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Bayelsa 2019: Diri, Lyon’s quest for creek haven beset by legal landmines

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Though Campaigns for the November 16 gubernatorial election in Bayelsa State have commenced, the fate of the governorship candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Douye Diri, and his rival, Mr. David Lyon, of All Progressive Congress clearly hangs in the balance.

The path of the two candidates who are favoured to succeed the Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, are laid with legal landmines bordering on the alleged abnormality, illegalities and discrepancies that occurred during the PDP and APC primaries held a month ago.

Immediately after the primaries that produced Senator Diri , as the PDP flag bearer and Lyon for the APC candidate, some aggrieved aspirants who felt the process was circumvented, had approached the court for redress. One of those seeking legal redress is former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi Alaibe, a frontline member of the PDP. In the APC, the duo of the former minister for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri and businessman, Preye Aganaba, have also dragged APC and its the candidate to court over the conduct of the primary.

Like the sword of Damocles, the cases are dangling dangerously and causing unease among the candidates and their supporters. Though leaders of the parties have moved in to reconcile aggrieved aspirants, there is yet no deal.

The pro-Dickson state executive of the PDP in the state had constituted a nine-member committee to reconcile aggrieved members who have expressed their dissatisfaction with the controversial primary that produced Senator Diri.
Chairman of the party, Mr. Cleopas Moses, in a statement has noted that there was need to carry all members of the party along and ensure its unity ahead of the governorship election.

Alaibe, who came second in the primary frown at what he described as inexcusable faulty processes that preceded the primary election. And convinced that the primary was manipulated and flawed, had approached the Federal High Court in Yenogoa Judicial Division, with an application for cancellation of the result of the primary election based on cited procedural flaws.

“Some people have questioned the need for a court process. The answer is simple: any injustice that is not challenged and corrected will surely be repeated. And we will be the victims. As an advocate of peace and non-violence, I decided to accept the advice of the stakeholders and seek justice through legal means.

“Although this was misunderstood by some people, I want to sincerely thank my supporters and indeed all lovers of democracy and the rule of law for their understanding and massive support so far. I salute your calmness and perseverance in the face of great injustice. But please understand that I need you now more than ever,” he said.

The former NDDC boss who is perceived by bookmakers as the main PDP aspirants with undisputable capacity to win election has alleged that the ward congress held by the party was flawed due to irregularities. He further contended that there was a pre-determined plan to handpick a candidate.

Alaibe, said to be former President Goodluck Jonathan’s preferred choice, is also against the manner electoral and returning officers were picked to ‘favour aspirants endorsed by the already biased leadership of the party in the state’.

The suit instituted at the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, with reference number FHC/YNG/CS/99/2019, has as defendants the PDP, Senator Douye Diri, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Embeleakpo Alale for himself and representing the elected local government chairmen, vice chairmen and councillors of the PDP.He is praying the court to set aside the submission of Diri’s name to INEC by the PDP as its candidate in the governorship election coming up on November 16 in view of what he described as the several legal and procedural infractions cited.

Alaibe, also, prayed the court to order the conduct of fresh primary elections for the nomination and sponsorship of the candidate for the governorship election in Bayelsa State.When the case came up for hearing on Monday, October 7, Justice Jane Inyang of the Federal High Court, who had earlier given an order to abridge the time for the defence to respond, said she had vacated the order.She thereafter adjourned the case to October 18 for hearing.

Mr. Sumina Johnbull, counsel to Alaibe explained that the reason for the adjournment was because the judge wanted to be sure that all the parties had been served. He said that for the purpose of fair hearing, the judge ordered that all parties be given time to respond. “This is just part of the preliminary processes” he said.

Lawyer to the contentious delegates who voted during the primaries, Chuks Uguru, said the time limit given to defendants had put them under immense pressure until it was reviewed by the judge.He said: “We applied orally that the order should be vacated so that we have sufficient time to respond to the case. The court has displayed judicial activism and vacated the order. We are not afraid of anything. We will meet them fact for facts, law for law.”

Perturbed that his political permutation might be imperiled, the Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson, had openly confessed that he had tried in vain to meet with Alaibe for reconciliation talk.Alaibe, who stated that it was the collective decision of stakeholders in the state that prompted him to contest the disputed primary, alluded that the governor had tried to play god. And, to this end, the legal step he had taken was based on the decision of stakeholders.

“So far, we have stayed on course and even those who set out to play god and had underrated our collective resolve not to be frightened out of the race with cheap blackmail, are shocked at our tenacity. We have been able to conquer intimidation with unpredictable resilience. Despite all attempts, they have not been able to fault our superior arguments demonstrated in our vision. We have shown them that we mean business, and that we are too focused to be distracted,” he said.

The situation in PDP has since spilled over to the APC, where the routinely warring factions of the Timipre Sylva; Lokpobiri and Aganaba appear to have failed to iron out most of their differences ahead of the crucial governorship election.

Lokpobiri is asking the court to quash the emergence of David Lyon, as the APC’s Bayelsa governorship candidate because the party’s primary that held on September 4 was beset by several irregularities. When the case came up for hearing also on Monday before the same judge at the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, the Judge granted four out of the five motions filed by Lokpobiri’ against the APC; Lyon and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Presiding Judge, Justice Jane Inyang, during the resumed preliminary hearing of the suit numbered FHC\YNG\C\100\19 filed by the immediate past Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, granted the exparte motion for substituted service and three others motions.

However, the judge declined to issue an order of abridgement of time, which required the defence to enter appearance, file and serve their respective defence process to seven days due to the plaintiff’s prayer that it is a pre-election matter that needed accelerated hearing.

According to the court, the plaintiff cannot unilaterally abridge the time of response of the defence counsel.Justice Iyang ordered that taking into consideration the argument by the plaintiff’s counsel, Fitzgerald Olorogun that the respondents had been avoiding service, the APC should be served by pasting the service on the party Secretariat or serve the legal officer or any other senior official of the Party.She ordered that the candidate of the party, Lyon should be served by pasting the service on the campaign Secretariat along the Isaac Boro expressway and that INEC should be served by pasting the service on the state Secretariat along Swali road.

Lokpobiri’s counsel, Mr. Fitzgerald Olorogun described the decisions of the court as a positive development, noting that; “it would have been difficult to serve these people. With the court order, it will no longer be difficult.’’ He added: “You are all aware that David Lyon has been running away from service. We are now to come back for the report of service on the 1 of October 14 2019.”

The defence counsel is however yet to make appearances due to the preliminary status of the case.While Lokpobiri’s case is giving the party hierarchy, both at the state and national level great concerns, another aggrieved aspirants, Preye Aganaba, has also approached a court, calling for a cancelation of the primary. Sources say the APC national Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole and other top government functionaries in Abuja, have tried unsuccessfully to broker peace and settle out of court, but the former Minister had shun every overture.


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