Ambassador Yohana Yilpwan Margif is the Plateau State gubernatorial candidate of the Labour Party (LP). In this interview with LEO SOBECHI, he traces the genesis of the struggle for the party’s ticket, saying that Dr Patrick Dakwon wants to climb on Senator Joshua Dariye’s political structure to displace him.
• Genesis Of My Travails With Dr. Dakum
What are your take on the stories going around and machination regarding your candidacy of the Labour Party in Plateau State?
Well, you see, the truth of the matter is, when you are on the right path, you don’t have a problem. I am so happy even with the intervention of the media, it has put light on what has actually happened and I am so happy.
When you came into Labour Party, it was not popular, now how do you feel about the party and your aspiration to govern Plateau State?
Yes, you know, the party itself, it is members of the party that will make a party popular. I came to Labour Party, not because of anybody, I came with a lot of resources and Labour Party was empty.
The day I entered Labour Party and since I was having a lot of resources, I have to put in my wealth, I started encouraging a lot of people to join forces with me to make the party thick. By the grace of God, the Labour Party has come to the limelight and I am happy that a lot of people have come in.
I even came into the party before the presidential candidate and that also helped to make the party more popular. And, his (Obi’s) coming was even a prayer answered, because I prayed that people like Peter Obi should come in. And with him now as my presidential candidate, I am so happy.
You played certain roles during the administration of Senator Joshua Dariye, where do you stand with him now politically?
Of course, I served Joshua Dariye very well. I carried out my duties to the best of my knowledge down to the end of his tenure. But, today Joshua Dariye is not a member of the Labour Party, he is a member of APC (All Progressives Congress), so I don’t know his position today.
But, I hear rumours going around, and I can see his hands supporting Dr. Patrick Dakum. I am surprised because in politics, people have diverse interests, I don’t know his interest and I don’t know his reason for supporting Patrick Dakum, who has just come into Labour Party, while he is still in the APC.
When last did you speak with Senator Dariye?
I spoke last with Sen. Dariye, when I visited him when he invited me when I called him as one of our chieftaincy holders and one of our seniors from our chiefdom. It was when I told him I won the Labour Party gubernatorial primary, so I went there to tell him the good news.
And it was on that day that he opened up to me about how he wished I should join hands with Patrick Dakum. But, that day I told him that this Patrick Dakum you are talking about is in APC, he contested the primary in APC and he came second, how can I now join hands with somebody who is in APC? I told him that I joined this race to win the election, not to relinquish the ticket to anybody. I think that could be the starting point of my problem with him.
What special position do you think Patrick Dakum occupies in the heart of Dariye of Plateau State that the former governor wants to make him the governorship candidate?
Well, you know politicians. We have different types of politicians. We have some politicians that are being induced by others. Like me now, I am trying to do away with the politics of godfatherism; I don’t want anybody to dictate anything to me. If you are called by God to serve your people, you don’t need anybody to influence you.
That could be the reason why Dakum is hiding under the influence of Joshua Dariye and of course, Joshua Dariye already has laid down political structures, so he wants to use that as an advantage.
There have been back channels bargains when making people governors, with new momentum in Labour Party, young people saying never again to old politics; what are the guarantees that you will not disappoint young people and Nigerians who yearn for a better approach to democracy?
If you see my party slogan, I tagged it set time for good governance. There is never a dispensation that youths have come out en masse to throw support behind a candidate the way it is today. It is a divine arrangement, a divine time.
And, by the grace of God, at my age today, I am in between the youth and the elders, so at this age now, if I don’t do the things that the youths will be happy, they will not be happy with me or the elders will not be happy with me. Then, I will be betraying both the youths and the elders, so, where will I belong?
Why did you decide to contest for the governorship of Plateau State?
I joined Labour Party and contested the governorship primary election successfully. I was issued a certificate of return and I have been on the ground campaigning against the forthcoming election as the candidate of the party.
After scaling through the primaries, I started going around contacting other aspirants from other political parties, who felt aggrieved or lost their party primaries. A lot of them approached me and complained about the injustice in their parties. They said they want to come and join me in Labour Party.
I told them that my door is widely open in Labour Party 24hours. So, some of them I meet them in their houses, while some came to meet me.
Among all these people, one of them that even came last was Patrick Dakum. Before he came to me, he sent delegations of about three groups of people, who came to ask me whether I can negotiate with their principal, who was by then still a member of APC and he was still among the aggrieved aspirants that lost APC primaries.
