Prince Abubakar Audu Speaks on Kogi State

Prince Abubakar Audu is a household name, especially, in  the political landscape of Kogi state. He rode to power as Executive of Kogi State in 1993.  He was reelected again and again. His aggressive infrastructural development efforts set the state on a fast pedestal of development.  Prince Abubakar Audu, who recently stepped into the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, where he is contesting for governorship is  a very  influential politician with a strong political base. A lot of people see him  as the strongest contender for the governorship position. One advantage he seem to be enjoying is  that lots of Kogites appreciate his efforts when he was in Lugard House and they want him back again  to continue with what they describe as his legendary development of the state. In this interview, Prince Abubakar Audu Spoke  with Editor Moses George on his plans to salvage Kogi State. Excerpts:
Thank you Your Excellency. Lots of people would want to know why you are so keen on being reelected as governor of Kogi State.
Thank you very much Moses George. Well to start with, it is the people of Kogi state that are agitating for me to come back and as far as I am concern, the voice of the people is the voice of God. Whatever my people see me as being fit to do, by the grace of God I will readily make myself available to them. There has been so many questions regarding whether I am going to come back or not. Some say I am too old, some say I should support somebody else… my simple answer has been, if you find somebody more competent than me, produce him and I’ll be too glad to support him. The question is not me choosing somebody. It is rather the question of somebody competing with me and whoever it pleases God to emerge at the end of the day would have it. But the people ought to judge between  us. For those who are of the opinion that I should sponsor somebody else… I don’t know what prompted them to say that because I am 62 years old, whereas Ibrahim Idris is 67 or 68. He has done 8 years as governor and he is on the ninth year contrary to the stipulations in the 1999 constitution. The authors of that constitution never contemplated that any person holding the position of governor should have more than 2 terms of 4 years each, bringing the total to 8 years and he is doing 9 years. In my own case. I did only 4 years. Besides that, he has also made his son to go to the Federal House of Representatives against the people’s wish and desire. He made it possible for his son to go to the House. Ibrahim Idris has failed but people do not reason from that perspective. Since he has failed woefully, why should they accept his son?  Somebody who has failed woefully, why should he be given that opportunity? Well, people say that I should sponsor somebody else. But am I constitutionally unfit? No. Don’t I have the mental capacity? I do. Don’t I have the intellectual capacity? I do. Am I not physically fit? I am. So why should anybody say that I should not contest. The kind of contacts I have, only few people in Nigeria have that kind of connections and it manifested in my administration. That time, our net monthly take home from the statutory allocation was between three to four hundred million and with that, we were able to provide numerous infrastructures for our people in Kogi state. We constructed a total of about 9,000 kilometers of road network across the state….surface dressing, asphalt overlay….we established the polytechnic at Lokoja and the university at Ayangba. We established the largest cement factory in Africa, which is the Obajana cement. We built a five star hotel; we dualized roads, upgraded secondary schools and some other tertiary institutions. Anpka used to be an Advanced Teachers College, but we converted it to a college of education with the intention to make it a degree awarding institution. The list of what we did while in office is endless. The facts are on the ground for anybody to see. But sadly, all these infrastructures that my administration put in place between 1999 to 2003 have been totally devastated. As I speak with you now, Kogi is a failed state according to the Central Bank’s Economic Bulletin. My baby is sick! Kogi state is my baby. If my baby is sick, it is my responsibility to nurse the baby back to health. It is only an irresponsible father that will abandon the baby when it is sick. I have the formula. I have demonstrated it before and I did it very successfully. I have been tested and trusted. So the question of how can you do it again does not arise. Like I said earlier, when the statutory allocation was very minimal at 400 million naira, because crude oil was selling at 12 dollars per barrel and you will appreciate that Nigeria is a mono product country that relies absolutely on crude oil. Between 2004 and 2011, crude oil was selling at over 100 dollars. The net take home for Kogi state, this is also in the Economic Bulletin, at a time, it is 5 billion naira and more. With excess crude, the state was getting 18 billion naira and yet, the administration has nothing on the ground to show for the huge amount it was getting monthly. Ibrahim Idris’ administration has not initiated any project and completed it. The president has been going to other states to commission projects. But in the case of Kogi state, he comes on project inspection, work in progress. I will give you an instance: I started the modern Lokoja stadium. Up till now Ibro could not complete it. When Mr. President went there, he did not go to commission the project. He went on project inspection. The Gananja road for instance, that is the road that link up Lokoja with Ajaokuta, I built it, but after several years of usage it became imperative that the road should be resurface. After resurfacing it with asphalt overlay, he brought in the president to commission it. What he did was just to rehabilitate that road and for that, he had to invite the president to commission it. It is ridiculous. We have commissioned several projects without fanfare. What else? Is it the hospital that he built and calls it a specialist hospital?
