A total of 45 candidates will be contesting in today’s governorship election in Bayelsa but it is largely believed that the race is between the prominent political parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
David Lyon and Duoye Diri were chosen by the APC and the PDP to fly their respective flags as polls open this morning.
However, the processes that led to their emergence have continued to define campaigns and eventually, the landscape of the election. Both aspirants are at the centre of the internal crisis and legal battles within their parties.
They were drafted into the race by their political ‘godfathers’ against the wishes of power blocs within the parties.
The APC is challenging the two-decade-old dominance of the PDP in the oil-rich-state and the current junior petroleum minister and former governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, influenced the nomination of Mr Lyon – a relatively unknown name before now – for the APC ticket.
On the other hand, Mr Diri, a senator representing Bayelsa Central District, was anointed by the outgoing Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, to lead the lines for the PDP in the quest to consolidate its reign in the state.
Mr Lyon won the controversial APC primary, defeating five other aspirants, including Heineken Lokpobiri, a former minister, who disagreed with the outcome, insisting he is the party’s authentic candidate.
After the party failed to resolve the issue internally, Mr Lokpobiri headed to the courts asking it to declare him the winner.
But barely 48 hours before polls open, the federal high court in Yenegoa, the state capital, ruled that the APC had no candidate for Saturday’s polls.
The court ruled that the primaries took place in contravention of the party’s rules and guidelines and, consequently, produced no candidate for the party in Saturday’s election.
To the APC’s relief, the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt on Friday set aside the November 14 judgment of the high court and ordered the electoral commission, INEC, to allow Mr Lyon to contest.
Like Mr Lyon, the emergence of Mr Diri was not considered transparent and faulted by many party leaders.
Mr Diri defeated 20 other aspirants, including the former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi Alaibe, who was reportedly backed by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
Although government officials in Bayelsa have dismissed it as being untrue, there are reports that Mr Jonathan was not consulted by Mr Dickson over the choice of Mr Diri as the man to succeed him as governor, and that the former president and his supporters felt let down by the governor.
The rift between the former president and Mr Dickson became clearer when Mr Jonathan and many other frontline politicians boycotted the PDP mega rally.
What is left to be seen is how the controversies trailing the emergence will affect the voting pattern of Bayelsa electorates.
David Lyon Perewonrimi is the CEO of Darlon Security and Guard, a private security firm in Bayelsa State. He was born into the Olodiana clan of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state.
He is a wealthy businessman and relatively new in the political landscape.
He contested under the platform of PDP as an aspirant to represent the Southern Ijaw Constituency IV in 2011. He defected from the party in 2015 to join the ruling APC.
Born on June 4, 1959, Douye Diri has been on the political turf for quite some time.
Mr Diri, 60, before his election in 2019 as a senator, served as a member of the House of Representatives.
He was a commissioner for youth and sports in the state, when the former president, Mr Jonathan, was governor of Bayelsa.
Apart from politics, Mr Diri has been a teacher and a businessman.
He started his career as a teacher and taught in several government schools in the rural area in the Old Rivers State.