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Supreme Court and Bayelsa governorship

In a unanimous decision by a five-member panel, the Supreme Court on Thursday upturned the political equation in Bayelsa State, nullifying the victory of Chief…

In a unanimous decision by a five-member panel, the Supreme Court on Thursday upturned the political equation in Bayelsa State, nullifying the victory of Chief David Lyon of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the governor-elect for the state, less than 24 hours before his swearing-in.

 The court held that since Chief Biobarakuma Degi-Eremieoyo shared a joint ticket with Chief Lyon, his disqualification invalidated their nomination by the APC.

 The apex court had ruled that Lyon’s deputy, Degi-Eremieoyo, submitted forged documents which made them ineligible to contest the state’s governorship election held on November 16, 2019 in the first instance. The judgement followed an appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), its governorship and deputy governorship candidates, Chief Douye Diri and Chief Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo.

 The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in compliance with the judgment, on Friday issued a certificate of return to the PDP candidate, Chief Diri and his deputy, who took the oath of office amidst tight security at the car park of Government House, Yenagoa.

 The Supreme Court decision was an earthquake and heartbreak of proportions for Chief Lyon and the APC as he was already getting ready to take up the mantle of leadership in the state. He had earlier in the day on Thursday visited the proposed venue for his inauguration at Sampson Siasia Stadium, where he rehearsed for the aborted swearing-in rituals including inspection of the parade and march-past.

 And even by Wednesday, the PDP flags in front of the government house, Yenagoa, were replaced with APC flags, in preparation for the swearing-in. Also as part of the swearing-in ceremony, a public lecture was to be held Saturday with Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, as the keynote speaker and top members of the APC expected to be in attendance.

The verdict and swift implementation imposed an uneasy calm and confusion in Bayelsa State especially on APC party faithful who were in high spirits ahead of the inauguration of the expected new government. Even the APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, couldn’t make sense out of it as he announced emphatically that no one will be sworn-in as governor of Bayelsa State Friday aside from David Lyon, who is a candidate of APC.

This led to misgivings as irate youth took the laws into their hands, destroying, looting and vandalising several properties in Yenagoa. Places destroyed included the private residence of the former Governor, Mr Seriake Dickson, Steve Azaiki Public Library, a house belonging to Mr Diri, Radio Bayelsa and part of the PDP secretariat.

 This is indeed not good times for the APC and its chairman, Oshiomhole. Under his leadership, the ruling party has been committing so many unforced errors. And otherwise ordinary electoral advantages are easily bungled.

 It started with Rivers State where little differences within the party were ignored until the courts stepped in and barred it from fielding candidates in the state governorship and House of Assembly elections. It snowballed into the Zamfara imbroglio and now the Bayelsa debacle.

 The party needs to admit that its own internal party mechanisms for vetting candidates and following due process have failed. Also, the party chairman should not arrogate to himself the sole power to interpret and implement Supreme Court decisions.

 This monumental embarrassment in Bayelsa should also be a lesson for politicians that political office should not be a do-or-die affair. It doesn’t have to be a life and death issue.

 Also, last Thursday’s Supreme Court verdict should be a lesson for PDP to be patient with the electoral process, no matter how painful it is. The party has been protesting the outcome of the Imo State Supreme Court verdict in embassies and high commissions and discrediting the Judiciary. It does not do the nation any good to have a discredited Judiciary, no matter how flawed we may view its verdict.

 

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