The Kogi State Governorship Election is scheduled for November 21st. The polls may still be weeks away, but the scenario has reopened an old wound. It has thrown up two known gladiators who have had the privilege of governing the state at various times.
These two gladiators are: the incumbent governor and People’s democratic party candidate, Capt Idris Wada and Prince Abubakar Audu, two time governor of the state who is contesting for the fifth time on the platform of the All Progressives Congress.
There are also other contestants like Philip Omeiza Salawu immediate past Deputy Governor to Ex-Governor Ibrahim Idris who will be flying the flag of Labour Party, LP, Akwu Goodman, All Progressives Grand Alliance and Enesi Ozigi, of Peoples Progressive Party, PPA. While Audu and Wada are of the Igala Stock, Salawu and Enesi are from the Ebira speaking region of Kogi State.
Political analysts have however narrowed the contest to a two horse race, between Wada and his main challenger, Audu. The two men are not in unfamiliar territory. They had earlier been the toasts of political pundits in 2011 when the state went to the polls to elect their governor. On that occasion a self-rated Audu suffered a bloodied nose from the then inexperienced Wada as it were.
The two major contenders have had the opportunity to govern the State so their leadership qualities are not new to the people. Prince Audu was governor in 1991 to 1993 and from 1999 to 2003. Capt Wada is about completing his first term of four years.
An objective profiling of the two men while in public office is therefore not out of place. An eagle eye look at their achievements, temperament and other antecedents therefore affords the electorate the golden opportunity to make informed choice based on their performance and character traits.
Audu’s supporters largely present him as the father of Kogi. According to them his performance in office is yet to be surpassed by any other administration in the state. They list the establishment of Kogi State University (KSU), Establishment of Confluence Beach hotel and Establishment of Diagnostic and Reference Hospital in Ayangba as his major achievements. Audu’s opponents are however quick to point out that most of the projects he lays claim to are phantom projects- that could not withstand the test of time. For example, the university Audu established apart from being named after himself was just a university in name as it lacked the basic facilities to offer any accredited course. It was successive governments that renamed the university to Kogi State University and ensured that facilities and resources were provided for the category A accreditation that the university’s courses enjoy today. Even APC stalwarts like Alex Kadiri pointed out in a recent interview that “Audu merely used the infrastructure already put on ground by the World Bank. Kogi State University is standing on the site of the World Bank Agricultural Project, where they had an airstrip. All the houses the lecturers are living were built with the loans collected from the World Bank. The state is still paying back and it is part of the debt every government must pay. The loan may not be fully liquidated in the next eight to nine years”.
Apart from ensuring accreditation of all courses in KSU, Wada has gone ahead to establish the college of medical science and is constructing a world-class 250 bed teaching hospital. He has also established the Faculty of Education to improve the quality of teaching staff in the state.
Another major project credited to Audu is the confluence beach hotel which played host to conferences during his Administration. PDP supporters are quick to point out that apart from constituting a drainpipe on the state’s resources, The devastating floods experienced by the state in 2012 exposed the underbelly of that project as it was constructed without any environmental impact assessment study. They credit Governor Wada for setting up the first modern environmental laboratory in the state that will forestall such poorly planned projects in the future. They also credit him for attracting investors that will take over the rehabilitation and management of the hotel.
One achievement that Audu’s supporters claim is the establishment of Dangote cement factory at Obajana. Objective analysts in the state are at a loss how they come about that claim as no benefit in terms of dividend payment has come to Kogi state since the inception of the factory. Wada is however credited with a PPP arrangement that is seeing the Allo cement factory at Itobe come to light under the Public private partnership law that was sponsored and passed under his Administration. 42 other PPP arrangements are at various stages of implementation.
An area where Audu’s supporters cannot claim any achievement is in the area of agriculture. Wada’s focus on agriculture has resulted in the state becoming the number one cassava growing state in the nation. A feat that attracted the World bank, the federal government of Nigeria and Cargill USA- a top manufacturing company in the world to partner with the state to establish the first staple crop processing zone in the nation at Alape. When completed, the income of the state will increase by about 14billion naira per annum.
This focus on revenue generating projects by the Wada Administration might be because unlike Audu who operated under a period of economic boom, Wada is operating under an unprecedented period of sharply dwindling revenue. As a result, he has achieved an unparalleled 200 percent increase in internally generated revenue throughout the creation of a single revenue account and e-collection of revenue accruable to the state.
Wada’s supporters are very quick to point out that inspite of the economic depression that their candidate is operating under he has tried to keep faith with the state’s workers by ensuring that their salaries are paid as at when due. He has also cleared all the 21 years arrears of pension backlogs that he met. It is a known fact that inspite of the economic boom during Audu’s era, he owed civil servants for upwards of 6 months and blatantly refused to pay pensioners because he referred to them as ‘dead woods’. Another area where Wada is given full credit is the respect of the citizenry’s inalienable right to freedom of speech. People of different shades express their opinions freely without fear of intimidation and victimisation The Wada Administration is known for tolerance of opposing views even when they border on the absurd. During Prince Audu’s reign, people lived in fear. The Prince reigned with iron hands, intolerant of criticism and fostered tyranny on the people. People have not forgotten that in fact in those dark days, a journalist was bathed with acid on the streets of Lokoja, the state capital for upholding the tenets of that noble profession Today, Journalists in the State can better attest to the fact that they now operate in an environment where they operate without let or hindrance. Servants and the various labour unions today not only agitate for their rights without been tormented by thugs bred by government as obtained in the Prince Audu era, they also seat on the round table with high government officials to discuss ways of moving the State forward. Capt Wada is a known respecter of the Judiciary, and maintains a cordial relationship with the legislature. It would be recalled that legislators during the Audu era, had to be chased out of their houses for carrying out law making function the then governor felt piqued about.
