A major political and constitutional crisis looms in Bayelsa State as the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gave different interpretations to the Supreme Court nullification of the victory of David Lyon over the misdemeanours of his running mate, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo.
The APC, which lost out in the legal dispute via the apex court ruling, said that nobody would be inaugurated as the governor of the state today, a development that may create a succession vacuum if the ruling party’s position stands while the PDP declared that it was ready for the swearing-in of its candidate, Senator Duoye Diri.
But Diri is not likely to be sworn in today as Bayelsa State governor on the ground that he does not have the constitutional spread as required by law.
He could not get at least 25 per cent of votes cast in the six local government areas where the APC won in landslide.
This is asides the fact that the judgement was reportedly signed by only two justices out of five members of the Supreme Court panel.
However, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said that there would be no political leadership vacuum in the state as it assured Nigerians that the new governor of the state would be known today.
The truncation of Lyon’s victory at the poll came yesterday less than 24 hours to his official inauguration as the next elected governor of Bayelsa State.
The apex court, in a unanimous judgment, nullified and set aside the nomination and participation of Lyon and his running mate, Degi-Eremienyo in the November 16, 2019 governorship election.
Justice Ejembi Eko, who read the judgement held that the running mate to the governor- elect forged certificates to secure clearance for APC deputy governorship ticket.
The apex court, in its judgment which lasted for about 30 minutes, held that it was established from the documents submitted to INEC that the deputy governor-elect forged certificates and fraudulently used different names when it suits him.
The court said that Degi-Eremienyo and his political party, the APC did not dispute the fact deposed to by the appellant that the multiple names were clearly and fraudulently used in Form CF001 submitted to the electoral body.
Justice Eko, who revealed the different names on the primary school leaving certificate, General Certificate of Education (GCE), first degree, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) discharge certificate and the master’s degree, which bore different names, did not approach lawful authorities to correct the multiple names on the certificates.
He also held that an affidavit of regularisation of names purportedly done by Degi-Eremienyo and published in the Chronicle Newspaper was a futile attempt to justify the multiplicity of names submitted to INEC and contained on the certificates.
The Supreme Court therefore concluded that the primary school certificate obtained in 1976, GCE, 1984, first degree, 1990 and others were product of forgery and that the deputy governor-elect violated Section 182 of the 1999 Constitution.
Justice Eko upheld the judgment of Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja that the case of forgery had been established going by the documents presented by Degi-Eremienyo with various names.
Justice Ekwo was commended for his brilliant findings in his judgment which was restored by the apex court as a product of sound verdict.
The judgment of the Court of Appeal which held that a case of forgery was not established against Degi-Eremienyo was set aside for being pervasive.
The apex court therefore, voided the joint ticket of David Lyon and his running mate and set aside their participation in the November Bayelsa governorship election.
Justice Eko ordered that the certificate of return issued to the governor-elect by INEC should be withdrawn immediately and that a fresh one be issued to the candidate who scored the second highest number of lawful votes with geographical spread and with requisite qualification.
With the judgment the PDP governorship candidate, Senator Duoye Diri, with the highest lawful votes and with wide geographical spread will eventually become the next governor of Bayelsa.
INEC Pledges To Comply With Apex Court Ruling
On its part, INEC said last night that the people of Bayelsa would know their governor before 12 midnight on Friday.
INEC said that there was no need for panic over the expiration of the tenure of the current governor, Seriake Dickson, today, insisting that there won’t be constitutional crisis in the state.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Friday on who would be issued the certificate of return following the Supreme Court judgement, INEC stated they were still waiting for the court verdict.
“We are still in a meeting. We’ve not received the court judgement. We will want to receive the court judgement, analyse it before issuing a certificate of return to the winner,” INEC chairman’s spokesman, Rotimi Oyekanmi said.
He allayed the fears that there might be a constitutional crisis over who takes over as the governor of the state since the incumbent’s tenure expires today.
Oyekanmi said: “There is still time. We still have from now till 12 midnight of Friday. But there should not be cause for alarm. Once we have the court judgement, the commission will take a decision.
“Between now and 12 midnight of Friday, every issue will be settled once we have the court judgement,” Oyekanmi added.
