WITH the declaration of Chief David Lyon of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as the winner of the Bayelsa 2019 governorship election, the battle has arguably fully left the political firmament for the sacred temple of the Judiciary.
A salad of pre-election issues were pending in court before the November 16 governorship election. Now, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which has lost its 20-year unbroken hold on the riverine state, since the return of democracy in 1999, will add to the issues in the Judiciary when it goes to the Governorship Election Tribunal.
Lyon won six of the eight local councils of Bayelsa and scooped 352,552 of the 499,551 valid votes cast at the poll. He left a miserly 143,172 votes for Senator Douye Diri of the PDP, giving him a massive gap of 219,380 votes.
Diri and Governor Seriake Dickson are shouting blue murder, alleging that the military connived with the APC to manipulate the results. While Dickson supplied video evidence to buttress his allegation, Diri claimed he won the election on account of Situation Room results monitored by PDP agents, and vowed to challenge Lyon’s victory at the tribunal.
When Diri files his petition, it will take the number of cases the court will decide to four. The first is Senator Heineken Lokpobiri’s suit challenging the emergence of Lyon as the APC candidate while the second is Mr. Timi Alaibe’s case against the victory of Diri at the PDP primaries. The PDP candidate and his running mate also have a suit against Lyon and the Deputy Governor-elect, Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo.
Disqualification of Degi-Eremienyo
Five days to the election, a Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, disqualified Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo as sought by the PDP candidate on the grounds that he supplied false information in the CF0001 Form he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, contrary to the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
The court ruled that the act amounted to giving false information in violation of Section 31(5) and (6) of the 2010 Electoral Act.
The judgement compromised the candidacy of the APC candidate in view of Section 187 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
By virtue of section 187(1) of the 1999 Constitution,’a candidate for the office of Governor of a State shall not be deemed to have been validly nominated for such office unless he nominates another candidate as his associate for his running for the office of Governor, who is to occupy the office of Deputy Governor and that candidate shall be deemed to have been duly elected to the office of Deputy Governor if the candidate who nominated him is duly elected as Governor in accordance with the said provisions.
Disqualification of Lyon
Two days to the election, another Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, declared that the APC had no governorship candidate in the November 16 election. The court presided over by Justice Jane Inyang gave the ruling in a case filed by Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, one of the APC governorship aspirants.
Lokpobiri, a former Minister of State for Agriculture, had approached the court, seeking a declaration, that he, and not David Lyon is the authentic candidate of the APC.
In its ruling, the court held that “the governorship primary conducted by the APC in Bayelsa State was not done in compliance with the guidelines and the constitution of the party, and, therefore, the party has no candidate.”
Appeal court gives Lyon, running mate lifeline
However, in a twist, less than 30 hours to the election, the Court of Appeal in Abuja cleared the APC to participate in the election ordered a stay of execution of the judgement of the Abuja Federal High Court which disqualified the APC deputy governorship candidate over false information.
The panel, chaired by Justice Stephen Adah, issued an interim order of stay of execution of the judgement of the Federal High Court of November 12, 2019, pending the determination of “the motion on notice for order of interlocutory injunction filed on 13 November, 2019.”
The appellate court also ordered the INEC to maintain status quo ante bellum which existed on or before September 19, 2019 when the suit was filed at the lower court, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive matter by the court.
Alaibe’s case against Diri
Former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, and one of the 21 PDP governorship aspirants Chief Timi Alaibe Alaibe, approached the court on September 13, 2019, with an application for cancellation of the result of the primary won by Diri over alleged procedural flaws.
The suit filed pursuant to Order 3(9) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2019, sought answers to questions bordering on obvious non-adherence to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Electoral Act 2010, the PDP Constitution and Election Guidelines, by the State Chapter of the party in the conduct of the Ward Congresses, inclusion of local government council officials in the delegates list and the procedure for inclusion of three ad-hoc delegates. Citing specific sections of relevant laws and guidelines, Alaibe asked the court to examine the entire processes that resulted in the primaries and rule in his favour in the light of violations committed in a desperate move to impose a pre-determined hand-picked candidate on the people out of 21 aspirants.
Currently, the case has been transferred to Abuja on Alaibe’s request and will no longer be heard in Yenagoa.
Although, Lyon was on Thursday given his certificate of return as governor-elect by the INEC, much will depend on the how the courts resolve the cases.
In essence, Bayelsa is faced with at least six scenarios regarding who takes over from Dickson. As it is the governorship lot could still remain with Lyon or fall on Diri, Lokpobiri, Alaibe, Diriyai and another candidate in the event of a fresh election.
First, Lyon will retain his mandate if the courts dismiss Diri and PDP’s petitions; disagree with the lower court on the disqualification of his running mate; as well as on Lokpobiri’s case.
If this does not happen, scenario two obtains with Diri of the PDP, who came second in the election, becoming the governor.
Also, Diri would lose the seat to Alaibe if the courts agreed with the former NDDC managing director.
In the event that the courts hold that the APC and PDP’s primaries were not conducted in line with the parties’ constitutions and they had no candidates, the lot will fall on the Accord Candidate, Ebizimo Diriyai, who came third in the election with a miserly 1,339 votes.
It is not clear if Diriyai’s 1,339 votes will meet the requirement to be declared a governor or whether a fresh election will be ordered, if the matter gets to this stage. This is one of the reasons all eyes will be on the Judiciary in the days ahead.Read Full Story