Anxiety As Supreme Court Rules On Bayelsa Guber Contest

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Governor Seriake Dickson

Governor Seriake Dickson

EXPECTATIONS are high among supporters of Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State and the immediate former Governor, Timipre Sylva, who have stormed Abuja to witness today’s ruling of the Supreme Court on who is the rightful candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last governorship election in the state.

The apex court would also decide whether the Court of Appeal, Abuja was right to have held that the Federal High Court, Abuja had jurisdiction to hear Sylva’s suit. Sylva had, through a cross-appeal filed on his behalf by his lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), asked the court to evoke its constitutional powers to hear the matter as if it were a trial court.

The apex court panel chaired by Justice Mohammed Mahmud after hearing the arguments of the counsel in the matter adjourned the matter for judgment.

Sylva’s prayers: Before the adjournment, counsel to Sylva, Lateef Fagbemi, prayed the court should declare as valid the PDP guber primary of January 2011, adding that there was no basis to jettison it. He said it could be nullified if the winner resigns from the contest or dies before the main election.

He said the argument of the appellant that there was no selection or nomination by the time Sylva went to court was neither here nor there as long as they admit there was submission of Dickson’s name as PDP’s candidate. Besides, he said when jurisdiction is challenged, the defendant is bound by averment in statement of claims and in this case the originating summons.

In addition, he said the court should look at Sections 33 and 35 of Electoral Act to establish whether there could be a second primary or substitution of names when the original winner of a primary poll is still alive and interested in contesting the forthcoming poll.

On the other hand, the appellants said the only reason the appeal court said that the Federal High Court had jurisdiction was because INEC was a party to the suit. He further said that PDP was not an agency of the Federal Government but a private organisation and as such the matter was the domestic affair of the party.

S/court’s earlier ruling Earlier, the Supreme Court had granted Sylva an approval to file a cross appeal against the ruling of the Court of Appeal, which held that the trial Judge, Gabriel Kolawole, went beyond himself in warning PDP not to tamper with the subject matter of the action brought before him. Both Sylva and PDP are presently before the apex court because they were dissatisfied with the judgment of the Abuja Court of Appeal.

Court of Appeal verdict: The court of appeal had held that Sylva was right to have filed his case against PDP at the Federal High Court but added that the trial judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole went too far when he threatened to sanction PDP and INEC if they failed to appear before it within 72 hours to show cause why he should not grant Sylva all the reliefs he sought from the court.

In his appeal, Sylva said that the court of appeal erred in law when it held that the pronouncement of the trial judge, asking the Respondents to show cause and also warning the Respondents from taking any action that would foist upon the court a hopeless situation without hearing the Respondents amounted to pre-judging the issue before him. He argued that a court of law had the responsibility of protecting the sanctity of its proceedings.

PDP’s appeal: PDP in its own appeal, said the court of appeal erred in law when it held that the federal high court had jurisdiction to hear Sylva’s case. It asked the court to strike out the case. Sylva, however asked the court to grant all the reliefs he asked for at the high court. Sylva, is seeking leave of the apex court to validate his candidacy based on the January 2011 PDP primaries he won.

The former governor reelection bid was truncated when he was excluded from the November primary by the leadership of the party. Though he won January 2011 primary, the governorship election was however postponed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The INEC’s action was based on an order of an Abuja High Court, which declared that the tenure of five governors continue beyond May 29 because they won re-run elections. The verdict was upheld by the Court of Appeal, Abuja. The then Bayelsa governor and those of Adamawa, Cross River, Kogi and Sokoto had approached the court on the ground that they won re-run elections in their respective states.

Screening appeal panel

Sylva is contending that his candidacy subsists as nobody petitioned against his success at the said primary election to the screening appeal panel or any other body or committee of the PDP.

Anxiety over today’s verdict: The anticipated apex court ruling has been a source of concern to the contending camps.The Bayelsa State Government, Tuesday, called on Bayelsans to remain calm saying there was no cause for alarm.

The rumour mill had even attributed the visit of President Goodluck Jonathan to the state to the anticipated ruling. The President was said to have met last weekend with his political group at his Otuoke village to weigh likely scenarios from the ruling.

Present at the meeting according to reports were Dickson, his deputy, John Jonah, King Amalate Turner and Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government, Prof Edmund Allison-Oguru. The president according to sources was said to have made it clear to the attendees that he did not know where the pendulum of justice would swing in the case.

Sources said the presidency had concluded a game plan to cause the former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and Former Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs (Amnesty Programme), Mr. Timi Alaibe, to return to LP to contest, if the Supreme Court ruled for a fresh governorship poll, on the arrangement that he would go back to PDP if he won.

Alaibe distances self from move

But Alaibe in a swift reaction faulted the reported moves in some quarters, within Bayelsa State, to diminish the fortunes of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.

In a statement titled “Count Me Out”, Alaibe noted that the Tuesday media report (not Vanguard) suggesting that there was panic in President Goodluck Jonathan’s camp of the PDP over the April 20 verdict of the Supreme Court on the rightful governorship candidate of the party, as mere handiwork of political charlatans bent on foisting their narrow interests on a larger society.”

He declared that not only was he not aware of any such meeting, as reported, he noted that “I am a firm believer in the sanctity and independence of the judiciary. I am not only totally loyal to President Jonathan, I am fully supportive of Governor Seriake Dickson’s mission to salvage Bayelsa State from the rot of the past, having supported and campaigned for his victory at the polls.”

Describing the authors of the story as “mercantile spinners,” Alaibe noted that the import of the story was to attempt to confuse the judiciary, so that “Timipre Sylva and his cohorts, who are merely day dreaming, can have their day.” Also a source close to the Dickson camp dismissed the claim that the President was in the state because of the suit at the apex court saying there was no panic in the governor’s camp.

Alleged rumour and misinformation

In his reaction, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Matters, Chief Fred Agbedi said the alleged rumour and misinformation were being spread by enemies of the administration, saying there was nothing to fear about the court ruling.

Stating that the governor was not desperate about the ruling, he pleaded with Bayelsans to allow the judges of the Supreme Court do their jobs to the best of their knowledge based on the facts before them.

“The judges are men of impeccable character, who have been delivering judgments for years. The lawyers of both parties are represented in the case, so Bayelsans should allow the honorable justices of the Supreme Court to do their job without fear or favour.”

On his part, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson said, “we know that the justices are incorruptible persons who cannot be bought over by mere appeal to sympathy. We are confident that the law will take its course.”

Also, the Bayelsa Mandate Group, a body sympathetic to Sylva also expressed confidence that the apex court would not give judgment based on sentiment. Chairman of the group, David Azi said the court should be allowed to deliver its judgment according to the dictate of the law as any judgment given would outlive them and posterity would benefit from it.

As it is, nobody knows where the pendulum would swing but both parties are confident that justice would prevail come Friday and the controversy surrounding the rightful candidate will be put to rest.

 

In : Politics