SDP in the eyes of the storm: Gana, Duke who bails the cat?

EMEKA NZE in this piece examines the discordant voices within the Social Democratic Party (SDP), threatening to ruin the chances of the party not only at the presidential election but subsequent elections

There is no doubting it that there is a last laugh within the fold of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), from where Prof Jerry Gana decamped to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) with a handful of former members of umbrella party.

Due to the failure of his plot to use PDP to ride to the crest of power, Gana found in SDP an easy platform to develop and nurture in order to become its “Lord of the Manor” and cruise unchallenged as it’s presidential flag bearer but he was wrong. 

In retrospect, after the PDP national convention in December  2017, Gana led some aggrieved supporters of Prof Tunde Adeniran, then a top contender for the number one PDP job, to the SDP, thus making the party a formidable platform.

Their immediate grouse, Blueprint gathered was that the national convention was predetermined and manipulated in favour of Prince Uche Secondus who now occupies the position. 

But some of his colleagues at the board of trustees of PDP had dictated his ambition to vie for president and his support for his fellow member and friend  in the BoT, Adeniran, if he won, would facilitate this ambition vide the PDP platform.

Although other aggrieved contestants for the same position  like Chief Bode George, Otunba Gbenga Daniel and a host of others agreed to sheathe their sword, stayed put in PDP, all entreaties by the party to persuade Gana and his cohorts to remain in PDP was futile. 

In the SDP, the new entrants were rewarded with major positions. The immediate major beneficiaries of the movement were Prof Adeniran himself who became the SDP Deputy National Chairman South, Alhaji Shehu Musa Gabam, the national secretary, Hon Emeka Atuma,  the National Organising Secretary amongst others. The position of the chairman board of trustees was reserved for Prof Gana but without an inkling that he nursed a presidential ambition. 

The party indeed grew in leaps and bounds, became an attractive platform for people who nursed fresh ambitions in various categories and those who had an inkling or were sure the power equations in their constituencies and states would not favour their re-election. Then the cookies began to crumble and things began to fall apart.

Today, even if Gana retains the presidential ticket of the party, his hopes and aspirations for a united and formidable party (SDP) is fast receding into a mirage in the light of the crisis that has engulfed the party. 

The statements and counter coming from the two sides of the divide, the National Chairman, Chief Olu Falae, the National Secretary, Gabam, the National Deputy Chairman, Ishiaq Ahmed, even Prof Adeniran on one side, and then Gana, NPS and others on the other, is a testament that a house divided against itself cannot stand.

From the time some chieftains of the party, for whatever considerations, most likely pecuniary, as has been alleged by the Gana group, allowed the former Cross River state Governor, Mr Donald Duke to join the fray for the presidential ticket, against the letters of party’s constitution which stipulates that if a Southerner is the party chairman, the Presidential Candidate must come from the north, marked the beginning of the self-inflicted gash which tend to ruin its presidential bid. 

Perhaps, the leadership regarded Duke as a pushover just to pocket his N11 million (the cost of party’s nomination forms for the presidential election and expression of interest), just as they did that of John Dara, Ambassador Felix Osakwe, Ambassador (Prof) Iyorwuese Hagher, or they overrated the popularity of the former Information Minister in the party.

Indeed, Duke was not a regular face in the SDP prior to the primaries having come into the party at the eleventh hour and then suddenly opted to go for the presidential primaries but he is not a neophyte in politics having served as the Governor of Cross River state for eight years.  

However, prior to his entry into SDP, the expectation was that if Duke was going to run for office, he would do so in the African Democratic Congress (ADC) which then was touted as the third force (where he, Duke prominently featured as a member), espoused by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo in his controversial letter President Muhammadu Buhari. 

Thus he was not given a chance at all by the SDP stalwarts.All fingers pointed to the man who had worked under virtually every government in the country, Prof Jerry Gana who depended so much on his previous offices and his knowledge of the country which he parades to have earned him popularity among Nigerians.

But in the piece entitled: “The Phenomenon known as Jerry Gana”, Babayola Toungo said: “Prof Jerry Gana was a lecturer of unknown quantity in the Geography department of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria before General Ibrahim Babangida unleashed him on the long-suffering Nigerians, like the many catastrophes IBB unleashed on us as a Director, Director Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFFRI) and later MAMSER.”

Continuing Toungo wrote: “My beef with the man has to do with his lack of conscience.  Jerry Gana goes everywhere with a Bible, but will find nothing ridiculous in looking you straight in the eye and lying with a straight face.  

“When Abacha made him a Minister, he swore to heavens that Nigeria will disintegrate without Abacha and that there was no alternative to him.  It was also at this time that Jerry Gana told Nigerians that Babangida was the worst thing to ever happen to this country.  

When he realised he had lost out, he aligned himself to the group known as the G34 who wrote a letter to Abacha asking him not to transmute into a civilian president.  At the formation of PDP most members of the G34 joined the party, or formed the PDP.  Elections were held in 1999, Obasanjo won and the rest as they say is history. 

