The date is November 1, 2015 for the next round of gubernatorial face up between Idris Wada and Audu Abubakar and as a corollary– between PDP and APC, the two major political parties on the Nigerian political theatre. The stage is set for the two political gladiators in the race for the government house in Lokoja. The first time, Wada triumphed to become the sitting governor of Kogi state while Audu had been twice governor of the state.
For Kogi state electorates, the election of the next governor of presents a hard choice and an opportunity to make fate with political obligation with two uninspiring candidates already known for their style, character and drives.
Wada is the sitting governor with a subdued public image. Until the current round of electioneering campaign, it was difficult for the public to know he was actually in charge of the affairs of state in Lokoja. Considered self-effacing and a silent performer by his supporters and admirers, the governor’s public image as an achiever is grossly mitigated by his notoriety for fatal automobile accidents that have killed and maimed others and left him scared.
Wada’s supporters consider him a humble leader with a steady hand that could be trusted to keep the load-stone of the state focused for better days ahead. His opponents see a governor who has yet to wean himself from the control of his mentor and predecessor in office, Idris Ibrahim.
Governor Wada’s opponent is Audu Abubakar who as governor of the state twice in the past and a contestant in all the governorship election since he was voted out of office, holds the record for the most serial political adventurer in Kogi state. Flashy, flamboyant and pugnaciously ambitious, Audu has a cult like following among his admirers and supporters. “Prince” Audu Abubakar as his supporters love to call him has never shied from his penchant to be governor of Kogi state for as long as allowed by the law. Even after his failed attempts at winning elections to the state house in Lokoja, often referred to as Lugard House, Audu never ceased from harassing with litigations the tenure of the administrations that succeeded him.
Audu’s supporters are quick to roll out a litany of his accomplishments since during the period of his administration of the state. They do so with gusto and with the conviction that he could repeat and even accomplish more at his third and possibly 4th time as governor of the state. Audu is credited with founding the state University at Anyigba, Sate stadium, Hotel, construction of Lokoja township roads and others which Audu supporter consider as indices of development and progress.
It is true that everyone like development and progress but at what cost and on whose back. Audu likes to flaunt all the projects he started in the state in his current bid for another shot as governor. Audu believes he alone holds the key to Kogi state advancement and by the time you listen to him it would seem the entity called Kogi state was in a stone age before he came on the political stage. This constitutes nothing but an indictment of all the administrations that preceded him. But there were military administrations who laid foundations before ever Audu became governor of the state. Kogi had some developments. The ancient city of Lokoja had been an administrative quarter of some sort for decades. Audu believes the clock of development in Kogi state stops the everyday he left the state house in Lokoja.
The November election will definitely come down to a rematch under different clime. The last time both met, Wada carried the day, this time, the choice will be determined by factors other than what either candidate can offer to the state if what we have already known about both is anything to go by.
As a candidate of APC, Audu hopes to ride the waves of Buhari’s victory at the center, a kind of coattail effect while governor Wada as the sitting governor has the incumbency factor to kit though that edge is gravely blunted by the absence of PDP, his party at the center.
The APC in Kogi state has been receiving a Tsunami of decamping political jobbers from the PDP including Jibrin Echocho who had contested the party’s primary against governor Wada. Why Echocho ditched the boat of PDP now for APC is left to conjecture. His action however goes to confirm allegations in some quarters that he had been an Abubakar mole in PDP all along, a factor that made Wada’s predecessor, Idris Ibrahim to scuttle Echocho’s ambition of becoming the governor of Kogi in the last election by switching his support to Wada. It is on record that Echo’s daughter is married to Audu’s son. Though Echocho had brilliantly explained in one of his media interviews that he was an independent man with his own goals. The force of filial may have finally prevailed over his decision.
For a society like ours where government impact every facet of lives it is important that the people of Kogi state give serious consideration to the character of whom they elect as governor. Character more than any other consideration should be the overarching reason why either Wada or Audu should be elected to govern the state. It is the very reason why President Buhari was elected in the last presidential election.
That being the case, one is miffed by the trumpeting of Audu’s past accomplishment in terms of infrastructural developments when he governed the state. A careful analysis of the so called project are not in any way landmark achievements because they were either uncompleted or only on paper—just blue prints, ideas, for which billions of naira disappeared via contract inflation skimmed by the governor. Anyone in Kogi state as governor at the time could have achieved the same feat without the collateral debts piled on the succeeding governments.
For example, founding the state university was in vogue by all state governments in the nation at the time to address the growing number of university enrollment in the nation. Yes Audu’s government found the University at Anyigba and he chose to immortalize himself by giving it his name. That act exposes his character as a dictator who has no respect for all Kogi citizens. The great and revered late Premier of the North, Ahmadu Bello had the largest university in Africa south of the Sahara name after him by a committee of eminent personalities in the region. It was not done in a fiat by cajoled members in the state house. By the way, should other governments after Audu found their own universities for Kogi state to prove a point or develop what was already on the ground?
The culture of abandoned projects for new ones to show legacies had bedeviled our political system for too long, contributing to waste of resources and under-developments. That must have informed the considered great efforts made by both Idris and Wada’s governments in upgrading the state university from a glorified secondary school to a respected tertiary institution of learning that it is today by using the best of Kogi state intellectuals headed by our beloved Professor F.S. Idachaba of blessed memory.
