Nothing Has Changed in Kogi Since I Left Office – Prince Audu
Former governor of Kogi State, Prince Abubakar Audu, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in this interview with OBIORA IFOH says the wind of change at the federal level will soon permeates down to Kogi State. Excerpts:
What is the secret behind the performance of the All Progressives Congress, APC, under your leadership in Kogi State in the last presidential elections?
The secret of success is hard work and that has always been my contention. We worked very hard and time will tell virtually all the stories and time has told the story. People were given the opportunity to compare and contrast between my administration and the successive administration of the Peoples Demoratic Party, PDP, since I left office. I govern the state between 1999 and 2003 and PDP rigged me out using all manners of forces that have never been seen in any democratic sector. They brought Air Force personnel from Air Force base and the military from barracks in Lokoja which harassed and killed. For the first time I saw military personnel carrying ballot boxes. That was how they rigged us out in 2003. They brought in a governor that spent 9 years and did not commission one single project, it is where I left Kogi in 2003 that Kogi is up till this moment.
It is not political rhetoric neither am I praising myself, you can confirm this from any Kogi man. After spending 9 instead of eight years as stated in our constitution, another PDP governor took over and I don’t think he has done much; again I leave everything to the electorate to judge. This time the electorates said it is time we bring Audu back, if you are a regular visitor to Kogi at the Koton Karfi bridge, you will see a billboard where the masses are crying, saying: ‘Where is Audu?’
So, as far as I am concerned, it is the first step to bring me back and convincing me to come back that is why you see those changes in Kogi State especially in the electoral system. We won all our Senate seats, we won about six or seven out of the 9 House of Repsentatives seats and out of accredited 400,000 voters in Kogi State for the presidential election, we won almost 300,000 and you know we are not in government in Kogi State, even a councillor we don’t have, because it was a clean sweep but now people have been placed in a position to know the difference between the good, the bad and the ugly. So they have spoken and God in his infinite mercy has exonerated me.
That is the secret of the success we achieved in Kogi State because people want me back and they have seen what I did for the four years that I was in the office, they have been given the opportunity to compare and contrast and this is the first step of the 1,000 kilometre journey and I think by the special grace of God we shall arrive there safely.
What is your impression about the victory of APC presidential candidate, General Buhari?
Let me tell you his history in politics, in 2003 that was when he took the first shot. He contested and won, but he was rigged out. In 2007 and 2011 they robbed him, but in 2015 all the robbers went to sleep and God took control. Everyone knows the kind of person Buhari is; a very disciplined and gentle man, highly principled, a man of proven integrity. I am not singing his praises but that is exactly how he is and everybody that knows him knows he is like that. The economy of this country has been battered badly; look at unemployment, look at the decay in infrastructure, and look at the security aspect, insurgency, kidnapping and all sorts of notorious things. We need people with experience, people that have the ability, people with the right intellectual capacity to save us and this is why God directed most of the electorate in Nigeria to bring him in whether by hook or crook because there is nothing they didn’t do to ensure that PDP rig the election but there is nothing God didn’t do to make sure that the truth prevails; it is the work of God. God wants to salvage Nigeria from total devastation that befell Nigeria under the 16 years rule of PDP as a party. So we have every reason to thank God and celebrate, despite that the expectations are very high. Both Muslims and Christians voted for him, even the traditional religionists voted for him, men and women voted for him and that is why he recorded a landslide victory. Therefore expectations are very high. Mark you that Nigeria is a very resourceful country, Nigeria is one of the richest countries in Africa, if not the richest in terms of natural endowment but has not been lucky with managers of our resources; we haven’t been lucky with leadership. It is the first time that we want to know what is meant by having the correct leadership to lead the country because we don’t have any business with co-habiting with poverty. It is a very unfortunate situation but with the right leader in democracy and democratic norms we will work towards that goal and Nigerians will have the opportunity to compare the four years of his first tenure, not even talking about second tenure yet, to the 16 years of PDP.
People know me as a highly principled person, and this is why I have been in the position since my entry into politics and there is no single Nigerian who has gone through what I went through, but I refuse to be intimidated, I refused to be rubbished. I have been in a position up till this moment that God’s time will change the position for us. So, I congratulate you young men; all the pains you have gone through in Nigeria will soon be a thing of the past by the special grace of God.
As APC prepares to take over government, what is your advice to the President-elect about handling the expectations of Nigerians?
A square peg in a round whole is not the answer. Have the right people on the right job. People that have been loved and accepted by the Nigerians and consider the people of Nigeria who have been wallowing in abject poverty and the drive to alter that situation.
Secondly people of integrity who are not clamouring for positions because of the dividends that comes from it. In my own case for instance, 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 are no bases for comparison. This is why it is good to bring technocrats, those who know and have the love of Nigeria and Nigerians at heart and those who will be able to separate the wheat from the chaff and I am sure General Buhari is going to do that because during his stint as Head of State, there was some measure of improvement in virtually all the sectors in Nigeria because of discipline. You can never achieve anything without self discipline. You must be able to enforce discipline on others if you are discipline yourself and you know that he is a very disciplined man so once again Nigeria is lucky and Nigeria has taken the right decision to have voted him in and this is the first time after 1999 election that our electoral system has been judged as free, fair and credible and therefore it is peaceful that is why there is less acrimony, but we are in this country where someone didn’t contest for any election and he is declared a winner.
What will be your advice to your party on the zoning of offices?
We believe that if we want peace to prevail in Nigeria, the ‘winner takes all’ syndrome should be very minimal and we believe that it should be all embracing government. Every segment of Nigeria should be given a role to play, if we want peace. We are not going to run a reclusive government but all embracing government and so far so good, based on newspaper reports you will see that most of the positions that has been shared out so far, there has been even spread, even where he didn’t get votes, he has given them a position, a very powerful position; all with the view to making sure that at the end of the day, peace prevails and everyone is given a good chance of belonging.
Managing success is more difficult than achieving it. How is APC going to manage this success that it has achieved?
Once you have the right person in position, all these things are no problem. Having the right leadership has always been the problem in this country, people with balanced outlook, balanced judgments, who have the fear of God at the back of their mind and if you talk about that Buhari will score a very high mark if not the highest mark in the entire country. I try not to exaggerate; I try not to embark on political oratory but on the fact of situation. Would you commend President Goodluck Jonathan for conceding defeat and congratulating the President-elect even before the final announcement of the results? I don’t want to pre-empt what Buhari can do, but as far as I am concern President Jonathan deserves to be recommended for a Nobel Prize for Peace. You know what has been happening around Africa, that once a leader is in position, he wants to stay put, he won’t like to relinquish position. Look at what happened in Ivory Coast and other places. Jonathan said his ambition is not worth shedding the blood of any Nigerian, and he lived up to that saying. African and Third World leaders always want to perpetrate themselves in power and for the mere fact that he has shown the difference, he deserves to be highly commended, because if he had not done that, trouble would have erupted in Nigeria.