There is tension in Bayelsa state over Thursday’s Supreme Court judgment which sacked the governor-elect, Chief David Lyon and his deputy, Bishop Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In their place, it ruled that Mr. Doure Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and his running mate, Lawrence Ewhruojakpo, who jointly came second during the governorship poll be sworn in as duly elected governor and deputy governor respectively.
The apex court nullified the Lyon’s election because, according to the court, his running mate presented a forged certificate to contest the poll.
The development has generated some tension in Bayelsa state, as soldiers were seen parading major streets of Yenagoa, the state capital to forestall any possible breakdown of law and order.
This is so against the backdrop of the threat by the APC leadership that there won’t be governor in Bayelsa as from Friday when the incumbent, Seriake Dickson is expected to step down as his tenure ends.
There is anxiety is the capital city which continues to give residents some nightmare over the new development.
As at the time of filing this report, it was observed that commuters were stranded and some shop owners locked up their shops as everyone rushed home for fear of the unknown
For instance, while the PDP supporters reportedly pulled down structures earlier put in place for Lyon’s inauguration, some indigenes of the state, particularly those loyal to the APC, threatened to have Lyon, ‘their governor-elect’ inaugurated.
A visit to the state secretariat of the APC showed that some women, who are party members, were busy sharing some materials ahead of Friday’s inauguration.
When asked if they were not aware of the court judgement sacking Lyon, one of them, Mrs. Ebi Peres, said: “What we know is that we are swearing in governor-elect tomorrow, we don’t know any court.”
While the APC supporters were in shock, it was excitement in the PDP’s camp.
Leading the pack of supporters on a dancing spree, the new governor-elect was in jubilant mood and joined Governor Seriake Dickson in celebration.
Giving its ruling Thursday, the Supreme Court said Lyon’s election was nullified because his running mate, Mr. Degi-Eremienyo presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Diri came second in the election with 143,172 votes to Lyon’s 352,552 votes, winning in two of Bayelsa’s eight local governments while Lyon won in the remaining six.
But in a unanimous decision by a five-man panel of Justices led by Justice Mary Odili, the apex court held that Degi-Eremieoyo presented a forged certificate to the electoral commission.
The panel further held that the Form CF 001 Degi-Eremieoyo submitted to INEC for the purpose of the November 16, 2019 governorship election in the state, contained false information of fundamental nature.
Justice Ejembi Ekwo, who delivered the lead judgement, held that since Degi-Eremieoyo shared a joint ticket with the governor-elect, his disqualification invalidated their nomination by the APC.
Consequently, the apex court ordered INEC to immediately withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Lyon and his running mate and issue a fresh one to the party that secured the second highest number of votes and got the required constitutional spread.
The judgement followed an appeal that was filed by the PDP, its governorship and deputy governorship candidates.
Providing further insight into the situation, the Supreme Court upheld the November 12, 2019 judgement of the Federal High Court Abuja which had disqualified Degi-Eremienyo in the election for submitting forged certificates to INEC.
How they voted
The total number of votes cast in the governorship election was put at 505,884; rejected votes were 6,333; and number of valid votes was put at 499,511.
In the final results announced for Ekeremo local government in November last year, the number of registered voters was announced as 125,189 while accredited voters were 41,423.
In Southern Ijaw local government where Lyon hails from, the APC candidate polled 124,803 votes to defeat his closest rival in PDP who polled 4,898 votes.
Lyon also defeated Diri in Nembe by polling 83,041 votes, with the latter polling 874 in the local government.
While the APC had 8,934 votes in Kolokuma/Opokuma, the PDP had 15,360.
Diri of the PDP polled 60,339 votes to beat Lyon who polled 7,831 in Sagbama.
The APC turned the table again in Ogbia by polling 58,016 votes as against PDP’s 13,763 votes.
In Yenagoa, the APC candidate polled 24,607 votes while the PDP polled 19,184 votes.
Speaking to newsmen after the pronouncement, counsel to the appellant, Friday Nwosu said the Supreme Court’s judgement was simple and explicit.
He said, “The Supreme Court has today redeemed the image of the court and that of the country because one person having up to ten names, varied, contradictory is unheard of.
“Also the apex court has introduced some measure of life and liveliness into this country. This judgment is divine. The truth has prevailed.”
Also, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome, in his reaction, welcomed the verdict, saying it was in accordance with its earlier decision.
He said: “Today’s decision made by the Supreme Court means that the apex court is carefully re-navigating its way that was completely lost in the Imo state governorship election brouhaha.
Taking strong exception to the judgement however, the APC threatening to explore every legal window to seek redress to the judgement, insisting the PDP candidate did not merit being sworn in as governor.
Addressing a press conference Thursday in Abuja, APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole said the judgement did not only lack the fruit of justice but also constituted grave danger to Nigeria’s democracy.
He said in line with the judgement which demanded that the next party with the highest votes should be given certificate of return; PDP did not meet the constitutional requirements.
Oshiomhole said: “As a political party, we respect the rule and we respect and have confidence in the judiciary. However, this judgement lacks the fruits of justice. For me and our party, at the heart of election is the issue of who did the people actually voted for?
“Is there a case of impersonation on the part of the deputy governor-elect? Is there any other person who has come out to claim that name as to raise doubt as to whether this is the deputy governor-elect duly elected along with the governor during the Bayelsa governorship election?
“Where justice and democracy thrive on the altar of technicalities, it constitutes danger to our democracy. Nobody has raised issues whether David Lyon and his running mates won over whelming majority.