The group that first came, I asked them where is Patrick Dakum, and they told me he was abroad. I told them when he comes I want to sit with him because this ticket is in my hands and as an individual, I cannot move this ticket alone to victory. That I would like to have other people come and join me so that we move the ticket together, campaign together and build a formidable force for us to cruise to victory.
So, on the day he came, Dakum asked me where we can meet and I asked him to come to Apo Shoprite. Thank God, that day I was not alone. I was with some elders, and even though the meeting was in an open space, I sat with him there he told me that he was actually the one that sent those groups to meet me for negotiation and see if I can relinquish the ticket. He said he knows quite alright that I have spent a lot of money and that he is ready to compensate me, whatever expenses that I have incurred, he will reimburse me all the monies.
I told him no, that I joined the race to win the election, so that God will make me the governor of Plateau State and that I want to serve my people not relinquish it for money or for anything.
He said he came to me, that of course, he wanted me to be part of the movement, he wants to be the messiah, while I should be the John the Baptist. I now told him, doctor, I am already seated on the seat of the Messiah, because the ticket is in my name, as such, he should be John the Baptist. And, by the way, that you are still in APC and need to go and join Labour Party first.
Did he agree to join Labour Party or insist on having the governorship ticket first?
That day he told me he was already making arrangements, that he had even called his ward chairman informing him about his plan to join Labour Party. That was in seven days’ time as of the day we had that meeting.
So that day, we ended up with prayers and he said he was going to pray over it and then decide on what to do, whether to join me or to declare his intention to leave APC to come back to Labour Party. It was on that note that the meeting ended that day.
I was expecting that after that meeting he would call me for another meeting to discuss whether he is coming to join me because a political race is like a team football, one player cannot form a team. If he comes on board, there are so many windows of opportunity.
But, I never heard from him until one day when the party had a town hall meeting in Jos, and I was not in attendance. I travelled earlier to Lagos to bring some goods that I ordered for my business, then the state chairman, Mrs. Grace Zamfara, called me to say that during the town hall meeting something happened and the name of Dakum was mentioned.
She told me that the chairman of North Central, a man from Kogi State, that the man was trying to bring trouble, that the man told him that Dakum is coming on board, that Dakum wants to join the Labour Party and that he came with money. Mrs Zamafara said the man asked her to play along with them because Dakum would be a better candidate who has money for election.
She now told the man that he should be very careful so that the problem that Benue was facing should not happen in Plateau State, where the man collected money wrongly from aspirants and they ended up in court.
So, when I got that information, I called the man and asked him, my brother, I heard what is happening, please don’t make that mistake. They said you want to bring Dakum to Labour Party to substitute me. He asked me who told me, I said I can’t disclose my informant to him.
The next day, the chairman told me, that they have even called for a meeting in Abuja in respect of the same matter. She came down to Abuja with her state exco for the meeting and she had already revealed the secret to me. So, when they came to Abuja, I lodged them in a hotel at Area 3, Savannah Suites Hotel. There, she narrated to me how the meeting had been planned to hold in the Estate hotel in Garki.
She said the meeting was going to be for her, the chairman of Northcentral and the national vice chairman and Dakum himself, that Dakum was going to bring money there, that she was just telling me in case, that I should be in the know. My driver was the one that took her to the hotel, where they held the meeting.
The following morning, she came, because I was waiting for her at her hotel, which I booked. The next morning when she came to me, I saw her countenance change, she looked very sick. I said madam, it has happened I am seeing it in your face, what is the outcome of the meeting?
She now told me, Ambassador please, for the sake of peace and also she loves me and for the sake of the welfare and for the sake of the security of myself, my family, that this thing has passed her power, that they have concluded arrangement to substitute me, that that is why she is not herself any more.
If she has known that this leadership is like this, she wouldn’t have even been involved in it, but then, she is just under them. That they have given instructions from above that I must be changed.
On that very day, reminded her how she said that she had gone around, and met all the big aspirants in APC and none of them accepted to join because they said Labour Party had nothing.
But, I told you that day that the day I will enter the Labour Party people will come because I have seen the handwriting on the wall, that God want to use Labour Party to produce leaders who will serve people, not the ones that people will serve.
