Dickson’s last laugh as Supreme Court upturns Lyon’s victory
Although the People Democratic Party (PDP) and both its governorship and deputy governorship candidates Senators Douye Diri and Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo sued the deputy governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) Biobarakumo Degi-Eremieoyo, only a tiny minority of Bayelsa society will celebrate the victory. Degi-Eremieoyo is the reason APC lost the chance to change the leadership status quo in Bayelsa State. It was so close – just 24 hours away – but APC lost it yet again to PDP. And Lyon became the ‘Moses’ who saw the promise land but never stepped into it.
Whereas the victory of a candidate of a party at an election usually elicits wide and wild jubilation, Diri’s victory via the judgment of the apex court would likely be muted for a number of reasons such as internal wrangling that trailed the election on the camp of PDP.
Leading the celebratory charge will be departing governor, Seriake Dickson, who bore untold humiliation after losing the election to the rival political party, APC, in the 2019 gubernatorial election. Dickson, who fancifully calls himself the ‘White Wale’, was forceful in his determination to put forward Diri for the election in spite of general opposition from within the fold of his party, PDP. And so when the Diri lost the election on the field, the defeat quickly became Dickson’s defeat, with just a fraction of PDP stakeholders sharing in the loss.
Many PDP stakeholders quickly moved on and sent congratulatory messages to the election victor, David Lyon. Prominent among such personalities who many saw as jumping boat at Diri’s defeat at the poll was former President Goodluck Jonathan, who also received Lyon in his home. For Jonathan and many in Bayelsa, it was payback time for Dickson’s temerity in going against the party’s position. How can you spun an entire party and expect to get away with it? Since Diri’s defeat, President Jonathan had visited Adso Rock Villa twice, his wife Patience once.
Speculations have been rife: members of Bayelsa PDP were warming up to APC. Many actually crossed over to the opposition party now victorious. Former Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Timi Alaibe, the preferred candidate of a majority of PDP members, with many followers of PDP, had become lukewarm toward the party that perennially refuses to give him the ticket to run. There will be disquiet in his camp as the drama of a Diri victory unfolds.
Both President Jonathan and his wife will also be stunned. It is not the turn of events they expected. Having been so vilified by anti-corruption crusaders in President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, Lyon’s victory at the polls and the ease with which the Jonathans warmed up to it was almost certain to making him a new man in the eyes of the corruption-hunting APC government in the opposition PDP camp.
Only recently, outgoing Dickson had a spat with his deputy, Rear Amiral John Jonah (rtd), who alleged that his boss was carting away state owned property. Jonah also contested in PDP’s primary that produced Diri. There has been no love lost between the governor and his deputy ever since. Jonah would have also warmed up to Lyon’s victory as serving his boss well for shunning everyone who worked closely with him and for preferring to settle for Diri. With the tables already turned, Jonah would be among Bayelsans who Diri’s victory at the apex court would rile. Jonah actually dumped the PDP only yesterday as Lyon was set to be sworn in.
Secretary to State Government, Mr. Kemela Okrara, is also among the aggrieved stakeholders in Bayelsa State whose Diri’s final victory will unsettle. He also contested PDP’s primary but also lost to Diri and since then there has been unease in their relationships. Lyon’s victory already amounted to paying Dickson back in his own coin. But not so any more, as Dickson would now laugh last; he would feel vindicated that he stood his ground and went against the political establishment in his state and not only survived, but came out tops.
Of course, it is not only in the house of PDP that there would be disquiet. APC’s house too will be far too stunned to understand what hit it. From ‘Moses’ Lyon who appeared an unassuming man who was going to waltz into Government House, to APC’s bigwigs who had positioned themselves to enjoy the spoils of election victory, it is all like a bad dream that will take them a long time waking from up.
Senator Heineken Lokpobiri might have lost out only a few days ago at the same Supreme Court, but he would be feeling somewhat vindicated that Lyon wouldn’t be the state governor after all. He had challenged Lyon for not being the validly elected candidate of APC. With Lyon’s ouster before his inauguration a day away as governor, Lokpobiri will have something akin to ‘I told you so’ look on his face.
But one man who would smart the most from Lyon’s ouster would be Minister for State for Petroleum, Timipre Silva. Like Dickson, he invested everything it took to put forward Lyon much against APC’s establishment in Bayelsa State. For him and Dickson, it has become reverse psychology. While Dickson smarted from Diri’s loss at the polls, Silva had his victory celebration. But with the tables turned, while Dickson will now celebrate Silva will mourn the loss of a victory that was so close.
Interestingly, it is the third time APC is coming under the hammer of the Supreme Court, with PDP reaping the fruit. First was Rivers State in which the party’s internal wrangling cost it the ability to field a candidate for the governorship election last year. Second was Zamfara State were internal conflict also cost the party its victory, which was awarded to PDP. Bayelsa came next in APC’s Supreme Court adjudicated loss.
With the Supreme Court fast becoming the last electoral ballot box in Nigeria’s political landscape, it is easy to see why Dickson will have the last laugh. Importantly, with Nigeria’s political elite choosing impunity and failing to play by the rules, judgments lie this would continue to be given to the utter dismay of many.
Only two days ago, the mob had pelted Dickson while he was leaving Government House. But as events now indicate, the man will continue to be a fixture in that Government House for another four to eight years. Such is the irony of life and Dickson would live it to the full as he savours his hard earned victory with Diri waltzing into Government House today as the sixth governor of oil-rich Bayelsa State.
What remains to be seen is how magnanimous Dickson can be in his victory dance. Will he invite his distractors to dance with him and Diri or dance alone? That will be the true test of Dickson’s sportsmanship and statesmanship.