Can you compare that with the diagnostic hospital that I built in Ayingba? In the case of what he built at Lokoja and calls it a specialist hospital, three different people have commissioned it so far. Firstly, it was commissioned by David Mark, the President of the Senate, then Chief Olusegun Obasanjo also came to commission the same project. Lastly, President Jonathan also commissioned it. It is a big shame. Is it the Government House that I built which was classified then as the best in the country? The whole place now lacks mantainace.  The walls are dirty. They’ve not been able to white-wash the structure with paint for a period of 8 years. Go to the Lugard House, it is now a complete rumple, a mumbo-jumble. When I came in 1992. It was a ramshackle, completely dilapidated. After Lugard vacated the place in 1902, it was not put to use again. The whole building  was collapsing. It became an abode for dangerous reptiles. Because of the great sense of history that I had, I renovated the place. Today, it is a beautiful edifice. Look at the Glass House. Look at the Government lodged I built at Kabba, Idah and so on, they  have all depreciated due to lack of maintenance. In Abuja here, I heard that the Government Lodge has just been renovated at an astronomical amount.
Since you are saying that the administration of Alhaji Ibrahim Idris has failed. What exactly are you planning to do when eventually you become governor?
What I did between 1999 and 2003, was to initiate a scheme where unemployed youths were placed on some kind of monthly allowances through our youths empowerment programme. As a matter of fact, it was as a result of the choking level of unemployment in the state that made me to initiate the Obajana cement project. According to the agreement we entered into with foreign investors, Obajana cement factory would employ 15,000 workers. We also had a written agreement that out of that number, 13,000 workers must be indigenes of Kogi state, while the remaining 2,000 could come from anywhere in Nigeria. I don’t think that Idris and his team have taken the trouble of studying the agreement. By the grace of God, when I return back to office, I am going to dust up that agreement and ensure that the right thing is done. The right thing is getting 13,000 jobless young men employed in Obajana cement factory. That would certainly reduce the pressure on the government. I also have plans to apply to the federal government to grant concessions for us to run the Ajaokuta Steel Company. When the steel company becomes operational, it will be producing billets for local use and iron rods for exports. That was the plan I had when I built the road from Lokoja to Ajaokuta. There are several byproducts of Ajaokuta Steel that will feed small scale industries and stimulate the economy. That will also reduce the pressure on the labour market. We have plans to boost agriculture. We wanted to bring in farmers from Zimbabwe and South Africa to embark on large mechanized farming. Our ultimate goal is to make Kogi state have enough to feed the entire nation as well as for export. When that is achieved, it will again go a long way to reduce the pressure on the labour market. Such initiatives will provide our youths with so many opportunities.
The Sally Tibot staff audit in Kogi state laid off a large numbers of workers. Most of these people, we are told have not been able to find any other source of livelihood. In specific terms, Your Excellency, what exactly are you going to do with regards to these workers when you are re elected?