“Issues of whether a chieftaincy title is part of a name or not, could not be a reason to dismiss the wishes of the great people of Bayelsa state, who reposed absolute confidence in the election of David Lyon and his running mate, during the last governorship election.
“It is not a state secret. If, as the Supreme Court has ruled, David Lyon cannot be sworn in as governor and that the person who has the highest number of votes and spread be sworn in, it simply means that from tomorrow, there will be no government in Bayelsa state.
“As far as we know, the next candidate who happens to be a PDP candidate does not have one quarter of the total lawful votes cast in that election in two third of the eight local government areas in Bayelsa state.
“Therefore, from the facts available to us and in due consultation with our lawyers, it is clear that no candidate meets the requirements of the Supreme Court which means no one can be sworn in legally tomorrow, unless there is deliberate attempt to abuse the legal process.
“We have accordingly asked our lawyers to look at all the windows that exist in law and take steps to ensure that the will of the people of Bayesla state is not undermined on the altar of technicalities.
“I am not a lawyer but I don’t need to be one because when judges make judgement, they are published and once you can read and right, there are some that even layman like me can understand.
“In 1999, there was a similar case in Bauchi involving Governor Adamu Muazu. The court found that his running mate was not qualified for whatever reason to contest that election, and accordingly the Supreme Court nullified the election of Governor Adamu Muazu and the court as a consequence directed INEC to conduct a fresh election.
“I believe it is still the same Supreme Court and therefore we have asked our lawyers to explore all lawful legal window to ensure that Bayelsa people have a governor they willingly chose.
“I have chosen to make this formal response to this judgement so that we do not leave in particular, the great people of Bayesla state in doubt as to where we stand – we stand by them. I also want the Nigerian public to know that this is the position of the APC.
“Let me say that this, as bad as the case of Zamfara was, where after we have won the governorship election, the senatorial election, the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly election, the court held that APC did not conduct primaries in Zamfara state and therefore did not participate in that election, this one is totally different.
“There is no doubt about the fact that proper elections were conducted. In fact, even the Supreme Court has so upheld. This is not another Zamfara case and therefore the essential ingredients are different and therefore the outcome and consequences cannot be the same.
“We want to assure not just APC members across the country who are still in shock over this judgement, we want to assure the Nigerian people that we are a law abiding party, we still believe that the will of Bayesla people will prevail and there is sufficient legal window to achieve it.”
PDP lauds judgement, insists on Imo
And on the contrary, the PDP has congratulated the governor-elect and his deputy governor-elect on the judgement, insisting however that the apex court “must” review Imo state governorship election judgment.
In a statement issued Thursday by its national publicity secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, the party said: “The Bayelsa judgement will not change the course of its demand that the Supreme Court rectifies the manifest and widely rejected mistakes contained in its judgment on the Imo state governorship election.
“Our party insists that the Supreme Court will be redeeming its image and restoring public confidence on its infallibility by reviewing the Imo verdict given the manifold unjustifiable mistakes contained in that judegment.”
“The PDP restates that the miscarriage of justice in the Imo state judgment is glaring, given the established fact that the panel assumed the roles of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), by recognising the votes concocted by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Senator Hope Uzodimma, which ended up increasing the total number of votes in the election to 950,952, over and above the INEC certified total accredited votes of 823,743.
“In another miscarriage of justice, the Supreme Court panel named Senator Uzodimma/APC as winner whereas it had on December 20, 2019 ruled that Uche Nwosu, and not Senator Uzodimma, won the APC governorship primary.
“The Supreme Court had also disqualified Uche Nwosu from the election for having acquired the governorship ticket of two political parties; the APC and the Action Alliance (AA), an aberration to the electoral laws.
“Our party holds that a judicial review on Imo governorship election has become inevitable because by these earlier rulings of the Supreme Court, not only is Sen. Uzodimma not a candidate, the judgments also nullified all the votes that could have been accruable to APC and AA and their candidate, Uche Nwosu, in the election, leaving the PDP candidate, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, as the incontestable winner of the election.
“The PDP congratulates the people of Bayelsa state, the governor-elect, Senator Douye Diri and his deputy governor-elect, Lawrence Ewrujakpor, as their mandate has been restored,” the party further held.
‘APC can’t stop inauguration’
And in another reaction, Governor Dickson has advised APC faithful to take the ruling in good faith.
At a media parley Thursday night in Bayelsa, the governor said nothing can stop Friday’s inauguration, saying Oshiomhole’s position can’t change anything.
He warned against anybody taking law into his/her hand, even as the governor called on political parties to be calm and embrace peace.
“I commend the Supreme Court on the judgement and call for calm among party faithful. Let us have peace and stability. Everyone should take it in good faith. We should not do anything to cause breakdown of law. We must continue to run an inclusive system.
“The Supreme Court ruling today has brought victory to all of us and we give all glory to God. I hail the Supreme Court as an instrument to deliver the judgement. I, therefore call for reconciliation among us as well as other parties in the state.
“As I will be stepping down on Friday, February 14, I am grateful to God and to the people of Bayelsa. I known all Bayelsan people supported me despite difficulties. But I believe we have achieved tremendously in the past eight years. I urge them to continue to work for our dear state,” the governor said.
On Oshiomhole, Disckson said: “Don’t think the National Chairman Adams Oshomole of the APC is competent to change the judgement of the Supreme court regardless of what he says.
“The judgement of the Supreme Court shows that those who supported the judiciary and had faith and confidence in the judiciary were not wrong. All credit and honour and adoration go to God almighty through divine intervention.”