Godfrey Miri is a retired public servant; a former INEC Resident Commissioner of Gombe State, is running for the governorship of the state on the platform of the Social Democratic Party , SDP. In this interview with Yakubu Busari in Jos, he discloses why and how he would defeat the candidates of the All Progressives Congress and incumbent governor, Simon Lalong and that of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Jerry Useni. Excerpts.
What prompted you to contest for the office of the Governor of Plateau State.?
I had no intention what so ever to contest any election. A group of both Christian and Muslim youths came and met me and said to me, sir, we have been listening to you on our radio station, in the last three and half years. We see you as an honest man who is not afraid to speak his mind and you have challenged us to be the architect of our destiny. We have listened to you. But we want you to lead us for the next four years so that we can be under somebody who we can trust and we would be able to take off from there, that is the next generation. I told them I don’t have money, because politics in the country is about money. They asked me, do you have faith? I said yes, I have faith. They told me if I have faith, that is all. They asked me again, how much did Dariye, Jang and Lalong have when they contested the governorship? (former governor Joshua Dariye), (Jonah Jang, immediate past governor) and Lalong (Simon Lalong, current governor) Sir, come out, we believe God Almighty will listen to us and some where some how, we would prosecute this election. So, I said fine, if you are talking of faith and that you, the youths are committed to take your destines into your hands then for God’s sake I am ready to lead you in the next four years otherwise, I am happy in my retirement. This is how I was dragged into this. Again, they told me that theirs is not politics but a movement for total change on the Plateau and they wanted a different party that they would be able to move into able to contest the election to effect the desired change. So I asked of the party and they said SDP and that I should go and see Jerry Gana, (ex Minister of Information)
What did he say?
To my biggest surprise, when I saw Jerry Gana, you know what he told me? They wanted to surprise PDP on the Plateau. And I asked him why? He said because their friend, Senator Jerry Useni was going to be the governorship candidate of the PDP. That is six months before the party primaries, they had taken that decision. So, I asked him who and who on the Plateau? He said to me, professor Lombin, Danjuma Maina and Bulus Dareng. That theses were the ones they handed SDP to on the Plateau so they can allow PDP Jerry Useni win the governorship of Plateau. Professor Jerry Gana told me this. I was not alone, I was with three other persons. And I said to him, you must be dreaming prof for any one of you to think General Useni would win governorship of Plateau, because the youth of Plateau would say no to it. He said well, he would allow us go into the race but he would not come to Plateau because he wouldn’t want to be seen as destroying the ambition of his friend.
So, I said to him, we don’t need you on the Plateau, it is settled that the youths are prepared to fight. That is how I got myself into the current situation, and I am not afraid because the first time, I am going to challenge the people of Plateau.
We have all along been saying we are Christians. We pray more than any other state in this country. And I have always tell people, why is that God has not listened to us with all the prayers going on? Is it because the prayers are based on lies.? We know what our problems are. I believe looking for governorship is like going for an interview. You go with your CV, your experience; what you have done in life as a person. And I have them
So, you think you have what it takes to challenge General Jerry Useni?
If it is in terms of my contribution to Plateau, Jerry Useni doesn’t come near me. Lets all bring out what we have contributed towards the growth of Plateau and let the people judge. What has Jerry Useni ever created or done. I worked under him when I was the MD of Abuja investment. He gave me only one hundred and fifty million naira to start the investment. With that one hundred million naira, I turned the Abuja investment around, and today, it is multi-billion naira business. He can’t deny it. Also I handled Aso savings and loan scheme, which is quoted on the stock exchange started it in 1995 with only twenty-five million naira. Today, it employs hundreds of people; its involvement in the mortgage industry in the country is well known. Literally, every civil servant in Abuja who got a loan to buy his house, Aso savings and loan gave them. I created that company. The Garki Model Market you see is my hand work. I created the company that built Garki Model Market. So, I have been tested. As a manager, I know how to create wealth.
Let Jerry tell me where he has created wealth for employment. Let Lalong tell me what he has also done in that direction. When it comes to economics non of them understands how the economy of the state is and how to grow it, how to come out with policies that would touch the lives of every individual living on the Plateau and that tribe and religion would be secondary issue, because both religion and tribe doesn’t contribute to how you live your life. So, why are we supporting issues that have no thing to do with how we live our lives? Lets talk economy. How do we grow the economy of Plateau so that the poor man in the village would be able to meet his basic needs of at least two meals a day, cater for his children’s needs just like it was before. My father was a carpenter but he was able to cater for our schooling. My twin brother is a medical doctor, my younger sister is a professor, I am an accountant, all of us children of a carpenter. Then, the system created the enabling environment and gave people the opportunity to develop themselves, to achieve their ambitions. Today, that’s not what our children are having. I went to secondary school where I was given pocket money. When I am coming home, I was given transport fare. Today, the children of the poor in the university are given five thousand naira as scholarship. Is that right? Meanwhile, Senator Useni collects twenty-five million every month. Out of this amount, how much does he gives to the poor? Does he even need that twenty-five million with all the positions he has held in life? His children are all grown up. What does he need that money for? I respect Useni as an elder statesman and he should remain there. His time his passed. This is the 21st century and you don’t expect an 80 year old man to take you into the 21st century.
The issue of money is key as for as politics is concerned. How do you intend to overcome that factor taking into account that you are contesting against the incumbent Gov. Lalong and Senator Useni both of whom have money to burn?
The issue or money factor has already be taken care of in the 2015 elections that brought Lalong into office. Jang spent over 7 billion naira to install the late UNS. Did the succeed? Did he win? How much did Lalong have? Did he win? Yes. That is to tell you that people are beginning to say no to money politics. Ask yourself, whether you are a Christian or Muslim, why should a person give you money to vote for him.? If you are truly in politics to serve, they you have no business given people money. You actually need money in politics; but for rallies for transportation, for entertainment. That’s what you need money for but not to buy votes and corrupt the electoral process.
If you ever give somebody money to vote you, that is bribery and corruption. And once you get yourself in through corruption, it begins a vicious circle. I believe well meaning people of Plateau State would help us. We don’t need this money but souvenirs, vehicle for transportation, that’s all we need. But we would not give anybody money because, we are not corrupt. Ours is a movement.
It was not like this in the late 70s and 80s. How did we get here?
We have proved in Plateau that money meant no thing to the electorates. But politics change. I was the chairman , campaign organization of the National Republican Convention, NRC, for Bagudu Hirse during the time government registered two political parties in Nigeria. I tell you from the primaries to the main election, we contributed money to run that election. Tapgun was in the civil service, so, the civil servant rigged that election for Tapgun because then the electoral umpire used civil servants to manned elections and if the civil servants are with you, then you are sure of winning the election.
I believe that this time around, people have suffered and learnt their lessons the hard way, because Lalong missed it when the people of Plateau State came together to elect him, he should governed with the people as a team. We all know that ordinarily, APC as party couldn’t have gone anywhere in the state, but because we rebelled, we told Jang that he could not impose his will on the people of Plateau, Lalong won the lection. Consequently, we are also going to prove this time around that money would play a part but what you know, your past, what your history has been is what would determined who wins the next election.