Audu: His campaign trail…his unfulfilled dreams
Abubakar Audu: 1947 – 2015
UNTIL yesterday evening when the cold hands of death snatched him away, Abubakar Audu, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the November 21 election in Kogi State, nursed high hopes of becoming the second person to be elected governor thrice. He was governor in 1992 under the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC).
The only politician that achieved that feat is Abba Bukar, who was elected governor of Yobe State in 1992, 1999 and 2003.
Audu was very close to victory yesterday, leading with a comfortable 41,000 votes — that was until the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the election inconclusive — and had actually ‘perfected’ his cabinet, helped of course by some APC chieftains. It would appear that the ‘veteran governor’ would be going to the grave at 10 am today (Monday), with some unfulfilled dreams, putting his many supporters in a state of sorrow. He died at the age of 68.
Although, speculations have it that the leading candidate in the much-talked-about Kogi governorship election gave up the ghost after INEC declared the election inconclusive (because voting was cancelled in 91 units holding well over 49,000 voters), another account of the incident said the former governor actually died before election results were announced.
Indeed, Audu has made history as the only candidate to have contested all guber elections since 1999. He won twice, losing in 2003, 2007 and 2011.
Events leading up to yesterday’s election showed Audu as being very positive and sure of victory. He spoke the language of the people, promising to, if elected, ensure that power shifted to other parts of the state, especially the Ebirra and Okun, which have not produced a governor in the history of Kogi. The late Audu is of the dominant Igala ethic nationality, a group that has produced all the governors so far.
“Let me make my three-point agenda known to the people of the state because I want to be held responsible for my word later when I gain power. First, I will make sure that power shift becomes sacrosanct. I will be the first governor to change power in the state,” he said.
“I must honour my agreement that after my full tenure I will ensure power rotation either to Kogi West or Kogi Central.
“I will declare state of emergency on the critical sectors of the state especially in the infrastructural sector. Shortly after I won my party primary, I took a trip outside the country where I met international business organisations, who by now are just waiting for me to be sworn in so that they can come and invest in critical sectors of the state,” he said. Then he promised to improve the well-being of the people. “Lastly, the welfare of the people of the state remains a priority to me. Let no one deceive you, I have nothing but the best interest of the people at heart,” he said
If anyone had predicted that he would never return to the Kogi state government house after his impressive showing in the election yesterday, Audu would have laughed it off. Having worked so hard, touring the length and breadth of the state, he felt so sure of winning the election. So confident was he after casting the vote at polling unit 2, ward 10 at Ogbonicha in Ofu local government area of the state, Audu exposed the ballot paper, perhaps forgetting that it ought to be a secret ballot. Audu’s political career dates back to 1986 when he was appointed as the commissioner for finance and economic planning of the old Benue state. He served in that capacity until the cabinet was disbanded, two years later. When Kogi was carved out of Benue and Kwara states, Audu contested for the governorship, won and was sworn in as the first elected governor of the state in January 1992. He remained in charge of the state until the military interregnum of 1993. When democracy was restored six years later, he contested on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and won but his bid to return to the Lord Lugard House, as the government house of the state is known, suffered a setback in 2003. He lost to Ibrahim Idris of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who spent two terms and handed over to Idris Wada, his brother-in-law.
Audu was about trouncing Wada to become the second APC governor to have defeated an incumbent PDP governor in 2015. Of the 20 APC candidates that emerged victorious in the 2015 governorship poll, Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna is the only one who ousted an incumbent governor. Like Wada, Mukhtar Yero of the PDP also lost his re-election bid. Commenting on the 2015 general election, the deceased said former president, Goodluck Jonathan deserved a nobel prize for accepting the outcome of an election that did not favour him. “As far as I am concerned, President Goodluck Jonathan deserves to be recommended for a Nobel Peace prize,” he said in an interview shortly after the election. “You know what has been happening around African countries, you know that once a leader is in a position, he wants to stay put, they won’t like to relinquish the position.
“Look at what happened in Ivory Coast and other places; in the case of Jonathan, we have seen a lot of maturity and love; he said it is not worth shedding any blood for the position of the presidency; how many people in Nigeria, in Africa, in the third world reason that way? They want to perpetuate themselves in power and for the mere fact that he has shown the difference, he deserves a Nobel Peace prize.” Audu hailed from Ogbonicha-Alloma in Ofu local government area of Kogi. His late father was a prominent traditional ruler – Orego Atta of Igalaland. He started his education in Kogi before proceeding to Onitsha for his secondary education. Audu also studied banking and personnel management in a London higher institution.
Though there were different corruption allegations against him, Audu was known to have achieved a lot in terms of infrastructural development during the previous periods he spent in the office. Audu established the Kogi State University, three different housing schemes for public officers, set up television and radio stations, pioneered the construction of an ultra-modern stadium, a five-star hotel, amongst others. In his response to the allegation of his arrogance, Audu who taunted Wada that he built the government house which Wada and his predecessor stayed throughout the period he was shut out, said: “It is better to have an arrogant performer than a humble failure”. He went further to lash out at his rival in the governorship race. “I worked in First Bank Nigeria for over 25 years and I left as an executive director. I was general manager of Standard Chartered Bank in London and New York. I was a training officer in London and I have done all these things and if you compare me as a governor with just a school leaver and someone who is doing that job for the first time, you will know that there is no basis for comparison,” he had said. On his 2015 governorship ambition, Audu said: “I think by the special grace of God we shall arrive there safely.”