A Supreme Court judgment that annulled the governorship election victory of David Lyon (APC), ushered in plenty of confusion in the polity.
On Thursday, February 13, 2020,the apex court sacked Lyon as Governor-elect because his running mate in the November 16, 2019 election, Biobarakuma Degi-Eriemienyo, was found guilty of possessing ‘forged’ certificates or school certificates laden with discrepancies.
For a moment, the judgment had the makings of one that could leave Bayelsa in some kind of constitutional crisis. Questions were also asked about whether the Supreme Court had left a governance vacuum in Bayelsa with its ruling.
The Justice Mary Odili-led Supreme Court panel held that no person shall be qualified to contest an election if he presented false information for the purpose of the election.
In a judgment delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko, the apex court said it had established from the documents submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that the deputy governor-elect committed perjury by “chameliously and fraudulently using different names as it suits him.”
Degi-Eriemienyo’s forgery had infected Lyon because both men ran on a joint ticket, the apex court ruled.
In the beginning..
It is important to state here that Degi-Eriemienyo’s variety of names in his school certificates did him, the APC and Lyon in.
The PDP alleged in its case against the APC that Degi-Eremienyo’s name was written as Degi Biobara in his primary school certificate. However, the documents from his secondary education bore Adegi Biobarakumo. In university, Lyon's running mate was called Degi Biobarakuma.
His MBA certificate had the name Degi Biobarakuma Wangaha.
On November 12, 2019, the Federal High Court in Abuja disqualified Degi-Eremieoyo from participating in the governorship election for his different names at different points of his life.
However, the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja dismissed the PDP’s case, overruled the Federal High Court and affirmed Degi-Eremieoyo's candidacy.
The Appeal Court held that a case of forgery was not established against Degi-Eremienyo because he had done the required ‘change of name’ as published in a national newspaper--a basic requirement of law.
Supreme Court sets aside Appeal Court's ruling
The Supreme Court would go on to set aside the Appeal Court's verdict, pronouncing it pervasive.
The Supreme Court agreed with the judgment delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court that the case of forgery had been established in the documents presented by Degi-Eremienyo.
The apex court concluded that the primary school certificate obtained by Degi-Eremienyo in 1976, GCE (1984), first degree (1990) and others were products of forgery and that the running mate violated Section 182 of the 1999 Constitution.
Why the PDP candidate in the election is the next governor of Bayelsa
The PDP candidate in the election was Senator Douye Diri. He's now Governor-elect after receiving his certificate of return from the electoral commission.
The Supreme Court ruled that an INEC certificate of return be issued to the candidate with the second highest number of votes cast, 25% of which must be in two-thirds of the local governments.
From the official election figures, the APC polled 352,552 while the PDP secured 143,172 votes.
There are eight local governments in Bayelsa. Lyon of the APC won in six of those eight.
While Diri of the PDP was the candidate with the second highest number of votes received in the election, there was confusion over whether he achieved the ‘spread’ required by the constitution to be inaugurated governor.
Diri won in two of Bayelsa's eight local governments and didn't have the 'spread' the constitution required to be pronounced winner.
If the PDP candidate did not satisfy the constitutional requirements to be inaugurated governor, the Speaker of the Bayelsa House of Assembly was always the next in line for the throne, according to constitutional lawyer Sebastine Hon (SAN).
“The rider in the judgment of the Supreme Court is that INEC should issue a certificate of return to the next political party whose candidate scored the majority of votes cast; at least 25% of which must be in two-thirds of the local governments. If the PDP candidate satisfies these two conditions, he should be inaugurated.
“If he does not, the Speaker of the House of Assembly will be inaugurated as the Acting Governor and INEC will conduct a fresh election; but the APC will stand disqualified from contesting in that rerun since its candidature at the annulled election was, ab initio, a farce,” said Sebastine.
Another lawyer, Abiodun Layonu (SAN) had said “the implication of this judgment is that in calculating the votes to identify who has the 25 per cent spread, all the votes of APC would be discounted. Some people are of the opinion that the PDP candidate did not satisfy the spread, but I cannot tell until INEC determines that.
“The Supreme Court said whoever came second and satisfied the constitutional requirement should be sworn in. Another implication of this decision is that the APC has lost the state completely.”
What was the APC's position?
APC Chairman Adams Oshiomhole was of the view that “as things stand, Diri Douye cannot be sworn in since he did not meet the one quarter of votes cast in two thirds of the eight local councils of Bayelsa State.
“It is not a state secret. If as the Supreme Court has ruled, Lyon cannot be sworn in as governor and that the person who has the highest number of votes and spread be sworn in, it simply means that from tomorrow, there will be no government in Bayelsa State.
“As far as we know, the next candidate who happens to be a PDP candidate does not have one quarter of the total lawful votes cast in that election in two thirds of the eight local government areas in Bayelsa State.
“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 a deliberate attempt to abuse the legal process.”
However, INEC has declared Diri winner of the election in compliance with the Supreme Court judgment.
Why is INEC handing the crown to Diri?
Because the votes of the APC candidate no longer count in the grand scheme of things (there have been discounted by the judgment, remember?), INEC says resolving this became pretty easy.
If you disqualify the APC candidate and annul his votes, Diri would become the first placed candidate and achieve that 'spread'.
The Supreme Court verdict meant a disqualification for Lyon and the party. According to the electoral commission, taking out the APC's votes in the election meant Diri had achieved the spread the Supreme Court pronounced as a condition.
"In compliance with the orders of the Supreme Court, the Commission met this morning and reviewed the result of the election in which 45 political parties contested," INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu said.
"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 now stand at 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% of the lawful votes cast in all the eight local government areas of the state.
"Furthermore, the total number of registered voters in places where election was not held or cancelled as a result of sundry violations is 90, 822.
"The candidate of the Accord Party has the next highest score with 1,339. The margin of lead between the candidates of the PDP and the 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. "
The tenure of incumbent Bayelsa Governor Seriake Dickson ends at midnight of February 14, 2020 and there will be no vacuum or lacuna in Bayelsa as previously feared. Diri will be sworn-in as Governor of Bayelsa on Saturday, February 15, 2020.
And that's that about that.