Diri Sworn-in, Promises A New Dawn in Bayelsa

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•Soldiers deployed, 3-day curfew imposed, as protests rock Yenagoa

•Houses of Dickson, Diri vandalised

•Jonathan congratulates new governor, says he will live up to expectations

Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa, Chuks Okocha and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

Duoye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was yesterday evening inaugurated as the fifth governor of Bayelsa State, amid violent protests by supporters of David Lyon of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), had declared Diri winner of the Bayelsa governorship election yesterday after the Supreme Court nullified the election of Lyon, barely 24 hours to his inauguration.

Diri scored 143,172 votes out of 146,999 lawful votes and was subsequently presented certificate of return by INEC in Abuja earlier yesterday. He succeeds Seriake Dickson, also of the PDP.

Chief Judge of the State, Justice Kate Abiri, administered the oath of office on Diri and his deputy, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpor.

The inauguration ceremony was moved from the Samson Siasia stadium for security reasons, following protests that erupted in the morning.

The ceremony, which took place at the Government House, Yenagoa, was met with huge celebration among the party supporters, who thronged the Creek House in their thousands.

Speaking during the event, Diri declared that he would always work to achieve peace, love and prosperity for the people.

He described the swearing in day, as “a day made by God” which he said is “marvelous in the eye of the people of Bayelsa.”

He said: “I have been sworn in today as your new governor. My advice is that we have to be magnanimous in victory. We have to forget the bitterness, and the acrimony, because if we kill ourselves, who are we going to lead? Of course, we are not going lead animals.

“I, therefore bring to you a message of love, hope and prosperity for Bayelsa. Let us eschew all the bitterness and acrimony and learn to love ourselves irrespective of political parties.”

The ceremony was attended by governors of Oyo and Bauchi states, Seyi Makinde and Bala Muhammad respectively.

Meanwhile, in an unexpected move, former President Goodluck Jonathan has congratulated the new governor, stressing that he was hopeful that he would deliver.

“I congratulate His Excellency, Senator Douye Diri who was sworn in today as the 5th Civilian Governor of Bayelsa State, in compliance with the Supreme court verdict of yesterday, 13th February 2020. As governor, the responsibility of building hope and sustaining peace across the state now lies on your shoulders. I urge you to always bear in mind that you are the Governor of all Bayelsans and to seize this moment of glory to build bridges of unity by entrenching a culture of love, fairness and justice in our polity.

“Your journey to Creek Haven is a divine one, so I advise you to use the position to do good to humanity and pursue the development of the state in order to write your name in gold.

“You have worked with me before as a commissioner, so I am without doubt that you will live up to the expectations of our people.

“I call on all Bayelsans to be law-abiding, peaceful and embrace this transition in all sincerity, and work together towards a united and prosperous State”, he wrote in a tweet.

Violent Protest

Following the violent protest, soldiers were deployed in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital.

The Bayelsa State Police Command also declared a three-day dusk to dawn curfew in the state.

At a press briefing attended by security heads in the state, the Commissioner of Police, Uche Anozia, said the curfew was necessary to curtail any security breach.

He explained that anyone who violates the 8pm to 6am curfew, would be dealt with in accordance with the law.

The inauguration of Diri took place at Government House, Onopa, because of the crisis.

The hoodlums invaded the house of Dickson, in Opolo, Yenagoa, and destroyed several cars. However, scores of the hoodlums were apprehended by mobile policemen who were deployed to maintain the peace in the area.

Some of the items looted by the hoodlums, including several television sets and other properties were recovered by the security men.

Chanting anti-PDP songs, the angry youths also marched to the house of the governor-elect, Diri and destroyed the windscreens of cars packed in the premises.

They also attacked the public library built by a member representing Yenagoa and Kolokuma/Opokuma federal constituency in the National Assembly, Prof Steve Azaiki, a staunch PDP chieftain.

Also, part of the PDP Secretariat in Yenagoa and Radio Bayelsa, owned by the state government were attacked by the hoodlums, who looted and destroyed the state’s property in the process, including buses parked at the premises.

Many residents remained indoors yesterday for fear of attacks while the streets across the city were temporarily deserted.

Some APC youths, on Thursday night made bonfires around Tombia roundabout and extended it around Opolo in Yenagoa by Friday morning.

The youths created a blockade enroute the inauguration venue in the state capital, where Diri was to be sworn in, with shouts of “No David Lyon, no governor”.

In Kaiama,  Kolokuma/Opokuma, travellers were stranded at the Kiama Bridge end of the East-West Road, which links the South to Eastern Nigeria. The protesters bearing APC banners blocked the road, grounding traffic on both sides.

Bayelsa Violence: Arrest Oshiomhole Now, PDP Tells IGP

Dissatisfied with yesterday’s developments, the PDP has called on the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to immediately arrest the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, for questioning, and subsequent prosecution for incitement.

