The Supreme Court sent momentous shock waves across the country last week when it sacked Da-vid Lyon of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as governor-elect of Bayelsa state and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue certificate of return to the next candi-date with the highest number of lawful votes and the requisite spread. Lyon had been earlier sche-duled to be sworn in as Bayelsa state governor on Friday, February 14 the judgement was delivered by the Apex Court a day before .
The five-member panel of the apex court led by Justice Mary Odili ruled that Degi-Eremienyo was guilty of presenting false information regarding his certificate to INEC.
The suit was initiated by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which had asked the court to nullify Degi-Eremienyo’s candidacy because of the inconsistencies in his certificates.
The Supreme Court judgement on Bayelsa was unprecedented as it was the first of its kind in the the history of the country. It has expectedly thrown up a lot of arguments on whether the sins of the deputy can be rightfully visited on the governor- elect.
There was a similar upset and uproar in January when, the apex court in a unanimous judgment sacked Emeka Ihedioha as Governor of Imo State on grounds that he did not win majority of the votes cast in the March 9, 2019 governorship election.
The court also ordered the immediate swearing in of candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Senator Hope Uzodinma, as lawful winner of the March 9, 2019 governorship election in Imo State.
Also, this Newspaper recalls that the apex court on May 24, 2019, nullified the elections of all the candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Zamfara in the 2019 general elections.
The court ruled that the ruling party did not conduct valid primaries in the build-up to the elec-tions.
A five-member panel of the court held that “a party that has no valid candidates cannot be said to have emerged winner of the general elections’’.
“The runner-ups are expected to be declared winners by the electoral body, INEC’’.
Expectedly, robust arguments have arisen on whether the judiciary is gradually usurping the roles of the Independent National Electoral Commission( INEC) and the electorate. All the cases men-tioned above have lend credence to this line of thought: INEC conducted the elections in which the electorate defied all odds to exercise their franchise only for the courts to come up with different winners in contrast to the verdict of the electoral umpire.
This not to say that the courts cannot adjudicate on election matters. Far from that! As a matter of fact, our laws have envisioned that disputes could arise in the elwectoral process where only the courts could judiciously resolve them and that is the wisdom behind the setting up of election tribu-nals after every election. We are, however saying that judgments given on grounds of technicalities hardly serve the course of Justice.
Pointedly , in the case of Bayelsa and Zamfara the candidates of the All Progressive Congress ( APC) were overwhelming voted by the electorates but on the grounds of technicalities , their votes were voided. This is a sore thumb for the judiciary.
Besides Zamfara has always been a one party state as since 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party has never won the Gubernatorial elections there . In Bayelsa, the electorate voted against the PDP in protest over alleged overbearing attitude and imposition of the gubernatorial candidate by the former governor of the state , Seriake Dickson.
This Newspaper is strongly of the opinion that the idea of imposing candidates not elected by the people is as undemocratic as military coup d’tat.It is instructive to note that democracy is defined as government of the people by the people and for the people. When only five people sit down and de-cide who governs a state, it devalues the essence of democracy. Moreso when such decisions run con-trary to the wishes of the electorate expressed at the polls.
Also, we believe that in a way, the Zamfara and Bayelsa debacle is a big lesson to the political parties whose failures had necessitated the intervention of the judiciary in the first place.
Our political class should now learn to play by the rules . The political parties need to carry out due diligence in thoroughly screening their candidates . Lack of internal democracy in the political parties is the major reason why some of the them are losing out at the apex court .
This newspaper strongly contends that the power to choose who governs a state or coun-try as the case may be should rest with the people . We are of the opinion that the best the Supreme Court can do in the aforementioned cases is to call for a rerun and let the people decide who governs them.Also, for sanity in the election process, pre- election cases as was the Bayelsa scenario should be decided before the election and not after a winner had emer-ged and inauguration scheduled.