Filed in Politics by on April 19, 2012

Sylva, PDP’s day of judgment
April 19, 2012 by Mike Odiegwu

Mr. Timipre Sylva and Bayelsa State Governor, Mr. Seriake Dickson

MIKE ODIEGWU, in this report, captures the mood in Bayelsa State ahead of Friday’s judgment on a legal tussle between the state Governor, Mr. Seriake Dickson and his predecessor, Mr. Timipre Sylva

Expectations are high in Bayelsa State ahead of the Supreme Court’s verdict scheduled for April 20. The judgment is expected to put the nail in the coffin of the protracted dispute between the former Governor of the state, Mr. Timipre Sylva and the Peoples Democratic Party.

As expected, the state is agog with discussions of where the pendulum of the verdict will swing. Everybody appears to be involved in the permutations and conjectures of the likely victor and the vanquished of a tightly wrapped judicial pronouncement which is closely kept in the chest of the justices. The bars, restaurants, motor parks, churches and newsstands have gradually become convenient places for people to ventilate their ideas and draw conclusions on the matter.

While some analysts believe that the judgment will not alter the status quo in the state, others hold the opinion that the verdict will provide a respite for Sylva, who was denied the ticket of the party for the February 11 governorship election which Mr. Seriake Dickson later won under the umbrella of the party.

Still another school of thought suggests that the court may dash the hope of Sylva and the party by declaring that PDP had no candidate for the election and paving the way for the candidate of the Change Advocacy Party, Mr. Imoro Kubor, who came second in the election to take charge of the state. All of these exist in the conjectural realm.

However, on that day, the guesswork, speculations and assumptions will come to an end as the court rules on who was the authentic candidate of the party for the election. The court will also determine the propriety of the court of appeal decision which returned the case to the Federal High Court after ruling that the lower court had jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

The decision of the Court of Appeal was based on a suit filed by the leadership of the PDP against Sylva’s matter that was in the high court. The former governor had asked the lower court to declare him a candidate of the party on the basis of the party’s January 2011 primary or allow him to participate in any other primary organised by the party. The court presided over by Justice Gabriel Kolawole had before November 19, 2011 primary election of the party ordered PDP to show why the former governor’s pleas should not be granted.

But in a swift reaction, the party approached the Court of Appeal and sought to stop Sylva’s suit on grounds that the lower court had no jurisdiction to entertain it. Though the appeal court, presided over by Justice Zainab Bukachuwa, declared that the lower court overreached itself by making an order purporting to stop the November 19 primary, Bukachuwa returned the substantive case to the lower court after declaring that it had jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

Instead of going back to the lower court to begin the matter afresh, Sylva through his lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi, wanted a quick fix to the problem. He filed a cross-application in the apex court asking the court to constitute itself as a court of first instance in the spirit of section 22 of the Supreme Court Act. Therefore, Sylva wanted the Supreme Court to hear the matter as if it were a trial court.

The court’s panel chaired by Justice Mohammed Mahmud, had after hearing the matter fixed April 20 for judgment. So, Sylva is expecting the court to rule that he was the authentic candidate of the party on the basis of the January 20, 2011 primary election which he won before the controversial Court of Appeal’s tenure elongation judgment which favoured him and other four governors.

Beyond the wishes of Sylva, the judgment day has provided an opportunity for political pundits to reflect on the high level political gimmicks that tore the PDP apart and set the state of President Goodluck Jonathan on edge. Tension orchestrated by the in-house fighting in the PDP had gripped the state. Unparalleled conspiracy, political shenanigans and chicanery engulfed the ruling party and eventually climaxed in the disqualification of Sylva.

Apart from Sylva, other notable chieftains of the party such as Boladei Igali, Ben Bruce and Timi Alaibe, who returned to the party after sojourning in the Labour Party, were barred from participating in the internal election. Following security scare arising from Sylva’s insistence that he must be included among the list of the aspirants, Yenagoa, the state capital was militarised by the Federal Government few days to the primary.

After failing to sway the national leadership of the party including Jonathan who was believed to have anointed Dickson, Sylva opened the legal chapter of the crisis. He ran to the Federal High Court and obtained a controversial injunction purporting to stop PDP from holding its primary. But the party insisted on holding the election and later approached the Court of Appeal to vacate the order issued by the lower court.  But the apex court, the last hope of Sylva, is set to lay the matter to rest.

But the looming judgment has generated unrest among the loyalists of the former governor. Sylva’s loyalists have been quick to link most activities of Dickson’s government to the pending ruling. For instance a pro-Sylva group under the aegis of Bayelsa Democratic Front attacked a peace walk organised by Dickson to create awareness on the need for stakeholders in the state including youths to shun violence and maintain the existing peace in the state and in the Niger Delta region.

But BDF described it as “a one-million man march” put together by the government to demonise Sylva ahead of the judgment. The Presidential-General, BDF, Mr. Promise Okpoebi, had days before the event insisted that Dickson was deliberately organising a rally against Sylva warning that such action would “precipitate chaos of unprecedented magnitude in the state.

But Dickson’s Senior Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson, described the allegations as a deliberate attempt by the loyalists of the former governor to attack the administration of Dickson and curry public favour. He said the “Peace Walk” was part of a strategy adopted by the government to reach out to youths and make them understand the importance of the peace currently enjoyed in the state.

As explained by Iworiso-Markson, the peace walk took place on Tuesday, three days before the judgement day, without fears expressed by the loyalists of Sylva. After the peace walk debacle, there were reports that tension had gripped the camp of Dickson and that Jonathan was worried about the outcome of the judgment. It was also said that Jonathan held private talks with his political bloc to fine-tune strategies ahead of the judgement. In fact, Dickson was said to be having sleepless nights over possibilities that he may be sacked by the judgment.

Again, Iworiso-Markson described this as speculations and permutations from the camp of Sylva. He said, “We are not surprised that the former governor and his remnants of  loyalists have begun their mischievous and irresponsible game of guessing the likely outcome of the judgement. We are not also worried that the camp of Sylva has embarked on a failed attempt to sway the judgment to their favour by desperately   trying to curry public sympathy.

“This is blackmail on the judicial system and an attempt to desecrate the temple of justice. The court must be allowed to do justice on this matter and we know that the Justices are incorruptible. Sylva should stop his cheap blackmail and allow the course of justice to take its place. We are confident that the law will take its course.”

Similarly, the Special Adviser to Dickson on Political Matters, Mr. Fred Agbedi, said the governor was not desperate about the judgment. Dickson is not desperate or keen about the forthcoming ruling of the apex court. He has no pressing challenge before the Supreme Court.

“As a lawyer and former lawmaker, he believes the court should be allowed to do their job. Both parties were represented by lawyers and Dickson feels very strongly that it is not the duty of the governor, or government of Bayelsa or his lawyers to begin to talk about what will happen on the 20th of April”.

“We have confidence in the capability of the Supreme Court, which had before now delivered landmark judgments on several topical matters and we believe that this is not going to be different and so the governor and government of Bayelsa State are not keen about the ruling. The truth of the matter is that parties should allow the justices to discharge their functions to the best of their ability, taking into consideration available facts”.

In fact, all the permutations, fears and speculations will end on the judegment day when the justices unveil the contents of their verdict. It will either be a Sylva’s day or that of Dickson and the PDP.


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