Lyon’s victory, Diri’s triumph: Birthing rapprochement in Bayelsa

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The victory of Mr. David Lyon as the winner of the November 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa State had taken all watchers of political events in the state by surprise as the All Progressives Congress candidate was not expected to have had it so easy at the poll.

Before the November 16, 2019 governorship poll, Bayelsa had been in the firm grip of the Peoples Democratic Party for about 20 years, a party which had been winning all elections in the state since the return of the country to multi-party democracy in 1999.

The breaking of this “jinx” by Lyon proved political bookmakers, who had predicted that the PDP would retain its hold on the state, wrong. At the poll, he garnered 352,552 votes to trounce the PDP candidate, Diri, who got only 143, 172. 

The stage for Lyon’s now temporary emergence as the governor-elect of Bayelsa State was set when some bigwigs of the ruling PDP in the state, including former President Goodluck Jonathan, parted ways with Governor Seriake Dickson following some irreconcilable political differences and sources claimed, even gave their tacit support to the APC governorship candidate at the November 16, 2019 poll in the state.

Dickson was accused of sidelining Jonathan and other party chieftains in the scheme of things in the state, especially in the run-up to the governorship poll, resulting in an alleged gang-up which gave victory to the opposition APC and Lyon at the poll.

Following his victory at the November 16 governorship poll, Lyon became everybody’s favourite in the state and beyond. The Independent National Electoral Commission issued him a Certificate of Return to the delight of his supporters and other APC sympathisers across the country. He was even honoured by a body as the “Best Governor of the Year 2019” while still waiting to be sworn-in.

Lawmakers in the PDP-dominated Bayelsa State House of Assembly were merely waiting in the wings for Lyon to be sworn in before perfecting their mass defection to the APC, a party which had promised the people of the state a new lease of life.

In the past three months, Lyon and the people of the state had been upbeat about what the future of the state would be under an APC government. The governor-elect himself had been rehearsing in preparation for his new role as the state’s chief executive.

But less than 24 hours to his inauguration as the new governor of Bayelsa, a twist of event shattered his dreams of becoming the next occupant of the Bayelsa State Government House, as the Supreme Court disqualified his running mate, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, and declared the PDP candidate, Douye Diri, and his running mate, Lawrence Ewrujakpor, as the winners of the election held in the state.

The highest court of the land had discovered irregularities in Degi-Eremienyo’s credentials and annulled the joint ticket he held with Lyon as the apex court ruled that the faux pas committed by the deputy-governor elect had morbidly infected the mandate given to him and his principal at the November 16 poll.

The Supreme Court then ordered INEC to issue fresh certificates to the candidates of the party with the next highest votes and with the required constitutional spread of votes in the results of the election. This returned PDP’s Diri and his deputy governor-elect, Lawrence Ewrudjakpo as duly elected.

In compliance with the Supreme Court’s judgment, INEC on Friday morning issued a Certificate of Return to Diri and his deputy.

But inspite of the threats of fire and brimstone by the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, that no other person apart from Lyon would be sworn in as the governor of Bayelsa State, and amid the violent attacks on properties belonging to the PDP, immediate past governor Seriake Dickson and even Diri by the supporters of the APC candidate, the new governor was eventually inaugurated on Friday evening at the Government House.

The violence that greeted the declaration of Diri by INEC as the duly elected governor and the issuance of the Certificate of Return to him only earned the people of Bayelsa a three-day dusk to dawn curfew with its attendant losses and inconveniences.

Desperate last-minute efforts by the APC national chairman in particular to stop Diri’s inauguration came to nought and Oshiomhole had to console himself and his party with a decision to explore all other legal means to reverse the judgment of the Supreme Court on the Bayelsa governorship.

Oshiomhole at a news conference earlier in the day had accused INEC of appropriating judicial powers to interpret the law and proceed without any expressed order from the Supreme Court to create a dubious spread in favour of the PDP.

“As a party, we do not accept the decision of INEC to award the governorship to the PDP candidate. What we don’t accept is not the judgment of the Supreme Court, but the decision of INEC to constitute itself into a court. We are going to court to seek legal redress,” the APC national chairman had said. 

APC SHOT ITSELF IN THE LEG

Some political analysts have, however, blamed the APC for shooting itself in the leg with its loss of Bayelsa. A political scientist, Dr. Femi Odedeyi, said that the APC had suffered the consequences of its error of not being thorough in the screening of its candidates before elections.

Odedeyi said that the party should not have picked Degi-Eremienyo in the first place as the running to Lyon because of the irregularities his application to INEC was fraught with.

“The party should have dropped him and looked for another running mate with very clear and clean record. But see how much it has cost the APC now, losing a whole state they fought hard to win election just because of the follies by one man,” he said.

Speaking in the same vein, a public affairs analyst, Abubakar Salisu, recalled that the issue of Degi-Eremienyo’s multiple names first reared its head when he contested for the Senate.

He said that the PDP challenged him then at the tribunal but lost the case with the decision that it was a pre-election matter.

“Now, the nemesis, so to say, has caught up not only with the deputy-governor elect, but also with his party and its governorship candidate,” he said.

HOW LYON”S ALLIES DESERTED HIM

With the sacking of Lyon and his replacement with Diri, politicians in Bayelsa, many of whom had been “solidly” behind the APC governor-elect until the Supreme Court judgment, immediately began to switch camp and loyalty.

