With the Kogi state governorship election few months away, the plot to stop the former governor, Prince Abubakar Audu from emerging the candidate of the All Progressives Congress is thick. He has been accused of sundry offences including having a case with the EFCC. YUSUF MOHAMMED reports

Since the merger of the main opposition parties to form the All Progressives Congress (APC), former governor of Kogi state, Prince Abubakar Audu is believed to be nursing the ambition to rule the state for a third time.

According to Hallmark findings, there are political heavyweights working round the clock to ensure that Prince Audu popularly known as ‘Adoja’ in Kogi East, does not emerge as the governorship candidate of the APC.

Audu was sworn in on 2nd January 1992 as the first executive governor of Kogi State. It was in this capacity that he transformed the infrastructural landscape of Kogi State. Within the 22 months lifespan of that administration, which was abruptly terminated by the late Gen. Sani Abacha regime; Audu made monumental landmarks in virtually all sectors, particularly in the area of housing, electricity, roads, education, and health care services.

He was again elected governor in 1999 under the platform of the defunct APP, but he could not win a second term in 2003.

Audu has been described as one the best governors Kogi state has produced. Some of his major achievements during his first term in office include the establishment of three different housing schemes for public officers consisting of over 1,500 housing units in Lokoja, the transformation of Lokoja Township roads with asphalt, street lightening and aesthetic roundabouts. There was also the construction of inter-township and rural roads, over 75 electrification schemes and 50 water projects.

He also built the first ever university in the state. However, he was criticised by many for naming the school after himself. The school was named Prince Abubabakar Audu University, Anyigba before it was changed to Kogi State University by then governor Ibrahim Idris.

Although Audu has been adjudged one of the best governors Kogi has produced in terms of performance, most people are of the view that someone else should be given a chance.

Kogi APC elders are not in support of Audu’s quest to rule for a third time. They have made their stance known through various platforms.

According to Sanusi Idoko, “Abubakar Audu has no respect for anyone in Kogi including Chiefs. He sees himself as an emperor. I don’t think anyone wants a governor that wouldn’t listen to anyone’s advice. I agree that he did well in terms of developing the state, but that is not what leadership is all about. Why should we have a leader that would make everyone scared all the time? We were in panic mood throughout his tenure last time.”

To this effect, an open letter was written to the President-elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari intimating him of Audu’s actions and inactions. They accused him of imposing candidates for state House of Assembly, senatorial and Federal House of Representatives positions.

The APC elders were of the view that “Some of the winners of the National Assembly, and state House of Assembly elections couldn’t have won if not for the love the people of the state have for Buhari. These people Audu foisted on the party are not popular with the people. We urge the APC leadership to advice Audu to shelve his governorship ambition”.

In a similar vein, Alhaji Abubakar Rajab, a chieftain of the APC in Kogi state told Hallmark that, “there is no doubt that Audu did well as governor. He performed well as governor. However, he should remain a party leader and forget about becoming a governor again.”

“We don’t want Idris Wada again because he has failed,” said Unekwu Enejo who resides in Anyigba, Kogi state. “We are ready to support the APC only if they field someone other than Audu. Asked if they would vote Wada if Audu emerges as APC candidate, he said, “Despite the fact that most people don’t want Audu to become governor again, if he emerges the party’s candidate, there is no doubt that he will defeat Wada. Anyone will defeat Wada. But if the PDP produces another candidate, there is the possibility that PDP might win. By the time the election approaches, that Buhari’s flavour must have dwindled so the people will vote with their head and not their heart. If PDP chooses another candidate and APC produces Audu, the PDP might win,” he insisted.

Many are of the view that Audu as an elder of the party should endorse someone who is credible with unblemished track record to pilot the affairs of the state. With each passing day, hope seems to be fading on Audu’s chances of becoming the party’s flag bearer. Publications and petitions against Audu have been intensified by those opposed to his candidature.

According to a high ranking APC member in Kogi state who spoke to Hallmark on the condition of anonymity, “Petitions have been filed against Prince Abubakar Audu at the APC National Headquarters, Abuja bothering on gross misconducts. It is unfortunate that such a man wants to rule the state. This is someone who doesn’t have respect for anyone. He treats everyone like his subject. He has refused to become a senator or minister because he won’t have anyone to insult him at Abuja. Why should someone who harasses party members and threatened to beat up the party’s women leader be allowed to rule the state?

To compound the woes of Audu, Senator Alex Usman Kadiri advised the APC leadership not to look the other way in the face of Audu’s impunity. He accused Audu of not contributing to the success of Muhammadu Buhari in the presidential elections. He was also of the view that Audu extorted money from almost all the aspirants that contested elections under the APC in the state.

He said, “the APC leader in Kogi state extorted various sums of monies, ranging from N5 million to N25 million from almost all the aspirants that contested in the elections under the APC in Kogi State. In fact, he collected post dated Cheques from a candidate who could not pay cash beyond N25 million. The post dated Cheques in his possession is more than seventy five million naira (N75, 000,000.00).

He further stated that, “APC must stay away from people with character deficiency and poor integrity. Fraudsters must not be allowed to flourish in the APC because our principal (Buhari) was elected because of his impeccable character and integrity. We must not degrade the President-elect.

In a similar vein, a social commentator and political analyst, Yahaya Ibrahim is of the view that anyone with a blemished track record should not be given a chance to rule the state. He told Hallmark in a telephone chat that, “Whoever emerges as the APC candidate for the Kogi governorship election would determine if Buhari is really a man of integrity. In my opinion, Audu should not be given the ticket unless he is proven innocent in his case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). I don’t think the APC under the leadership of Buhari would field anyone who has a case to answer as the party’s flag bearer for the Kogi governorship election.”

However, irrespective of the permutations of the power brokers, for the man on the street, what is paramount is for the state to remain peaceful.