Gana was made first a Minister of Co-operation and Integration in Africa and later Information.  He ranted to no end on how bad and wicked Abacha was. As Information Minister, Gana surpassed Goebbles, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda.

Also the author accused Gana along with Kanu Agabi etal of surreptitiously introducing Draft Constitution at the 2005 National Political Reform Conference for Obasanjo’s third term agenda. He said: “After Kanu Agabi made a poor case of defending the introduction of what is derisively known as the “Obasanjo Constitution”, Gana jumped into the fray to do a yeoman’s job of “explaining” how the constitution came about.

Perhaps unknowingly, Gana had become oblivious of these hard facts which some Nigerians mostly his opponents will easily recall and use against him in any contest involving him. So Duke defeated him at the SDP primaries conducted on October 12 with 812 votes and he came a distant second with 611 votes. 

The convention committee chairman Abdul Ishiaq also announced that Dara polled 104 votes while Prof Iyorwuese Hagher scored 72 votes and Amb Felix Osakwe  had 10 votes.

Blueprint learnt that Duke, using his experience as a governor, was able to mobilize the SDP faithful, adopting both conventional and unconventional means to win. A party source disclosed that the former governor had promised party stalwarts (voters) the sum of N50, 000 after the primaries should he emerge the winner, a promise allegedly observed in breach.

Rather than unite the party, the primaries further depleted its fortunes as two of the aspirants have already left the party. Dara and his followers have left to Alliance of Social Democrats (ASD) where he holds forte as the presidential candidate. 

Equally, Osakwe has already moved on as the presidential candidate of the Democratic People’s Party (PDP) while Prof Hagher also resigned his position in the party as Director, Duke Presidential Campaign Committee. At the time of writing, it is not clear to ascertain whether he is still a member of SDP.

Now, the party is actually not having it easy. Since the Federal High Court Maitama declared Gana as the authentic Presidential Candidate of the party, there has been sharp division even amongst its hierarchy. 

The Prof Gana Campaign Organisation known as G19 has worked at cross purposes with the party leadership. This height of this drama was when Gana informed the national chairman, Chief Olu Falae, his intention to flag off his presidential campaign. 

The response of the National Chairman in the words of the G19 “shocking” as Falae issued a statement appealing to members and officials of the party to refrain from attending the event on the ground that the Federal High Court judgement had been appealed.

The letter read: “The National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) Chief Olu Falae, CFR, GCON has received  a letter dated December 27,2018 from Professor Jerry Gana, seeking “leave of the National Chairman ” to ” unveil the vision and Programme ” of his Presidential Campaign and, inviting him as “Chief Host ” at both the “unveiling ” on Saturday December 29, 2018 and at the “Summit of Stakeholders ” which he is planning for Saturday January 5 , 2019.

“Earlier correspondence from Prof. Jerry Gana makes it clear that he is basing these proposals on the judgement of the FCT High Court dated 14th December 2018.

 “The counsel of all the five defendants in the case (including our Party SDP),  Wole Olanipekun & Co,  has already appealed to the Court of Appeal against that judgement.  We have also, through our Counsel, filed a motion at the Court of Appeal, praying for certain reliefs including Stay of execution of the judgement of the High Court and injunctive reliefs against Prof Jerry Gana, pending the determination of the Appeal. 

“All the relevant processes have been served on Prof Jerry Gana’s Counsel. In the light of the foregoing we cannot and should not attend any of the events being scheduled by Prof Jerry Gana and his Campaign Committee as it will amount to a breach of the court process and may amount to contempt of Court. 

“I appeal to all Party official at all levels, leaders and members to stay calm and refrain from participating in actions designed to pre-empt the courts. We must remain loyal to the Party which is more important than any of us. We are All One Party and We are All United!,” Falae wrote in a statement to the press. 

Reacting to the statement, the Director General of the G19, the Gana Campaign Organisation went ahead to express it’s misgivings and disappointment over the Falae appeal and in a letter expressing its shock wrote in another statement:  

“Arising from the numerous enquiries and calls from esteemed Party supporters and concerned members of the public from within and outside Nigeria, we are constrained to respond to the Press Statement reportedly issued by the National Chairman of SDP. 

“We have waited for any denial of the authorship of the said statement, especially in the light of earlier directive of the National Chairman that only Prof Tunde Adeniran is authorised to issue further statements on the matter under reference.

“Following an FCT High Court Judgment of 14th December 2018 in favour of Prof. Jerry Gana as the 2019 Presidential Candidate of the SDP, and in the spirit of our avowed commitment to Party Constitution, Prof. Gana wrote the National Chairman on December 17th to inform him of the judgment and sought audience on December 19th to brief the National Working Committee (NWC) on the agenda and roadmap of his campaign thrust. The National Chairman through the Deputy National Chairman South, Prof. Tunde Adeniran responded on December 18, conveying his inability to be in Abuja as requested.

“On December 19, Prof Gana personally submitted his nomination form to the Party which was received by the Deputy National Chairman (North) Dr Abdul Isiaq and other members of the NWC on behalf of the Party; for onward transmission to INEC in line with the court Judgment and Order. Dr Isiaq announced at the public occasion that the Party will obey the court order. To our surprise,  we understand that the National Chairman at the last minute instructed the Party not to proceed with the form to INEC, which is a flagrant disobedience to the court judgment.