Key members of Lyon’s campaign council and group leaders attended last Friday’s inauguration of Diri as the new governor of Bayelsa State. Even all the PDP state House of Assembly members who, until last Thursday’s Supreme Court judgment sacking Lyon were warming up for a mass defection to the APC, were physically present at Diri’s inauguration.

But last Thursday morning, few hours before the Supreme Court judgment, many of these people and groups had besieged Lyon’s Igbogene residence and went to the parade ground in company with the APC candidate for his rehearsals.

A source even told The Point that members of Lyon’s extended campaign council and some invited dignitaries were having a sumptuous lunch at the APC governor-elect’s residence when they got wind of the Supreme Court ruling. Lyon was said to have hurriedly left his house for an unknown place and within the twinkle of an eye, the house itself was deserted by his earlier guests.

It was further gathered that when Lyon summoned an emergency meeting of his Campaign Council on Friday afternoon, a time which coincided with the Diri’s inauguration, only four out of the 60 members of the council showed up in his house.

The Point also learnt that none of the persons the APC governor-elect had penciled down for appointment into his stillborn cabinet showed or demonstrated any iota of sympathy for him. Lyon was deserted, isolated and left alone to lick the very deep inflicted on him by the sucker punch dealt him by the Supreme Court judgment.

Within few hours, the once bubbling camp of the APC in Bayelsa State “dropped dead” and life returned to the dying PDP, which had become comatose following Lyon’s victory in the November 16, 2019 governorship poll. In order not to be left behind, Bayelsa politicians who had earlier given their support to Lyon immediately switched camp and began frantic moves to get accommodation under the new dispensation. 

Interestingly, at Diri’s inauguration the lot fell on the paramount ruler of Lyon’s hometown to offer the traditional prayers at the event.

Infact, same troupe of entertainers earlier contracted to perform at Lyon’s botched inauguration were brought in to entertain guests at Diri’s swearing-in.

BAYELSA’s POLITICAL REALIGNMENT and RAPPROACHMENT

There’s, however, no doubt that the nullification of Lyon’s victory and the swearing-in of Diri as governor would birth a new political climate and realignment in Bayelsa.

The strong indication to this was Diri’s visit to former President Jonathan immediately after he was sworn in last Friday.

The new Bayelsa governor, who is not known to enjoy Jonathan’s support during the November 16 governorship poll in the state, immediately headed to the former president’s home to present to him his Certificate of Return.

Analysts opine that that was an indication that the new Bayelsa governor had the desire to end the simmering feud between Jonathan and his traditional but estranged allies. It is also said that Diri’s action signals readiness to bring together once again the PDP family in Bayelsa State.

Earlier on Friday, Jonathan in his congratulatory message to Diri had said that the new governor, who had worked under him as a commissioner when he was the governor of the state, would live up to the people’s expectations.

The former president had then enjoined the people of the state “to be law-abiding, peaceful and embrace this transition in all sincerity, and work together towards a united and prosperous state.”

TURNING THE HEAT ON OSHIOMHOLE

But with the triumph of the PDP in Bayelsa, APC chieftains still smarting from the Supreme Court’s nullification of Lyon’s victory and the resultant loss of the state, are now calling for the head of the party’s National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.

Oshiomhole has suddenly become the sitting duck for many aggrieved members of the APC, who blame him for the electoral misfortune the party has suffered in Zamfara and lately in Bayelsa, arguing that he had outlived his usefulness.

An APC member of the House of Representatives, Peter Esele, demanded the outright removal of Oshiomhole from office over his poor handling of the party’s affairs.

He blamed APC’s loss of Bayelsa on Oshiomhole’s complicity for fielding an unqualified governorship candidate for the last November 16 poll in Bayelsa.

Esele also said Oshiomhole’s utterances had become source of an embarrassment to the party, warning that because of the APC national chairman’s interference in Edo, the party may find itself without any candidate in the forthcoming governorship election in the state.

He said that it was time the party got rid of Oshiomhole.

Speaking in the same vein, Special Assistant to the President on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, said that the screening organ of the party should be blamed for its loss of Bayelsa.

Apparently referring to Oshiomhole’s comments on the situation in Bayelsa, Onochie said it was not the time for any muscle-flexing, urging the party leadership to reflect on how its screening organ failed Lyon and the people of the state.

She said, “This is not the time to flex muscles. It’s time to reflect on how the APC screening organ failed David Lyon and the people of Bayelsa.

“It was heart-wrenching to see the photos of David Lyon rehearsing for a day that will not be. How is he, his family and his supporters ever going to get over this? APC failed him. It’s indefensible. No excuse can cover this one.”

WE WON”T GIVE UP ON RETRIEVING BAYELSA, APC NATIONAL LEADERSHIP VOWS

For now, the dust raised over the Bayelsa governorship controversy may not have completely settled as the APC has vowed to exhaustively explore all legal means to retrieve the seat from the PDP.

Already, the APC national chairman has written to the Independent National Election Commission to demand a fresh governorship election in the state.

The party is also exploring other legal loopholes to get the Supreme Court to reverse itself on the Bayelsa governorship.

APC Deputy National Chairman, Yekini Nabena, said at a press briefing in Abuja, “The contention on the Bayelsa governorship is far from over. We are all aware of the NYSC certificate forgery case of the Bayelsa deputy governor, Lawrence Oborawharievwo Ewhrudjakpo.

“And the decision of the APC National leadership to continue to pursue all legal avenues to contest INEC’s decision to declare Douye Diri as Bayelsa governor, having failed to meet the mandatory constitutional requirement to become governor.”