Amidst protests and violence, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the November 16, 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa State, Senator Diri Douye, and his running mate in the poll, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, were yesterday sworn-in as the governor and the Deputy Governor of the state respectively.
The swearing-in came after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) gave certificates of return to the duo, following a Supreme Court ruling, which sacked the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, David Lyon and his deputy, Degi-Eremienyo. The commission said it arrived at this decision based on Thursday’s judgement of the apex court, which nullified the election of the joint ticket of the candidate of the APC.
A five-member panel of the Supreme Court led by Justice Mary Odili had on Thursday nullified the election of David Lyon on the grounds that Degi-Eremienyo presented false information to INEC in aid of his qualification for the governorship election. Violence however erupted after supporters of the APC took to the streets, protesting the court judgement.
This has however led to the imposition of a three-day curfew by the police. The curfew was announced by the Commissioner of Police in the state, Uche Anozia, who said the restriction of moment would last till Sunday. The protest had erupted on Thursday night at Tombia axis of the state where APC protesters blocked the road and burnt tyres to express their grievances.
This continued till the early hours of yesterday when thousands of protesters joined the demonstrations before it took a violent turn. The Commissioner of Police disclosed that eight persons had been arrested so far for violent conduct following the protest rocking different parts of the state, warning residents to obey the curfew as violators would be arrested.
Jonathan, Dickson congratulate new governor
Former President Goodluck Jonathan and the immediate past governor of the state, Seriake Dickson, have congratulated Diri, who was just sworn-in as the governor. In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Jonathan advised the newly sworn-in governor to use the position to do well to humanity and pursue the development of the state. “I congratulate Diri who was sworn in today as the 5th Civilian Governor of Bayelsa State, in compliance with the Supreme Court verdict.
As Governor, the responsibility of building hope and sustaining peace across the State now lies on your shoulders. “I urge you to always bear in mind that you are the Governor of all Bayelsans and to seize this moment of glory to build bridges of unity by entrenching a culture of love, fairness and justice in our polity.
“Your journey to Creek Haven is a divine one, so I advise you to use the position to do good to humanity and pursue the development of the State in order to write your name in gold. “You have worked with me before as a commissioner, so I am without doubt that you will live up to the expectations of our people.
I call on all Bayelsans to be law-abiding, peaceful and embrace this transition in all sincerity, and work together towards a united and prosperous State”, Jonathan said. In the same vein, Dickson congratulated his successor while recalling how worked with Lyon to ensure a smooth transition.
Dickson reiterated his desire to ensure that the transition was smooth and served as a benchmark for subsequent governments adding that this was the first time a governor of the state would be doing a proper handover.
“As a peace loving and law abiding governor, though I disagreed with the processes leading to the declaration of David Lyon as Governor elect, I continued to play a key role in the preparation for the handover ceremonies such as getting the Samson Siasia Sports Complex ready for the historic event.
The former governor called on the opposition to exhibit the much needed qualities of tolerance, understanding and respect for the rule of law. “I’m aware that certain persons may be displeased with the ruling but I have a duty to call for peace and stability”, saying there cannot be a state without peace and stability and that as law abiding citizens, irrespective of party affiliations, the people are expected to show understanding and live to fight another day.
Dickson assured that processes would be put in place to ensure that people who are willing are carried along in all inclusive system and hoped that Diri will continue in that Spirit. He thanked Bayelsans for allowing him successfully lead the state for eight years maintaining that it was a great privilege to govern a unique set of people like Bayelsans.
