The electoral commission, INEC, has reacted to a Federal High Court ruling which invalidated the candidacy of David Lyon, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the forthcoming election in Bayelsa State.
The High Court in Yenegoa, on Thursday declared that the APC does not have a governorship candidate in the election taking place on Saturday.
The court presided over by Justice Jane Inyang ruled that the governorship primary conducted by the APC in the oil-rich state was not done in compliance with the guidelines and the constitution of the party, and, therefore, the party has no candidate.
The APC is yet to react to the development, coming barely two days before electorates hit the polls. When contacted, the party’s spokesperson, Lanre Issa-Onilu, said it will soon communicate its reaction via a statement.
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday had also disqualified Mr Lyon’s running mate, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, from participating in the forthcoming election on the grounds that he provided conflicting information on the documents he presented to INEC.
In its reaction, INEC said the election will go on despite the disqualification of the APC candidate.
“The court did not say INEC should stop the election”, said Sarian Dangosu, INEC publicity secretary in Bayelsa.
“The court only said those who do not have candidates will be disallowed therefore, the other 43 candidates will go to the polls,” she noted.
Saturday polls in Bayelsa was expected to be a straight race between candidates of the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but for the controversy trailing Mr Lyon’s emergence.
Mr Lyon, a relatively unknown aspirant then, defeated five other aspirants in the APC governorship primary in September, including Heineken Lokpobiri, a former minister of state for agriculture and rural development, who was seen by many as a front-runner in the race.
Mr Lokpobiri scored 571 votes, the second-lowest in the primary, while Mr Lyon, who had the backing of the Minister of State for Petroleum and former governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, had 42,138 votes.
Many party chieftains said the primaries left much to be desired, accusing the party national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, of conducting another undemocratic election.
Felix Oboro, a party chieftain and former senator from Bayelsa, said Mr Lokpobiri would have made a better governorship candidate for the APC.
He said Mr Lyon has an obscure background. Nobody knows anything about him, he said.
After the primaries, Mr Lokpobiri approached the court, asking it to declare him, and not Mr Lyon, the authentic candidate of the APC.
If Thursday’s ruling stands, the ruling APC will suffer yet another defeat caused by internal wrangling within the party hierarchy.
It was the same internal party crisis that caused APC loses in states such as Zamfara and with Rivers. In Rivers, the party’s candidates were disqualified before the general elections and thus could not take part while in Zamfara, the candidates who had earlier been declared winners were disqualified by the Supreme Court and opposition candidates then declared winners. Like Bayelsa, in both Rivers and Zamfara, the cases were taken to court by aggrieved APC members.