With barely five months to the November 16 gubernatorial election in Kogi State, the elderly sons of two former governors of the state, the late Prince Abubakar Audu and Ibrahim Idris, are said to be oiling the wheels of their fathers’ political structures to displace the incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello. Both Ibrahim Abubakar and Mohammed Abubakar Audu believe that the safest pathway to rescuing the ‘Confluence State’ is to “adopt and complete the developmental strategies” initiated by their parents, stressing that people of Kogi State deserve more than “the culture of violence and impoverishment they have been subjected in the past three and a half years.”
Although he has not formally declared his intention to contest the November 16 poll, the son of late Prince Abubakar Audu, Mohammed, who spoke to journalists on the fallen standard of governance in the state, said his father, who was nicknamed ‘Sarkin Power’, would have completed the aggressive multi-sectorial development plan he was executing in the state.
Mohammed Audu said the fact that his father’s political family has remained intact shows the possibility that any member of the family could take up the gauntlet and restore Kogi to its pride of place among the comity of progressive states in Nigeria. He stated that before he died suddenly midway during the 2015 gubernatorial election, his late father was getting ready to complete the second phase of his developmental masterplan for Kogi State, which he said saw to the establishment of a university, development of infrastructure, health and agriculture in the state.
Mohammed regretted that the current administration in the state was not prepared to deliver on the track record of good governance, stressing that the violence and impoverishment occasioned by the administration of Governor Bello are evidence of selfish aggrandizement and abuse of power.
His words: “Kogi State should not have anything to do with owing arrears of workers’ salaries and pensions. The state is sitting on massive wealth and economic opportunities and any government worth its salt should adopt creative strategies to harness these potential for the good of the people.
“I am ashamed that in the past three years the only project commissioned by the current administration is the Revenue House. The question is why should you emphasise taxation in a state where you have subjected the population to penury and abject poverty? Kogi State exists at the heart of the nation; as such, the capillary of road networks running through the state opens a huge window to monumental economic opportunities. But sadly, the government of the day is blind.”
Audu said it was a pity that the incumbent governor has alienated all those who could have supported him with good ideas to move the state forward but rather chose to depend on a few inexperienced persons whose main source of information and enlightenment are marabouts.
But while speaking to State House reporters recently, Governor Yahaya Bello described all those positioning themselves to unseat him as unserious noisemakers, boasting that “no one would stop me from getting another term of four years in office. I am the governor of Kogi State today and I will return for another four years after the November 16 poll.
“l came and rebuilt APC from the scratch to what it is today. That is evident in the last outing of the party, where we had 25/25 in the state House of Assembly. We also won seven out of the nine contested positions in the House of Representatives and two out of the three senatorial zones.
“So, anybody that is making such noise does not disturb me, because in the marketplace, noise is allowed. You know, Kogi politics is the loudest; so people must make noise and you can’t stop that. But surely, I am very good with my party from the local government to the national level. They know that I am the leader of the party in my state. I have built it and it is very strong. Anytime, any day, we will win elections in landslide. That l am going to win in the primaries is given, by the grace of God, by whichever means, direct or indirect.”
However, while outlining his vision for a better Kogi State after November 16 gubernatorial election, the elder son of former governor Ibrahim Idris, Abubakar, said being the son of a former governor is not a crime that should block him from aspiring to lead the state.
Dismissing insinuations about those linking his foray into governorship contest as an attempt at imposition by his father, Abubakar said what Kogites should be concerned with is whether he is of age and qualified to run for office.
His words: “Does the constitution allow me to vote and be voted for? Am I educationally qualified? If those answers are all in the affirmative, then is my major crime being the son of the former governor? If that is the case, let me reverse the question. If I am standing trial is anyone going to call Alhaji Ibrahim Idris and say he is the father of Abubakar Idris and so he should come and stand trial with me?
“Right in Kogi State, I know of a former governor whose two children are in the race. Nobody has said anything about that. How come Abubakar Ibrahim’s case is such a big crime that nobody wants to understand it?”
He said at 50 he could not submit to imposition or be tied to the apron strings of his father because he was a former governor, adding, “even in the United States, whose democracy Nigeria borrowed from, the 42nd President of the United States was George Bush Sr, while the 44th President of the United States was George Bush Jr.
“His father was the 42nd while he was the 44th.
“So, it happened in the U.S., in India with the Indira Ghandis. Even in the Central African Republic, the Jomo Kenyatas in Kenya and Congo, with Joseph Kabila; his father died and he took over. I really don’t understand what is so spectacular about Abubakar Ibrahim running for Governor of Kogi State that is new.”
While lamenting that Kogi is down in infrastructure, Abubakar remarked that in the educational sector also, the state’s university is now a glorified secondary school.
“The health sector is in shambles; the civil service, staff welfare are all no more. Tell me one place in Kogi that is working well right now. I feel if you have the love of your state you should want to go in and do the right thing.
“It is not about being governor, but about correcting the wrongs all over the state. I don’t need to tell you how many people have committed suicide. What other woes I need to tell you that you don’t know about already?”
Abubakar expressed concern over the current trend where youth are armed with weapons. He said if the trend is not arrested it could be a bomb waiting to explode.
“On what can we give Kogi kudos? None! Primarily, my coming is to be able to set Kogi back on its path of development and lift our state from the present quagmire to where people live in peace and harmony.”
He said Kogi children needed to get sound education while the people needed good healthcare delivery just as civil servants can work with pride.
According to him: “To start with, salary should not be an issue. It is not something that civil servants should be thinking about even though the economy is not at its best. When you look at these things put together it gives me that drive to take the plunge and run so that all these ills can be corrected, so help us God!”
On his vision for using agriculture to turn around the fortunes of the state, Abubakar disclosed that “last year alone over $140 million worth of cashew nuts were exported out of Nigeria and 70 per cent of that came out of Kogi State. Middlemen come and buy from the farm owners. That hasn’t provided enough employment but when I come in, we want to take that further. In very simple basic terms, who says for every process in the cashew chain from start to finish we cannot gain the employment opportunities?”
According to him investors will want to come and set up plants to do cashew processing, cassava processing, rice, palm oil and a lot more of these things when the state encourages them with tax waivers and rebate.
As the November 16 date draws closer, most observers believe that the election would be a referendum on the past four years of Governor Yahaya Bello’s record. It would be interesting to see how the gladiators map out their strategies to win. For the sons of the former governors, Kogi people may have to re-examine whose era touched their lives the most.