But then, there must be challenges, you chairman, the time shall come when they will come to remove you because they will claim that you are not even competent enough, you are nothing even to talk of myself, people will come to remove you. I told her that and she said yes, that actually I told her and whatever I told her has come to pass.
And I told her that after I join Labour Party people will come, Labour Party will come into the limelight. I told her, to have the people not come, and she said it is what I told her. I told her that I will not relinquish this ticket, I will not give it to anybody, no matter the threat, because I have a covenant with my God.
I said God gave me this position, I want to serve people, I want to render quality service so that the name of Jesus will be glorified. So, if I relinquish this ticket for money or for whatever or because of the threat to the life of myself or my children will be killed, God will now question me one day and asked me, did He not prepare my mind that I will face this thing, but that I will stand my ground and He will defend me.
If I relinquish this ticket today, what will I tell God tomorrow, is it because they gave me money or because they want to kill me? I told her that if I collect money from anybody, no matter how much, I will die with the money in two weeks because I cried to God. I looked at the crisis. I looked at the killings, I looked at the level of bad governance and I looked at my track records.
I served under leaders, I have served under past governors, I have been a grassroots campaigner and I have seen where we are lacking. I have seen the problems we are facing and what is expected of a leader to do and what the electorate is expecting from the leaders. I have seen all of those ones and I have come to understand that what is happening to this country is a result of bad governance.
I told her that I am going on board to stand in the gap as an independent candidate to stop this politics of godfatherism, to stop this politics of a son of a common man who cannot taste political popularity. If you are not with this man, you must be with this man, if you are not with that man, you must be with that man and that is why I don’t want to be identified by a particular figure. I stand by God. That day I left her (The state party chair).
I told her, madam, I will not relinquish this ticket and let them do whatever they want to do, but at the end of the day, I know you have tried your best, but you did not believe in the word of God. I have an agreement with you, you did not fulfil your own, and you lost it. But, you are coming to regret it, because I will push this matter to the end.
What is the status of the crisis?
As of today, we are in court. It is because of the illegal substitution that they are claiming through letters of withdrawal. I was arrested on August 4th, and taken to Jos, it was on that day in the cell, I can’t explain, it is laughable.
How can somebody be in a cell and he is writing a letter of withdrawal? Once you are so desperate, God will remove His hands from what you are doing so that you will use your hand to dig your own grave.
They forged even my name because I cannot say it is my name, my name is Ambassador Yohanna Yelwan Margif, but they went and wrote Yohanna Yewan Marigif and that Yewan is not my father’s name.
That apart, they forged a letter of withdrawal dated August 5 and submitted it to INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission). After some days again, they still went back to forge another one again, written on August 2, and that one of 2nd August is the one they used to attach with the court affidavit in the court as their own defence and all these two letters have been verified by my lawyer, they are all fake.
The list of governorship candidates released by INEC, what is in the corner for Labour Party for Plateau State?
There is foul play in that one because that one can never be on the authentic list. By the side of the law, there is no way we are in court, a letter was written to stop any substitution, the letter was written to INEC and Labour Party on the 2nd by my lawyer and also an affidavit sworn to by me was also submitted to Labour Party and INEC stopping any substitution.
So, you can just imagine, how can a matter that is in court, the judgment and ruling are coming on December 15 and my name is the one on the portal. If we are talking about substitution today, there is nothing like substitution at all.
Before they held that repeat primary on the 5th of August, was there any announcement of the invalidation of the previous primary?
There was nothing like an invitation, nobody invited me. I only got this news when some people came to visit me in the police cell that a rumour is going on that there was a primary and that I have withdrawn from the race. I told them that I am here in Plateau and not at the Federal High Court Abuja. When and how can I be here I swore to an affidavit. So, everything is just too funny.
What message do you have for Nigerians, Plateau people and for those who believe in you?
The message I have for Nigerians today is to let patriotic Nigerians come out en masse, and let God bring on board patriotic people who have the fear of God to come to my aid, to intervene in this matter.
Why they are doing this to me is that they told me to my face that I am the son of nobody, that they have the finances, they have everything to depress me.
So, I am urging all my supporters, all Labour Party faithful, and the national body of the Labour Party to intervene in this matter. Let Nigerians ask the national chairman, Mr Julius Abure, how come he has refused to come out, none of the officials has ever come out to defend the purported substitution of Ambassador Yohana Margif. Nobody is talking about that.