The role of good governments is to provide enabling environments for the people to develop themselves. That could be through infrastructural developments and a society free from fear of government abuse of citizen’s rights. On the later score, Audu’s records during his two times governor of Kogi state is anything but toxic. We can’t forget so soon the dousing of an ace journalist Daniel Alfa with acid in Lokoja. The deprivation of pensioners of their salary and the monarchy style of governorship that compels any visitor including traditional rulers to the government house to sit on the floor while the governor holds court. What about the practice of waiting at the Koton-Karfi bridge head to receive governor Audu home to the state capital after every outing. These sharp practices by a leader are characteristics of an egoistic maniac akin to the Jon Kung of North Korea.
Audu’s narrative on infrastructural development of Kogi state often leaps the bounds of reason entirely. According to Audu as quoted from an online hashtag #AskAudu, “when I was in office 199-2003, we received a monthly allocation of $350 million—about N16.8 billion for the entire four years of my tenure received from the Federal account and I was able to carry out the following projects: Kogi state University, Obajana cement Factory, Confluence Beach Hotel, Stella Obasanjo Library, Paparanda square, Government House (Lugard) House, Government office secretariat and banquet hall, confluence/township stadium, Federal Medical Center with 25-state-of the art ambulance, NTA Kogi, Graphic newspaper presidential and governor’s lodge at both Abuja and Lokoja and countless other fictitious lists in the rural areas of the state.
Well, that makes it easy to refute his claim by a simple cost analysis showing that the volumes of projects definitely cost more than N16.8 billion without the monthly workers’ wages, except they were never completed. At any rate, the questions that begs answer is whether Audu as governor used his personal money to do what he claims to have done in Kogi state. When I read this incredible list a couple of questions pop up. If Audu started Obajana cement, why is it now Dangote Cement? Why will a state government build a Federal Medical Center? Ditto for the claim on NTA which is a federal parastatal. The graphic Newspaper can best be described as a newsletter of the state ministry of information and not any independent entity.
The point I am trying to make here is the apparent sizzle but little substance in Abubakar Audu’s campaign on past achievements instead of character. It is for this same reason that one is miffed at APC the party that won the presidency because of Buhari’s character as a focused man free of corruption practices in his past public outing as a head of state, governor and minister of Petroleum to present Abubakar Audu and expect to win the governorship of Kogi state. The same cannot be said of Audu whose bout with corruption investigations are public knowledge. Audu may deny it but the public know better. When it comes to corruption and lewdness as long as character matters, Abubakar Audu carry tons of baggage.
Since the creation of Kogi state, the non Igala ethnic groups have for good reasons, agitated for power shift. This agitation is not what anyone can decree in a dysfunctional political system like ours where primordial tribal cleavage hold sway, but it can evolve more easily with the instrumentality of political engineering by the political parties. A good example is Cross River State. The brightest chance for such to happen in the coming governorship election in Kogi state has been dashed by Abubakar Audu and his consuming ambition to rule Kogi state for life.
Any non-Igala candidate on the APC would have comfortably won the next election as governor of Kogi state by riding on the good will of President Buhari’s APC. If Audu wins the November election, those other ethnic groups that hope to be governor of Kogi state should kiss that ambition good-bye for the next eight years. No one should fall to Audu’s campaign promise of creating pathway for non Igala speaking group to come to power after him. He can’t and will not do it because the only power change Audu understand is to him. His character, his pronouncements more than his body language on the campaign have the hallmarks of a Kim Jong-Un of North Korea waiting to stamp his cynical value system on the struggling people in Kogi state.
We don’t need to be told by looking at how he selected his running mate from a diaspora Kogi state indigene from Lagos state. Does it mean Audu could not find a single qualified candidate from the rest of Kogi state or from among competent individuals who contested the primary with him? That singular act demonstrates the selling of Kogi state as a commodity to Bola Tinubu, adding the state to one of his growing political fish ponds.
Wada’s opponents and adversaries complain of his quite approach to governance and what they call non-achievements. But this is a man who spent two years out of his four years as governor fighting Audu’s litigation. He may be quite because he is humble. President Buhari is not only known to be quite but also reticent. When Wada’s critics speak about achievements, they have their eyes on starting white elephant projects by abandoning the ones started by Audu Abubakar even when such projects does nothing to improve their standard of living. I have never been to Lokoja since the Kogi state was created but as a citizen of the state, I would pick a good township road over a sports stadium. A lighted street over a cul-de-sac governor’s lodge at both Lokoja and Abuja because those projects can directly impact on my life and that of others. Wada is known to have directed the state resources at those directions.
The winning strategy for Audu in the coming election is for him to show humility and possibly apology for past misconducts as governor rather than bullying and in-your eyes bombastic arrogance which are clear signs of character flaws that will make him a big loser. For Wada to win, he needs to come out of his cell as a layback governor struggling under the shadow of his predecessor, Idris Ibrahim. The forces behind Audu’s quest are reckless with unlimited money from Lagos. Tinubu and his conquering armada will ride rough shod over him if he fails to drum his accomplishments since he came to power.
Omatta Omede, Mid Atlantic Center, USA