The party in a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said that the violence and arson perpetuated by APC agents in Yenagoa, was in furtherance of Oshiomhole’s inciting call that no governor would be sworn-in in Bayelsa State, contrary to the judgment of the Supreme Court.

According to PDP, “Oshiomhole’s statement is a direct call for sedition and violent subversion of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the statutory authority of the Supreme Court and the mandate of the people of Bayelsa State”.

PDP said that the former governor should therefore be arrested for prosecution for inciting violence and arson in the state.

“Nigerians can recall that our party had on Thursday cautioned Oshiomhole over his utterances and apparent plots to cause violence and a breakdown of law and order in the state.

“The world however watched with horror as APC agents, chanting APC slogans, assaulted the people of Bayelsa State, set the PDP secretariat in the state ablaze, attacked the premises of Radio Bayelsa, vandalised vehicles and equipment, took over major highways and attacked travellers, all in the bid to violently subvert the judgment of the Supreme court and forcefully take control of the state”, the main opposition party said.

The PDP therefore charged the people of Bayelsa, the security agencies and Nigerians at large, to hold Oshiomhole responsible and accountable for the violence in Bayelsa state and deal with him accordingly in line with the provisions of our laws.

The party insisted that Oshiomhole must be brought to book and stopped from the use of garrulity and clear misuse of language to cause crisis in the country.

Meanwhile, Dickson has ascribed the verdict of the Supreme Court, which returned Diri as the governor, to the mercies of God.

Dickson commended the Judiciary for their courage, strict and exemplary adherence to the ethos of the hallowed profession.

He also thanked the Bayelsa people, all Nigerians of goodwill and the clergy for their support and persistent prayers throughout the period of pre-election dispute in the court.

Dickson said in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Fidelis Soriwei that the victory was not just for the PDP but also the whole of Bayelsa and the entire Ijaw nation.

Secondus Dedicates Diri Victory to God

On his part, the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus declared that the Supreme Court victory of Diri was the work of God, adding, “in deed, power belongs to God.”

Speaking when Diri presented the certificate of return to him in Abuja, the national chairman said:  “This victory is dedicated to God Almighty because as we know, power cometh from God not from man and in this case, it was a long journey to freedom.

“Now is the time for us to come together especially the people of Bayelsa State. It is not in the falling, but it is in the rising, according to Mandela that makes a man.

“This is the time to establish the truth and reconciliation committee for the benefit and genuine reconciliation of all Bayelsans. There will be no victor, there will also be no vanquished. So we urge the new governor elect and deputy governor elect to quickly go to work, embrace everyone regardless of their linings or parties because this is what PDP represents.”

Reiterating his position that power belongs to God, the national chairman of PDP, said: “God has given you power not man. So go and be good ambassadors of the nation and your state and the party. There shall be no rancour. Call all the elders, all the youths of both Bayelsan people together to work. It is not the party, party is important it is the platform, but the service you are going to render to the people of Bayelsa should be uppermost in your mind and that is how to build a nation.”

INEC Wrong to Issue Certificate to Diri, Oshiomhole Insists

Also yesterday, Oshiomhole insisted that INEC was wrong to have issued Certificate of Return (CoR) to Diri as Bayesla State governor-elect.

He lamented that INEC chose to appropriate the judicial powers of the court to interpret laws, when it (electoral umpire) was neither competent nor has the mandate so to do.

Addressing a press conference in Abuja, the second after the judgement was delivered, Oshiomhole insisted that the Supreme Court for good reason gave a conditional order that INEC should swear in the second candidate with the highest number of vote and the required constitutional spread. 

He stated: “I believe that the fact the Supreme Court insisted on constitutional spread is in recognition of the fact that the constitution does not want a situation in which anyone, governor or president, presides over the affairs of a state without at least enjoying two third support of electorate of that state. 

“Clearly,  the votes scored by PDP and their candidate in that election only met requirements in five local governments and you need six local governments to meet the requirement of two third. The PDP candidate did not satisfy this requirement.

“INEC is now choosing to appropriate the judicial powers of the court to interpret laws that is neither competent to do nor has the mandate so to do. INEC fails to recognise that its responsibility does not include legal interpretation and the Supreme Court did not ask INEC to go and begin to assume the judicial powers.

“All what INEC needs to do is simple arithmetic. Who has the next highest votes?  Does such person have required vote spread?  If the answer is no, INEC can do no more. Now, INEC has decided to assume that the case of Bayelsa is exactly the same case as that of Zamfara.

“We recognise that having purported to have been sworn in, or issued certificate to PDP candidate, we still believe that there are viable legal widows that we will explore. We affirm our confidence in the judiciary even with pains in our hearts.”

The APC national chairman noted that if it were the intention of the Supreme Court to nullify or to declare the votes cast in favour of APC as wasted, the Supreme Court should have said so, adding that “INEC cannot import into the judgement or delete anything from the judgement.”