Traditional Rulers can equally bear testimony to the fact that Traditional Rulers no longer go through the excruciating pain of waiting by Jamata bridge to welcome the governor whenever he travels to Abuja and his several trips abroad. Kogi today to those living in the state is no doubt different from what obtained between 1999-2003 when anarchy walked the land unchallenged. The arrogance and flamboyance Prince Audu represented while in office has today been replaced by Wada’s simplicity and humility.
Roads and Housing
Another area the Capt Idris Wada has surpassed his challenger is in the area of Road construction and rehabilitation. While Prince Audu would pride himself as having constructed the Ganaja – Ajaokuta road, PDP is credited with dualising the same road. Capt. Idris Wada in four years constructed and rehabilitated 58 roads in the state. Some other roads like the welcome to Lokoja International Market road and the Ganaja- Otokiti bypass road are under construction. The Wada administration is credited with the establishment of Kogi State road maintenance agency, charged with the responsibility of ensuring that roads in the state are motorable. The Agency is presently constructing roads in the 500 Housing units Estate and the 282 units Post Flood Housing Estate both of which were constructed by Wada.
Unlike his main challenger, The Wada administration has placed emphasis on building water works, completed the payment of the Greater Lokoja Water project. Aside spending N400 million to build an embankment that is protecting the facility, the administration is paying about N250 million monthly for maintenance of the facility, buying of chemicals and diesels to power the generator.
The Wada administration has not only employed Engineers, hydrologists among other professionals who have been trained in China to man the water facility, in the area of water, the Wada administration has resuscitated Kabba Dam, Ole Dam, and is rehabilitating water schemes in Ankpa, Idah, Egbe, Isanlu, Agaliga, Imane, Ajaka, Oguma, Ogori-Magongo, Obangede, Aiyetoro-Gbede, Okegboro, Idoji North.
Rural Development Projects
Capt. Idris Wada’s administration places premium on rural communities which constitute over 70 percent population. it has electrified over 250 communities. In the rural water sector, more than 300 communities have been provided with bore holes and community water schemes. Audu is also credited with constructing boreholes across the state. None of his supporters have been able to provide credible data as to the number and location of these projects. Many residents note though that unlike the Wada administration that has gone about transforming the rural areas without much noise, during Audu’s era, the cost of commissioning and the propaganda that heralded the provision of one borehole exceeded the actual cost of constructing the bore hole.
Apart from the 250 bed teaching hospital mentioned above which is under construction, Wada is also credited with upgrading and construction of various health facilities around the state. they include: the Odu orthopaedic hospital, five zonal hospitals, model community hospitals, general hospitals, the ultra modern diagnostic and imaging centre at lokoja. The free rural medical outreach programme initiated by Wada is also a novel health delivery project that was coined to address the immediate health needs of the teeming rural population. So far over 120,000 people have benefited till date. Wada also established the state primary health care agency which has provided a vehicle for the state to intervene in the primary health care sector. He has also upgraded the diagnostic and reference hospital constructed by Audu to serve as a temporary site for the teaching hospital.
The value placed on education by the Wada administration is unequaled. Aside upgrading facilities of legacy schools across the state. The state facilities of tertiary institutions, through the provision of hostels, libraries, well equipped laboratories and provision of basic infrastructure has been the flagship of the Wada’s administration policy in education establishment of the Nigerian-Korean Friendship Vocational Institute, and upgrading of facilities at over 300 basic education schools in various communities around the state, is aimed at providing qualitative education and future for the state’s leaders.
The payment of scholarship to bonafide students of Kogi State origin in higher institutions through a web portal launched and foreign sponsorship of Kogi State students has no doubt surpassed past efforts as noticed in 1991-1993 and in 1999 to 2003. The Prince Audu era didn’t pay the WAEC fee for Secondary School Students Whereas Wada has been paying since he came on board.
One area Audu prides himself is in the area of Transportation where he established the Kogi State Transport Authority which provided public transportation buses. His critics however, say that like most of Audu’s projects, KSTA was doomed to fail from the beginning because there was no long term plan on how to sustain it. The buses were distributed to politicians and today not even the carcasses of the buses can be found because they have been repainted and diverted to private use.
The Capt. Wada’s administration has however witnessed the development of a comprehensive transport master plan for the state (Water and land transportation systems), with the first phase being the first government subsidized transport service in Nigeria tagged Lokoja metro. This service has ensured over 60% reduction in transport fares. The first central transport terminal is also near completion. When completed it will serve as a significant revenue earner to the state and will solve the problem of indiscriminate transport activities around the state capital.
Between the year 1999 and 2003 thugs were King and operated with reckless abandon. The Capt. Wada’s administration has however witnessed the eradication of youth restiveness. Under the YAD4KOGI program, over 10,000 youths have been trained till date with monthly unemployment allowances of N15,000 given to youths in the past three years. Similarly, the establishment of the Nigerian-Korean Vocational Centre in conjunction with KOICA is geared towards providing opportunity for vocational skills training for unemployed youth.
The remarkable strides made by the Wada administration amidst serious financial challenges is one that has drawn commendation from various quarters including Prince Audu Abubakar himself. Prince Audu has been quoted at several fora commending Wada’s prudent management of state resources and bringing peace and harmony to the state. One thing, political pundits from both sides agree on though is that there is enormous mutual respect between the two major contenders and that for the first time since its creation, Kogi might actually witness an issue based campaign- one that is based on verifiable evidence and not falsehood and ingrained hostility.