Why we can’t prosecute Degi -Eremienyo
However, INEC has ruled out the possibility of prosecuting Degi-Eremienyo owing to the fact that the commission has nothing to do with the forgery case because it is a pre-election matter. Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, in an interview, said the commission has no role to play in pre-election matters while disclosing that every document submitted by the candidate of any political party is usually backed by a sworn affidavit, adding that such makes the candidate liable if it turns out to be fake. Also giving reasons for the commission’s action, INEC Chairman, Prof. Manhood Yakubu, at a press conference yesterday, said the apex court ordered the commission to declare the candidate with the highest number of lawful votes cast with the requisite constitutional or geographical spread, as winner of the governorship election. According to Prof. Yakubu, 45 political parties contested the election, noting that without the votes scored by the APC, whose candidates were deemed not to have participated in the election, the total number of lawful and valid votes cast in the election was 146,999. “Out of this figure, the candidate of the 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 Local Government Areas of the State,” he said. He further disclosed that the total number of registered voters in places where election was not held or cancelled as a result of sundry violations was 90,822. Explaining that the candidate of the Accord Party came second with 1,339 votes, the INEC Chairman said the margin of lead between the candidates of the PDP and that of 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,” Prof. Yakubu declared.
‘Don’t celebrate yet’
But the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has cautioned the PDP not to stop celebrate yet, while noting that the APC would seek redress in court. “We are going to court. Don’t celebrate too early.
The PDP has just crossed one river; there are several other rivers to cross. Our lawyers are already studying the judgment to take the necessary legal action”, he said. Oshiomhole also blasted INEC for issuing Certificate of Return to Diri, saying the Commission was arrogating the power of legal interpretation to itself.
Oshiomhole while briefing journalists in Abuja said the Supreme Court for good reason gave a conditional order that INEC should swear in the second candidate with the highest number of vote and the required constitutional spread. “I believe that the fact the Supreme court insisted on constitutional spread is a recognition of the fact that the constitution does not want a situation in which anyone, governor or president presides over the affairs of a state without at least enjoy two third support of electorate of that state.
“Clearly, the votes scored by PDP and their candidate in that election was only meant requirement in five local governments and you need six local governments to meet the requirement of two third. PDP candidate did not satisfy this requirement. “INEC is now choosing to appropriate the judicial powers of the court to interpret laws that is neither competent to do nor has the mandate so to do.
“INEC fails to recognize that its responsibility does not include legal interpretation and the Supreme Court did not ask INEC to go and begin to assume the judicial powers. All what INEC needed to do is simple arithmetic. Who has the next highest votes? Does such person has a required vote spread? If the answer is no INEC can do no more. Now INEC has decided to assume that the case of Bayelsa is exactly the same case as that of Zamfara.
“We recognize that having purported to have sworn in or issued certificate to PDP candidate, we still believe that there are viable legal windows that we will explore. We affirm our confidence in the judiciary even with pains in our hearts.
“I wrote to INEC after the deliberation with the NWC that if it was the intention of Supreme Court to void the votes of APC. We have consulted and resolve to reject in entirety the decision to issue certificate to the PDP candidate. “We want to put the people of Nigeria on notice and of cause the people of Bayelsa that nobody hide under the judicial cover to impose minority on the people, even INEC is in content of the court.”
Arrest Oshiomhole for incitement, PDP tells IGP
The PDP has however called on the Inspector General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, to arrest Oshiomhole for allegedly causing the violence that erupted through incitement. PDP in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan said the violence and arson in Yenagoa was as a result of Oshiomhole’s alleged inciting statement that no governor would be sworn-in in Bayelsa State, contrary to the judgment of the Supreme Court.
“Oshiomole’s statement was a direct call for sedition and violent subversion of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the statutory authority of the Supreme Court and the mandate of the people of Bayelsa State. “He should therefore be pulled in immediately for prosecution for inciting violence and arson in the state,” the PDP demanded, while recalling its warning over Oshiomhole’s utterances, which it said would cause violence and a breakdown of law and order in the state.
The party alleged that people chanting APC slogans, assaulted the people of Bayelsa State, “set the PDP secretariat in the state ablaze, attacked the premises of Radio Bayelsa, vandalized vehicles and equipment, took over major highways and attacked travellers, all in the bid to violently subvert the judgement of the Supreme Court and forcefully take control of the state.” “Oshiomhole must be brought to book and stopped from the use of garrulity and clear misuse of language to cause crisis in our country,” PDP further warned.
