I’m still in the race as SDP presidential candidate -Duke

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The presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and former governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke, has reacted to the party’s endorsement of President Muhammadu Buhari as its candidate for the February 17 presidential poll saying he (Duke) is still in the race.

It would be recalled that on Thursday, February 7, the party said at the end of its national executive council meeting held in Abuja that it had adopted Buhari for the February 16 presidential election.

The party’s national vice chairman, Dr. Abdul Ishaq who read a communiqué said: “The SDP has resolved to adopt President Muhammadu Buhari and vice-presidential candidate, Prof Yemi Osinbajo of the APC as candidates of the party for the 2019 presidential election.

“Consequently, all members of the party are hereby enjoined to vote for President Buhari of the APC at the presidential election coming up on Saturday, February 16, 2019.

But Duke, in a statement he personally signed said he remained on the ballot as the SDP presidential candidate.

“For the avoidance of doubt, I, Donald Duke, remain on the ballot and the candidate of the SDP as recognised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

“I need not say more; suffice that I remain on the ballot and thereby still present myself as a candidate for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he said.

A presidential aspirant of the party, Prof. Iyorwuese Hagher, distanced himself from the decision of the party’s NEC saying the adoption of Buhari “negates the spirit and the motto of the SDP to support the APC in the forthcoming presidential election.”

Addressing the media in Makurdi, Benue State yesterday, Hagher who declared his support for the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Atiku Abubakar, described the NEC’s decision as “extremely unpopular, largely motivated by nothing more than selfishness, greed and arrogance of the SDP leadership.”

“I, Professor Ambassador Iyorwuese Hagher, and my team, the Revolution of Hope, have received with shock, disbelief and horror, the decision of the party leaders of the SDP to support the APC in the forthcoming presidential elections!

“This action totally negates the spirit and the motto of the SDP which is “Peace, Unity and Progress.” The action amounts to one political step forward, two lock steps backwards.

“It is no longer the SDP of Moshood Abiola. They have systematically destroyed democracy in the SDP and put up the party for sale.

“As a major stakeholder of the party, I hereby denounce the decision to sell the SDP to the APC. I will never succumb to the pressure to return the country that I loved dearly and wanted to be its president to brutal dictatorship and fascism.”

“I therefore call on all SDP supporters nationwide to reject being sold to slavery, incipient dictatorship, oppression and recurrent insecurity.

“This unpopular arbitrary decision of a few insensitive and wantonly parasitic party leaders is a grave betrayal of loyal SDP members nationwide who have endured senseless arbitrariness, terrible greed and the painful process of building the party,” he said.

Meanwhile, Prof. Jerry Gana who is locked in a legal battle with Duke for the presidential ticket of the party dissociated his supporters from the endorsement of the President as the party’s candidate for the presidential election.

The director general of Gana’s presidential campaign team, Mr. Ike Neliaku said media briefing in Abuja that it was only some SDP renegades under the guise of NEC, who met in Abuja and, resolved to adopt Buhari.

“On recent happenings within our party, the SDP, we are, therefore, compelled to once again reach out to you and millions of Nigerians who are shocked by the pronouncement of yesterday by some renegade members of our party, SDP, under the guise of a National Executive Committee, NEC, purportedly met in Abuja and resolved to adopt the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, as its consensus candidate in the forthcoming presidential election.

“We wish to categorically condemn and dissociate ourselves from this unfortunate, retrogressive, outrageous, unjust, mercantilist, disgraceful betrayal of trust and anti-party activity led by a small faction loyal to the running mate to Donald Duke, Alhaji Shehu Gabam.

“Their pronouncement puts the party in a political mudslide that not only put the party in bad light but is injurious to all other SDP candidates standing election on the platform of the party.

“This repulsive duplicity is unacceptable to our campaign team, our supporters and millions of esteemed SDP members whose voices we represent and on whose mandate this statement is issued,” he said.

He further said a majority of authentic and principled NEC members were not invited to the meeting where the agreement to adopt Buhari was reached.

“Hirelings were recruited to bear the identities of genuine NEC members and, packaged in a desperate bid to create a perception of acceptability so as to enhance the value of their merchandise and ultimately increase the revenue of their transaction,” he added.

In the same vein, the Oyo State chapter of the party dissociated itself from the endorsement of Buhari by the party’s NEC.

In a statement by its secretary, Chief Niyi Akande, the party said the news of the adoption was shocking.

Akande also said the party’s governorship candidate in the state, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde had rejected Buhari’s adoption

“The Oyo State SDP received with shock the adoption of President Buhari of the APC by the SDP NEC.

“The state secretary categorically said that the Oyo State SDP members dissociated themselves from any decision to adopt President Buhari and urged all SDP members and teeming supporters to kindly await the conclusion of the discussion with other opposition parties.

“Also, the director general, Bolaji Ayorinde Campaign Organisation, Chief Matthew Oke, has vehemently rejected the adoption of Buhari and any APC candidate in the state,” he said.

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