No Governor Will Be Inaugurated In Bayelsa Today – Oshiomhole
In a swift reaction to the judgement, APC national leadership declared that with the nullification of the election of Lyon, there would be no governor for the state today.
The party, which insisted that the judgement lacked the fruit of justice, stressing that for demanding that the next party with the highest vote should be given the certificate of return was wrong because the PDP did not meet the constitutional requirements.
While addressing a press conference at the APC national headquarters in Abuja, the party’s national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, said that the judgement did not reflect the will of the people of Bayelsa hence, constituted grave danger to Nigeria’s democracy.
“We respect the rule of law as a political party but we have to say that the judgement lacks the fruit of fairness and it constitutes grave danger to our democracy. There will be no government in Bayelsa State because the PDP is not qualified to take over since they didn’t have the spread.
“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 buy 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.”
Oshiomhole further stated that “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 windows to ensure that Bayelsa people have a governor that they elected.
“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 State 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 the 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 upheld this, this is not another Zamfara case and therefore the essential ingredients are different and t 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,” Oshiomhole said.
PDP, Wike Caution Oshiomhole Over Utterances
Meanwhile, the PDP has described Oshiomhole’s comments Oshiomhole on the ruling of the Supreme Court as an empty and inconsequential ranting.
The party warned him to steer clear of Bayelsa as his apparent plots to trigger violence in the state had failed.
The PDP also counselled Oshiomhole to be “careful with his utterances and not use any form of venomous garrulity and clear misuse of language to destabilise our nation and truncate our hard-earned democracy.”
Through its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP said in a statement that he signed that “the people of Bayelsa State know as a fact that INEC under “our laws cannot take instruction from any individual, let alone a factional national chairman of a dysfunctional political party like the APC.
“The PDP, as a law-abiding party, counsels Oshiomhole to rein in himself and desist from all odious designs against Bayelsa State, her people and government.
“The PDP also calls on the people of Bayelsa State to remain calm as their mandate has been restored and cannot be taken away by the ranting of any individual who has no stake whatsoever in the wellbeing of his own home state,” the party said.
PDP Insists On Imo Guber Seat
The PDP said while it received the judgement of the Supreme Court restoring its mandate in the Bayelsa State governorship election, the apex court must right the wrongs in the Imo State governorship election verdict. The party said that the Bayelsa judgment would not change the course of its demand that the Supreme Court should rectify what it called the manifest and widely rejected mistakes contained in its judgment on the Imo State governorship election.
Ologbondiyan said: “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 judgment.
“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 INEC by recognising the votes concocted by the 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,” he said.
The PDP however congratulated the people of Bayelsa, the governor-elect, Senator Douye Diri and his deputy governor-elect, Lawrence Ewrujakpor, as their mandate had been restored.
Also yesterday, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, called on the federal government to warn Oshiomhole to stop making inflammatory remarks capable of destabilising the country.
Speaking with newsmen in Port Harcourt, yesterday, Wike berated Oshiomhole for saying that there would be no swearing-in of the PDP governorship candidate in Bayelsa State, asserting he had no such powers.
The governor said: “The federal government should warn Oshiomhole to stop making remarks that will destabilise Nigeria. What he is doing in Edo State is not proper and he should not bring it to the rest of the Niger Delta.”
He stated that Oshiomhole lacks the power to make pronouncements after the Supreme Court had ruled on the Bayelsa matter.
Wike said: “Who is Oshiomhole to determine who has spread in a state? The Supreme Court has made a ruling. It is unfortunate for Oshiomhole to come forward to say that nobody will be sworn in.”
The governor said that the APC chairman is making unguarded statements because he has lost the support of APC governors hence he wants to curry favour through careless talks.
He said: “It is most unfortunate, what Oshiomhole is doing because he wants to retain his position as national chairman. APC governors have rejected him; that is why he is struggling to prove that he is fighting for the party. He is making statements as if he owns the country. His is the same way he is carrying on in Edo State fighting the governor. He believes that he has the forces to cause crisis. He is arrogating powers to himself, which is not good.”
