Joseph Amedu in Lokoja, on the campaign trail of two formidable candidates of the Kogi governorship poll, incumbent Governor Idris Wada and ex-Governor Abubakar Audu, gives a graphic assessment of their chances.
It is a known fact that the most vibrant and dominant candidates among the five jostling for the number one position in Kogi state come November 21 are the incumbent Governor Idris Wada who doubles as the flag bearer of the People’s Democratic Party(PDP) and Prince Abubakar Audu, the former Governor of Kogi state and the standard bearer of the All Progressive Congress(APC).
Both leading governorship candidates, Capt. Idris Wada and Abubakar Audu are relying on their past and present footprints in their campaigns to return to Lugard House.
In a matter of weeks from now, the people of Kogi State will make an important decision about who to elect as their governor for the next four years.
Specifically, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC has fixed the Kogi governorship election for November 21st. Two weeks later on Dec.5th it will be the turn of Bayelsa people to go to the polls. In both cases, the people will be faced with their constitutional right to make their choice.
Both Kogi and Bayelsa. States are having similar experiences of races between the incumbent Governors and ex- Governors.
The frontline candidates in Kogi are the incumbent governor- Capt Idris Wada and ex-Governor Abubakar Audu while in Bayelsa- the race is between ex- Governor Timipre Sylva and incumbent Seriake Dickson.
In both cases, the electorate has the rare opportunity of making an informed choice based on verifiable scorecards of the candidate’s stint in office.
In Kogi, Audu’s handlers are mindful of the fact and have had a head start of campaigning based on what they describe as ‘unparalleled achievements’ during his 6 years reign as Governor of Kogi State between 1991- 1993 and 1999-2003.
Many people have also assigned to Prince Audu the title of the Father of Modern Kogi. The achievements they listed out to back their claims includes, the establishment of Kogi State University, some housing estates in Lokoja, Kogi State Polytechnic, NTA Kogi, Confluence Beach Hotels and Graphics Newspapers. They also go further to ascribe establishment of Dangote Cement Company, Obajana to the efforts of Audu.
Audu’s opponents however, are quick to point out that the ‘achievements’ were more of cosmetic achievements. One case they always refer to is the conversion of buildings of a World Bank agricultural project to university that could not offer one accredited course and renaming same after himself. It took later the PDP administrations for the university to gain the name Kogi State University and the category A accreditation it enjoys today. They go further to assert that even the Graphic Newspaper that Audu claims to have established was just a newspaper house in name as all their publications were printed by Tribune Publishing House in Ibadan. It was the Wada administration that established a printing press for the newspaper in Lokoja thus making Graphic a true Kogi newspaper house. They also wonder how Audu could lay claim to the establishment of Obajana cement-when the state had no public private partnership law in place until the advent of the Wada administration. They go further to challenge Audu to mention the direct stake he negotiated for the state in Obajana cement- a fully private institution. Wada’s handlers are quick to state that in a little over three years,
Wada has built a foundation for a truly modern Kogi despite the fact that he has had access to less than half of the resources at the disposal of Audu during his time. This is a fact that even Audu has attested to at different fora! The achievements they point to are an unprecedented 200 per cent leap in Internally Generated Revenue; Great improvement in peace and security as opposed to the climate of violence that reigned during Audu’s time. They also point to the establishment of a modern transport plan that includes Government subsidized transport system- the first of its kind in the nation, establishment of a modern transport mega terminal and the establishment of inter and intra-city transport land and water transport schemes.
Other achievements are the attraction of foreign investments like Allo Cement Company, Cargill USA and Nigeria-Korea vocational center via an aggressive drive to attract investments.
They posit that if Wada given just six years that Audu had, Kogi would be massively transformed as all the ongoing projects like 250 bed teaching hospitals, the phase II Lokoja project, which is being heralded with the 16km Otokiti Ganaja bypass road, the Lokoja water reticulation, the 11- storey Kogi House etc would have been completed.
Other political analysts are of the opinion that beyond performance, Wada and Audu are going to compete on the basis of character. Audu’s supporters acknowledge their client’s weakness on this front but are quick to point that his alleged arrogant tendencies are far surpassed by his penchant for what they term sterling performance.
A lot of people still recall that during Audu’s two previous adventures in power, he ruled like an emperor and saw the state as an extension of his fiefdom.
He was said to act like a lord over his commissioners and other top functionaries of government cringed in his presence.
Salaries and allowances were regularly withheld without explanation. Civil servants, were routinely laid off without regard to extant rules even as they were also down graded for unknown reasons.
For a resident of Ofu local government, Elder Eneojo Samson, “the choice between Audu and Wada is a choice between democracy and the forces of oligarchy.”
According to him in addition to development, “Wada has brought freedom. Today nobody is scared of airing his or her opinion. We even have people who are being sponsored to protest against the Government walk the streets freely.
“In Audu’s time, people with genuine grievances could not air them freely without reprimand from the powers that be then”.
Currently, the ex-Kogi helmsman is facing a tome of fraud allegations before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. He was subsequently arraigned at a court in Lokoja. Proceeds from his alleged looting spree still under investigation were allegedly used to acquire eye propping property in Potomac USA, Dubai, Abuja and other places. He is still standing trial over the matter.
Many are still worried that the traces of yesteryears are still causing discomfort with others. Happenings at the recent Eid prayer where Muslim faithfuls had to delay their prayer for over five hours to wait for him infuriated his guests to no end. Two weeks ago, while returning from a trip abroad, a large number of supporters were mobilized to Jamaata bridge where they waited several hours for Audu. The long wait was said to have taken a toll on the health of an aged man who collapsed and was rushed to a near by hospital for revival. Recently, a reporter was reprimanded for having the effrontery to seat on the dining table in Audu’s Ogbonicha country home.
Given the fact that Kogites have experience of both Wada and Audu regimes, will Kogites hand Audu the red card as they did on three previous occasions? The answer to this question and to whether Kogites prefer to return to the hero worshiping days of Audu or will prefer to continue with the all inclusive governance style of the incumbent will be handed down on Nov 21st. It remains to be seen however, whether Kogites would be allowed to exercise their franchise in a non violent atmosphere given the recent instruction handed down by Audu to his supporters to avail themselves of any opportunity whether positive or negative to ensure that he carries the day come November 21st governorship election. Nonetheless, that day would come and a winner would emerge as the voters so decide.