By Tonie Iredia
A one-time governor of Kogi State, Prince Abubakar Audu is at this point probably a few metres away from Lugard House Lokoja, the official abode of the state governor. Having won the party primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to become its flag bearer in the forthcoming governorship election in the state, it is more likely than not that he will eventually win the race.
To start with, the Buhari factor may sway a number of people to vote for APC meaning that candidate Audu is only waiting in the wings to occupy government house. From the pattern of results of the last general elections it appears that notwithstanding the incumbency of the candidate of the Peoples Democratic People (PDP) the candidate of the APC may carry the day. What is more, Abubakar Audu had previously served as governor of the state to the admiration of some people who are obviously looking forward to his victory.
However, politics is not exactly like mathematics where the same variables always give the same results. In politics, particularly the Nigerian variant, anything can happen. Abubakar Audu can woefully lose the election or trounce his opponents. The Buhari factor may not produce the expected efficacy because candidate Audu is not Buhari and yet the personal standing of the candidate is crucial. Indeed, Audu has 2 sets of strong opponents namely his APC rivals and Governor Idris Wada with the power of incumbency. Whether or not civil servants in the state go without salaries for several months, governor Wada can give Audu problems by throwing into the contest, state resources as most of his colleagues did at the last general elections. Besides, commissioners, local council chairmen and councillors would be mobilized to return the governor.
Audu cannot also be too sure that his party members who contested the party primaries with him will not be spoilers as most losers do during elections in the country. For example, before the primaries, no fewer than 10 of the aspirants accused Prince Audu of cloning permanent voters’ cards to hand over to his loyalists for proxy vote. While it is possible that members of the group were overwhelmed by the former governor’s charisma, it does not rule out enemy action from some of them just as others may have since accepted the result of the primaries in good faith.
This argument is readily confirmed by two points. The first is the credibility of the chief returning officer of the election, Governor Nasir El-Rufai, of Kaduna State, who stated that the outcome of the election was a true reflection of the wishes of the people. The second is the solemn pledge of the runner’s up, Alhaji Yahaya Bello who affirmed that he would work with Audu to deliver the state for the APC.
In earnest, it is difficult to downplay the strength of Audu because not many can forget in a hurry, his legion of achievements when he governed the state earlier. Some of his major achievements ably spelt out by his campaign team include the establishment of three different housing schemes for public officers consisting of over 1,500 housing units in Lokoja, the transformation of Lokoja township with asphalt roads, street lights, aesthetic roundabouts, over 75 electrification schemes and 50 water projects; the Kogi State Polytechnic, the establishment of a television station, radio station, both AM and FM, a state newspaper and the transformation of the colonial residence of Lord Lugard into an Ultra Modern Government House Complex.
He also reportedly pioneered the construction of the first ultra modern state liaison office in Abuja. He also started work on an ultra modern stadium and a five star confluence beach hotel in Lokoja, the Obajana Cement factory, 250 units Housing Estate, a Sport Complex, a Specialist Eye Hospital and 25 other medical Institutions. Others are: a Special Government Girls Secondary School on Student exchange programme, 350 borehole schemes, the procurement of 100 transit buses; the completion of 40 rural electrification projects and most importantly the establishment of Kogi State University Anyigba.
Why then will former Governor Abubakar Audu not win again? One Kogi state born political analyst expressed two fears the other day. His first worry was that the former governor has a case at the EFCC. While we should all abhor corruption, we should be serene enough to distinguish allegation from guilt. The second fear of the analyst has to do with he called Audu’s pride.
The latter is alleged to be responsible for why he did not win the last two elections. If the man’s egoism has hurt him that badly, it seems simplistic to assume that the vice is hard to overcome. Again, it would be unfair to ignore Audu’s statement about what the thinks he actually did wrong. According to the former governor, the anger against him is championed by those who persuaded him in vain to share the federal allocation to them.
As the next election draws close, Kogi people may have to listen to objective assessments of the candidates before making a choice that can improve their living conditions. What looks like a strong point was made last week by a former member of the State House of Assembly, Honourable Saidu Akawu Salihu who argued that all the projects and infrastructure executed and put in place by Prince Abubakar Audu during his tenure as Governor were not comparable both in quality and quantity to what operates now.
In which case, unlike the neighbouring Edo state where Comrade Oshiomhole’s performance constantly reminds the people of the legendary Samuel Ogbemudia, Abubakar Audu seems to be the only one with an indelible legacy in Kogi. If so, is it not time for the people of the state to bring him back to power? If the Kogi people are influenced during the coming election by the proven ability of a man to perform, the return of Audu may take Kogi once again to the era of development. It will however be unfortunate if they allow the alleged pride of the man to push them to pick a humble but ineffectual performer,