Former Kogi State governor and leader of the All progressives Congress (APC) in Kogi, Prince Abubakar Audu, in this interview with Tony Akowe in Abuja, speaks on how APC managed to win almost all the positions contested for in the state during the just concluded elections, what Gen. Muhammadu Buhari should do. He also believes that President Goodluck Jonathan deserves a Nobel Peace prize. Excerpts
During the just concluded general elections, APC won the three senatorial districts and many other National Assembly seats in Kogi State. How were you able to achieve this?
The secret of success is hard work and that has always been my contention. We worked very hard and time will tell virtually all the stories. People were given the opportunity to compare and contrast between my administration and the successive administration of PDP since I left office. I governed the state between 1999 and 2003 and PDP rigged me out using all manner of forces that have never been seen in any democratic sector. They brought Air Force personnel from Air Force base and the military from barracks in Lokoja which harassed and killed.
For the first time, I saw military personnel carrying ballot boxes. That was how they rigged us out in 2003. They brought in a governor that spent nine years and has not commissioned one single project. It is where I left Kogi in 2003 that Kogi is up till this moment. It is not political rhetoric, neither am I praising myself. You can confirm this from any Kogi man.
After spending nine years instead of eight years as stated in our constitution, another PDP governor took over and I don’t think he has done much; again, I leave everything to the electorates to judge. This time the electorates said it is time we bring Audu back. If you are a regular visitor to Kogi, at the Kontokafi Bridge, you will see a billboard where the masses are crying, saying ‘where is Audu?’
We won all our senate seats, we won about six or seven out of the nine Federal House of Representatives seats and out of accredited 400,000 voters in Kogi State for the presidential election, we won almost 300,000 and you know we are not in government in Kogi State; even a councilor, we don’t have because it was a clean sweep but now people have been placed in a position to know the difference between the good, the bad and the ugly, so they have spoken and God in his infinite mercy has exonerated me. That is the secret of the success we achieved in Kogi State because people want me back and they have seen what I did for the four years that I was in the office; they have been given the opportunity to compare and contrast and this is the first step of the 1000km journey and I think by the special grace of God we shall arrive there safely.
After the victory of General Muhammadu Buhari, there appears to have been a bandwagon effect across Nigeria. How would you describe his victory after three failed trials and getting it at the fourth one?
In 2003, he got the first shot. He contested and won but he was rigged out. In 2007 and 2011 they robbed him but in 2015 all the robbers went to sleep and God took control. Everyone knows the kind of person Buhari is; a very disciplined and gentle man, a man who is highly principled, a man of proven integrity. I am not singing his praises but that is exactly how he is and everybody that knows him knows he is like that. The economy of this country has been battered badly; look at unemployment, look at the decay in infrastructure, and look at the security aspect, insurgency, kidnapping and all sorts of notorious things. We need people with experience, people that have the ability, people with the right intellectual capacity to save us; this is why God directed most of the electorates in Nigeria to bring him in. So, we have every reason to thank God and celebrate. Both Muslims and Christians voted for him, even the tradition religious people voted for him; men and women voted for him and that is why he records a landslide victory.
One of the things that General Buhari has said consistently throughout the campaigns is that there are high expectations from Nigerians, especially the youths, saying he is scared by these expectations from the youth. Now as he prepares to take over government, how would you advice him to go about handling these expectations so that he will not disappoint the youths and Nigerians who have come out to express their confidence in him?
A square peg in a round hole is not the answer. Have the right people on the right job; people that have been loved and accepted by the people of Nigerians. Secondly, have people of integrity who are not clamouring for a position because of the dividends that comes from it. In my own case for instance, I worked in First Bank Nigeria for over 25 years and I left as an Executive Director. I was General Manager of Standard Chartered Bank in London and New York. I was a training officer in London and I have done all these things and if you compare me as a governor with just a school leaver and someone who is doing that job for the first time, you will know that there is no basis for comparison. This is why it is good to bring technocrats to Nigeria, those who know and have the love of Nigeria and Nigerians at heart and those who will be able to separate the weed from the shaft and I am sure General Buhari is going to do that because during his military rule, when he was Head of State, there was some measure of improvement in virtually all the sectors in Nigeria because of discipline. You can never achieve anything without self discipline. You must be able to enforce discipline on others if you are disciplined yourself and you know that he is a very disciplined man; so once again Nigeria is lucky and Nigeria has taken the right decision to have voted him in and this is the first time after 1999 election that our electoral system has been judged as free, fair and credible and peaceful. That is why there is less acrimony.
