Nigerians love drama, and indeed had their fair share of political intrigue and suspense during the 2015 general elections. Being the first major election in Nigeria after the 2015 general polls, the Kogi governorship race has not disappointed in generating a lot of public interest and igniting political debates. But this was always going to be a rematch of the March 28 presidential poll, a clash between an ineffective incumbent PDP government and an APC opposition bearing the good tidings of change.
A political observer has described the options laid before the people of Kogi as a choice between light and darkness and I am tempted to agree. Since PDP took over the affairs of Kogi in 2003, the state has done nothing but retrogress and has been left behind by its peers. The incumbent Governor, Captain Wada’s administration has seen Kogi witness very little development and his failure to deliver any tangible result, coupled with APC’s growing political influence since President Buhari’s victory, is likely to cost PDP one of the few remaining states under its control.
Unto whom much is given, much is expected. Perhaps the only entity this saying does not apply to in Nigeria is the PDP. The more PDP takes, the less it delivers, and that has been the ordeal of Kogites for the last 13 years that the party has been in control of their state. 2003 to 2013 represents one of the most prosperous decades in Nigeria’s history due to record high oil prices and increased revenue of unprecedented proportions. But as it was in Abuja, so has it been in Kogi. Since 2011, Wada has received over N100 billion cumulative monthly allocation from the federal government and in addition took a N20 billion bond from a consortium of four Nigerian banks. So with a total of N120 billion over four years, the only thing Wada has managed to deliver is emptiness.
Instead of the development expected from the judicious use of such humongous funds, Wada has rather plunged the state into the abyss of debts and poverty, owing salaries up to 20 months and a cringe worthy decay in the state’s once enviable infrastructure. This is despite the sacrifice of workers in taking a 40% slash in their salaries. Indeed, Kogi’s survival is now hinged on the release of a N50.8 billion bailout fund from the federal government, and this shouldn’t be so. It is shameful that a state with such abundant natural resources and tourism potentials is also the one requesting the most bailout.
The APC flagbearer, Prince Abubakar Audu, was one of the leaders of the advocacy that led to Kogi State being created from parts of the old Benue and Kwara States in August 1991. Few months later he emerged as the first Executive Governor of the state on the platform of the National Republican Convention (NRC). A London-trained accountant with a career in banking spanning over 25 years, Audu rose to the pinnacle of his profession as the first training officer of African descent and also as one of the first black senior management staff of Standard Chartered Bank in London and New York, before his foray into politics and public service in 1986 when he was appointed as Commissioner for Finance and Economy in the old Benue State.
Audu returned in 1999 as the 2nd Executive Governor of Kogi State and delivered what has been described as the four most prosperous and progressive years in the history of the state. With monthly federal allocation of between N200 million and N300 million, Audu managed to establish three housing schemes comprising of over 1.500 housing units in Lokoja for public officers, completed 75 electrification schemes and 50 water projects. In education, he established Kogi State Polytechnic and Kogi State University Anyigba. Despite being an opposition Governor during his time, Audu managed the limited resources in the coffers of the state, paving way for the industrialization of the mineral-rich state in establishing the Obajana Cement Factory, the biggest of its kind in Africa.
On all fronts, this election shouldn’t even be a contest. The PDP has shown in 13 years it has nothing to offer the people of Kogi State. The APC on the other hand has presented a man who understands the business of governance and more importantly, has delivered excellence before. With the likes of Nasir El-Rufai in Kaduna and President Buhari in Abuja, Audu will have the pleasure of being surrounded by sounds minds and capable hands to help him in the task of rebuilding Kogi State and returning it to glory days. The chance for that realignment with a progressive government is one the people of Kogi cannot afford to miss.