Mixed Reactions In Bayelsa
There were mixed reactions to the verdict of the Supreme Court in Bayelsa yesterday.
While APC supporters were sad over the verdict, their PDP counterparts throng the streets to celebrate.
The verdict came a few hours after Lyon in the company of the commissioner of police, Uche Anozia, embarked on an inspection of the rehearsal of police ahead of his swearing-in ceremony at the Samson Siasia Sports complex.
Heavily armed security operatives backed by armoured personnel carriers were stationed in front of the stadium and around the State Government House ahead of hand-over ceremony.
The preparation for the event changed as scores of PDP supporters trooped to the Government House in jubilation over the verdict.
The State Government House, which was virtually empty of activities a few days ago, became a beehive of activities the party supporters thanked God for the legal victory
The APC flag and other insignia that were hoisted at the roundabout in front of the Government House were pulled down and trampled upon by the PDP supporters.
Calls to APC chieftains in the state were not answered.
A visit to the party’s secretariat along Baybridge area of the state witnessed the gathering of shocked members who were in search for genuiness of the reports on the sack of Lyon by the Supreme Court.
Canopies erected to host the aborted swearing in were being removed when leadership arrived at the Secretariat.
The outgoing commissioner for Information and Orientation, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, congratulated Diri and his running mate, Senator Lawrence Ehrudjakpor, on their well-deserved victory at the Supreme Court.
Iworiso-Markson in a statement he issued in Yenagoa described the judgement as divine, and that it reflected the true wishes of the people.
The state PDP’s publicity secretary, Barr. Osom Macbere, stated that “only God knows how to recompense for the many long nights of adversities we shared, whilst the opposition revelled with temporary timbrels and exuberant drums that collapsed into an abrupt decrescendo.
‘It was a battle between God and those who showed jejune credulity towards some ‘juggling fiends’ that creepily goaded them into orgy of opaque incantations now suddenly revealed at the dawn of the Valentine eve,” he said.
Lyon Rejects Verdict
The APC governorship candidate (Lyon) has rejected the Supreme Court judgment which upturned his victory.
Lyon at a news conference called on APC supporters to remain calm as the party leaders and stakeholders meet to decide on the next line action.
Represented by the member representing Southern Ijaw federal constituency, Hon. Preye Oseke, the sacked governor-elect, said: “We are in shock, as a party and as people of Bayelsa we are rejecting it completely.”
Flanked by party chieftains and hundreds of supporters, he added that “it is a procured judgement. While we have our respect for the revered justices, we believe that this is not the wish of Bayelsans.
“Again, we are calling on INEC not to issue a certificate of return to the candidate of the PDP because he was unable to score the required 25 per cent in the two-thirds of the local government areas.
“As a party, we are law-abiding, our property have been destroyed even in the midst of the judgement that came this morning. We are calling on all our supporters to remain calm while our leaders and stakeholders meet and come up with the next line of action. We believe the right thing will be done. The rule of law will be upheld,” he said.
Atiku Hails Verdict
The PDP presidential candidate in the 2019 election, former vice president Atiku Abubakar, has praised the Supreme Court for the judgement which annulled the mandate of Lyon and declared Diri, winner of the poll.
Atiku, who said he was gladden by the apex court verdict, urged the Supreme Court to show consistency in its judgments and find the resolve to always deliver just-judgments no matter whose ox is gored.
He added that Nigerians would back the apex court in whatever it does to free themselves from the dominance of dictatorial forces.
The former vice president in a statement, said: “I received the verdict of the Supreme Court, declaring the candidate of the PDP in the Bayelsa State gubernatorial election, Senator Douye Diri, as the duly elected governor of the state, with gladness.
“Senator Diri had cause to visit with me before the elections and received my blessings and counsel. I am fully satisfied that he has what it takes to make Bayelsa the ‘glory of all lands’. His intellect, personality and character, are a credit to Bayelsa and the PDP.
“I congratulate Senator Douye Diri and his running mate, Mr. Lawrence Ewhrujakpor. I also felicitate with the PDP. The lord justices have given us another opportunity to show Nigerians that power belongs to the people, and we must make good use of this opportunity,” he said.