Wherever he is now, David Lyon will be wondering what went wrong. And did things go awfully wrong for him? Yes, they did.
If not, as you read this, he would have been a week old in office as the governor of Bayelsa State. But he is not.
Instead, he is out in the political cold, abandoned by those who were already addressing him as His Excellency and fawning over him as the best thing that ever happened to the state even when they know he is not.
Today, those who were already booing and throwing pure water sachets at the then outgoing governor, Seriake Dickson, have crawled back to him, not only pledging their eternal loyalty but also telling him what a political genius he is.
Bayelsans who ululated at the dawn of February 13, that their state had become a “broom state” would revel at dusk the same day at taking shelter under an umbrella.
That is the way of politics and politicians in this clime. Lyon must be appreciating the wisdom in the saying that failure is an orphan.
What happened to him is a personal tragedy made worse by the fact that he is a victim of circumstance, a pawn on the chessboard of political adventurers.
He is a victim of the shenanigans of political overlords who strut the Nigerian political landscape with a hideous swagger and nauseating impunity.
Lyon, candidate of the imperious, all-conquering All Progressives Congress, APC, was declared the winner of the November 16, 2019, bloody war of attrition called governorship election in Bayelsa State.
But the conquerors hailed it as one of the freest elections in the country and proof that Nigeria’s democracy was growing in leaps and bounds.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which handed Lyon the gubernatorial trophy and certificate of returns pretended that all was well and the “governor-elect” was already rehearsing how to be a governor on the eve of his would-be inauguration, despite his obvious deficiencies, when news filtered to him that the Supreme Court had annulled his candidacy in the poll.
That was fate at its cruelest.
The apex court acted upon the allegation of forgery brought against his running mate, Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremieoyo, who was born on January 1, 1960, as Degi Biobaragha and became known as Adegi Biobakumo in 1984.
By 1990, he mutated to Degi Biobarakuma, and 12 years later, in 2002, he took up another identity as Degi Biobarakuma Wangagha.
These different names were unabashedly reflected in the different certificates – primary school leaving certificate, General Certificate of Education, GCE, first degree, NYSC discharge certificate, and Masters degree certificate – submitted to INEC.
But the Supreme Court said the primary school certificate obtained in 1976, GCE, obtained in 1984, as well as the first degree (1990) and others, were products of forgery, which violated Section 182 of the 1999 Constitution.
Having established a case of forgery and perjury, the apex court ruled that Degi-Eremieoyo’s presence on the ticket was a toxic infection on the validity of the APC ticket. His inclusion vitiated the ticket.
In a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko, the court nullified the APC ticket on the ground that the deputy governor-elect committed perjury by “fraudulently using different names as it suits him” in the form CF001 submitted to INEC, and a forged affidavit to boot
What is instructive since the Supreme Court shone the light at the ruling party’s dark wall of deceit is that none of the otherwise loquacious and brash members of the APC apparatchik has dared the Justices of the Supreme Court with empirical evidence to prove otherwise.
The man hasn’t either. How could a man forge all the certificates he claims to have? And to imagine that this same man is a senator, who sits in the upper chamber of the National Assembly representing a senatorial district and purportedly making laws for the good governance of the country.
He probably pontificated on the issue of examination malpractices and the diminishing standard of education in the country.
This debacle has once again brought to the fore all the issues that ail our democracy. Ours is a democracy without democrats; a democracy where the main actors have the reflexes of stone-age dictators.
In Nigeria’s democracy, the people in whom sovereignty ought to reside are completely sequestered in the political calculus of those who wield the levers of power.
Inconsequential, the people are to be seen and not heard, reduced to onlookers in a game they should be at the centre-stage.
This contempt for the people is at the root of the culture of impunity with imposition as its by-product. Lyon was both a beneficiary and ultimate victim of that culture, while APC, the serial rapist of all democratic mores ended up shortchanging itself once again.
Democracy ideally is the government of the people by the people and for the people. It has been corrupted here to mean the government of the godfathers, by the godfathers and for the godfathers.
There was no way the ill-fated APC ticket could have emerged if the party had conducted a free, fair and credible primary election in Bayelsa.
Rather than allow a valid primary where the party faithful will decide those to hoist the APC flag on the gubernatorial pole, as it is the norm in other democracies, Lyon and his running mate were imposed on the hapless members by the self-acclaimed leader of the party in the state, Timipire Sylva, with the active connivance of the national leadership.
By brusquely slamming the door in the face of other aspirants, the godfathers irredeemably fractured the party in the state. Heineken Lokpobiri, a former senator and minister, who chose not to return to the Muhammadu Buhari cabinet in his quest to govern the oil-rich state, protested the unilateral decision to shut him out by mounting a legal challenge up to the Supreme Court.
Didn’t they know? The reaction of the APC leadership since the Supreme Court verdict suggests that they knew they went to the gubernatorial market with a bad product. The fact that they knew speaks volumes of their intent.
The idea was to have in the Lyon governorship, a puppet in the government house.
To garnish the ticket with the toxicity of academic fraud is the height of public disservice. Bayelsa didn’t deserve such treatment from a son that had been rewarded with the highest office in the state in the past.
The Supreme Court judgment is, therefore, a clear rebuke against political recklessness and rascality.
It is nauseating, to say the least watching Adams Oshiomhole rather than bowing his head in shame double down on his infantile theatrics by dancing naked in the political arena.
Arguing as he did that the Supreme Court verdict “lacks the fruits of justice” and pontificating that “where justice and democracy thrive on the altar of technicalities, it constitutes a danger to our democracy”, is a pointer to the fact that he is a man to be pitied.
Lyon and Degi-Eremieoyo didn’t have what it takes to make Bayelsa the “glory of all lands”.
The Bayelsa debacle also shines a light on the state of the Nigerian judiciary. The three-man panel of the Court of Appeal chaired by Justice Stephen Ada gave Degi-Eremieoyo a clean bill by ruling that the lower court which had earlier found the accused guilty erred in law and in breach of the appellant’s right to a fair hearing. Does that mean they found nothing odd in one man having five different names on the five different certificates he flaunts?
So, without the Supreme Court’s well-considered position that contrary to the decision of the Court of Appeal, there was available evidence of forgery against the first respondent, Bayelsans would have ended up with a certificate fraud as deputy governor.
Of course, INEC was aware of the fraud but chose not to raise observations against the inconsistencies in the certificates submitted by Degi-Eremieoyo, perhaps because it did not have the powers to disqualify or raise issues with submissions made by candidates.
How does that help the country’s democracy? Truth be told, Nigeria’s democracy is not working and five years of President Muhammadu Buhari has made it even worse.