The 2023 political battle raging in the Plateau State is akin to sporadic turmoil on many fronts. Governor Simon Bako Lalong’s insistence on giving his acolyte, Nentawe Yilwatda, the All Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial candidacy left a mass of despondent party loyalists with no choice but to seek political relief elsewhere.
Perhaps anticipating the possibility that the governor would endorse his preferred candidate for APC as the gubernatorial standard-bearer, Ambassador Yohana Margif, who claims her run for governor was backed by divine revelations, defected to the Labor Party (LP). . As at the time of her entry, LP was still a dormant political platform like other marginal parties in the league of 18 recognized by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
However, that almost comatose characterization would change after June 24, 2022, when the former vice-presidential candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 poll joined forces to air his 2023 presidential ambition.
Thus, it could be said that Peter Obi’s entry into LP and the subsequent momentum his presidential run generated became a drag on Ambassador Margie. This is because after being ousted from APC, Dr. Patrick Dakum, who like Ambassador Margif is among former Governor Joshua Dariye’s enforcers during his tenure, joined LP. Both men are currently vying for the court’s attention for a declaration of who qualifies as the true standard-bearer for the Labor Party’s governorship of the Plateau State.
While supporters of Ambassador Margif maintain that Dariye was behind the attempt to smuggle Dr. Dakum onto the ballot as a LP gubernatorial candidate, the former said that as a victim of political evil, he wants a break.
Interestingly, Dariye, who claimed his imprisonment was politically motivated, has not been visited by either the APC state chapter or the PDP, platforms on which he went to the Senate and governed Plateau state.
The former governor, while appearing on a Channels Television program, claimed that some of the money for which he was sent to prison was spent campaigning for the second-term election of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
Recall that in 2007, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged Dariye in court with misappropriation of the Plateau State fund estimated at N1.126 billion.
But, insisting that it was a calculated attempt to blur his political influence, Senator Dariye explained that N800 million of that sum was credited to Plateau State’s account, adding that N100 million went to Southwest PDP, while another N100 million was to the campaign organization of former President Obasanjo.
Giving a further breakdown, the former Governor revealed that one million went to the green fund, while N66 million went to PDP Plateau State, even as he described the outstanding balance of around N4million as commission on turnover.”
Although the Abuja Court of Appeal reduced the sentence to 10 years, which was also confirmed by the Supreme Court, last April President Muhammadu Buhari, exercising his prerogative of clemency, announced his pardon on the grounds of age.
However, although APC and PDP have maintained a certain silence and distance on the fate of the former governor, the parties in the dispute over the governorship of the LP associate it with the measure to review the result of the primaries for governor, which threw Ambassador Margif .
Margif’s supporters claim that the events that led to what they describe as an illegal substitution of the gubernatorial candidate began with a joint visit by Senator Dariye and Dr. Dakum to explore the possibilities of a voluntary withdrawal since, according to them, “ Margif does not have the huge war chest to carry out the gubernatorial election.”
In an interview with The Guardian, Ambassador Margif said that he joined the LP when the party’s presidential candidate, Obi, was still in the PDP, noting that by the time he emerged as the party’s gubernatorial candidate, Dr. Dakum was also still at APC.
It should be recalled that although Dr. Patrick Dakum announced his withdrawal from the Plateau State APC gubernatorial primary when it became clear that Governor Lalong’s preferred candidate would surely win the ticket, he was credited with 70 votes from the opinion poll. .
Dakum was among 10 gubernatorial hopefuls who dropped out of the primary, due to complaints that the venue was swamped with government appointees and unaccredited delegates.
However, by participating in an alleged repeat LP primary after Ambassador Margif’s alleged retirement, Dakum was said to have emerged as the party’s gubernatorial contender.
But, citing foul play, Margif maintains that he neither withdrew his nomination nor wrote to the LP president to announce it. She alleged that the letters allegedly written by him were outright forgeries and explained that the two letters sent to the INEC had different dates of August 2 and 5.
The embattled gubernatorial candidate said he was kept in a police cell on August 5, emphasizing that he rejected proposals that he drop out of the race to pave the way for Dr. Dakum.
The party’s state chair, Ms. Mary Zamfara, told The Guardian that the party’s real gubernatorial candidate for Plateau state is Dr. Dakum, noting that this was the position of the stakeholders and INEC. .
