The True Story Of How Silva And Dickson Fought Guber Case To Finish, Lost And Won But No Victor No Vanquished
THE FIERCE BATTLE AT THE TRIBUNAL
After many months of legal proceedings, Governor, Seriake Dickson trounced his strongest opponent, Chief Timipre Silva, in the legal battle over the coveted seat he won in the last gubernatorial elections in the state.
The matter which began at the tribunal in Yenagoa and later taken to Abuja, and which led to appeals, was first handed down in strong and clear terms by the Tribunal. The tribunal judgement had put to rest rumours of the incumbent’s defeat in the social media and celebrations by Silva’s camp, days ahead of the verdict.
Delivering judgment on July, 26, after 179 days of sitting, Chairman of the Bayelsa State Governorship Tribunal, Justice Kazeem Olarunwaju Alogba upheld Governor Dickson’s election in the December 5, 2015, December 6, 2015 and January 9, 2016 elections, held in various parts of the state.
Chief Silva of the All Progressives Congress (APC), had challenged the of Governor Dickson’s victory at the polls on the grounds of lack of substantial compliance to the Electoral Act, large scale malpractices, including hijacking of materials and thuggery.
Other alleged grounds were bribery of electoral officials and voters, as well as wrong cancellation of the December 6, 2015 supplementary governorship election in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area (SILGA), besides other places, where he, Chief Silva, and his party, APC, insisted he won, and should have been added to his scores as well as be declared winner in the area and the entire election.
But, the State Governorship Tribunal said the claims of the petitioners’ – Silva and the APC were bogus and not substantiated by them.
According to the presiding judge, Justice Alogba, the allegations by the petitioners were strong and criminal in nature, and ought to have been proved with valid evidences beyond reasonable doubt in order to secure the reliefs sought from the tribunal.
THE CONTENTIOUS SILGA ELECTION AS APC’S JOKER CARD IN THE GAME AND THE DECISION OF THE TRIBUNAL
Justice Alogba who led a three-man panel, described the prayers of the petitioners as “a far cry” and “an after-thought”, stating, that haven participated in the rescheduled elections in Silga, on January 9, 2016 and the supplementary elections in Ekeremor, Nembe, Ogbia, and Yenagoa, they cannot claim that elections did not take place in the disputed polling units of these places on the said dates.
He added that the petitioners cannot also assert that the December 6, 2015 elections in Silga, which was cancelled, held and would have been so validated in their favour. Justice Alogba also stated that, votes couldn’t been allotted to Chief Silva and the APC from the December 6, 2015 election in Silga, which was cancelled early enough and postponed to January 9, 2016.
He stressed that, election is a complete process, as such a winner cannot be declared with incomplete process, thus justifying the declaration of Governor Dickson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as winner of the rescheduled election in Silga, which ran its full course. By the same stances, the tribunal declared Governor Dickson, winner of the supplementary elections in the disputed parts of the other local government areas on December 6, 2015. It underscored that INEC rightfully declared the incumbent as overall winner.
Justice Alogba stated that the Resident Electoral Commissioner rightfully cancelled the Decembe, 6, 2015 governorship election in Silga and rescheduled it on the genuine reason of violence, to which valid evidences were adduced by the respondents.
More so the tribunal anchored its decision on the fact that the rescheduled date of the January 9, 2016 and the supplementary elections in the other said places were announced to all parties, candidates and voters, and held as rescheduled, going by evidences that were before the tribunal.
Describing the Silga election as the main contention, the presiding Judge stated that, the petitioners were not able to prove their claims against the respondents who showed counter evidences to disprove them, thus the results of election of January 9, 2016, in which Dickson won, according to the panel of judges was valid, as so rightfully declared by the INEC.
THE PRESS CONFERENCE VIDEO THAT DEALT A DEADLY BLOW
The Tribunal, according to Justice Alogba, also based its decision, in part, on a video evidence of a press conference held by Chief Timipre Silva, in which, he (Silva) protested against cancellation of the December 6, 2015 election in Silga, and also declared readiness to participate. The presiding judge stated further, that the contents of the video of the press conference, which Governor Dickson used as evidence against his opponent, contradicted claims by the petitioners that election held in the Silga on December 5, 2015, and was won by Silva, as claimed.