“After waiting for about 10 days without any information from the National Chairman on moving forward, and being under tremendous pressure to commence campaigns in the light of limited available time, Prof Gana wrote a second letter dated December 27 notifying the National Chairman of his intention to unveil his campaign vision to the Media on December 29  2018 and meet with Stakeholders on January 5, 2019. 

“While expecting the National Chairman’s response to the letter, our attention was this afternoon drawn to a Press Statement reportedly issued by the National Chairman, Chief Olu Falae on the subject matter of our letter, even to the extent of threatening Party members not to attend the events. 

“To say the least, we are shocked at the National Chairman’s sudden shift of position, after making commitment to both our Candidate and other legitimate stakeholders, that as Social Democrats he and by extension, the Party, are obliged to obey the court judgment and orders; and would expectedly work with the position of the court. 

“For the avoidance of doubt, the reliefs granted in consequence of our case by the FCT High Court are all DECLARATORY, which could ONLY be vitiated by a contrary judgment of an appeal court. It speaks volumes that our National Chairman would prefer an Appeal process, yet to commence and determined, in total disregard to a subsisting valid judgment and order by a court of competent jurisdiction. We have consulted with other leaders of the Party who represent about 90% of both the National Working Committee and National Executive Committee of the Party, and arrived at the conclusion that the views of the National Chairman are not in tandem with the majority.

“For record purposes and ensuring that Party members are well informed of the facts, may it be known that up till the last time I checked before issuing this statement, Prof. Jerry Gana has not been served of any Court of Appeal process, and as such have not engaged any counsel to prosecute any imaginary appeal on his behalf. How does one engage a Counsel for an appeal matter that is not before him or is a counsel forced on him without an option of choice?

“Furthermore, we observe from the said Press Statement that the National Chairman, who ought to be an unbiased father to all Party members, has descended into the arena and become highly sectional in determining to ignore a subsisting court order for an imaginary appeal process yet to be started. 

“It is sad that our National Chairman who is to teach us as Social Democrats to respect the rule of law is now leading the way towards deliberately breaking the Law, tendentiously for a contempt of court.

“With utmost respect, I wish to state unequivocally as the Director General of G19, that we will rather stand with the Rule of Law, which is a cardinal element of our campaign thrust and our great Party, the SDP. 

“Accordingly, the Gana Presidential Campaign train is set to leave the station tomorrow December 29, and will run SWIFTLY to redeem the time and arrive its destination successfully and unhindered. Therefore, all the media organizations and guests invited to the Media Presentation are joyfully expected to be at Ladi Kwali Conference Centre, Sheraton Hotel and Towers Abuja by 11.30am. 

“By the Grace of God, we are prepared to win our election and help other serious candidates of the Party to win their elections as well. We did not seek the Party tickets to become merchants, traders and transationalists, we are too serious a community of people to engage in such. By the grace of God, we are running the race to win and determined to secure resounding victories for the Party.

“Finally, considering the unmitigated embarrassment and sliding fortunes of the Party in the last three months, I wonder if it is not time for the majority Party faithfuls who love the Party to arise and rescue her from the tyranny of the minority who have received a mandate from outside of the Party hierarchy to muscle and cage the elegant stallion. 

The group went ahead to organise the flag off and unveiling of its programme at the Sheraton Hotels Abuja where S-W-I-F-T,  the campaign acronym of represents Security Engineering, Wealth Creation, Infrastructure Excellence and Power Supply, Fight Against Corruption and Technology, Education and Human Development.

It was supposed to be a well attended event suited for only the Ladi Kwali hall but for want of crowd, one of the meeting rooms merely sufficed. Only the National Publicity Secretary, Alfa Mohammed, National Treasurer, c) Mr Nze Clarkson, (National Treasurer) and some key stakeholders who hailed from the North Central. The ranking officials of the party were conspicuously absent while some preferred to send in apologies at the prompting of the Alfa Mohammed. 

The penchant to abstain from Gana programmes by key national officers was re-enacted last Saturday when the Campaign group held what they called Prof Jerry Gana Summit of Stakeholders.

Among the national officers, only a handful namely: the National Vice Chairman (SouthEast) Senator Ebenezer Ikeyina, National Vice Chairman (North Central); Arch. David Ummah,  National Treasurer) Mr Nze Clarkson; 
National Publicity Secretary Alfa Mohammed and, some States party chairmen led by Edo State chairman Hon. Collins, were in attendance.

Blueprint gathered that the leadership of the party has threatened to wield the big stick against those who flouted the National chairman’s order but the Campaign Director General Neliaku had a morale booster for them. He urged them to continue to keep faith with the Prof Gana campaigns as the team would stand by them should they be punished for being in attendance in the programmes.

What will become of the party remains a dicey in the event the judgement of the Appellate Court is delivered. For now, Prof Gana, the Presidential flag bearer of the SDP is cruising his campaigns at an altitude in only a superior court can soar or  put a reverse gear to.  

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