Abubakar Audu: Hero or Villain? By Tolu Adeniji
The emergence of Prince Abubakar Audu as the APC gubernatorial candidate at the recently concluded primaries has generated many comments and a lot of controversy; many have called into question his eligibility for occupying the number one position in Kogi state, especially in light of the corruption charges against him. Abubakar Audu, a two-time governor of Kogi state, held office between 1992-1993 (he had to relinquish this position when the military junta truncated that attempt at democracy), then was re-elected by a wide margin when Nigeria returned to democracy once more in 1999.
His administration is credited with several achievements, and although he belonged to the ANPP and not the ruling PDP then, he was voted the best governor during the 1999-2003 tenure. He vied for re-election but lost, and while his supporters attribute his loss at the polls to the PDP’s rigging machinery, others say it was his arrogance that cost him that victory. This arrogance is attributed to his naming of the university – which his administration established – after himself, but seeing as other governors have done the same in many instances, does seeking to establish and preserve a legacy call his leadership capabilities into question?
He would later go on to contest again in 2007 and 2011, both times unsuccessfully.
Upon completion of his four-year term in 2003, corruption charges were leveled against him by the EFCC, Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency which is notorious for many headlines and few convictions. These allegations remain the biggest source of criticism against the man, and although the allegations are extremely weighty, just how accurate are they?
During his 1999-2003 tenure, the monthly allocation received by the state was between 300-400 million Naira. During this period, his administration embarked on state-wide infrastructural development projects, including dualisation of roads and construction of new ones, one of the most significant of which was the Ganaja road which connected Kogi East to Kogi Central. Prior to this, travelling from either point to the other was exactly that – a journey, and one which required connecting smaller, convoluted roads, most of which were both unsafe (due to the activities of bandits) and in deplorable condition.
Another major achievement of this tenure was the siting of a university in Anyigba, an area which before then, lacked necessary amenities and had no economic lifeline. His administration didn’t just build this university, however, he also went on to use his vast connections with the diplomatic community to set it on the path of being an institution of international standard. The university was rated one of the best in the country at the time. Needless to say, it does not feature in the top twenty – or even fifty – now.
Still concerned about education, he went on to establish a polytechnic in another part of the state; this gave students within Kogi state – and beyond – an opportunity to choose which institution would best suit their needs. Both citadels of learning were well equipped and had enviable structures. Primary and secondary schools were also not left out, as existing ones were renovated – in many cases, with additional classrooms provided – and new ones, built. Audu was a man who was clearly serious about transformation, a word that the PDP would later come to bastardise.
His achievements in the state did not stop there, however; unemployment was a serious challenge in the state and Audu knew just what to do. He decided to tap into one of the many unutilised resources in Kogi and went about bringing the Obajana cement factory to life. Africa’s wealthiest man, Aliko Dangote, benefits from this to this very day, and that cement factory has been the source of thousands of jobs for the people of Kogi state.
On healthcare, he established a specialist hospital and saw to it that pregnant women and nursing mothers across all communities had access to premium healthcare. At a time when a high maternal mortality rate was the norm, Kogi was the place to be if you were pregnant or had an infant in need of medical attention. Maternal mortality is still one of the many problems plaguing most Nigerian states today, but he tackled it in his state 12 years ago.
Other high expenditure projects completed during his administration include the construction of 1500 housing units for civil servants in Lokoja (Kogi Central), and 500 housing units each in two other hitherto underdeveloped communities. His administration also commissioned water and electrification projects across the state.
With a bit of critical thought, it becomes rather obvious that with all the achievements recorded during that tenure relative to the funds available to achieve them with, making off with N11billion would have been rather difficult. In addition to this, the EFCC case, contrary to popular opinion, has been more than just one. Before the N11billion embezzlement charge, the EFCC had lost the case for N4billion and N1billion respectively. One can only wonder how and why the amount allegedly misappropriated increases exponentially each time.
The case has been on for twelve years; this only goes to show that if indeed, the anti-corruption agency had evidence to support these allegations, he would have been convicted a long time ago. The problem, however, is that public opinion is seldom based on an objective analysis of the available facts, and the truth that many would rather not acknowledge is that a man remains innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof lies on the EFCC and for the past twelve years, they have failed to provide this.
The truth that all concerned citizens of Kogi state must acknowledge is that our state is badly in need of positive change; if the PDP governors developed upon or just maintained what Audu achieved, perhaps, we would not be considering voting for him now; this is one man who did the impossible with resources which, compared to the allocation the state receives now, can only be best described as meagre. During Audu’s tenure, workers had no cause to protest and obstruct the flow of traffic over unpaid salaries.
The decision to support Audu’s candidacy, for me, is an informed one, and that is because irrespective of where the leader is from, be he Igala, Okun, Ebira or Nupe, his actions or inactions will affect us all equally.
Tolu Adeniji writes from Lokoja, Kogi state.