The presiding judge drew out further contradiction in the claim, stating that, Chief Silva and the APC, from evidences that were placed before the Tribunal, duly campaigned for the rescheduled election in Silga, actually participated, and Governor Dickson was declared winner.
PRAYERS FOR CANCELLATION AND FRESH ELECTION
Relying on that same position, the Tribunal said, the January 9, 2016 election in Southern Ijaw couldn’t have been cancelled, neither could fresh election have been be declared as was prayed by the counsels to the petitioners - Chief Silva and the APC. The tribunal stated that documentary and oral evidences relied upon by the respondents affirmed that the full process of election took place and voters actually voted for candidates of their choice.
The tribunal noted that some of the witnesses called by the petitioners, rather affirmed claims by the respondents – INEC, Dickson and PDP, that elections held in the places challenged by the petitioners, and that some of them, participated as voters and agents to the petitioners.
The testimonies of witnesses to the petitioners, during cross examinations by respondents’ counsels, also rather corroborated that the elections held, results were announced and Governor Dickson was declared winner in those places as well as the entire elections in the state.
HOW VIDEO EVIDENCE FAILED TO PROVE CLAIMS AND CAUSED APPEAL AND COUNTER APPEALS
On the video which Chief Silva had relied on to buttress his claims to cancel the election or declare him winner, the tribunal did not see the content as valid evidence to hearken to his prayers, stated earlier in this report.
The tribunal had refused to play the video in open court, but later played it on June, 29, 2016 sitting, following ruling in an ex-parte motion that Chief Silva won at the Appeal Court in Abuja on June, 24, 2016.
The order of the Appeal Court caused fresh controversies in the Tribunal, on the said sitting of July, 29, 2016. It began with arguments by counsels to the petitioners that the video be shown, before final addresses and pleadings by counsels to close their cases. Lawyers to the respondents, however, opposed on the grounds that it would have led to amendments in their addresses as well as ate into the limited time set for the tribunal, and prayed that the addresses and pleadings be taken that day, and judgement given in no distant time, pointing out that if dissatisfied, the respondents had the option of appealing against the judgement.
Counsels to petitioners and those of respondents, however mutually agreed to have the said video played as ordered by the Appeal Court, and it was so played on the said June 29, 2016, but with technical hitches that caused hot technical arguments by counsels to the two sides in the case.
The video initially refused to play after being slotted into a DVD drive of a laptop, but played thereafter. However, counsels to the respondents raised objection that the witness played the content from software, which he quickly copied from, when he found it difficult to play the DVD itself. They, at that point, objected the use of the said evidence, since what was pleaded by Chief Silva was a DVD hardware, not software. The respondents’ counsels, therefore, put it to the witness who operated the laptop, that the content he played was not from the DVD, and he agreed stating that, he copied the content into Media Player software and played out.
Following stern warning by the presiding judge, Justice Alogba, to the witness on the consequences of misleading the tribunal with false evidence, the witness admitted that the DVD “freezed” when he first slotted it into the laptop. He thereafter, used another laptop to play the DVD. When asked to cross examine the witness, counsels to the respondents said, there was no “need to question cinema”, that is the video that was played.
Earlier, one of the senior counsels to one of the petitioners had been called to order by Justice Alagbo, not to interrupt cross examination of the operator of the laptop who played the DVD, nor tell him what to answer, since the witness claimed to be the person who shot and produced the DVD in question. But a mild drama occurred in the Tribunal after uproar ensued following hot exchange of words between the senior counsel and the presiding judge, who cautioned the counsel against antagonism in his presentations in the tribunal, and threatened to put him on record, if he would not allow others to talk during proceedings. The judge warned that learned counsel ought to realise, he was not the presiding judge in the matter, but a counsel, and should not take over the proceedings.
Reacting, the counsel who was so embattled, said that he had not been antagonistic, instead he had shown patience and maturity from commencement of the case, and had to at that moment express himself, the way he did.
It will be recalled that, disturbed by the Appeal Court ruling, that the video relied upon by Silva be played in the Tribunal, Dickson filed an appeal at the Supreme Court on June 27, 2016, to upturn the showing of the video, but he lost the bid. More over the said video had been shown in the Tribunal, thus, his appeal was overtaken by that event.
