By John Akubo, Lokoja
AS the battle for who will be calling the shots in Kogi State gathers momentum, one major player in the politics of the state and former governor, Prince Abubakar Audu has declared his intention to stage a comeback to the Lugard House.
In what some see as a miscalculation for a man that has been at the helm of affairs of the state twice, many political watchers are of the view that at this point, he should play the kingmaker or godfather and leave the stage for younger politicians.
But Audu took the state by surprise penultimate Saturday when he returned from a foreign trip to the waiting crowd of members of All Progressive Congress (APC) Youth wing in their thousands, drumming support for his return as governor.
The youths held him hostage at the foot of the Murtala Muhammed bridge at Jamata demanding that he throw his hat in the ring for the governorship election coming up later in October. They would not allow him entry to Lokoja, the state capital, unless he made a commitment to them that he would contest the election to salvage the people of the state.
On the clarion call by many people in the state for him to contest election, he said, “The voice of the people is the voice of God, since they are yearning for my coming back it is for obvious reasons; because everything has been at a standstill since I left office in 2003 and a lot of our people are wallowing in abject poverty. “It has been a matter of great concern for all of us. As a matter of fact Kogi State is my baby and if I see my baby and I turned my back against my baby it means I am an irresponsible father.” He said that is why he would come back to salvage the state and rescue it to put it back to realize it’s pride of place as he left it in 2003 and go even beyond that. ’’
The APC youth leader Omale Moses said they were there to ambush Audu to get his commitment to come back as a governor and to also welcome him back from his trip. According to him, “We are here to put it to you that we are not comfortable with your silence. Kogi State has collapsed socially and economically. We need you to come and save us from bad leadership.
“Since you left it has never been well with the state. Your past projects are what they have been repainting and converting to their own projects, shame on them, but we know we cannot be fooled any further.”
To buttress their reason for wanting Audu to come back Moses pointed out that, “should all the projects of the first executive Governor of the state be taken away the state will become barren. Tell us you are coming to salvage the situation or else we would not allow you into the state capital today.” The APC women leader Hajia Amina Musa highlighted the achievements of the former governor to include the Kogi State University, Kogi State Polytechnic, the Ganaja Ajaokuta road by-pass, 200 Housing units made up of Lokogoma Phase I and II Housing units.
In his response, Prince Audu pleaded with the youths to give him some time to consult with other stakeholders. He promised not to disappoint the youths adding that their wish was his command.
“I am flabbergasted by the clarion call coming from this sea of heads. As far as I am concerned, I am for the people and whatever they want me to do is what I will do.
“By the grace of God I will make very wide consultation and come out with my findings which would not be different from what they are asking. What I will tell them is that I will never disappoint them, anything they want me to do I will do it for them.” Audu who was the first executive Governor of the state had ruled the state twice.
His first tenure was from January 1992 until November 1993 on the platform of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC) before the military interregnum.
The second was from 29 May 1999 to 29 May 2003 on the platform of the equally defunct All Peoples Party (APP) when he lost in 2003 to Ibrahim Idris of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He has however made several attempts to return as governor without success.
The next day after his encounter with the youths another crowd at the Itobe/Ajaokuta Bridge also received him on his way to his country home in Ogbonicha. A long convoy of vehicles driven by his supporters caused serious traffic gridlock on the Itobe/Anyigba highway.
It was a show of solidarity as many of his admirers lined up along the route to his village cutting through Ejule and Alloma, to congratulate him over the successes of the APC in the last election in the state and to welcome him back from his trip.
At his country home he organized a grand reception for the APC members who won seats at the National Assembly and State House of Assembly election for their victory at the polls. The former governor said the party was prepared for the gubernatorial election after its successful outing in the Presidential/National Assembly and the House of Assembly elections.
According to him, “We have just finished with the House of Assembly election and the Presidential/National Assembly elections the next one is the governorship election.
We are prepared even tomorrow. If the election is taking place tomorrow we are ready, if it is next year we are ready.”
On the clarion call by many people in the state for him to contest election, he said, “The voice of the people is the voice of God, since they are yearning for my coming back it is for obvious reasons; because everything has been at a standstill since I left office in 2003 and a lot of our people are wallowing in abject poverty.
“It has been a matter of great concern for all of us. As a matter of fact Kogi State is my baby and if I see my baby and I turned my back against my baby it means I am an irresponsible father.” He said that is why he would come back to salvage the state and rescue it to put it back to realize it’s pride of place as he left it in 2003 and go even beyond that.
He observed that the statutory allocation from the Federal Government was very minimal during his time yet he achieved all the laudable landmark projects saying, “The crude oil was selling between $9 to $12 per barrel but now it is selling between $50 to $150 and they say the economy is bad. “No it is not that the economy is bad but the management is poor.
If there is no prudence in management no matter the amount of money you are given it will be useless. You will not be able to manage it well and that is our predicament in this country.”
However Audu said there was no need to worry because with the emergence of Buhari, “a well disciplined gentleman and a great leader, all the poverty, penury and the pains of the people will be put behind, only that he requires time.”
He said the expectations are high but people should know that it is not something that he can achieve over night. He said with time people will notice the difference. “We are talking about four years, you will start noticing the difference in the first and second year and what he will do in four years will out match the PDP 16 years or was it not 60 years they gave themselves.”
The former governor had however been keeping the people in suspense before now over his ambition going by his alliance with the incumbent governor to the extent that some political pundits concluded he was working in tandem with the incumbent.
At every little opportunity Audu had been showering praises and encomiums on the Governor Idris Wada for taking the state to the next level even amidst contrary views by members of his party, the APC, in the state.
Many have wandered in consternation as to what had come over the first and second democratically elected governor of the state known for his consistency in leading the opposition.
The first major event where Audu threw caution to the wind to declare his unflinching support for Wada the PDP candidate that defeated him (Audu the ACN candidate) in the 2012 governorship election was the ground breaking and foundation laying ceremony of Kogi House in Abuja.
Governor Wada had used the occasion to let the world know that he was not at loggerheads with Jibrin Isah alias Echocho whose litigation amounted to serious distractions, and Audu, who also challenged his victory at the tribunal.
The Atta of Igala, Idakwo Micheal Ameh Oboni, had earlier reconciled the governor with Audu and Echocho on one hand and immediate past governor Alhaji Ibrahim Idris and the on the other hand.
Audu had described the incumbent governor, Wada as God-sent to the state adding that he has been working very well to transform the state. Audu said his presence at the event was to show that all the stakeholders of the state were united irrespective of their political affiliation.
He said rather than criticize Wada unnecessarily, he would cooperate with him to succeed stressing, “Wada is God-sent to Kogi.
My presence here shows that we are very united in Kogi State irrespective of our political affiliation.” The reception at Ogbinicha was graced by leaders of the party among whom were former Acting Governor Chief Clarence Olafemi, former Speaker Abdullahi Bello, Member House of Representatives Buhari Jibrin and many others.
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