By Donu Kogbara
I WAS minding my business in my Abuja residence yesterday – and feeling depressed about the state of the nation – when my phone rang. It was an All Progressives Congress, APC, chieftain friend.
“The Supreme Court has just returned Bayelsa to PDP (Peoples Democratic Party)!” he told me. “It’s a lie!” I exclaimed.
He solemnly assured me that he wasn’t pranking me, so I quickly called some other friends to share this political bombshell.
But nobody took me seriously to start with! The consensus was that I had been deceived and was inadvertently peddling fake news. Then official confirmation arrived via various current affairs platforms. And I still don’t quite believe what has happened: Twenty-four hours before his inauguration, which was due to take place in Yenagoa today, the Supreme Court declared that Mr. David Lyon of APC was no longer governor-elect of Bayelsa State.
A five-man panel, headed by Justice Mary Odili, unanimously voted to nullify Lyon’s November 16, 2020 election on the grounds that his deputy, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, presented false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The court held that since Degi-Eremieoyo shared a joint ticket with the governor-elect, his disqualification invalidated both of their nominations as the APC’s guber flagbearers in Bayelsa.
Their certificate of return has now been withdrawn so that a new one can be issued to the candidates – PDP Senators Douye Diri and Lawrence Ewhruojakpo (Diri’s running mate) – who secured the second highest number of votes and required geographical spread.
Many lessons can be learned from this dramatic development: The outgoing PDP governor, Henry Seriake Dickson, has been widely vilified for “imposing” Diri/Ewhruojakpo and for “ignoring” or “insulting” PDP stakeholders who preferred other aspirants or simply felt that the PDP primaries should be a totally level playing field.
And because Dickson’s “boys” were “defeated” by Lyon/ Degi-Eremienyo in November, his enemies have been gleefully describing him as a spent force whose career has ended in abject failure. Even within his social circle, many genuine Dickson pals have been worried about what the future holds for him. But everything miraculously changed yesterday!
Dickson initiated and funded the appeal that led to this Supreme Court triumph; and he’s suddenly in a much stronger position.
Two lessons learned: a) the much-maligned apex court sometimes gets it right! b) never write anyone off as an irredeemable loser because life is complex and unpredictable and because the game ain’t over until we have shuffled this mortal coil and been buried or cremated!
David Lyon knew that his election win was controversial and being legally contested…and that the judges would not deliver their verdict until the day before he was due to be sworn in.
Nevertheless, he convinced himself that he was definitely going to take over from Dickson, promised juicy government jobs to a bunch of cronies and even staged a dress rehearsal in Yenagoa Stadium earlier.
APC stalwarts were so sure that they’d be taking over the reins of government today that they booked every available hotel room in Bayelsa’s capital, replaced PDP flags in key locations with APC flags and posted military personnel to places that were in PDP hands.
Some of the wilder elements in the APC camp even threatened to “deal with” Dickson and his supporters as soon as Lyon was sworn in. And while Dickson – who possesses the mindset of a traditional Ijaw warrior and doesn’t blink or scare easily – was unperturbed by such unpleasant talk, some of the people around him felt vulnerable.
Then, suddenly, it was the APC folks who felt vulnerable. I hear that most of them abandoned their hotel rooms yesterday, the minute the Supreme Court information reached them, and swiftly headed out of town, feet firmly pressed on car accelerators.
Lesson learned: Never arrogantly or complacently assume that you have won a war until you have actually won it!
Meanwhile, the President was due to visit Yenagoa today – purely, we were told by straight-faced government officials, to commission the new Nigerian Content Development & Monitoring Board building.
Dancing and singing
I was informed that Buhari’s planned presence was not in any way whatsoever linked to the fact that Lyon was, on the very same day as the commissioning, expected to pull off a huge victory for his political party by becoming the first-ever APC governor of a major oil-producing Niger Delta state on the very same day.
But, interestingly, shortly after Lyon’s humiliating ejection hit the headlines, Mr President’s profound and timely interest in the Nigerian Content Development & Monitoring edifice completely evaporated and his trip to Bayelsa was cancelled “indefinitely”.
Lesson learned: Smart alec government officials should quit trying to pull the wool over our eyes because they fool nobody who has half a brain!!!
By the way, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, who ran a PDP administration, was accused (alongside his famously feisty wife Dame Patience) of forsaking his party in Bayelsa – and supporting Lyon – because he was angry with Dickson. Jonathan denies this allegation, but some of his detractors remain convinced that he betrayed PDP.
Lesson learned: Whether the above allegation is true or false, it is worth noting that it never makes sense to allow your annoyance with one individual to drive you into making rash moves!
OK, so I am deliriously happy for those of my Bayelsan brethren who have high standards and have been dancing and singing about Diri’s victory because he is infinitely superior to Lyon.
Uneducated folks can be jolly good fellows and can add value within certain contexts. But I don’t think they can be adequate leaders of states that require sophisticated 2lst century management.
As Daniel Markson, the outgoing Commissioner for Information said when Lyon was kicked out: “God must be a Bayelsan!”