Bayelsa Erupts In Violent Protest Against Diri, Dickson, Insist On Having Lyon As Governor

Bayelsa's violence
Bayelsa's violence

By Akanimo Sampson

Bayelsa State, the home state of former President Goodluck Jonathan, has erupted in an orgy of violence against the new Governor of the state, Douye Diri, and the out-gone governor, Seriake Dickson.

Violent protests erupted on Thursday evening, shortly after the ruling of the apex court that aborted the governorship dream of David Lyon of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

This was as Senator Diri and Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo were sworn in as the governor and Deputy Governor on Friday.

Though Jonathan has congratulated Diri as the new governor, protests against the judgment continued until Friday, thus forcing the Nigeria Police, Bayelsa State Command to impose a dust-to-dawn curfew in the highly explosive Ijaw state.

Jonathan, however, urged the governor to live up to the expectations of the people and called on the protesting Bayelsa peoples to be law-abiding, peaceful and embrace the transition in all sincerity, and work together towards a united and prosperous Bayelsa.

According to the former president in a tweet, “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. Congratulations Your Excellency. 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 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.”

But, the protesters, who were believed to be supporters of the APC, took to the streets setting bonfires on major roads in the state just as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was busy calling on the Inspector General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, to immediately pull in the factional National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, for questioning and prosecution for incitement.

PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement alleged that the violence and arson being perpetuated by APC agents in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state capital, on Friday, was in furtherance of Oshiomhole’s inciting call that no governor would be sworn-in in Bayelsa, contrary to the judgment of the Supreme Court.

“Oshiomole’s statement was 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. He should, therefore, be pulled in immediately for prosecution for inciting violence and arson in the state.

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“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 PDP, therefore, charges 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. Oshiomhole must be brought to book and stopped from the use of garrulity and clear misuse of language to cause crisis in our country,’’ the party said.

Apparently unshaken by the PDP statement, he angry APC supporters, comprising women and youths, blocked different areas of the busy Mbiama-Yenagoa Road, burning tyres and traffic control stands in sight.

They said the verdict of the apex court was unacceptable, insisting that it was either Lyon or no other person. Oshiomhole had also posited that no one would be sworn in on Friday, arguing that no other candidate had the constitutional spread to be governor.

The Yenizue-Gene area of Yenagoa which houses the state secretariat of the APC was cordoned off by the police soon after the protests intensified towards the area, while policemen barricaded the area with patrol vans even as burnt tyres billowed with smokes.

The incident caused panic among residents and motorists, most of whom parked their vehicles and tricycles. Local sources say commercial activities were also affected as businesses shut down for fear of being looted.

At the Ekeki Motor Park, some shops in the Seriake Dickson Shopping Mall were allegedly vandalised and looted. And as of Friday evening, APC supporters were still on the rampage, moving from one major road to another in the state capital.

To arrest the spreading unrest, however, the state Police Commissioner, Uche Anozia, who briefed journalists alongside the heads of other security agencies, said the curfew started on Friday and will last till Sunday, between 8 p.m and 6 a.m each day.

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He said the decision followed the violent protests that rocked the state capital on Friday morning, adding that eight persons were arrested in connection with the demonstrations, pointing out, “following the outcome of the Supreme Court judgment with respect to the Bayelsa State governorship election, which was made public on February 13, 2020, angry protesters stormed the streets of Yenagoa. The police command is hereby imposing a dusk-to-dawn curfew for three days; from Friday, February 14, 2020, to Sunday, February 16, 2020, from the hours of 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.”

He has accordingly advised members of the public to stay indoors as security operatives would be out to arrest and prosecute anyone who violated the curfew.

During the violent protests, the private residences of Diri and his predecessor, Dickson, in Yenagoa were attacked while some vehicles were vandalised at both locations.

Dickson had at the last State Executive Council meeting of his administration in the Government House on Friday called on the APC leaders to restrain their supporters from causing violence in the state. He described the Supreme Court judgment which brought in Diri as his successor as no victor, no vanquished.

Bayelsa has been tense since the Supreme Court on Thursday annulled the victory of the APC candidate in the November 16, 2019 governorship election, David Lyon, and his running mate, Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo.

The apex court ruled that the APC ought not to have participated in the election because Degi-Eremienyo, Lyon’s running mate in the election, forged his certificates.

A five-man panel of the court, headed by Justice Mary Peter-Odili, ordered that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Lyon and his running mate and declare as the winner of the election the candidate with the highest number of lawful votes cast with the requisite constitutional spread.