The Epic Drama In Bayelsa And Matters Arising (1)

By Kenneth Jude


It had all the trappings of a cruel bolt from the blue. It was a heartbreaking quirk of fate, a trophy seen but not grabbed. A promised Land with all its glory and majesty that was only peered into but not entered. It re-enacted the biblical tale of Moses who saw the Promised Land but didn’t step his foot there.

Preparations were at fever pitch. Tents had been erected. Food vendors had looked forward to a day of boom. The sachet water and sellers of all manner of beverages were all set to hit it big. The DJ had been hired. Entertainers were ready to thrill guests. The mood in the APC camp was that of ecstasy and joyful delirium. But all these came to naught nonetheless.

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The man for the top seat had warmed up for the big day. In fact, he, along with his errant deputy governor-elect were at the Samson Siasia Stadium rehearsing on how to make the occasion a smooth and successful one before the unwanted news landed like a tornado. Just as we have seen in recent times, the Supreme Court struck supremely but devastatingly. Hearts were shattered. Hopes dashed. Despair, melancholy reigned. David Lyon, the final court of the land ruled, cannot be governor on account of the sins of his deputy! The man, his supporters, were crestfallen.

It all but brought to an abrupt end the dream of the All Progressives Congress taking over the oil-rich Bayelsa State where PDP has maintained dominance since 1999. To Lyon, the governor-elect that was not inaugurated, he would have waved it away as a joke or a tale of moonlight had he been told that he will not be sworn in as the Governor of Bayelsa State.

Having romped to victory in an unassailable fashion in the November 16, 2019 governorship election in the state where he polled 352,552 votes to defeat Diri who garnered a measly votes of 143,172, David Lyon had looked forward to assuming office as governor of the state on February 14. He had every reason to relish the feeling of becoming the chief landlord of Creek Heaven because with the gap of victory, it is safe to say that he was massively voted for by the electorate.

The man was squeaky clean except his deputy, Degi-Eremienyo, who presented forged certificates with each bearing different names much to the consternation of political watchers. The law permits him to assume the seat he was prepared for with at least a secondary school certificate, but as it is the wont of some people to intimidate others with high-sounding credentials, he chose the path of presenting grandiose certificates to INEC with multiple names to boot.


David Lyon

And so that faux pas, avoidable as it were, has cost Lyon his season of glory. The party itself cannot be absolved here. There’s room for screening of aspirants in political parties. The APC certainly had theirs, but like many things Nigerian, they may have looked the other way and compromised standards because they wanted none other but Degi-Eremienyo. Even when signs became glaring that the harlotry perpetrated in name by Lyon’s running mate could backfire, the party still learnt nothing.

The PDP had spotted the flaw, hence challenged the Lyon/Degi-Eremienyo ticket at a Federal High Court in Abuja before the November 16, 2019 election. Four days to the D-Day, Justice Inyang Ekwo delivered a judgment disqualifying APC from the election, ruling that there was no connection between the names on Degi-Eremienyo’s various certificates.

His First School Leaving Certificate, West African Secondary School Certificate, first degree and graduate degree all bore different names. The court concluded that these were false information and disqualified him. Since the governorship nomination is invalid without a running mate, it meant APC was not qualified to run in the election.

But expectedly, Degi-Eremienyo appealed the judgment and secured a Court of Appeal order suspending the High Court judgment in order to allow APC participate in the election. Five weeks after the election had been won by the Lyon/Degi-Eremienyo ticket, the Court of Appeal affirmed its earlier decision in favour of the APC. Not satisfied, the PDP headed to the Supreme Court seeking for justice.

So on February 13, 2020, a five-man panel of the apex court led by Justice Mary Odili nullified the election of David Lyon and his running mate, Degi-Eremienyo, on the grounds that his deputy presented false information about his educational qualifications in his Form CF 001 submitted to INEC as a candidate for the 2019 election

Justice Ejembi Eko, who read the judgment, noted that the claims by Degi-Eremienyo appeared to be “fraudulent”, pointing out to “several names he uses variously chameleonically to suit the changing environment.”

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He ruled that Degi-Eremienyo’s disqualification on the basis of submitting false information to INEC had infected the joint ticket with which he and Lyon contested the election and emerged victorious.

According to him, “In sum total, the joint ticket of the first and second respondents (Lyon and Degi-Eremienyo) sponsored by the 3rd respondent, APC, was vitiated by the disqualification of the first respondent (Degi-Eremienyo).

“Both candidates disqualified are deemed not to be candidates in the governorship election.”

Delivering the lead judgment, Justice Eko nullified the APC’s victory, restored and affirmed the earlier judgment of Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which disqualified Degi- Eremienyo’s candidacy and nullified the party’s ticket for the poll.

He set aside the December 23, 2019 judgment of the Court of Appeal in Abuja which had contrary to the Federal High Court’s decision validated the former deputy governor-elect’s candidacy.

The Supreme Court therefore ruled that the votes credited to the APC’s candidates were wasted.

It ordered INEC to withdraw the Certificates of Return issued to Lyon and Degi-Eremienyo as the winners of the poll and ordered fresh ones to be issued to the governorship and deputy governorship candidates of the party with the highest votes and met the constitutional spread of votes in the election.

Long story short, Duoye Diri and his deputy, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo received their Certificates of Return from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja on Friday, February 14, 2020 and were subsequently sworn in later in the day within the premises of the Government House in Bayelsa State.

With votes obtained by the APC having been deemed wasted by the apex court, Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had declared at a press conference shortly before issuing Certificates of Return to Duoye Diri and his deputy on Friday, February 14, 2020 that without the vote of the All Progressives Congress, the candidate of the PDP scored the highest number of lawful votes with 143,172.

He said, “In compliance with the orders of the Supreme Court, the Commission met this morning and reviewed the result of the election in which 45 political parties contested. Without the votes scored by the All Progressives Congress (APC), whose candidates were deemed not to have participated in the election, the total number of lawful and valid votes cast in the election now stand at 146,999.

“Out of this figure, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) scored the highest number of lawful votes with 143,172. Similarly, the Party has scored more than 25 per cent of the lawful votes cast in all the eight (8) Local Government Areas of the State.

“Furthermore, the total number of registered voters in places where election was not held or cancelled as a result of sundry violations is 90,822. The candidate of the Accord Party has the next highest score with 1,339 votes.

“The margin of lead between the candidates of the PDP and the Accord Party is 141,833 votes. With this outcome, the election is conclusive at first ballot.

“Consequently, Senator Douye Diri and Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo of the PDP are hereby declared winners and returned elected as Governor and Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State respectively.”

The recriminations and protestations that followed were expected. The earlier vow by National Chairman of the APC that nobody will be sworn in fell flat. Youths went on rampage, burning tyres, blocking major roads and torching public property. The Police imposed a three-day dusk-to-dawn curfew in the state, Lyon rejected the judgment – he should – nobody would accept it, but he can do little or nothing to change anything now. He has to take it all in his stride and prepare for next time.

In all, political parties must learn the lessons arising from Bayelsa State. Parties must strengthen their internal wheels, ensure thorough screening of aspirants, conduct proper primaries before presenting such persons as candidates for elections. They should eschew double standards and build party structures that thrive on the wings of adherence to democratic norms.

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