By IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI, Abuja & Samuel Oyadongha, Yenagoa
Mixed reactions yesterday trailed the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the nomination of Seriake Dickson as the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, candidate for Bayelsa State in the February 11, 2012 governorship election won by the incumbent governor, Mr Seriake Dickson in the state, saying that the nomination of candidates for elective positions were exclusive preserves of political parties.
In its judgement delivered by Justice John Fabiyi, the apex court further dismissed the ex-governor’s cross appeal which prayed for an order of the court for his suit to be heard at the Federal High Court for it lacks merit.
The court maintained that the fact that the Sylva paied N5.5million, presented himself to the Screening Committee of his party, and campaigned extensively for the fresh primary elections fixed by his party for November 19, 2011, to choose its candidate to stand for governor of Bayelsa in elections fixed for February 12, 2012, indicated that he had abandoned the results of the primaries he won in January 2011.“Furthermore, the primaries that the 1st respondent (Sylva) won in 2011 fades into insignificance since the elections for which the said primaries was conducted were cancelled.
“The 1st respondent (Sylva) won the primaries conducted in January 2011 and his name forwarded to PDP as the PDP’s candidate for the elections slated for April 2011. With the cancellation of theWith the cancellation of the elections of April 2011, the primaries conducted in January 2011, is no more of any relevance.
“INEC has the sole responsibility to fix dates for elections, and to my mind if INEC fixes a date for elections and for whatever reason, be it logistic, I do not think anyone has a cause of action against INEC for cancelling an election (not held) and rescheduling elections for another day.
“Furthermore, INEC fixed the elections for April 2011 on its understanding that the 1st appellants term would end in 28/5/11, but with the court’s judgment that 1st appellant tenure would end on 18/5/12, the need to cancel elections for April 2011 was justified.
“Courts in Nigeria do not have jurisdiction to question the nomination and sponsorship of a candidate for election,” the court said.
Apart from upholding the nomination, the Supreme Court also unanimously upheld the PDP’s appeal which challenged the decision by the Court of Appeal over the former Governor Chief Timiprey Sylva’s suit against Dickson’s nomination.“In sum, the 1st respondent is/was no longer the PDP’s candidate for gubernatorial elections held on 12/2/12 simply because he did not take part in the primaries for that election which was held on 19/11/11.
“Since the general elections fixed for April 2011 were cancelled by INEC, the provisions of section 33 and 35 of the Electoral Act are no longer applicable. With the cancellation of the general elections, primaries held In January 2011 are irrelevant for determining PDP’s candidate for governor of Bayelsa state,” the court held.
Meanwhile, the apex court yesterday, insisted that the case of Sylva was clearly distinct from the decided case-law in Amaechi v. INEC, emphasizing that whereas Governor Ameachi contested the primaries and won, but was barred from contesting the general elections, his party, the PDP was unable to give cogent and verifiable reasons why he was not allowed to contest the election.
It noted that in the instant case, “Sylva contested primaries in January 2011 for a general election fixed for April 2011. The general election was cancelled. Fresh primaries were fixed by this party, but he was not allowed to contest.
“There is thus no similarity in Ameachi case and this case. In Amaechi’s case, he was barred from contesting the general election. In this case Governor Sylva was barred from contesting primaries of his party.”
However, former governor Sylva has reacted to the judgement, describing it as not only injustice but ‘’a dark moment,’’ for the nation’s democracy and justice system in the country. Sylva also cursed those involved in scuttling his ambition to run for his second term in office, adding that, ‘’Everyone involved in the Bayelsa State governorship matter shall still face the judgment of history and the judgment of God. Neither history nor God will condone impunity” even as his successor, Seriake Dickson praised the Judiciary for being the last hope of the common man.
According to Dickson, “By this judgment today (yesterday), the Judiciary has once again demonstrated its relevance as the pillar of democracy. We commend the judiciary for upholding the essence of justice, equity and fairness without which democracy and the political system would be in danger.
“Indeed, today’s judgment is victory for democracy, the good people of Bayelsa State and Ijaw nation. Justice has again been done. We congratulate the PDP and its team of lawyers for their resilience and observance of due legal process which led to this victory.
“We assure you that the trajectory of peace and rapid development which the new government has brought about is guaranteed. We are dedicated to your service and we will not let you down on the delivery of our restoration agenda,’’ Dickson said.
The ex-governor in a statement signed by his Media Aide, Doifie Ola, however, pointed out despite the set back at by the Supreme Court judgement, he remained optimistic that his future political carrear was bright just as he accepted the judgement of the apex court as a democrat.
The statement read, ‘’As a democrat, Chief Timipre Sylva accepts today’s (yesterday’s) ruling of the Supreme Court. He however considers the decision of the apex court as dark moment for democracy and justice in Nigeria.
’’Sylva believes today’s ruling is only the judgement of man and, certainly, not justice, (of God). He says after this, everyone involved in the Bayelsa State governorship matter shall still face the judgement of history and the judgement of God. Neither history nor God will condone impunity.
‘’Sylva thanks his teeming followers in Bayelsa State and lovers of democracy across Nigeria and beyond, especially, in Bayelsa State, who held out despite intimidation, threats, and pressure to abandon the part of democracy and justice.
’’He extends his special gratitude to members of the Bayelsa State caucus of the National Assembly, who stood firm on democracy, as well as members of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, seniors citizens from across the country, and all his supporters. He commends the media and the human rights community for speaking out on the side of truth and justice.
‘’Sylva remains confident that he still has a long and bright political career ahead of him.”
However, Governor Seriake in a statement signed by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson said, “We want to caution all politicians in the state to face issues of leadership and governance and eschew political divisions and rancor. And above all, they should not play politics with the Judiciary.
“To the citizens, we enjoin them not to fall to the antics of those who have misused state resources and public power as well as those who are desperate for power at all cost, who now resort to misinformation and propaganda to create instability and to distract us from pursuing our restoration agenda.”
It is a victory for democracy—ACN National Youth Leader
The National Youth Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Comrade Ebikibina Miriki has also described the apex court’s verdict as a welcome development
But a resident of Yenagoa who simply identified himself as Daukore told Saturday Vanguard, “if you look around town you will discover that the ordinary folks are not concerned about the court. What the masses want is good governance and infrastructural development. It is our expectation that since this matter has been finally put to rest, Governor Seriake Dickson will go full blast on his restoration agenda for the state. We want to see Yenagoa, the state turned into a huge construction yard.”