The PDP Chairman, Uche Secondus, also urged the new governor to run all-inclusive government, saying that the victory is dedicated to God Almighty. “Power cometh from God not from man and in this case, it was a long journey to freedom. Now is the time for us to come together especially the people of Bayelsa State.
It is not in the falling, but it is in the rising according to Mandela,” the PDP chairman said. Secondus advised him to establish the Truth and Reconciliation committee, and called for genuine reconciliation of all Bayelsans.
“There will be no victor, there will also be no vanquished,” he said, urging the governor and his deputy to embrace everyone regardless of their political linings. “We believe in the rule of law and our matters are very clear. If it is on point of law, no argument, no protest; if it is not point of law, we will ask question. “We don’t just make protests or argue or issue statements on ordinary ground. If we have ground, we will ask question, and on this matter in Bayelsa State, it was on point of law and the rule of law has taken place,” he added.
Lawyers seek investigation of sacked Dep. Gov. elect
Some lawyers, including two Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), Mr. Seyi Sowemimo and Chief Emeka Okpoko, have called on the police authorities to immediately launch an investigation into the forgery allegation against Degi-Eremienyo. In separate telephone interviews with Saturday Telegraph, the silks noted that a thorough investigation is required to be carried out by the police to acsertain the culpability or otherwise of Degi-Eremienyo for forgery.
In his comments, Sowemimo, argued that the Supreme Court’s verdict should serve as a guide for the police in establishing the truth about the allegation. He said: “Of course, the police ought to have even step into the matter before now, afterall he is not enjoying any immunity.
I also want to assume that the people who are making the allegation could also have reported the matter to the police to investigate. But, you know how things work in this clime, police might have refused to take any action, thereby leaving those people with no other option than to resolve to litigation.
“If the people are saying that those certificates were more or less forged, then that ought to have given rise to some form of investigations. In any event, the Supreme Court has now intervened and since the fellow is not covered by any immunity, the police should be able to move in without any hindrance. The police should swiftly carry out its investigation and do the needful afterwards”.
Chief Emeka Okpoko also talked about the need for a thorough investigation by the police to unravel the hidden truth about the allegation. “The police should promptly launch investigation into the matter to be sure the man was actually involved in forgery. The Supreme Court had given its verdict that the man presented false information in aid of his qualification.
This is an offence strong enough to vitiate any electoral victory. “Now, if we want to talk of forgery, I think the standard of prove is higher and this is why a thorough investigation by the police is desirable”, the silk said.
APC group calls for party strengthening
The National Coalition Groups of the APC has called for the strengthening of the party, saying the loss of the state to the PDP at the Supreme Court was as a result of a weak National Working Committee (NWC).
The coalition, which briefed at the party’s National Secretariat in Abuja, said most members of the APC NWC today are stooge to the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, therefore don’t have a voice against impunity.
The secretary of the Coalition, Mazi Peter Okorafor who spoke on behalf of his colleagues said, “the vacant positions at the NWC are the primary cause of the problems in the party.” Stating that people with competence should be elected into the leadership of the party, Okorafor said, “the political administration is not a free for all.
It has to do with competence and experience. It has to do with a record of service in the political party affairs or administration. A situation where by the party will be functioned without critical or important offices, to us it is capable of causing the problem we are going through.
“We are advising the party to come together in the shortest possible time to fill all the vacant positions. Look at the position of the National Secretary of the party. Few weeks ago, we all heard in the media when NWC announced the National Secretary for the party in the person of Waziri Bulama and one month after, he is yet to resume in this secretariat of the party.
“Such situation will not linger to other states or zones where there are vacant offices. For instance, in the South-East, the National Auditor of the party was appointed as Director- General of a parastatal, his position became vacant. “This party should avoid any situation that will cause further or deepening the crisis in the zone.”