The many unfulfilled dreams of Abubakar Audu

Abubakar Audu

Abubakar Audu, APC's governorship candidate in Kogi State died during the election

Abubakar Audu, APC's governorship candidate in Kogi State declared dead
Abubakar Audu, APC’s governorship candidate in Kogi State declared dead

Abubakar Audu, governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the November 21 election in Kogi state, was very close to making history when he died suddenly on Sunday. He also went to his grave with many unfulfilled dreams, sending his supporters and admirers into mourning when victory was within reach. Audu already made history by being the only candidate to have contested every governorship election since 1991, winning twice and losing in 2003, 2007 and 2011. But he would also have become only the second person to be elected governor thrice – having been governor in 1992 as well under the umbrella of the National Republican Convention (NRC). The only person to achieve the feat is Abba Bukar, who was elected governor of Yobe state in 1992, 1999 and 2003, and is currently a senator.

Audu spelt out his many desires during his campaign for this election, promising again and again that he would make sure power shifted to other parts of Kogi state if he was voted in. Coming from the majority Igala ethnic group, Audu seemed to have understood the sentiments of other groups in the state, particularly the Ebirra and Okun who have not had the luck of producing a governor. All the governors elected in the state since its creation in 1991 have been of the Igala group, and the two top candidates in every election are always Igala. During his campaign recently, Audu promised: “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. I must honour my agreement that after my full tenure I will ensure power rotation either to Kogi West or Kogi Central.”

He also promised to develop infrastructure – indeed, many Kogi residents believe since Audu left power in 2003, there had been no progress of any kind for the state. “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 on Saturday, 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 secret ballot.

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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.

But as candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), 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 elections, 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 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”. Sadly, Audu has arrived, but at a destination other than the Kogi state government house where he felt he would spend the next four years from January 2016. He was 68.
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