Pastor Ebizimo Diriyai had a dream and told his friends. In his dream, he was inaugurated Governor of Bayelsa. With faith in God, he picked up the Accord Party nomination forms and then the ticket. It seemed a long shot but this pastor of Salvation Ministries must have known that God could work in mysterious ways.
When the elections held in November 2019, David Lyon of the APC won easily. Lyon was rehearsing with the band boys at the swearing-in ground when the Supreme Court invalidated his victory. His guests had checked into their hotel rooms. It was on the eve of the inauguration. The Supreme Court decided that Lyon’s running mate submitted a forged certificate to the electoral commission. So Lyon’s APC ticket collapsed because the law wouldn’t let it stand on one leg.
With Lyon off the way, INEC handed victory to PDP’s Duoye Diri . Diri was second on the ballot in November. Siri moved into government house with his Deputy. But the story is perhaps far from finished. Just as it happened to the APC and Lyon, the dark clouds are gathering again, and again over a running mate.
Here is the story.
In February 2019, Diri’s deputy Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo ran for senate. He submitted an NYSC certificate of exemption to the INEC. On that certificate his surname seemed misspelt Ewhruojakpa. It could have been misspelt. The certificate read Ewhruojakpa, his opponents did not believe it was a mistake. They approached the court to say that the exemption certificate didn’t belong to him. He told the court the certificate belonged to him and that somewhere between his school and the NYSC someone must have misspelt his name. He swore an affidavit. He said he had written to INEC to correct the mistake. It all looked simple.
In November 2019, the PDP candidate Diri picked Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo as his running mate. Ewhrudjakpo submitted a new exemption certificate. The new certificate had the correct spelling of his name, had the same reference number as the old one, was signed by same Brigadier Dule who signed the first exemption certificate in 1998. The new one came on a different sheet of paper.
Let us say the new certificate raised many eyebrows.
Somewhere along the line a small court in Abuja asked the police to investigate the confusion. When the police moved the case from a police station to the Inspector General’s office without informing the court, the court asked the DSS to take over the investigation.
Everywhere you turn you meet a drama.
The DSS is still investigating the drama. The DSS has not issued any report. The NYSC whose integrity is at stake is still strangely mute. In the case of the former minister, the NYSC remained dumb for many months. The NYSC was established to inculcate national values in our youths. But when boldness is needed the NYSC chickens away.
Some aggrieved parties have approached the Bayelsa Election Tribunal.
In the 2012 London Olympics, Spanish weightlifter Lydia Valentin left the lift zone in tears. She finished fourth, one kilogram outside the medal zone.
Six and half years later, in February 2019, Valentin who finished fourth in 2012 was awarded the Gold medal. The first three weightlifters in her category were all found guilty of doping, disqualified and stripped of their medals.
In 2008 Olympics, Nigerian women picked the bronze medal in 4x100m. But it would turn to Silver after the Russian doping scandal broke, and banned substances were found in the sample of a Russian athlete. Russia was disqualified and stripped of the gold. Belgium and Nigeria were upgraded. Same way, Nigeria’s silver at the men’s 4x400m relay event in 2000 Sydney Olympic Games turned gold after one of the Americans that won the gold tested positive to drug use.
A governorship candidate and his running mate is a tag team, like athletic relay teams. One man falters, dopes, sins, submits a forged document, the team is ruined.
The Bayelsa Deputy Governor has declared his innocence. He has said he didn’t forge any documents. That would mean that the two exemption certificates he used in 2019 were issued by the NYSC. And I think we should believe him. He looks like a Gentleman.
The minor problem he has is that it’s a bit baffling that the NYSC would issue a certificate in 2019 to correct a mistake on a certificate of 1998 and retain same reference number and retain the signature of an official who is no longer with the institution on the new certificate. It’s baffling.
It is even more baffling that the NYSC has watched the controversy for months and said nothing. Why couldn’t the NYSC use one tweet and say it issued both certificates. Simple. If the deputy governor is innocent, and we must assume he is, then the NYSC has not helped his cause by allowing rumors to fester.
What would it have cost the NYSC to clear up the confusion for him? If the Deputy Governor’s story is truly K-legged then the NYSC has neither helped the anxious public nor helped itself by being cowardly. What would the NYSC want the Nigerian youths to learn from an institution that cannot find moral outrage while its integrity is being undermined?
The electoral law is clear. If the second certificate didn’t emanate from the NYSC then the PDP ticket is in jeopardy. But it’s for the Election Petitions tribunals to decide. And with Bayelsa, our judges have shown courage.
The pastor told his friends he had a dream. For his dream to come true there has to be a new twist in the Bayelsa melodrama in court. His camp is upbeat. If the courts agree with the opponents of Diri, then Bayelsa governorship election of 2019 would be a tale that would be told for generations. The mathematics is straightforward. If the judges find that the PDP ticket is invalid, for any reason, then the Accord Party would be promoted. The Pastor believes God will complete what He has started. The PDP believes their victory is inviolable.
With less than 2000 votes in an election which Lyon won with over 300,000 votes, Pastor Diriyai of Salvation Ministries could salvage victory and become the Executive Governor of Bayelsa. It would be more than a miracle. If the courts uphold the prayers of the pastor, his 2000 votes would be enough to meet both majority vote and geographical spread requirements to return him winner.
The Tribunal has summoned the Deputy Governor. The NYSC will have to open its mouth at last in court. The DSS would be expected to bring the report of their investigations. All eyes are on the Judges. The Supreme Court would have the final say.
It’s the Bayelsa Governorship tale. A tale of mystery and suspense.