JosephAhmedu in Lokoja reports on the controversy trailing the move by ex-governor Abubakar Audu to contest the governorship scheduled for October
Former governor of Kogi state on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, Prince Abubakar Audu has thrown his hat in the ring and vowed to honour what he calls the peoples call on him to contest the governorship poll scheduled for October later in the year. He made his interest to run the governorship election in an interview granted journalists who covered the event shortly after the close of the reception ceremony organized by the legislators-elect of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Audu’s new party to which he defected before the recent general polls..
The event was specifically meant to honour three senators-elect, six house of representatives- elect and 11 house of assembly members- elect on the platform of All Progressive Congress (APC) in Kogi state.
Also in attendance were supporters of all the elected persons and party chieftains in form of solidarity for their victories at the polls by the APC leader in the state, Prince Abubakar Audu.
All that were present at the occasion generally appreciated the gesture of the APC leader in Kogi, Prince Abubakar Audu to organise for the reception.
It would be recalled that one of the APC chieftains in the state, chief Clarence Olafemi who was a former speaker of the Kogi House of Assembly and one time Acting Governor of the state at a reception held in honour of the house of assembly member- elect for Okene Constituency, Abdullahi Bello in Lokoja recently, said that the party is so lucky that it has a former governor, Prince Abubakar Audu as the able man in-charge as well as former acting governor and two former speakers of Kogi House of Assembly amongst other heavy weights.
Audu was away abroad then. But they took the decision at that gathering to honour the ex-governor with a reception whenever he returned from his trip. At the occasion members and leaders of the party seized the opportunity of the occasion to raise the specter of APC as the party to beat in the forthcoming governorship election.
Since the victory of the party in the presidential and Assembly elections, the party has been upbeat about its desire to win the governorship. Party chieftain, Ochieje had summed up the anticipated victory of in the October governorship poll onwhat he called the acceptance of the party as shown in its performance in the National and House of Assembly polls.
Also mounting call on the party to field Audu for the poll, another chieftain in Abuja a week ago told newsmen in Abuja why Audu, as candidate of the APC, would be unbeatable in the October governorship poll.
Mr Akinola Abdulrasaq, the APC chieftain in Kogi State, had urged ex- governor, Abubakar Audu to join the gubernatorial race.
Abdulrasaq made the call while speaking to journalists in Abuja in reaction to calls from some groups lobbying Audu to drop the ambition.
He said such calls were coming from enemies of the state, who did not mean well for the state. Abdulrasaq who is a onetime leader of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Yagba East LGA of the state, said those opposed to Audu’s governorship ambition were political saboteurs in the state.
According to him “Such persons are either agents of PDP or dishonest party leaders; Audu has been tested and each time, he proved himself.”
He added that the state needs honest politicians like Audu to restore its lost glory. While lamenting the poor state of things in the state, he said it had slid into a culture of impunity with top government officials stealing public funds without a sparing a thought for the progress and development of the state.
He described Audu as a rare gift to the state, adding that Audu’s administration in 1999 to 2003, established the Kogi State University, Kogi State Polytechnic, Obajana Cement Factory, and constructed massive housing estates for senior and junior staff, roads among other laudable projects.
However those opposed to his candidacy have stated the several allegations of fraud and embezzlement handing on his neck and currently pending at the Abuja High Court. Only recently, in fact a month ago the said court admitted the testimony of a banker, Uchenna Agagara, in evidence against Audu, in his ongoing corruption trial.
Mr. Audu who is being prosecuted by the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, for offences bordering on criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of public funds to the tune of N10.96 billion, had the banker, Mr Agagara as its chief witness..
At the recent hearing in the Abuja court, Mr. Agagara, told the court, presided over by Adegbola Adeniyi, that “several millions of naira totalling about 926 million” was lodged into the Diamond Bank account of Bulkom Nigeria limited, “between May 29, 2001 and July 23,2003” when Mr. Audu was the Governor of Kogi State.
To buttress their case, the prosecuting counsel tendered a statement of account from Diamond Bank, showing the details of the transactions. The judge, Mr Adegbola admitted statement in evidence and marked it as exhibit P1 54 a-b.
Mr. Agagara, a relationship officer with Diamond Bank Plc, who is also the account officer of Bulkom Nig Ltd identified the exhibit and further told the court that he printed the said statement from the banks’ system when he was invited by the EFCC.
It was also alleged that the ex-Kogi State Governor was stealing money from the First bank account of Directorate of Rural Development of Kogi State and was lodging it into the Diamond bank Plc account of Bulkom Nigeria Ltd, a company alleged to have handled most of building projects during his tenure.
Mr. Audu is being prosecuted alongside a former Director General of the Directorate of Rural Development in his administration, Alfa Ibn Mustapha.
Shortly before the hearing Mr. Audu reportedly ordered his security aide (a police officer) to assault an operative of the EFCC during an appearance in court.
The EFCC said Mr. Audu attacked the staff for daring to take his photograph in court.
With the supporters and opponents to Audu’d candidature stating their claim, it is yet to be seen who among the contestants would prevail, apart from the legal case that the his opponents are rigging against him, Audu was also blamed by some for playing cat and mouse with the party shortly before the presidential poll, arguing that his allegiance to the party was uncertain, But he denied any allegation of disloyalty and many party chieftains came to his defense.
With the party primaries yet to be done by the party to determine who flies its flag for the October governorship poll, there is no doubt that Audu enjoys popularity among the rank and file of the party.
But he has a seating governor in Idris Wada of the PDP to contend with. Until then the battle between the supporters and opponents of the former governor will continue to rage. But for the man himself, he will obey the call of his people anytime he is called to take that mantle.