APC’s Audu dies, after leading in Kogi guber polls
HE was near realising his coveted ambition: to return to the Kogi State Government House. But yesterday, his pet dream was scuttled irretrievably. He died. Before Prince Abubakar Audu’s sudden demise, there had been jubilation and back-slapping that accompanied the declaration of most of the results of Saturday’s governorship election in which he was leading with over 41, 000 votes.
Sources close to the family in Ogbonicha said he died even before the collation of results commenced.
A politician in his country home who spoke on a condition of anonymity said his household had been in mourning, with wailing from all corners of his expansive compound.
Also in his Abuja home, a source indicated that his security aides were seen wailing profusely.
Audu, it was gathered, had complained of stomachache shortly after casting his vote and started vomiting blood only to pass on shortly after.
“Audu is gone,” a distraught associate of the late politician told an online medium reporter on the telephone.
Although too shattered to provide details of the politician’s passing, he confirmed he was in the candidate’s company when he passed on.
The source said the former governor suddenly took ill and was being rushed to Abuja preparatory to being flown abroad when he passed on.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s Returning Officer, Prof. Emmanuel Kucha, who is the Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi had declared the Saturday governorship election inconclusive, saying that though Audu was leading with over 41, 000 votes there would be rerun in 91 polling units to take care of 49, 553 voters.
He said the provision of the law as contained in the INEC guidelines stated that the winning margin must be in excess of the total number of votes in units where elections were cancelled while in the current case elections were cancelled in 91 units across 18 local governments.
He said the total number of votes in the areas added up to 49, 953 while the margin of win was 41, 353 giving a difference of 8,600.
According him, while the All Progressives Congress (APC) scored a total of 240,867, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 199,514, Labour Party scored 5, 756, and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) 584 votes.
According to Kucha, total valid votes stood at 459, 983; rejected votes 21, 351 while total votes cast were 481, 334.
Despite the fears that the election could be marred by violence, it was relatively peaceful and points towards producing Prince Audu as the winner.
The flamboyant politician who first became governor of the state in1991, won in 16 local councils where he got the required two-thirds of the votes cast while the PDP flag bearer and incumbent governor, Captain Idris Ichala Wada won in five.
The PDP had raised issues concerning Audu’s state of health during the campaign period, which the APC dismissed as mere political propaganda aimed at discrediting the deceased. The APC waved the issue aside, claiming that the ruling party was only jittery and looking for a mere excuse to disqualify a strong opposition.
Meanwhile, there was a protest in Okenne area of Kogi yesterday where some youths were reported to have demonstrated over the outcome of the election until armed soldiers came to quell the situation.
Audu was the first governor of Kogi State. He was born on October 27, 1947, to the family of his Royal Highness, the late Pa Audu Oyidi, Orego Atta of Igala Land and the paramount ruler of Ogbonicha-Alloma in Ofu Local Council.
He started his education at the then N.A. Junior Primary School, Alloma, and later N.A. Senior School Ankpa, from where he proceeded to Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha. He later transferred to the Jos Commercial College where he obtained both the General Certificate Examination (GCE) Ordinary and Advanced Level.
After a stint as a bank worker, Prince Audu proceeded to London from 1975 to 1978 where he studied banking and personnel management and obtained professional qualification as a certified secretary, and as a Fellow of the Association of International Accountants of London, as well as fellowship of the Chartered Institute of Industrial Administration of Nigeria.
His banking career lasted for 25 years, which he spent with the First Bank formerly known as Standard Bank. He served in various capacities at management level until 1991. He also made history as the bank’s first training officer of African descent and also as one of the first black senior management staff of Standard Chartered Bank in London and New York. In 1991, he was appointed Executive Director of FSB International Bank Plc.
His political career began in 1986 when he was appointed as Commissioner for Finance and Economic Planning in the Old Benue State and served in this capacity until 1988 when the cabinet was dissolved.
Audu, one of the astute advocates for the creation of Kogi State, which was carved from parts of the old Benue and Kwara states contested the 1991 governorship on the platform of the National Republican Convention (NRC) and won the election held in November. He was subsequently sworn in as the first executive governor of Kogi State in January 1992.
In 1998 Audu, now with the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), was elected again with over 700,000.
He was sworn in on May 29 , 1999 as the second Executive Governor of Kogi State.
His socio-economic contribution in the state is to date a point of reference to the generality of the people and many aspiring leaders. Some of his major achievements during his brief first term of office 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, the construction of inter-township and rural roads, over 75 electrification schemes and 50 water projects.
Others include the founding of 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, the construction of office blocks for ministries as the new state had no office accommodation and the construction of shopping arcade complex to enhance commercial activities.
He also pioneered the construction of the first ultra modern state liaison office in Abuja. His administration also built an ultra modern stadium and a five-star hotel in Lokoja, the Confluence Beach Hotel. He also took steps to woo prospective investors to harness the solid mineral potential in the state. The big prize was the establishment of Obajana Cement Factory. The project, which was ongoing before he left office, attracted the support of the United State Government. During the visit of former President Bill Clinton to Nigeria, the State Government signed the agreement with the US Trade Development Agency (TDA) for a grant to finalise the feasibility work on the project. The cement project is now operational.
The establishment of a state university, Kogi State University Anyigba, is another testimony to his vision and resourcefulness. The foundation stone was laid on November 30, 1999, when former President Olusegun Obasanjo, visited the state. About a year later, the president returned to Anyigba during a state visit to commission the university complex.
According to a report of a visitation panel to the university from the Nigeria University Commission, the institution was then described as the fastest growing university in the country. The university received tremendous international support, which included an affiliation programme to Morgan State University Baltimore. Also, seven visiting professors from various universities in the United States were at the university to review its curriculum and align it with their own universities and prepare the students for an exchange programme to give the university an international acceptability.
Prince Audu completed several landmark projects within four years. They include 250 units of a housing estate, a sports complex, a specialist eye hospital and 25 other medical institutions. Others are a special government girls secondary school on a student exchange programme, 350 borehole schemes, 300 kilometres of township roads, the procurement of 100 transit buses and completion of 40 rural electrification projects.
He was also named the best governor in the 1999-2003 dispensation, despite being a governor on the platform of the opposition, the ANPP.
He was a highly travelled politician who brought many honours to the country through his personal relationships with foreign statesmen. It is known that he enjoyed a very intimate relationship with the former British Prime Minister, Mr. John Major.
In 1993, he and a member of his family were special guests of the British Prime Minister at No. 10, Downing Street where he hosted them to a state banquet. Also in 1993, Audu attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Cyprus. His connection with the international community saved Nigeria during the heady days of Shonekan administration from economic embargo. In December 1999, he was on the delegation of President Olusegun Obasanjo during the state visit to Germany. On every account, Prince Audu who maintained a good circle of friends across the country is by every judgment a great patriot, visionary, humanist and nationalist. The outstanding achievements of Prince Abubakar Audu have been acknowledged by several organisations within and outside Nigeria through awards and honours presented to him.
Meanwhile, Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, has described the death of Prince Abubakar Audu as tragic and very unfortunate.
Fayose said the sudden passing on of Audu has further confirmed that life is vanity and we would only be remembered what we did. The governor sympathised with family left behind and people of Kogi State, praying that God will comfort the family.