Not only will the nullification by the Supreme Court of the election of David Lyon and Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo – less than 24 hours to their inauguration as next governor and deputy governor of Bayelsa State through the judgment of a five member panel of justices presided over by Justice Mary Peter-Odili, remain one of the most dramatic features of the Nigerian political firmament for some time to come. It should also not have come as a surprise at least to the victims and their supporters. The apex court had nullified the election on the grounds that Lyon’s running mate and now dethroned deputy governor-elect Mr Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo had provided false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to facilitate his eligibility to contest the November 16 2019 gubernatorial polls in that state. The apex court also ordered INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return earlier issued to David Lyon as governor-elect, and issue a fresh one to the candidate with the next highest lawful votes in the November 16 2019 election, who happens to be Duoye Diri of the PDP.
Indeed, if there be any question over the affair such will be why the APC allowed itself to be dragged so deep into the vortex of perdition for Lyon’s governorship stint. Questions over the now problematic credentials of Degi-Eremieyo surfaced when the PDP filed a suit at the Abuja High Court challenging his eligibility for the high office of deputy governor. The matter was specifically that of presentation of false records by the Degi-Eremienyo in his INEC CF Form 0001 which he submitted for the November 16 2019 polls in the state. The High Court had ruled that Mr Degi-Eremienyo failed to provide enough evidence surrounding the names on his various certificates and the associated affidavits. While the affected Degi-Eremienyo pleaded his case as being one of a mix-up from an affidavit sworn in respect of an earlier change of name, presiding Justice Inyang Ekwo Abuja had disqualified the credentials. By that action alone, Degi-Eremienyo had technically corrupted the governorship ticket of Lyon and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Rather than back pedal at that point, the APC establishment proceeded to the Court of Appeal which ruled against the judgment of the lower court, and hence buoyed the hopes of the APC position. Not satisfied with the turn of events the PDP proceeded to the Supreme Court which on Thursday ruled both Degi-Eremienyo and his principal Lyon out of contention.
Reactions have since trailed the development in torrents and manifest various shades of public opinion. While some called for affirmative action by the APC to recover the party’s mandate in Bayelsa, other more sober ones adopted a high moral ground to question why the entire drama charted the course it did. This is just as some actually called for criminal prosecution of the affected Degi-Eremeinyo for perjury.
In the cascade of viewpoints, one of the most significant came from the National Chairman of the APC Comrade Adams Oshiomole, who vowed that PDP’s Diri would not be sworn in as governor of the state. Oshiomoe’s intervention was based on the argument that Diri failed to meet the constitutional requirement of vote spread. However with the ruling by the Supreme Court which favored Diri, Oshiomole’s lament faded like the vapour it was.
Seen in context this development constitutes a low spot for the APC and Lyon at both party and individual levels and in a bigger national context, another instance of questions about credentials of a politician and member of the county’s leadership community. As is easily recalled, just last week, the US included Nigeria, in the list of its visa-embargoed countries, with many Nigerians crying wolf. Given that the US cited their concerns over Nigeria’s inability to profile its citizens with precision, it is easy to see how the Bayelsa affair may vindicate that country in its vilification of Nigeria.
For this author, the entire drama offers a throwback to an earlier era specifically to the early days of the General Ibrahim Babangida return of partisan politics in 1990. An aspirant to political office had presented his credentials to one of the two political parties of the day. According to the WASC result he presented, he had scored English A1, Mathematics A2, Physics A3, Chemistry A4, Biology A5, Geography A6, Economics A7, Agricultural Science A8 and Fine Arts A9. What was more significant was the sense of fulfillment and pride with which he was parading the forgery, until he was called to order by officials on the screening committee.
The example cited above and the David Lyon scenario have significant similarities. At least the committee that screened the Babangida-era candidates were able to stop the result referred to as unacceptable. Faced with the same scenario, who knows if the APC screening committee for Lyon and company, would not have passed on as acceptable, a candidate with WAEC scores that range from A1 to A9?