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Bayelsa: Gov. Diri, Sylva in clash of Titans



Bayelsa: Gov. Diri, Sylva in clash of Titans


The decision of the Court of Appeal in Abuja on Tuesday, fortnight ago, to affirm Timipre Sylva, former minister of state for petroleum resources, as the candidate for the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Saturday’s governorship election in Bayelsa, reversing an earlier judgment of the Federal High Court, which had earlier disqualified him, sets up what promises to be a tough battle in the state.

Sylva, 59, who previously served as governor of Bayelsa State from 2007 until the Supreme Court sacked him in 2012, after he had won reelection in 2011, was initially disqualified by the lower court, which argued that having been sworn in twice as governor, which is the limited number set by the constitution, he was no longer eligible to contest.

But the Appeal Court has given him a clean bill, and the APC chieftain, who says he wants to finish what he started before his removal in 2012, will now face the incumbent governor, and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Douye Diri, 64, in what promises to be a bruising battle between two giants, but one which, with a level field, the incumbent is a clear favourite. But elections in Nigeria are not won on normal terms.

“I left a lot of things undone,” the APC candidate said in an interview with Arise last week. “When I was taken out of office, I had a lot of things outstanding to do. Since then, I been watching from the sidelines and I see things going wrong in Bayelsa State.”

Sylva faces a formidable and more fancied opponent in Diri, who going by the feedback from Bayelsans is the candidate to beat at the polls. But there’s also a midget in the race, who will be looking to pick up the pieces if the giants cancel each other out amid series of court litigations. .

Udengs Eradiri, a former commissioner for youths and later environment in the state, and candidate of the Labour Party, has extensive political experience and impressive accomplishments, and would hope to ride the obidient wave, which helped the party give the PDP a run for their money during the presidential election.

However, while Labour Party and its candidate may be popular to a reasonable degree, the party lacks the necessary structure to pose much of a serious threat to the two behemoths, the APC and the PDP. Thus, while many have described the election as a three-horse race, it is more realistically a battle of two giants and a midget, with the incumbent Diri most favoured to come out tops.

Diri became governor in 2020 under very fortuitous circumstances. Backed by then outgoing governor of the state, Senator Henry Seriake Dickson, who had become widely unpopular towards the end of his tenure, at a time the PDP was effectively a divided house both in the state and at the national levels, Diri was beaten at the polls by then APC candidate, David Lyon, in an election, whose outcome shocked many outside the state, given that it is the home state of Goodluck Jonathan, the former president, who was bullied out of office four years earlier in 2015 by the same APC.

But at the time, Jonathan had effectively fallen out with the Dickson led PDP in the state, with his wife, Patience already openly associating with the APC. A lot has changed, however. The governor has since established his own political foothold, and residents say he has done a decent job in terms of building infrastructure and peace building, enough to earn him a second term.

“Gov. Diri has performed excellently well in the area of peace and security, Infrastructure and human capital development,” said a resident and supporter of the governor,” John Dompkee.” His second tenure, not Negotiable.”

Many say the incumbent governor, above all else, has brought stability in Bayelsa, and ensured peaceful coexistence among the state’s people, something they say they would like to see continue in the Ijaw heathland.

But Syva and his running mate, Maciver Joshua, who comes with some baggage, are brewing with confidence, and in a campaign that has been heavy on violence, Maciver recently gave an indication that the election itself could be characterised by violence.

“Let’s be prepared on election day, we will not talk to anybody. If anybody misbehaves, chase the person to the sea let him die,” Maciver told a crowed of APC supporters at rally recently. “After all, the person will not be the first person to die. So, let’s be prepared and show them that this time around, when we take it, no court can take it from us.”

Elections in Bayelsa have always witnessed incidents of violence, and events leading up to Saturday with series of clashes reported in Nembe, suggest that this time will not be different.

Diri versus Sylva: Head to Head



Diri, the incumbent governor, who prior to becoming the state’s chief executive, was the Senator representing Bayelsa Central in the National Assembly, comes from a Senatorial District that has three of the state’s eight local governments, comprising Kolokuma/Opokuma, Southern Ijaw and Yenagoa, which is the state capital.

He is easily the more popular candidate with the state’s political structure to rely on. While many in the state say his performance in the past three years has not been extraordinary, they concede that he is better than his successors, Sylva, inclusive.