RUMOUR OF SILVA’S VICTORY OVER DVD RULING AT SUPREME COURT SENT SUPPORTERS AGOG
The Supreme Court ruling, which came few days ahead of the final verdict of the Tribunal, had sent wrong signals, especially through the social media, that Governor Dickson had been sacked, a rumour that sent opponents of the Governor agog in Yenagoa. There was palpable fear in Dickson’s camp until the D-day came. The development forced many Bayelsans to put phone calls, SMS, emails and WhatsApp messages across to many kit and kin in Abuja, including to know the true position of the case.
THE BUHARI FACTOR AND CHIEF ALAIBE’S FAILED OUTING
The fear may also have been connected to the campaign selling point that the Presidency, was behind the candidature of the APC candidate, and hope was not lost until the case went to the Tribunal, with conviction that the mighty hand of the Presidency will dictate the outcome of the case.
Recall that the PDP in Bayelsa State had countered the APC’s supposed unique selling point as that which was not workable because President Mohammadu Buhari would not have likely involved himself they way it was speculated.
JONTHAN’S PAINFUL OUSTER AND IJAW SENTIMENTS
The PDP and Dickson’s Keme to Keme Campaign Organisation, also wept up emotion that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was painfully ousted, therefore, sentiment was propagated that the only homogenous Ijaw State, should not be sold out. These, in addition to the edging out of Chief Timi Alaibe, from the APC ticket, a man, who many believed would have tried better in the governorship election, but for his usual step-down syndrome, gave Dickson and his camp more gusto.
Chief Alaibe’s withdrawal also made some people to swing votes to the PDP. Fillers at that time indicated that the incumbent Governor prayed that the APC guber ticket should be given to Chief Silva, and it would just be a walk-over match. Governor Dickson was said to have celebrated the emergence of Silva as the APC flag bearer, and true to the prayer, was trounced again and again.
SAGBAMA, DICKSON’S AREA: WHAT THE PANEL SAID
Apart from upholding the Silga election of January, 9, 2016, which video evidence relied upon by the petitioners, failed to prove otherwise, the Tribunal also upheld the election in Sagbama Local Governmental Area, the incumbent Governor’s area. The petitioners had averred that thuggery, sporadic gun shots and hijacking of materials to private houses marred voting in the area. But the Tribunal ruled that the allegations were not based on evidences, and that election conclusively took place in the area hence it affirmed Governor Dickson’s victory in the area as well.
HOW SOME EVIDENCES WERE DEFLATED
On the whole, the Presiding Judge, Justice Alogba backed up its decision of Governor Dickson as the overall winner with explanations that, some of the major materials and oral evidences relied upon by the petitioners, could not justify their allegations. The tribunal said that, some electoral materials brought before it by the petitioners, for instance, results sheets were merely obtained from polling units, noting that they were fake and could not have been relied upon to nullify elections in the disputed areas, neither be used to declare Chief Silva as winner nor order fresh election, as were prayed.
It clarified further, said that, in line with the Electoral Act, Evidence Act and relevant decided cases, materials to be used as evidence by petitioners must be those of the INEC, and clearly certified as true photocopies of the originals from its data base.
A POLITICAL LOYALIST WAS LASHED FOR DOUBLE DEALING
Also in the judgement, the Tribunal faulted the use of one of the supporters to Chief Silva’s political project as a member of the petitioner’s legal team in the case. The Presiding Judge, Justice Alogba, stated that the said counsel cannot play double standards in the case, going by evidence procedure and guidelines for legal practice hence his testimonies were struck out on the grounds that he was drafted to testify for his master, Chief Silva and also served as counsel to same person.
Justice Alogba had during an earlier sitting on June 29, 2016 – before the day of judgement, put the loyalist and lawyer in question in Spot, for playing double standards: as witness and counsel in the same matter, and frowned at his conduct. This mild drama followed complaint by Secretary of the Tribunal that the same lawyer insinuated that the video played on the order of the Appeal Court was “doctored”. The Secretary said that the said video was signed from the presence of the lawyer at the Appeal Court where it was kept in safe custody, haven used it in the case filed by Chief Silva at that Court, and wondered why the insinuation was made.
Reacting, the loyalist and counsel who was asked by the Presiding Judge to stand up in the Tribunal, denied the allegation, stating that it was the Secretary who asked him if the video had been played, and he only said, the Secretary was supposed to know better as he is an official of the Tribunal.
