The Bayelsa State governorship election tribunal, sitting in Nyanya, Abuja has upheld the election of Mr. Seriake Dickson as the duly elected governor of the state. Dickson contested under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the December 6, 2015 election proper and the January 9, 2016 rescheduled governorship election in Bayelsa state.
In its ruling on the petition filed by the APC and its governorship candidate, Mr. Timipre Sylva, the tribunal held that the supplementary election that took place on January 9, 2016, was proper and valid.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Bayelsa State had challenged the return of Governor Seriake Dickson in the election, saying the entire process was untidy.
The party attributed the victory of Governor Dickson to manipulation of results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The APC also questioned the cancellation of results in their stronghold, lamenting the prevention of the party agents from partaking in the collation process
“The Election Petitions Tribunal which sat in Abuja today, Tuesday 25th of July, upheld our victory in the December 5 and January 9 2016 governorship polls in our dear state.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, Chief Timipre Sylva, had challenged the election seeking to reverse the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which declared me as the valid winner of the election.
But in a unanimous decision, the 3-man tribunal, led by Justice Kazeem Aloba, said they failed to prove their case. It consequently dismissed the petition and upheld my election as earlier declared by INEC.
I hail the judgment. It is a victory for democracy and the people of Bayelsa State. I also commend the judiciary for upholding our nation’s democracy and once again acquitting itself as the bastion of our democracy.
Once again, I want to use this opportunity to praise the good people of Bayelsa for voting for me and our party on conviction and how you all stood to protect your votes even in the face of intimidation and harassment. The tribunal’s judgement indicated that the resolve of the people did not go in vain therefore I urge us to be more vigilant so we can collectively protect democracy” in the country.
I also commend the judiciary for its role as the defender of the constitution because without a fearless and independent judiciary, democracy is imperiled.
It was not the election that was on trial; but the judiciary itself as the tribunal’s judgment validated the saying that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man”.
Recall that the President of the Court of Appeal Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa had ordered the re-location of the Bayelsa State Election petition Tribunal which was earlier scheduled to hold in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital to Court 14 Inyanya of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
In a press release by the secretary governorship election petition tribunal, Adekunla I Sunmonu Esq., litigants had been advised to fill their court processes at High Court 14 of the Federal Capital Territory Inyanya. It had also stated that the relocation takes place with immediate effect.
The Tribunal had been mandatorily constituted, as stipulated by law and was quickly petitioned, following the decision of the defeated APC Governorship Candidate in the election, Chief Timipre Sylva to file a petition to the tribunal, where he had averred that contrary to INEC claims that elections in Southern Ijaw held on January 9, 2016, the election in the area only held on Sunday December 6, 2015 which he claimed to have won and as a consequence, the Bayelsa Governorship election.
The substantive election in the state was held on Saturday December 5, and had spilled over into Sunday December 6, 2015, as INEC, through the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Prof. Barritor Kpagir had rescheduled the election for Sunday, claiming that the shift was to afford the people the chance to enable them exercise their rights.
However, the same INEC, after announcing results from 7 out of the 8LGAs in the state, had subsequently cancelled the poll in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area and declared the election inconclusive, following reports of widespread electoral malpractices and violence.
Professor Mustapha Leki of INEC later noted that the rescheduled election was substantially marred by violence, ballot snatching and holding of electoral officials’ hostage, declaring further that what happened in Southern Ijaw was a negation of global best practices in election conduct and that it was necessary to cancel the election there to enthrone credibility in the process.
INEC then subsequently fixed January 9, 2016 for supplementary elections in the affected Southern Ijaw local government and 101 other polling units in 7 local government areas where elections did not hold on December 5.
At the conclusion of the January 9, 2016 elections, the incumbent governor and the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Seriake Dickson, emerged winner after scoring the most votes in the Bayelsa State governorship election.
According to the results announced by the Returning Officer for the Bayelsa governorship election, Zana Akpaobgu, Mr. Dickson polled 134,998 to defeat Timipre Sylva of the All Progressives Congress who scored 86,852 votes.
Akpaogu, a professor and Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar, declared Mr. Dickson winner of the poll on the evening of Sunday January 10, 2016 at Yenagoa Local Government Council, which served as state collation centre for the Bayelsa governorship election.
Moses Siasia of the Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM had come in a distant third with 1, 572 votes.
