From Omehia to Lyon: Tales of interlopers in State House
Emmanuel Oladesu, Deputy Editor
THE law, as it is said, is an ass. It depends on where the pendulum of justice swings. As governorship battles shift from the ballot box to the court, judicial verdicts are unpredictable. Yet, verdict of the Supreme Court is final.
Yesterday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may have won a technical victory at the apex court over the All Progressives Congress (APC), which actually won the poll.
The crux of the matter is that APC’s David Lyon may have forfeited the right to be sworn in today to his PDP challenger, Duoye Diri.
The court declared that Lyon was not validly nominated since his running mate’s academic certificates cannot be legally authenticated.
The history of the Fourth Republic is replete with the fall of some impostors from power, either due to faulty nominations or rigging.
The drama started from Rivers State. Although former House of Assembly Speaker Rotimi Amaechi had emerged as the PDP governorship candidate at the primary, former President Olusegun Obasanjo disagreed. He imposed Omehia as flag bearer. The outgoing governor, Chief Peter Odili, was helpless. Obasanjo maintained that Amaechi’s candidature had “k-leg.”
The PDP won the poll and Omehia was sworn in as governor. Amaechi objected. He went to the court. In October 2007, truth displaced falsehood at the temple of justice.
After holding office for five months, the Supreme Court ruled that Omehia usurped the ticket of his friend, Amaechi, for the poll. The court clarified that the electorate voted for the party, not the candidate.
However, the Supreme Court did not extend Amaechi’s tenure.
Joy was bold on the face of the former presidential aide, Andy Uba, as he assumed the reins in Anambra State. But, the happiness was shortlived. Seventeen days after, he was deposed.
The case was between PDP ‘Governor’ Uba and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) Governor Peter Obi.
Obi had won the 2003 governorship election. He defeated Dr. Chris Ngige, who had secured victory fraudulently, with the aid of some godfathers and dubious electoral officers. Obi challenged the rigging. The case dragged on for almost two years.
At the end, Obi recovered his stolen mandate at the Supreme Court. The embattled interloper, Ngige, was removed.
However, the legal department of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was in deep slumber. It failed to offer the right legal advice to the umpire. The electoral agency went ahead to conduct another election in 2007. Uba was declared winner. He was sworn in on May 29, 2007.
Obi headed for the court. In a lead judgment by the Supreme Court Justice Katsina Ala, Obi’s tenure was extended till May 17, 2010. The court said INEC conducted the 2007 Anambra governorship election in error.
Uba did not desert the battlefield afterwards, although his dream of ruling the state has not come into reality. He is now an APC senator.
The professor of law also fell from power because of faulty foundation. He spent 10 months illegally in office as governor of Edo State.
Osunbor ran on the platform of the PDP against labour leader Adams Oshiomhole of the defunct Action Congress (APC), who defeated him. But, the winner became the loser. It was in the days of Prof. Maurice Iwu-led INEC.
Comrade Oshionhole approached the court for justice. The legal fireworks were tasking. The court upturned Osunbor’s victory and directed the electoral commission to withdraw his certificate of return. It also ordered that the former Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) president should be sworn in.
The 2007contest between Olusegun Oni of the PDP and Governor Kayode Fayemi of the AC was tough. Oni was declared winner by INEC. The Supreme Court nullified the victory. The mandate was restored to Fayemi in 2010. Oni was in the saddle for two years.
Brigadier-Gen. Olagunsoye Oyinlola, a Prince of Okuku, was declared governor of Osun State on the platform of the PDP in 2007. The AC candidate, Chief Rauf Aregbesola, now Minister of Interior, kicked against the decision. The battle shifted to the tribunal. Oyinlola won. But, the Supreme Court decided otherwise. It ruled that Aregbesola, former Lagos State Works and Infrastructure Commissioner, was the authentic governor.
Oyinlola vacated the Government House. Aregbesola was inaugurated as governor.
His case is tragic. The Zamfara State APC governorship flag bearer toiled during the electioneering. The people were rooting for him. He gazed at the State House with excitement. But, he could not get to the Promised Land. The opportunity to rule eluded him.
At the poll, he scored 534,541 votes, defeating the PDP candidate, Bello Matawalle, who polled 189, 452.
But, Zamfara APC waged war against itself. The lesson is instructive. The protracted crisis between former Governor Abdulaziz Yari and Senator Kabiru Marafa cost the chapter its deserved victory. Party chieftains are nursing the wounds.
The bone of contention was the rancorous congreses that produced last year’s election candidates. Pleas by top party leaders, including President Muhammadu Buhari to the warring Zamfara APC factional leaders to sheath their swords fell on deaf ears. Reconciliation failed due to the hardline posture of the two feuding stalwarts. A faction went to court against the other. Both camps became losers.
The Supreme Court nullified the votes cast for the APC candidates at the governorship, senatorial, House of Representatives and House of Assembly polls.
The court declared that the congress that produced the party executives that conducted the APC primaries did not follow laid down conditions. The party violated its rules and guidelines.
Consequently, PDP candidates who lost the elections became emergency winners and beneficiaries of intra-party discord in APC. The court ordered that the PDP governorship candidate , who scored the second highest votes, should be sworn in as governor.
The Supreme Court also sent Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP packing from the Imo State Government House. He was an illegal occupant for eight months.
An aggrieved APC candidate, Senator Hope Nzodinma, had complained to the court that the bulk of his votes were excluded by the electoral officers. He maintained that, if the excluded votes were added to the figures declared by INEC, he would be the lawful winner.
Ihedioha’s lawyers failed to file a cross-appeal to dispute the authenticity of the excluded votes. The Supreme Court acceded to Nzodinma’s prayers.
Following the verdict, Ihefioha ceased to be governor of Imo. Nzodinma was sworn in.
However, the PDP is asking the Supreme Court to review the judgment.
The businessman turned politician was hit by the blow of fate yesterday. He was at the proposed inauguration venue for rehearsals. The news of his dethronment as governor-elect met him there. It was a devastating blow to him, his family, associate, and party supporters.
Lyon ‘won’ the poll. He defeated his PDP rival, Senator Diri. But, the position of the law, according to the Supreme Court, was that he could not walk with one leg. His albatross was his running mate, who allegedly committed forgery. The court declared that he was not on the ballot because he cannot run alone without a validly nominated deputy governorship candidate. Therefore, Lyon and his running mate stood disqualified.
But, who becomes the governor today as Seriake Dickson bows out?
The Supreme Court has ruled that the party with the second highest votes and constitutional electoral spread should take the mantle. There is confusion in Bayelsa.
Will Diri step in? Will the baton be passed to the Speaker of House of Assembly?