First and foremost. I will make sure that all those workers that were retrenched are reinstated. I will also ensure regularity in the payment of salaries and emoluments like I did between 1999 to 2003. When I came in 1999, there were salary arrears of 7 months that the military administrator was unable to settle. Within the period of 3 months, I settled everything in line with my campaign promises, Now that we have very comfortable accruals in  the form of statutory allocations from the federation accounts; I should be able to ensure that salaries and arrears are paid promptly. We will ensure that promotions are cash backed. When you make promotions without any financial benefits attached to it, then it has no meaning. This is what is happening now in Kogi state. Pensioners are not paid. We will ensure that all this unhealthy developments are put behind us. For them to even admit that the authentic staff list was the one that took place between when the state was created up to 2003 from 2004 up to date was seen to be obnoxious and full of irregularities. As far as I am concerned, that is self indictment. How on earth can a state exist for 8 years without employing one single staff. Are you doing justice to the economy? Are you doing justice to our young school leavers? Are you doing justice to the labour market? Are you doing justice to economic stimulation? No. The answer is no!  I can assure you Moses George that more staff will be recruited and engaged in productive sectors. There are so many jobs for young people to do. But unfortunately, the only way the   administration of Ibrahim Idris deems fit to engage young men  is to recruit them, train them, arm them and ask them to kill during elections. They engage them as thugs. It is very unfortunate, it is very dehumanizing. No sensible administration will so dehumanize its own people. You see, you train up your son even to the level of obtaining masters degree, but the next thing he does is to become a thug. That is what has been happening in Kogi State and we are going to ensure that all these stops as soon as we come into office.
How exactly do you intend to transform these boys you talked about into useful members of the society?
What I am going to do is to get them engaged in gainful employment. The 13,000 or thereabout vacancies in Obajana Cement that I told you about earlier on, will absorb these boys. We will send a lot of them to abroad, like what happened to the Niger-Delta boys. We will send our own boys abroad too to get some good education there. By the time they are through with their education, thuggery will become unattractive to them and other boys around. I can assure you that political thuggery in Kogi state will become a thing of the past.
The issue of women empowerment is so important that most people, especially, women will want to know what is in the offing for them when you take office as governor of Kogi state.
I believe in the 35 percent affirmative action. But most importantly, because the women of Kogi state are enterprising, we will encourage their sense of productivity by getting them engaged in small scale industries. We will encourage them to form themselves into cooperative societies so that they can access some facilities that will enable them improve their trades. As a matter of fact, we do have a comprehensive blue-print for women development. I can assure you that our women will be given a better deal that will usher them into buoyancy.
Since you left office, one will assume that you must have reflected on all what transpired while you were governor in Kogi state. What will you do differently when you get back into office?
I have done it before differently. When I get back, it will be a complete re-enactment of what I did before and we will also try to improve on it. During my administration, Kogi was the fastest developing state in Nigeria. When all the 36 governors were assessed, we were number one in terms of performance in various sectors, especially with regards to infrastructural provisions. Our performance is going be to  more advanced. I have reflected on the problems that our people are confronted with and by the grace of God, we have the solutions on our hands.  My administration, like I mentioned earlier was able to put so  much on  the ground for the benefit of our people despite the meager resource at our disposal at that time.When I get to  Lugard by the grace of God, I shall ensure that our state is lifted  to greater height of social and economic advancement. Our people certainly deserve more than what they are getting now. And to get them out of this valley of underdevelopment, we decided to yield to their agitation for us to take reigns of power so as to use it as an instrument to provide them with respite.
Thank you your excellency for your time.
It being nice speaking with you Moses George.

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About newsmailonline
Moses George is a versatile journalist/prolific writer.His career as a journalist dates back to over 10 years. During this period, he has worked for several media organizations across the country. His reports and writings serve as references to credible newspapers, magazines and web sites. His passion for investigative journalism has revealed dark secrets involving high level corruption in both the private and public sectors.He covers high profile events for corporate organizations and individuals. Moses George is the Editor-in Chief of National Mail, a general interest magazine that circulates across Nigeria. He is also the Editor of News Mail, an online publication that features people, events and issues. George can be reached on 234 080 6672 2600 or at nationalmailonline @yahoo.com

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