Legalised as a state in 1991, the creation of Kogi state elicited intense trepidations from several minority ethnicities in the Southern part of Northern Nigeria. Carved mainly from the old Benue and Kwara states, for the Igala, Igbirra, Bassa Komo, Bassa Nge ethnicities and the Yorubas from Kabba among others, the excitement was overwhelming.
But at break of dawn, the jubilations mutated into anxiety about the daunting challenge of laying a solid foundation for the baby state. Midwifing an infant state to prosperity demands a visionary, selfless, focused, upright, dedicated and an incorruptible leader.
Therefore, the short-lived transition to democratic rule, enunciated by the Military administration of former President Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) launched the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC).
Prince Audu Abubakar, a professional banker, politician, administrator per excellence and business mogul of international repute, was elected pioneer Governor of this young state on the platform of the NRC in November 1991 and assumed office January 1992.
Audu whose foray into public service started like a mustard seed in1986 when he was appointed Commissioner for Finance and Economic Planning in the old Benue State coupled with his experience and exposure in his banking career, Audu displayed exceptional dexterity in steering the development affairs of this nursling state. But the military aborted the democratic dispensation after barely 18 months.
A decade later, partisan politics was re-launched in 1998, and Prince Audu, unarguably the most famed politician in Kogi state again stepped out to serve humanity. Again, he was elected Governor of Kogi state on the platform of the opposition All Peoples Party (APP), “later, renamed ANPP.
Prince Audu’s bid to seek re-election in 2003 crumbled unexpectedly. But in his life time and a political career spanning nearly three decades, Prince Audu contested governorship elections six times and won in three of the instances. But destiny has allowed him govern the state for only about six years at two dispensations.
Today, what has remained to the eternal credit, admiration and memory of Prince Abubakar Audu in Kogi even in death is his visionary leadership of the state which has deposited indelible legacies, relics and imprints unsurpassed by any other Governor of the state after him. He sighted a vision and future of Kogi state and her people.
He aggressively grabbed it and transformed an abstract vision into concrete and tangible realities. It is evidenced in the countless amazing and unfading development projects dotting the landscapes of the state.
To say the least, his political philosophy and governance ideology of service to humanity are the twine cords on which Kogi state today, stands as a proud state. To many Nigerians, he is an embodiment of inspiration to serving and aspiring leaders in the state and beyond.
It is impossible to recount all the sterling projects Prince Audu bequeathed to Kogi. But even his stiff antagonists while he lived never disputed the solid foundation he laid for Kogi by developing infrastructure for a state that took off practically from ground zero.
In less than six years of Kogi under Prince Audu’s leadership, Lokoja, the state capital boasted of three disparate housing schemes for public servants and each consisted of 1,500 units. Quite marvelously too, Lokoja sprouted with asphalted township roads, street lights, aesthetic roundabouts, rural roads, over 75 electrification projects and about 50 water projects.
In Kogi state, Prince Audu established Kogi State Polytechnic, a Government Girls Secondary School and the Kogi State University Anyigba and gave it international outlook.The state television station, radio station and state newspaper are all the sparkling legacies of this resourceful and visionary leader.
He had signed an agreement with the US Trade Development Agency (TDA) for a grant to complete the feasibility work on the establishment of the Obajana Cement Factory, when President Bill Clinton visited Nigeria. He could not see the project come to fruition before his ouster in 2003.
Prince Audu also transformed the colonial residence of Lord Lugard into an Ultra Modern Government House Complex, constructed offices, shopping arcade complex, the five star Confluence Beach Hotel in Lokoja, the Kogi State State Liaison Office, Abuja, a specialist eye hospital, 25 medical institutions and numerous other signposts for a state he loved with a passion.
His splendid performance, even as an opposition ANPP Governor earned Prince Audu the award of the best Governor in Nigeria for the1999-2003 dispensation.
Therefore, Prince Abubakar Audu has remained a loud statement and an encyclopedia of leadership and politics in Kogi state and Nigeria. He was at the verge of another governorship victory on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in November 2015, when the cold hands of death snatched this enigmatic, charismatic and visionary leader.
Unfortunately with Prince Audu’s sudden demise, Kogi state and Nigerians seems to have forgotten about his enviable character in opposition politics, legacies and penchant of service to humanity. These are attributes innately embedded in him and only aligned to leaders of a special ilk, like President Muhammedu Buhari.
Nevertheless, an opportunity has naturally rendered itself for Nigerians and particularly, the people of Kogi state ruminate about this leadership idol. It is worthwhile to reminisce and solemnly reflect on the political life and times of this rare leadership gem,Prince Audu, inclusive of the lessons that can be extracted from his life to reshape the future.
The heir apparent of Prince Audu dynasty, Prince Yahaya O. Audu,who is the Group President and CEO, Zaya Group of Companies has just buried the matriarch of the family,late Hajiya Zainab Audu, who reunited with her ancestors May 3, 2018, after a brief illness. (May her soul rest in perfect peace) The sad incident truly begs for sober reflection.
And in Prince Yahaya O. Audu’s message of appreciation to Nigerians who identified with the family in this terrible moment, eminent leaders and personalities registered presence to mourn with the Prince Audu Abubakar family. Prominently, President Buhari and the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the incumbent Governor of Kogi state, Alhaji Yahaya Bello and very venerable other personalities constituted the flock of mourners.
Something struck instantly about the personage and political character of Prince Audu to have kept President Buhari permanently glued to the family. Both were on the same page on political philosophy and ideology. President Buhari and Prince Audu had an irrevocable appetite for opposition politics, empathy for the masses and anxious to serve humanity.
Prince Audu replicated service delivery at the state level, in same pattern President Buhari launches at the national level anytime he serves the country.
Prince Audu admired the political proclivity of Buhari and imbibed it. He has remained one Nigerian politician who was not lured by the crazy quest for power and made party defections a hobby. He clung to Buhari in the opposition, even when fair weather politicians deserted him, all the years President Buhari fruitlessly sought the democratic mandate of Nigerians. And Audu ended up with President Buhari in the APC in 2015, savouring the same ideologies about leadership until his sudden demise.
The Audu family have copied his footsteps, by extending an incurable and persistent loyalty to the APC at both the state and national levels. Gov. Bello enjoys their support and cooperation at all times. He can confidently vouch for the Audu family as his pillar on any situation.
It is gratifying to note that even after Prince Audu’s death, the APC retained its winning streak in the 2015 Kogi guber polls and affairs of the state are still in the custody of the APC government.
To what extent would Gov. Bello lay claims to preserving them at any time? This is not designed to scold anybody or Gov. Bello’s administration. But it would only be sensible, reasonable and appropriate if APC’s Gov Bello identifies diehard believers from the Audu family to engage them to assist him in resuscitating the Audu’s enduring legacies and his political structure especially as the 2019 general election looms.
This is the lesson the exit of the matriarch of the Audu family, Hajiya Zainab Audu has pricked on this day. And it is the only means memories of both can be fondly remembered or etched on the psyche of Kogi people for generations yet unborn.
Ochada is a public affairs analyst and commentator
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