Notwithstanding the denial, Justice Alogba chided the counsel that, as Lawyer, he ought to have abided by the ethics of the profession, else face consequences. The presiding judge, then announced the haven played double standards in the case, contrary to the rule of practice, a matter that Mr Taye Oyetubo, counsel to one of the respondents, picked up and pleaded that the testimonies of the said lawyer/witness should be struck out.
PROOFS BY DICKSON, PDP AND INEC: THE VERDICT
On the part of the respondents - INEC, Governor Seriake Dickson and the PDP, the judgement, indicated that material evidences, including voting materials, especially results sheets which they relied upon were accepted by the Tribunal as genuine. In the same vein, it states that their witnesses substantially corroborated the claims of the respondents and material evidences laid before the Tribunal.
It noted that the respondents countered the claims of the petitioners substantially and stressed that the onus of proof was on the petitioners to prove their assertions as contained in the petition. Instead of doing so, the petitioners, according to the Judge merely made generalised allegations which they could not back with evidences for each ground in the petition. According to Justice Alogba, the court couldn’t have been swayed by such generalizations, pointing out that most of the claims and materials as well as oral testimonies were lies.
He therefore, handed down the final verdict of the Tribunal that elections validly held in the disputed places, and declared Governor Dickson returned as governor for a second term.
Alogba, summed up that “… the petitioners failed woefully” in their bid to nullify the Governor’s election, hence the petition against Dickson’s election was dismissed, by the Tribunal, for lack of merit.
ADDRESS BY COUNSELS
Earlier in the sitting of June 29, counsel to the petitioners as well counsels to the respondents addressed the Tribunal and prayed for justice for their clients. The first petitioners’ lawyers, led by Mr. Serbastein Hon said that enough evidences had been marshaled before the tribunal to warrant justice for the petitioners on all the reliefs sought.
On their part, lawyers to the respondents, Messrs Wole Olanipekun, Taye Oyetibo, Etiaba, all SANs, and others, argued that the petitioners had no case, but merely went to tribunal to waste time and belabor the Tribunal with fabricated stories and unreliable evidences, adding that, the petitioners’ counsels and the witnesses called by their clients rather corroborated the respondents’ counter claims that elections validly held and Governor Dickson of the PDP won.
The final verdict finally descended like thunder from the sky, and laid to rest, the earlier, speculations and fears about the case in Dickson’s camp.
WHAT THE PEOPLE SAID ABOUT THE JUDGEMENT
In interviews shortly after the judgement, supporters of Dickson and the PDP described the long awaited judgment as a welcomed development, and said it was a reaffirmation of the Governor’s victory at the polls.
One of the supporters, Senator Forster Ogola (PDP, Bayelsa West), described the Governor’s victory at the tribunal as victory for the voters, and added that it reaffirmed the decision of Bayelsans at the polls.
Senator Foster stressed that the votes of the electorate must count in democracy, thus the Tribunal, lent credence to the power of the electorate whose wishes must be respected.
He said the glory was to God, Almighty who made it possible for Dickson to win the case at the tribunal.
While rushing out of the court hall amidst joy and emotional feelings as winners and losers, some supporters of both sides exchanged words bitterly. Those on Chief Timipre Silva’s side gave indication of appealing the jugdement to the Appeal Court.
Dickson’s loyalists indicated readiness of their boss to slug it out at the Appeal Court, and predicted another clear win.
Attempts by journalists to track top notchers of the APC and counsels to the petitioners to know their positions on the judgment and whether, they will go on appeal, failed, as they rushed out of the court premise, perhaps, as the judgement which lasted about three hours entered night time and stressed them up.
On their part, counsels to all the respondents, described the Tribunal’s judgement as detailed, instructive and the outcome of meticulous research by the judges.
Meanwhile, some Bayelsans resident in Abuja, in an interview with journalists described Governor Dickson as a man of destiny, stating that he is a winner and has always won political battles. They also described Chief Silva as man of destiny, haven been governor for six years in the past, aside other positions he has held. But that, the Governorship Seat wasn’t just for him this dispensation,
They had called on the Governor to concentrate on his programmes and workers salaries, haven won, but unknown to them, more legal distractions were ahead.
They also called on the Governor to extend the hands of fellowship to his opponents, stating that as fellow Bayelsans, the just-ended battle should be seen as that of no victor no vanquished, for the advancement of the state, especially as the austerity bit harder in the country.