The All Progressives Congress (APC) on Friday declared as unacceptable the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue certificate of return to Senator Duoye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as winner of the last governorship election in Bayelsa State.
National Chairman of the APC, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole accused the commission of usurping the interpretative powers of the Supreme Court which, on Thursday, ruled that the candidate with the next highest number of votes and the constitutionally required vote spread be issued certificate of return.
The apex court annulled the election of David Lyon of the APC because his running mate Degi Ermienyo presented forged documents for the purpose of the election.
But Oshiomhole vowed on Friday that the APC would be heading to court to ensure that no unelected person was imposed on the people of Bayelsa state as governor.
He urged Bayelsans to remain calm and peaceful.
Simultaneously, President Muhammadu Buhari met in the State House with the Chairman of the APC Governors Forum, Atiku Bagudu and Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State on the development in Bayelsa.
Displeased with Oshiomhole’s reaction to the apex court’s verdict,the opposition PDP yesterday asked the police to pull him in and prosecute him for what it called incitement.
Oshiomhole who spoke extensively to reporters on the Supreme Court’s verdict said the court never made any consequential order, but merely asked INEC to issue certificate of return to the next candidate with the required spread.
He said that the votes scored by the PDP candidate only met the requirement in five local government areas of the state, adding that what was required was six local government areas.
His words: “for good reasons, the Supreme Court gave a conditional order which is that INEC should swear in the second candidate with the highest number of votes and the required constitutional spread.
“I believe fact that the Supreme Court insisting on constitutional spread is in recognition that the constitution doesn’t want anyone, whether governor or president, to preside over the affairs of the state without at least enjoying two thirds of the support of the electorate of that state.
“Clearly, the votes scored by the PDP and their candidate in that election only met the requirements in five local government councils. And, you need six LGAs to meet the requirements of two thirds. The PDP candidate did not satisfy this requirement.
“INEC has now chosen to appropriate the power of the court and the judicial power to interpret laws that it is neither competent to do nor have the mandate to do.
“Rather than allow the court, if there is conflicting interpretation to clarify the issues, INEC’s resort to appropriate judicial powers and to proceed without any express order from the Supreme Court to purport to have cancelled or voided or wasted the votes cast in favour of APC in order to be able to have a dubious spread in favour of PDP.
“INEC failed to recognize that its responsibility does not include legal interpretation. And, the Supreme Court did not ask INEC to go and begin to assume judicial powers. All they had to do was simple arithmetic of who has the highest votes.
“Does such person have the required spread? If the answer is no, INEC can do no more. It has decided to now assume that the case of Bayelsa is exactly the same case as that of Zamfara. Now, in so doing, INEC has assumed judicial powers.
“Yet, even an elementary 100 level student knows that the issue in Zamfara is quite different from that of Bayelsa state. In Zamfara state the Supreme Court said APC didn’t conduct primaries and since we didn’t conduct primaries according to Supreme Court, we could not have had candidate because primaries is a requirement under the law and under the Electoral Act and under our party constitution.”
Continuing, he said: “in the case of Bayelsa, the Supreme Court recognized that primaries have been conducted. It upheld those primaries as valid. However, it had issues with the qualification of the running mate of our candidate.
“This case is exactly the same as that of Adamu Muazu in 1999 in Bauchi State when the court found out that after the election, the deputy governor to Adamu Muazu had issues with his qualifications.
“The Supreme Court accordingly nullified the candidature or disqualified the running mate, proceeded to nullify the election and ordered for fresh elections to be conducted by INEC within 90 days.
“The PDP candidate Adamu Muazu was allowed to nominate another candidate as running mate. This is exactly the same case in Bayelsa. But unfortunately, INEC has chosen to appropriate the powers of the judiciary.
“If it were the intention of the Supreme Court to nullify or to declare the votes cast in favour of APC as wasted, the Supreme Court should have said so. INEC cannot import into the judgement or delete anything from the judgement.
“We have, of course, recognized that having now purported to have issued certificate of return to the PDP, we still believe that there are viable legal windows that we will explore.”
He said that regardless of the court’s decision,the APC ” still affirm our confidence in the judiciary even with the pains in our hearts because we recognize that in a democracy, we have judiciary that gives judgement which sometimes you are happy with and some other times you are not happy.
“What we quarrel with today is not the judgement of Supreme Court. What we got aggrieved with is the attempt by INEC constituting itself into a court and appropriate judicial powers which the Constitution of Nigeria never vested in INEC.
“So we want to put the people of Nigeria on notice and in particular our people in Bayelsa to maintain the peace. We will however sustain the legal processes to ensure that nobody hides under any judicial power to impose minority votes on Bayelsa State. Democracy is a game of numbers.
“It could not have been the intention of the Supreme Court that the man who did not have the spread be sworn-in as a Governor. That was why the Supreme Court made that conditional provision and INEC came in now and declared somebody that did not meet that condition.
“INEC itself is in contempt of the decision of the Supreme Court. We are going do everything to deploy every legal means to upturn the imposition by INEC that intend to weakened and destroy the fabrics of democracy. Briefly put, we are going to court and we will seek legal redress.”
Oshiomhole also lashed out at Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State for saying that the APC chairman’s comment on the decision of the Supreme Court was capable of creating anarchy in the country.
He said Wike was trying to use his (Oshiomhole’s) name to regain relevance in the PDP, having earlier accepted the fact that his party lost the governorship election in Bayelsa State and was also accused by former Governor Dickson of engaging in anti-party activities.
“Between me and my friend (Wike) who has the history of violence?” Oshiomhole asked.
He added: “Don’t you know how many lives you have wasted that we have read in the papers. I ran for election twice as governor and not a single gunshot was fired.
“Where were police and military officers beheaded?It was in Rivers. Who was the great winner of that election violence, was it not Wike? So if he is the one talking about violence, when did the tortoise begin to challenge the antelope to a race?
“Governor Dickson accepted defeat in the Bayelsa election.Dickson accused him of anti-party activity and I know he wants to use me to regain his lost membership of PDP.”
PDP to Police: arrest Oshiomhole for incitement
Irked by Friday’s violence that greeted the INEC declaration of Duoye Diri as winner of the Bayelsa State governorship election, the opposition PDP blamed the development on Oshiomhole.
It claimed Oshomhole’s stance amounted to incitement.
It therefore asked the police to arrest and prosecute him.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said in a statement in Abuja that the violence and arson “being perpetuated in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, on Friday, was in furtherance of the Oshiomole’s statement was a direct call for sedition and violent subversion of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the statutory authority of the Supreme Court and the mandate of the people of Bayelsa state.”
Ologbondiyan said: “Oshiomhole must be brought to book and stopped from the use of garrulity and clear misuse of language to cause a crisis in our country.
“He should, therefore, be pulled in immediately for prosecution for inciting violence and arson in the state.”
Buhari meets Bagudu, Badaru in the Villa
As Oshiomhole was speaking to reporters, President Buhari met at the Villa with governors Atiku Bagudu and Abubakar Badaru of Kebbi and Jigawa states apparently on the Bayelsa State issue.
Bagudu is the Chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) while Badaru was Chairman of the APC National Campaign Committee for the Bayelsa State governorship election.
Although the agenda of the meeting was not disclosed to journalists, The Nation gathered that it was all about the confusion trailing the twist in Bayelsa.
A source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said:”Atiku-Bagudu is a regular face at the Villa, being the APC Governors Forum chairman.
“However, this meeting coming today after the development in Bayelsa is for a special reason, to look into the issues that happened in Bayelsa.
“This is also because Badaru was the chairman of the campaign committee for that election last year in November.”