By Eric Elezuo
“If you have tears, prepare to shed them now…”
The above expression by Mark Antony in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar came to mind as the Supreme Court declared its landmark judgment which threw the entire nation into a frenzy and shock, depending on your side of the divide. It ruled that the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), My David Lyon, who was elected governor of Bayelsa State in November 2019 will no longer be governor. This was barely 24 hours to his inauguration, and even as the former governor-elect was rehearsing for the ill-fated inauguration.
A five-member panel of the apex court led by Justice Mary Odili nullified the election of Mr Lyon on the grounds that his deputy, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, presented false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in aid of his qualification for the governorship election in the state held on November 16, 2019.
In the judgment, delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko, the final arbiter ordered INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Lyon and Degi-Eremienyo and immediately declare the party with the highest number of lawful votes and geographical spread the winner of the election. The decision did not just draw tears; it drew pains, heartbreak and blood. The Supreme Court judgment came exactly one month after it sacked the former Imo State governor, Emeka Ihedioha, who had been in office for eight months, replacing him with APC’s Hope Uzodinma, who came a distant fourth in the March 9, 2010 governorship election in Imo State.
With the judgment, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Diri Duoye, was declared winner and inaugurated as governor of Bayelsa State the following amid pockets of protests and subsequent three-day curfew.
The PDP and its governorship candidate, Mr Diri, had filed a suit against Messrs Lyon and Degi-Eremienyo, and INEC, seeking the disqualification of the APC deputy governorship candidate.
They had claimed that Mr Degi-Eremienyo gave false information in his CF 0001 form submitted to INEC.
It is more painful that Lyon was sacked just two days after he survived a court process against a member of his party, Heineken Lokpobiri, who approached the apex court, asking it to declare him the winner of the APC governorship primary held in the state. He claimed that the party wrongly gave the ticket to Mr Lyon who eventually contested and won the governorship election.
But in its judgment read by Justice Iyang Okoro, the Supreme Court said, “The sole issue is resolved against the appellant. Accordingly, the appeal lacks merit and is hereby dismissed.”
But that was not to be when PDP approached the court. Recall that prior to the election on November 12, Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja had disqualified the APC governor-elect on the grounds that his deputy provided false information to INEC.
Mr Ekwo held that there was no connection between the name on the candidate’s school-leaving certificate, first degree (BA), master’s degree and the affidavits he swore.
However, the Court of Appeal, in its wisdom, set aside the decision of the trial court and affirmed the election of the APC candidates. The three-member panel of the appellate court led by Justice Stephen Adah said that the PDP did not prove their case against the APC candidates. The court held that Mr Degi-Eremienyo submitted an affidavit which showed evidence of his change of name from Adeyi-Eremienyo to Degi-Eremienyo.
Dissatisfied with the decision of the Court of Appeal, Diri and his party filed an appeal at the apex court, and the outcome, like they say, is history, leaving in its wake ‘sorrow, tears and blood’.
Today, David Lyon, who was governor-elect, and had only a couple of hours to become full fledged governor, is addressed simply as former governorship candidate of the APC. From records, as at Friday, February 14, 2020 when INEC rose from its emergency meeting, and a certificate of return presented to Diri, Lyon’s ceased to exist in electoral body’s registered, and is deemed not to have contested the election, not to talk of winning it.
Lyon, born to Mr and Mrs Arukubu Lyon Ekpeke of Abebiri family of Eubiri compound, Olugbobiri community in Olodiama clan, Southern Ijaw LGA, Bayelsa State, on December 20, 1970, can only look back and cherish the days he was erroneously declared and called governor-elect and endowed with appurtenances of state glory; the days he had to visit President Muhammadu Buhari in Aso Rock, and addressed as Buhari’s newest baby boy by party chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.
In 1978, Lyon became equipping himself for the task ahead when he attended Saint Gabriel’s State School Olugbobiri where he finished from in 1983 before proceeding to Community Secondary school, Olugbobiri, from 1984 to 1988. He obtained his National Certificate of Education (NCE) in Mathematics and Chemistry at the Rivers State College of Education.
Lyon started his career as a foreman in Western Geophysical Company Limited, before moving on to become the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Darlon Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited, Darlon Group Nigeria Limited and Arutex and Sons Nigeria Limited.
Lyon joined politics in the Third Republic, as a member of the defunct, National Republican Congress (NRC). He contested and won a councilorship election at Ward 4 in Southern Ijaw, but the military incursion aborted his tenure in 1997. He went on to become a founding member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Southern Ijaw. He was later appointed as the Caretaker Committee Chairman of Apoi Olodiama Local Government Development Center in 2000.
In 2015, he decamped to the All Progressives Congress and contested the Bayelsa State governorship primary election in September 2019, where he emerged as the party’s candidate.
The story of David Lyon will have a special place in history books as the almost governor or the governor that never was. He will have his chance again in 2023, maybe.