Opinion – Kogi Poll: Abubakar Audu, Once Bitten Twice Shy!Articles/Opinion, Latest News Saturday, October 31st, 2015
In a matter of weeks from now, the people of Kogi State will make an important decision about who will be their governor for the next Four years. Specifically, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC has fixed the Kogi governorship election for November 21st. Two weeks later on Dec.5th it will be the turn of Bayelsa people to go to the polls. In both cases, the people will be making their choices from a pack of old and familiar war horses. In Kogi, the election is promising to be an interesting shopping exercise.
So far, about Seven political parties have nominated standard bearers for the poll. They include Labour Party LP, Accord Party AP, All Progressives Congress APC, People’s Democratic Party PDP, All Progressives Grand Alliance APGA, Social Democratic Party SDP. The first Three of the parties boast notable candidates who have at different times held top political offices in the state. They are former Deputy Governor, Philip Salawu of the LP, former Governor Abubakar Audu of the APC and incumbent Governor Capt. Idris Wada of PDP. But, those who are familiar with politics of the Confluence State and the credentials of each of the candidates believe the contest will be a two horse race between Audu and Wada.
To say the least Audu is a formidable opponent. His strength lies in his records of achievements as a former Governor of the State. So are his weaknesses. Audu is the most rugged politician in the Governorship race. He has contested every gubernatorial election since the creation of the State in 1991 and won two, first in 1992-93 in the short lived Third Republic, and second in 1999- 2003. His current expedition will be his Seventh. With such record, the Ogbonicha prince profiles himself with the self effacing sobriquet ‘father of Kogi state.’
Perhaps, it is true. Audu’s reputation for development is praised to high heaven. Among legacies his supporters point to are the establishment of Kogi State University KSU Anyigba, Kogi State Polytechnic KSP Lokoja, Obajana Cement Company, Phase One Housing Estate, Old Poly Quarters, Commissioners’ Quarters, Assembly Quarters, State Library, Radio Kogi, NTA Lokoja and Graphics Newspaper. Others are construction of an Eye Clinic, a Reference Hospital, Cottage Hospitals and a Secondary School in his village. In fact, for want of better things to mention, one ardent fan says Audu has a good sense of glamour, referring to his countless gorgeously embroidered Agbadas! For these reasons Audu says ‘Kogi is my baby.’ He smiles when his fans massage his ego with the phrase ‘messiah of Kogi’.
But, a closer look at the Audu years in government will at once put a lie to the super hero/ genius image with which fans like to adore him. Audu was the first and second elected governor of a state that was literally begging for development. What is today being glamorized as his ‘unequalled records’ are the minimum just about anybody would have recorded as governor, at the time Audu did. That he established a university was not a miracle. Higher education was a priority in all the states. Governors of virtually all other states created along with Kogi State established a university- Olorogun Felix Ibru of Delta State, Olagunsoye Oyinlola of Osun State, Boni Haruna of Adamawa State, Chinwoke Mbadinuju of Anambra State and Abba Ibrahim of Yobe State all established a state university in their respective states. In the case of Kogi it was made easier by an existing UNDP agricultural facility in Anyigba. The facility was promptly converted to a university. The same explanation goes for the polytechnic. The satellite campus of Kwara State Polytechnic in Osara was also converted to a full fledged institutions with the main campus in Lokoja. Audu added a theatrical blend to the establishment of the university when christened it Prince Abubakar Audu University, Anyigba, with the ear tingling and jaw breaking acronym, PAAUA.
When Lokoja became state capital in 1991, the then small local government headquarter was overwhelmed by the influx of civill servants coming from both old Benue and Kwara States. Constructing residential and office accommodation was therefore a priority for the government. So it was not a mark of ingenuity that the pioneer governor constructed Government House, some office accommodation and residential estates to take people away from dwelling under trees. “If he did not build his own office, would he expect to be operating from the village square?” asked Pa. Eneojo while speaking on the issue.
Audu likes to be remembered as a leader that laid the industrial foundation for the state’s development. He conceived of a cement factory in Obajana. It is to his credit that the idea was taken over by the industrialist, Aliko Dangote and today Obajana Cement is one of the biggest cement companies in a single location in the world. But, people conversant with the Audu persona recall how the former governor allegedly bagged cement from another company outside the State with Obajana Cement’ printed on it and brought same to the Lokoja Township Stadium for launching with fanfare. This was at a time when not a single tree had been uprooted from the site where Obajana Cement was supposed to be located.
Some of Audu’s electoral burdens have psychological foundation. The former governor who prides himself as a prince is said to be son of a non political and untitled village head in Ofu Local Government. During his two previous adventures in power, he ruled Like an emperor and saw the state as an extension of his fiefdom. He was notorious for his pomposity and outright disdain for others. As a governor, lesser human beings including his commissioners and other top functionaries of government cringed at his presence. They dare not seat whenever the emperor was on the throne. People were just expected to craw before him. To obey him.
The prince of the Niger and the Benue was most insensitive to the people he led. He talked down on people, tampered their freedom and pursued an agenda that divided the people than it united them. Salaries and allowances were highly irregular. Civil servants, especially from the Yoruba west and Ebira central were routinely laid off without regard to rules guiding such exercise. At the height of his madness, Audu boasted that his party, the then Nigeria People’s Party, NPP would rule the Confluence State for a minimum 25 years. However, the people’s verdict was louder. In the 2003 governorship election, Kogites rejected him as king when they voted for a political neophyte in Ibrahim Idris. Four years later, Idris repeated his humiliation. Again, in 2011, the humble pie was forced down the throat of Audu.
The former banker also carry a deeper sorrow from his sojourn in Lugard House. He is thought to have also helped himself from the common till. His knack for development came with a big price for the communal purse. He was accused of stealing about 12 Billion Naira from the state revenue. Audu dribbled the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC for years until it’s operatives waylaid and caught him on a street of Jo’s, the Plateau State capital. He was handcuffed and subsequently arraigned at a court in Lokoja. Proceeds from his looting spree were said to have been used to acquire eye propping property in Potomac USA, Dubai, Abuja and other places. He is still standing trial over the matter.
Has the former governor learnt his lessons. Not likely. Two weeks ago, while returning from a trip abroad, a large number of supporters were mobilized to Jamaata bridge where they waited several hours for Audu. The long wait was said to have taken a toll on the health of an aged man who collapsed and was rushed to a near by hospital for revival. Recently, a reporter was reprimanded for having the effrontery to seat in the dining table in Audu’s Ogbonicha country home.
Audu is a notable politician with insatiable thirst for power. He is a man of uncommon taste for development. He is the father of Kogi State. He likes to be seen as the symbol of Kogi’s development. But, he is also kleptomaniac.
Idoko is based in Abuja.
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