the party but assured party supporters that he would revamp it and make it viable in subsequent polls with the support of well-meaning members.
“Regrettably, we were derailed and our members and candidates across the country were thrown into a state of gloom. There is no arguing the fact that, as a party, we apparently frittered away by ourselves the massive goodwill that had built up for us in the minds of the Nigerian electorate ahead of the last general elections.
“As a focused party that has its eyes on the ball, if we all sincerely commit to fixing the cracks that appear on the walls and are prepared to walk and work together in unison, we will surely reposition the party.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the party’s Mobilisation and Reconciliation Committees are still at work and the party’s doors are open to those who believe in its ideology, Directive Principle, Manifesto, and Fundamental objectives. Together, we shall make progress and this country will be great. I have no doubt whatsoever that we shall succeed in building the party to a desirable lofty height.”
Speaking on his ratification as the substantive party’s chairman, he said: “I therefore consider today’s decision of NEC to approve my leadership position of the party as not only auspicious but strategic. It is consequent upon that formal approval that I am now statutorily empowered to function and operate fully as the National Leader of the Party and the Chief Executive Officer pending ratification by National Convention.
“This is importantly so because it is the instrumentality of this declaration that has officially established the legal framework upon which I will stand, forthwith, to operate maximally without any let or hindrance and, with the collaboration of my colleagues in the National Working Committee (NWC), begin to unfold my development agenda and strategies which I believe (by the grace of Almighty God) will open new vista of growth for the party.”