Lokpobiri Continues the Battle for Justice

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Segun James writes that the major hurdle between Senator Heineken Lokpobri and justice is his own political party, the All Progressives Congress

Even by the standard of Nigerian politics, this may be a new low. How can a political party side with the opposition in a case filed by its own aggrieved member?

This is the situation right now in the case filed by the former Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobri before the Supreme Court asking the apex court to review its judgment on his case on the grounds that his case required a panel of seven justices as against five since it relates to interpretation of Section 318 (4) of the constitution in relation to Section 285 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Section 234 of the constitution states that anytime the Supreme Court is sitting on a constitutional interpretation it shall do so with a panel. Therefore, Lokpobri is praying that the court set aside its judgment because the panel that gave the judgment was a panel of five hence, inadequately constituted and therefore a nullity. If the judgment is set aside, it will be to the advantage of the APC.

Lokpobri had gone before the court to insist that he won the APC primaries for the governorship election; and as such, he ought to be declared the duly elected candidate of the party. He contended that this should be upheld by the apex court, and since he had no issue of falsification of documents, he should be declared winner of the election and sworn-in as governor instead of the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Douye Diri who is now the Governor.

Surprisingly, the party against Lokpobri’s move is not the PDP but the APC! And this is the party that will benefit the most from the case if the former Minister’s petition sails through.

A second ground, according to him is that anytime the Supreme Court is specifically invited to depart from and overrule its earlier decision on any matter, the law is for the supreme court to enpanel seven justices to hear and determine that appeal. In this case the apex court was invited to depart from and overrule its earlier decision in Idiagbon versus APC and others (2019) 18NWLR (Part 1703). And that ought to have been done by a panel of seven justices not five. So his case, he insisted is completely different from all the other cases that have come before the apex court for review.

Leading the opposition against Lokpobri are the National Chairman of the APC, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole and the Bayelsa State leader of the party, Chief Timipre Sylva. Also in league with them is the candidate that cost the party the ticket, Mr. David Lyon. They are contesting Lokpobri’s position on the matter.

Why are they against Lokpobri’s move? Why not leave the PDP to carry its own cross? Why spend millions of Naira in legal fees to oppose your own party man?

These are some of the questions as the nation awaits the apex court’s decision on the application by Lokpobiri. If it sails through, it will be a landmark judgment in the annals of the country.

However, it is good to trace the origin of the crisis within the APC in Bayelsa State, how it got to this level and where it will lead to?

It all began in early 2019 when news had it that Governor Seriake Dickson was to defect to the APC following a fall-out with the leadership of the PDP and opposition from former President Goodluck Jonathan.

One of the demands of Dickson was he be guaranteed a soft landing; principal of which is that a very pliable candidate who would not be antagonistic and investigate his past be made the APC governorship candidate.

He specifically demanded that Lokpobri should not be the candidate if the agreement was to hold. Oshiomhole and Sylva were said to have agreed to this demand. As a Lokpobri candidacy would be contrary to this plan, the APC settled for David Lyon, a businessman, with high ties to militancy in the Niger Delta. He was believed to malleable.

Following this agreement, Lokpobri was frustrated at every turn from that moment on even as he stubbornly stayed the course on his ambition. After the governorship primary, Lokpobri claimed it was visibly fraudulent and devoid of any decency; and was blatantly and openly rigged.

But since he had his facts, Lokpobri headed for the national headquarters of the party to lay his complaints and where he expected to get succour, but the party ignored him. For someone who was a former Distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic and an ex-minister, they, simply failed to listen to him.
Despite all these, Lokpobri still urged his supporters to vote the party in spite of the ordeals he was going through.

Lokpobri decided to head for the courts, seeking justice instead of rocking the boat of the party. This patriotic stance by him was the main reason that the APC won the governoship election with a landslide.

But today, not surprisingly, the same forces against him from the beginning are still after him. The same people opposing his prayers at the Supreme Court are not from the opposition PDP, but the people who denied him justice in the first place, his own party leadership.

What is most surprising about the situation is that if his prayers come true, the APC would benefit the most since Lokpobri belongs to the party.
According to a source close to the former Minister, all that Lokpobri is asking for is that he won the governorship primary and should have been the party’s candidate in the first place.

He was said to have called and assured that party’s leadership opposed to him that he is not working against the party but for the party; hence, he wonders why the APC is in court against the review of the previous judgment when it is for a common good. “After all, the David Lyon case is closed for good,” the source stressed.

