The Independent National Electoral Commission has said the Social Democratic Party can contest the February 16 presidential election despite not having submitted the names of its presidential and vice presidential candidates.A former Minister of Information, Prof Jerry Gana; and a former Governor of Cross River State, Mr Donald Duke, are laying claim to the ticket.
Gana has been recognised by the courts, but he has not been accepted by his party. On the other hand, Duke has been ousted by the courts but remains the acceptable candidate to the party.
The National Chairman, Voter Education Committee, INEC, Festus Okoye, who spoke on Sunrise Daily, a live programme of Channels Television, on Friday, said the party had forwarded Duke’s name to the party as the name of the presidential candidate prior to the court verdict.
According to the INEC official, the commission later received a court order that Gana should be the candidate for the SDP in the presidential election.
Okoye added that the court went further to direct that the SDP should submit Gana’s name to INEC.
“At the time we published the list yesterday (Thursday), the SDP had not forwarded the name of Gana as the presidential candidate of the party. If the party had forwarded the name of the presidential candidate as directed, INEC would have put up the name of Prof Gana on the list as the candidate of the party. So, the onus is on the party.
“The court did not say INEC should substitute or put up the name of Gana as the presidential candidate of the party. So, we are waiting for the party to submit the name of Gana to INEC as directed by the court. That is why we put by the side (against the blank space where the name of the party’s candidate should have been), ‘by court order.’
“It’s the political party that is going to be on the ballot for today (for now). Anytime they submit that particular list (of names of presidential and vice-presidential candidates), we will collect the list.
“If we go into the presidential election and we do not have the name of the candidate of the SDP, the logo of the SDP will still be on the ballot because the court did not direct that we should remove the logo of the SDP from the ballot,” he said.
Okoye noted that, in line with the court order that the political party should submit Gana’s name, INEC would wait for the party to comply.
He, however, added, “If after some time they do not submit, we will see what the law says in relation to the issue of whether they are time-bound or not.
“If the SDP wins the presidential election, then it becomes a different ballgame. But I believe the political party is law-abiding and they should, within the next few days, obey the court order and do what the laws says they should do.”