In a surprising turn of events, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has expressed its intention to challenge the disqualification of its Bayelsa governorship candidate, Chief Timipre Sylva, from the upcoming November 11 poll. This decision comes after Justice Donatus Okorowo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, ruled on Monday that Sylva would breach the 1999 constitution if allowed to contest again, due to his previous terms as Governor of Bayelsa.
Reacting to the court’s decision, Mr Perry Tukuwei, the Director of Media and Publicity for the APC Bayelsa Gubernatorial Campaign Council, released a statement on Tuesday in Yenagoa. He stated, “The party has briefed its lawyers to appeal the judgment, and it is confident that the Court of Appeal will overturn the judgment of the Federal High Court.” Tukuwei further emphasized that the ruling seemed to have the fingerprints of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Governor Douye Diri.
Tukuwei highlighted the legal grounds on which the party intends to challenge the disqualification. He pointed out that according to Sections 29 and 84 of the 2022 Electoral Act, only individuals who contested the primaries of a political party have the right to challenge the qualification of the party’s candidate. Since the suit was filed by Chief Demesuoyefa Kolomo, who is neither a member of the APC nor a participant in the party’s governorship primaries, Tukuwei argued that he lacked the legal standing to sue in the matter.
Additionally, Tukuwei cited Section 285 of the 1999 Nigerian constitution, which stipulates that any aggrieved party must file an election matter within 14 days of the event. However, the case was filed on June 13, 2023, whereas the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had already published the names of the governorship candidates for Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi on May 12. According to Tukuwei, this renders the case statute barred, as it was filed outside the constitutional timeframe.
Expressing his disappointment with the court’s decision, Tukuwei criticized the fact that the plaintiff’s lack of legal standing was ignored. He also pointed out that the case was filed in Abuja, contrary to a directive by the Supreme Court that all pre-election matters be heard in the state where party primaries were held. Tukuwei questioned, “Is Abuja Bayelsa?”
Furthermore, Tukuwei raised concerns about Governor Douye Diri’s alleged involvement in the disqualification. He claimed that the ruling was part of a sinister plan by Diri to ensure victory through the back door, as Sylva’s popularity and acceptance across the state were growing rapidly. However, Tukuwei assured the people of Bayelsa that they should not be deterred by the PDP’s tactics, stating, “Our dear people of Bayelsa, fear not! This clandestine strategy by the PDP should not deter the resolve to elect Sylva as the next Governor of Bayelsa, we will win.”
The APC’s decision to challenge the court’s ruling sets the stage for a legal battle that could have significant implications for the Bayelsa governorship election. As both parties gear up for the upcoming poll, the outcome of the appeal will undoubtedly shape the political landscape in Bayelsa. Will Timipre Sylva be allowed to contest again, or will the court’s decision stand? Only time will tell.