But how did the PDP become the winner even though it came a distant second? The answer was recently revealed by the Bayelsa State Secretary of the PDP, Chief Godspower Keku, who unintentionally blurted out the intrigues that took place and how APC chieftains made the PDP winner.

Keku, on behalf of the State Executive Committee of the PDP, has asked the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, to stop the unnecessary vilification of the Supreme Court and the Judiciary, as a fallout of the apex court decision on Bayelsa Governorship Review.

The PDP State Scribe said that Sylva and the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, played a critical role in aiding the Peoples Democratic Party to wrest the mandate from the APC through the bold decisions of the court.

He said that the party commended Sylva and Oshiomhole for making it easy for the PDP to avert awaiting catastrophe by foisting a candidate who never won a primary and handpicking Senator Degi Eremienyon, his cousin as the running mate to David Lyon.

According to him, Sylva propped up David Lyon and Degi as his stooges in furtherance of his ambition to combine the position of the minister with that of the Governor of Bayelsa State.

Keku made the comment while reacting to an interview by Chief Sylva who accused the Supreme Court of wrong-doing in the verdict.

He said that with the final verdict of the Supreme Court on the issue of the Bayelsa Governorship, Sylva ought to have apologized for the Nembe massacre of 21 persons, the vandalization of former Governor Seriake Dickson’s and Governor Douye Diri’s residences, the attack on the PDP Secretariat, the Steve Azaiki Library, the judiciary among others rather than casting aspersions on the integrity of the Supreme Court.

He stated also that Sylva should show remorse for the sponsored protests at the residences of Honourable Justice Mary Odilli in Abuja and Port Harcourt.

“Sylva should not blame the Supreme Court and the Judiciary. The fact is that he helped us; his people worked with us to reclaim the mandate wrongfully taken by the All Progressives Congress to avert a disaster.

Keku challenged Sylva to explain what he did with over 150 Million Dollars he received from oil companies and others for the Bayelsa governorship election which he didn’t spend.

He called on the Federal Government to investigate the minister for foisting extreme violence on Bayelsans and Bayelsa since 2015.

He also called on the international community to investigate the minister and impose a visa ban on him for hiding under the influence of the Presidency to perpetuate political terrorism in Bayelsa.

Keku called for an investigation of the minister raised the alarm that the interview he granted may be a ploy to set the stage for further violence in the state.

The question on many lips is, when did Sylva and Oshiomhole become friends? It would be recalled that in 2015, it was Oshiomhole who nearly cost Sylva the APC governorship ticket but for the unflinching support of Lokpobri and others who came to his support.

Lokpobri it was who stood by Sylva financially and physically when he had been frustrated by the PDP government of President Goodluck Jonathan when he was going through a most challenging political time of his life; an election which the former governor later lost to Mr. Seriake Dickson.

The source recalled that oblivious of the Oshiomhole-Sylva and Dickson pact, Lokpobri had gone to meet Sylva to pledge his loyalty and support if the former governor would be taking another shoot for the Creek Haven Government House at Yenagoa, but if he was not, Lokpobri signified his interest to contest the position.

Soon after this, Sylva was made the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, a situation which foreclosed any attempt to contest the governorship again.

When Lokpobri went to seek his support to contest the governorship since Sylva was no longer interested in contesting the position, he met a stumbling block. The song had changed.
From that moment on, the friendship became stone-cold; and a new name was being brandished as the party’s candidate: David Lyon.

The man was not only new to the party but from all indications, he shouldn’t be an aspirant, let alone the APC governorship candidate in the first place.

How could you pick such a person above a former Speaker of the state’s House of Assembly, a former Senator and Minister with a PhD in Law. It was unthinkable, yet it happened.

The source said Sylva has proven clearly not to be a good leader. He said Sylva should go and learn from Asiwaju who always presents some of the best for public offices.

As the weeks turned into days and the governorship primary drew near, it soon became obvious that Sylva and Oshiomhole were indeed bent on imposing a misfit on the party and the people.

Worse still, Sylva, as the party leader in the state insisted on his cousin, Senator Degi Eremienyon, whose credentials had been a source of problems in the past as deputy governorship candidate.
From that moment on, the stage was set for a soap opera, the outcome of which would later cost the party a ticket that it could have taken without rancour and on a platter of gold with the goodwill of the good people of Bayelsa State.

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The same people opposing his prayers at the Supreme Court are not from the opposition PDP, but the people who denied him justice in the first place, his own party leadership. What is most surprising about the situation is that if his prayers come true, the APC would benefit the most since Lokpobri belongs to the party. According to a source close to the former Minister, all that Lokpobri is asking for is that he won the governorship primary and should have been the party’s candidate in the first place