However, the streets of Bayelsa and indeed the Social media grapevine and platform had buzzed with unsubstantiated results from the controversial Southern Ijaw election, which had indicated that the All Progressive Congress, APC had scored 78,123 while the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP had scored 13, 250 votes
However, eye witness reports had claimed that the alleged attempt to get this result to the INEC collation centre in Yenagoa had been thwarted, when some unidentified, gun wielding persons, allegedly stormed the premises of the collation centre in a Hilux vehicle and opened random fire, which had caused pandemonium as INEC officials and those in the entre had scampered for cover and safety in the melee.
The vehicle had then reportedly sped off before its occupants could either be identified or apprehended by law enforcement officers, but the action had sufficiently disorganized the activities in the collation centre and left the electoral body with no other option, than to cancel the elections, since the result from Southern Ijaw Local Government Area would no longer be forth coming.
The Bayelsa governorship election would purportedly have been concluded and Timipre Sylva of the All Progressive Congress, APC declared winner, if that result had successfully reached the INEC collation centre in Yenagoa.
It was against this backdrop that Timipre Silva, the All Progressives Congress, APC, Gubernatorial candidate had filed a petition with the Bayelsa Governorship election Tribunal, challenging the results as declared by INEC, especially the January 9, Southern Ijaw polls result.
The relocation of the tribunal venue from Yenagoa to Abuja had added an intriguing twist to the tale, just like the Akwa Ibom Tribunal and the Delta Court of Appeal sitting and all the way to the Supreme Court, which Governors Udom Emmanuel and Ifeanyi Okowa won eventually, although INEC was to expectedly endorse its own election and justify its decision to declare Governor Dickson winner, two critical issues were to define and shape the tribunal proceedings in the days ahead.
First the Tribunal granted Governor Dickson the leave to inspect election materials tendered by the Timipre Sylva and the APC, especially those from the contentious areas like Brass, which Sylva won and of course the Southern Ijaw results which Sylva had claimed to be authentic as against the one declared by INEC.
The second issue was intriguing and had further spiced proceedings, when Traditional rulers from Southern Ijaw, decked in full their royal regalia, glowing with colour and majestic splendor and led by HRH Job Dairus David, Etele VI and paramount ruler of Eruwari Community in Southern Ijaw, had stormed the tribunal sitting in Abuja and after swearing to the holy bible, had disagreed with Sylva, that the governorship election in Southern Ijaw held on 9th January 2016 and not in December 2016, even as they stressed that the polls were free, fair, peaceful, and credible, adding that INEC conducted the elections in total compliance with the Electoral Act 2010.
The monarchs, had actually been subpoenaed by the Bayelsa State Elections Petitions Tribunal to testify on the grounds that they were the apolitical custodians of Southern Ijaw, and through HRH Job Darius David Etele VI, had recalled that they had dragged INEC to the Federal High Court, Yenagoa on grounds that they were disenfranchised from participating in the December 5, 2015 governorship election and told the tribunal that if elections had held in their domains, they wouldn’t have sued the electoral umpire.
And contrary to the claims by Sylva that there was election on December 6 and that the January 9 rescheduled election was bedeviled with violence and malpractice, HRH Job Dairus David had posited that the January 9 election which Governor Dickson won was peaceful and transparent. While flaunting his PVC to buttress his position, the monarch averred that he voted at unit 14, ward 12 of Southern Ijaw.
The other nine monarchs who also attested to the credibility of the polls were: HRH Toboro Andy Godwill, HRH Ayawei Job, HRH Mangiri Clifford Nage, HRH Imboko Herbert James, and HRH Okoko Stample. Others are HRH Mabinton Frank Bomoayibala, HRH Taylor Awe Patrick, HRH Kenneth I. Opukemo and HRH Kieri B.S Idomo.
Before the monarchs mounted the witness box however, a mild drama had ensued, when Mr. Sebastian Hon, (SAN) ,Sylva’s lead counsel, had tried to no avail to stop the paramount rulers from testifying on grounds that the subpoena issued on them was wrong.
After several legal fireworks by Governor Dickson’s lead counsel, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo, (SAN), the tribunal had overruled Sylva’s objection on grounds that a Subpoena was a command and there was no way the tribunal would command the traditional rulers to appear to testify and turn around to deny them appearance.
The rest, as they say is now history and the declaration of Governor Seriake Dickson as the winner of the Bayelsa Governorship election by the Tribunal, has been welcomed with a huge sigh of relief by the PDP and the Dickson camp. But this is expectedly the first hurdle scaled, in a matter which may likely go all the way to the Supreme Court, like those before it, if Timpre Sylva, the Governorship candidate of the APC, is still dissatisfied with the ruling of the Bayelsa election tribunal, sitting in Abuja, in favour of Governor Seriake Dickson.