Judging by the pulse of Bayelsans, if the election is relatively free and fair, he will secure his second term as governor of the oil rich state.

However, he now has a legal huddle to surmount. A fresh suit seeking his disqualification, along with the deputy governor, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, commenced at a Federal High Court (FHC), Abuja, on Friday.

The suit, presently before Justice Emeka Nwite, seeks an order of mandatory injunction, directing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to remove the names of Diri and Ewhrudjakpo as PDP’s candidates in the Nov. 11 poll.

It also seeks an order of perpetual injunction restraining INEC, its agents, privies or whosoever called, from further publishing their names as standard bearers for the party in the forthcoming election in Bayelsa.

The suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1448/23 and filed by a Bayelsan woman, Blessing Clement Azibanagbal, through her lawyer, Ifeanyi Nowsu, further seeks a declaration that Ewhrudjakpo was not qualified to run as deputy governor under the PDP.

Azibanagbal, in the originating summons dated Oct. 26 and filed on Oct. 30, sought a declaration that Ewhrudjakpo was also not qualified to be a running mate with Diri.

Besides, she prayed the court to declare that Ewhrudjakpo had multiple of names without any evidence to proof “that he is the same person.” She, therefore, urged the court to declare that the PDP had no candidate in the poll.

The suit, which was brought under Rule 3, Order 9 of the FHC Civil Procedure Rules, 2019, sought “a declaration that the 3rd defendant (PDP) does not have any qualified candidate to run for the governorship election in Bayelsa.”

Gov. Diri, Ewhrudjakpo, PDP and INEC are 1st to 4th defendants respectively in the matter

Raising five issues for determination, Azibanagbal asked whether a first school living certificate holder can run for governorship election of a state in line with provision of 1999 Constitution.

“Whether the failure of the 1st (Diri);and 3rd defendants (PDP) to provide a candidate that has the qualification to run for the governorship of a state can be a ground to disqualify both candidates.

“Whether a candidate with multiple names without any evidence to substantiate the names can contest for governorship election in a state.

“Whether the 2nd defendant (Ewhrudjakpo), submitting only his first school living certificate in his Form EC9 submitted with INEC qualifies him to contest election as deputy governor of Bayelsa State.


“Considering issues 1 to 4 above, whether this honourable ¢court has jurisdiction to order the 4th defendant to remove the names of 1st and 2nd defendants as candidates in the forthcoming governorship election in Bayelsa State,” it read.

In the affidavit in support of the originating summons deposed to by Yenle Istifanus, a litigation secretary with Compendium Chambers, the lawyer said she knew as a fact that Azibanagbal, who hails from Bayelsa and as a good citizen of Nigeria, had the locus standi (legal right) to institute the action.

She said though Diri and Ewhrudjakpo submitted their Form EC9 in INEC which empowered them to contest in the poll, Istifanus said this must be strictly in line with a constitutional provision for qualifications for a person to run for the office of a governor and deputy governor of a state.

The lawyer, who averred that failure to comply with the said qualification amounted to disqualification of the said candidate, stated that all the documents submitted by Ewhrudjakpo “bear different names with no substantial evidence to substantiate that he is the same person in the said documents.”

“That I know as a fact that failure of the 2nd defendant to produce documents that bear the same names disqualifies him to contest as a deputy governor of a state,” she said.

She said it would be in the interest of justice to grant the application as the defendants would not be prejudiced.

Nwosu, in an ex-parte motion seeking a leave to serve Diri and Ewhrudjakpo at the Government House in Bayelsa, through courier service, moved the application on Friday.

The suit, which was the only matter in the Friday’s cause list, was heard at the judge’s chamber, and it was gathered that Justice Nwite granted the prayer.


Sylva, the APC candidate, who is from Bayelsa East Senatorial District, a district that covers the local government areas of Brass, Ogbia, and Nembe, was governor from 2007 to 2012. He is known with a reputation for corruption and lack of performance in office.

But he is the candidate of the country’s ruling party in a country, where experience has shown that elections are scarcely a popularity contest, but a context of structure and strength.

He will hope to rely on Federal might and his local structure in the creeks to topple the incumbent. Whether it would be enough is a question that would be answered on Saturday.

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