What will be your advice if your party tries to zone principal offices?
We believe that if we want peace to prevail in Nigeria, the winner takes all should be very minimal and we believe that it should be all embracing government. Every segment of Nigeria should be given a role to play if we want peace. We are not going to run a reclusive government but all embracing government and so far so good; based on newspaper publications you will see that most of the positions that have been shared out so far there has been an even spread even where he didn’t get votes he has given them a position, a very powerful position; all with the view to making sure that at the end of the day, peace prevails and everyone is given a good chance of belonging.
Sometimes, managing success is more difficult than getting it. How is APC going to manage this success it has achieved?
It is more difficult to manage money than to make money; just as you said; it is more difficult to manage victory than achieving the victory first. Once you have the right person in position, all these things are no problem. Having the right leadership has always been the problem in this country; people with balanced outlook, people with balanced judgements, people who have the fear of God at the back of their mind and if you talk about that, Buhari will score a very high mark if not the highest mark in the entire country. I try not to over exaggerate; I try not to embark on political rectory but on the fact of the situation.
We all know that this is Africa and some presidents won’t want to easily relinquish power. Would you commend President Goodluck Jonathan the way he reacted when he saw that it was obvious that he was losing the election and he quickly made a call to the president-elect even before the result finally came out?
I don’t want to pre-empt what Buhari can do but as far as I am concerned, President Goodluck Jonathan deserves to be recommended for a Nobel Peace prize. You know what has been happening around African countries, you know that once a leader is in a position, he wants to stay put, they won’t like to relinquish the position. Look at what happened in Ivory Coast and other places; in the case of Jonathan, we have seen a lot of maturity and love; he said it is not worth shading any blood for the position of the presidency; how many people in Nigeria, in Africa, in the third world reason that way? They want to perpetuate themselves in power and for the mere fact that he has shown the difference, he deserves a Nobel Peace prize.
There have been calls for you to come back to rule Kogi State, but many are wondering what you forgot in the Government House that you want to go back and take? Many also believe that you didn’t lose your governorship seat to non-performance. This has been attributed to arrogant disposition in your leadership style. Will you say that you have learnt a lesson that you will take back to office?
Instead of me learning a lesson, they have learnt a lesson that the accusation heaped on me was unfounded. I will tell you the offence I committed and this is why the Kogi you know in those days is not the Kogi you know today. I have a background of private sector concept efficiency and prudent management of available resources but the people I met in the political arena said no! That this money isn’t meant to develop the state; that it is meant to be shared and I said I don’t have that background and they said if you don’t have that background, we will show you the exit road and we will deal with you and you can’t convince anybody in Nigeria that I am not development-oriented, that I didn’t develop the state because even the PDP government gave me seven awards out of 12, courtesy of media tour headed by Professor Jerry Gana, the then Minister of Information and National Orientation. I was named as the best performing governor in Nigeria and my own people say they don’t want that; that that wasn’t the purpose of voting for me. All they wanted was for me to bring the money and let them share and I said I won’t subscribe to that, and then they said they will give me a bad name like a dog in order to hang me. So they said once I am sitting on a chair everybody on the floor, some will say before you see me you will crawl on your kneels for 15km and much later when they had seen the differences between the good, the bad and the ugly, they said it is better to have an arrogant performer than a humble failure. In Nigeria if they don’t want you they give you a bad name.
Experience isn’t something you go to the classroom to read and people have natural ability, if you don’t have that ability, there is no way you can measure up. So, I don’t want to praise myself but I have given the opportunity for people to see and differentiate between me and my other colleagues.