Preparations were already in top gear for the D-day, as countdown intensified for the inauguration of David Lyon as the 5th democratically elected governor of Bayelsa state. Guest list — checked. In fact, President Buhari was billed to attend. Aso ebi — bought. Dance steps — practised. Speech — rehearsed. Newspaper adverts — signed, sealed and almost delivered. Congratulatory messages rolled in and the people of Bayelsa had started addressing Lyon as “Your Excellency.” Journalists from different media outfits were already on ground to cover the epoch-making swearing-in of the first non-PDP governor in the state.
That was till the Supreme Court shattered the table by nullifying the November 16 election that was to bring in David Lyon as Bayelsa governor on Valentine’s Day 2020, barely 24 hours to his unveiling. The news came just as Lyon rehearsed at the Samson Siasia Stadium, Yenagoa. The wave. The smile. The finesse of an “executive governor.” But it was a Bayelsa love affair that was not to be. Like Moses to the land of Canaan, Lyon prepared to take Creek Haven and had in fact won an award for best governor in 2019 — even before assuming office — but his coronation as king soon returned to the land of fantasy.
His joint ticket had been marred by his deputy governor candidate and serving senator, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremieoyo, who had been disqualified for submitting forged certificates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The APC flag bearers were sacked by a 5-man panel of the Supreme Court led by Justice Mary Odili which ordered INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return and declare the candidate with highest number of lawful votes cast with the requisite constitutional or geographic spread as winner of the election.
Since the pronouncement by the Supreme Court on the matter, the first expectation of many was the PDP candidate in the last election, Senator Douye Diri, should automatically be handed the certificate of return and sworn-in in place of Lyon. A number of questions however arose in the process following the Supreme Court judgment. Quite a number of commentators have drawn attention to the inconsistency of the Supreme Court in these kinds of judgments, making specific reference to the case of Hope Uzodinma vs. Emeka Ihedioha where the former, who had emerged fourth in the election was to replace Ihedioha, the then sitting governor whose election was annulled. While understanding that each case should be judged on its own merit, one expects a high level of consistency from the apex court.
Assuming the candidate of the PDP, who emerged second in the November 2019 Bayelsa election did not meet the requirement of the law even after disregarding the APC votes, would there have been another election? INEC has however stepped in to announce Senator Douye Diri as the rightful governor-elect of the state — a decision that was arrived at by discounting the votes that went to Lyon.
If INEC were to have held another election in Bayelsa, the Zamfara experience of Koguna would have replayed itself and the ruling party would have had no candidate. The coast would be all clear for the PDP. But with INEC’s announcement of Senator Douye Diri as the new Governor-elect, the fate of the APC in Bayelsa is now sealed.
It is nonetheless time we looked into our electoral process and question how a seating senator could have been cleared to become a deputy governor candidate with forged certificates? How did he become a senator in the first instance? How did INEC certify him fit? It even leaves room for bigger questions that raise dust about the caliber of leaders we have in Nigeria. How come the best of us does not lead, or are our current crop of leaders only a reflection of the state of our country and who we are as a people?
With the electoral umpire unsealing its lips and declaring Senator Douye Diri and Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, his deputy — both of the PDP — as the rightful inhabitants of Creek Haven, it is now clear where the political pendulum in Bayelsa has swung. And as various proponents and gladiators continue to vent their views, with each issuing their own interpretation of the Supreme Court judgment and the stance of INEC, it is one’s desire that the good people of Bayelsa become the ultimate beneficiaries.