In any event, the LP national chairman, Mr. Julius Abure, was said to have informed eminent stakeholders that “anything not done ceremonially should be ignored, it may be designed to play games with the would-be candidate”.
Margif maintains that until the court pronounces its sentence on December 15, the claims of removal or substitution remain a ruse, alleging many cases of falsifications, acts of intimidation and instigation in an attempt to deny him the mandate.
He stated: “As it is today, we are on trial, for the illegal substitution, which they are claiming through letters of withdrawal. They arrested me on August 4 in Abuja and took me to Jos.
“It was that day, while I was in the cell, that they told me that I wrote a letter of desistance. I can not explain it; It’s laughable. How can someone be in a cell and writing a letter of desist?
“Obviously once you’re that desperate, God will take His hands off what you’re doing so you’ll use your hand to dig your own grave. They falsified a document, I can’t even say it’s my name, my name is Ambassador Yohana Yilpwan Margif, but they went and wrote Yohanna Yewan Margif and that Yewan is not my father’s name.
“In addition, they falsified a letter of desistance dated August 5, and presented it to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). After a few days, they again forged another letter dated August 2.
“And that letter from August 2 is the one that they attached with a court affidavit in their defense and all of these two letters have been verified by my attorney that they are all false.”
As suspense defines the three-dimensional political battle in Plateau State, the LP faithful in Plateau State argue that the overarching question begging for an answer is whether it means that internal party affairs are anchored in weak internal processes and undemocratic practices.
It remains to be seen whether political perversity, which Senator Dariye alleged as the cause of his imprisonment, is creeping into LP, especially given that both Margif and Dariye belong to the same local government council.
Could it be that an outside force is instigating the storm in the Plateau State LP, which has become the credible alternative to the ruling APC and main opponent PDP?
Two conspiracy theories about Ambassador YY Margif and the Plateau State LP 2023 gubernatorial dispute have already been circulating. For example, following Ms. Zamfara’s statements, it is suggested that Margif, who claims to be the gubernatorial candidate for the LP validly nominated for the June 9, 2022 primaries, was aware of the party’s decision to replace him through the supposed Dr. Patrick Dakum primary election on August 5, 2022.
How far this complies with the 2022 Electoral Law remains to be seen, even if it comes across as a dubious claim, particularly given Margif’s denial of any formal or informal LP communication with him about the party’s decision to replace him.
Margif argues that the case for voluntary withdrawal by a validly nominated candidate is one that legally, morally, and socially arises from dialogue and conversation between the legitimate candidate and the LP leadership. Said interface is essentially to push and persuade the candidate to accept the requirement that the need for such a substitution requires, but it must not derive from legal infractions or arm sprains.
His supporters contend that LP leaders denied Margif a fair hearing, alleging that party leaders ignored the candidate, acted capriciously and resorted to reckless trauma tactics, subjecting him (Margif) to threats, police arrests and detention, intimidation , harassment and blackmail to persuade him to give up the gubernatorial bid.
As it stands, Margif’s decision to seek legal remedies through lawsuit No. FHC/J/CS/76/2022 in the Jos Federal High Court has slowed down LP’s electoral plans, thus subjecting the party’s faithful to to suspense. What happens if the court annuls the alleged substitution? Could the disagreeing parties unite to conduct the elections as a united force?
Although there are moderate claims that Margif’s arrest and detention stem from serial criminality and chameleon behaviour, stakeholders maintain that only a court of law could prevent a challenger from running in the election based on mere unproven accusations. nor confirmed by a court of competent jurisdiction.
Based on the above, the validity of the alleged meeting on August 3 and 4 in which the state and national presidents of LP received Ambassador Margif to persuade him to give up his ticket for his own safety and interest, does not confer legitimacy. to the action taken. without his consent.
The fact that the INEC witnessed the gubernatorial primary on August 9, which threw Margif out and subsequently issued him a return certificate, suggests that it met all the requirements of the 2022 Electoral Law, as well as the LP guidelines, according to which he was evaluated and approved for the exercise.
And, acting out of providence, Amb Margif was said to have delivered a letter to LP headquarters and INEC on August 2, to debunk rumors that he had dropped out of the gubernatorial race. If the national leadership ignored that letter and went ahead with a repeat primary election, the party has opened itself up to the evidentiary decision of the court to determine the validity of Dr. Dakum as its gubernatorial primary choice. Only then could the party fill its lane as the third horse for the Plateau state gubernatorial race.