Abubakar Audu: casting his vote in his Ogbonicha village, less than 24 hours before his sudden death
By Richard Elesho/ Lokoja
Was it to be compared to a Nollywood scene? Or some ancient Greeko-Roman mythology? The accounts were tragic and heavily laced with magic, mysticism and mystery. Not miracles. It all happened at a frenetic speed. It was our subject’s long awaited day of glory. The stage was practically set for his honour.
Suddenly, words went round that he was indisposed, permanently incapacitated, confirmed dead. The entire landscape made up of his die-hard supporters and opponents all fused into one in melancholy. Oh, what a life! Tears began to drop in many eyes. But within hours of this confirmed passage, the narratives changed – 360 degrees.
Indeed, as dignitaries gathered to pay their last respects the, ‘good’ but ‘scary’ news went round that the dead had risen.
He had gone through some apocalyptic transmutations and resurrected, we were told. Jubilant crowds, chiefly of youths and women (easy purveyors of such fantansies) broke loose across the length and breadth of Kogi State heralding the mystery. ‘Outbursts of Audu ti dide,’ ‘Baba is risen from the dead,’ ‘Adoja no die again’ etc etc rented the air. Welcome to the last days of Prince Abubakar Audu, former Governor of Kogi State, who was an enigma, even in death.
Only once in man’s recorded history has a man risen from death. That singular ex nihilo feat was achieved by Jesus Christ, three days after he was nailed to the cross by his Jewish brothers. They killed him all because they could not come to terms with his Divine connections. Audu’s rumoured reincarnation shook that record, but of course it turned out a ruse. It was completely untrue. Adojah, had gone on a journey of no return.
Both in life and in death, Audu was a politician of note. In fact, the colour and drama that attended his transition could only have been pulled by a character of Audu’s standing. The former governor and candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC in the 2015 Kogi Governorship poll, had almost breasted the tape of second term electoral victory, then he crossed it and sadly passed to the great beyond. He died of a bleeding ulcer. That was in the wee hours of Sunday, 22nd November 2015.
To say his death has significantly altered political equation in the State, is to state the obvious. During his last campaign rallies, Audu had urged minority groups in the state to vote him promising to hand over to one of them after serving his tenure. He noted that he was the only person with the requisite clout to effect power shift in the state. His promise came faster than he intended. Upon his demise, the APC awarded his victory to Yahaya Bello, a young Anebira and first runner-up during the primary. Obviously, his death accelerated power shift However, Bello has not followed on the footsteps of his benefactor in his style of governance, or the lack thereof.
It is now four seasons ago that Audu passed on. But the people still miss him as if he died just yesterday. Audu traversed the Kogi political landscape like a colossus. Indeed, he was one. In the state’s nearly three decades of existence, this is the first time a Governorship election will hold without Audu’s colourful candidacy.
Since her creation by the Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, IBB military junta in August 1991, the people of Kogi State have gone to the poll to elect a Governor seven times. Audu was a candidate in all. He won twice, in 1992 under the National Republican Convention, NRC and in 1999 under the All People’s Party, APP, to earn his most cherished title as “first and second Executive Governor of Kogi State.”
His outings in 2003, 2007, 2008 and 2011 were catastrophic. Death denied him of victory in 2015, when the ovation was loudest.
Audu had swag. He played opposition politics with a difference. His most defining character was steadfastness. Audu overcame the temptation of jumping from one party to another because of dwindling electoral fortunes. He would hold on to the ideals and gate of his party, even if he was the last man standing. The former governor’s flamboyance and dress sense were unique. From the size of his over flowing Agbada to the ornamentation of its embroidery, you would not mistake the Prince of Ogbonicha from an assorted mix of a thousand crown heads. He chuckled to no end whenever his die-hard supporters massaged his king-zized ego by describing him as “Prince of both the Niger and the Benue.”
The Prince wore an affectionate ambience anywhere and anytime. He was an active part of all that he saw and where ever he went. Many people usually interpreted this as overbearing, if not bullying. Without doubts, he dominated his environment, without making others feel unwanted. A case in point: In 2008 after the Appeal court declared his name was unjustly omitted on the 2007 ballot, Audu was to vie on the ANPP platform, while Senator Salihu Ohiare already secured ticket of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. Few weeks to the election however, a working relationship was reached by the two parties. It was an evidence of Audu’s savvy that in spite of the disadvantaged position of his party, he became the candidate of the ACN – new alliance, while Ohiare stepped down and became his running mate. That was vintage Audu.
The Prince brought colour into his politics. He knew where and how to get the electorate. He had and used the words that unsettled the opposition and took away their sleep in endless defence. He never missed an opportunity to throw a jibe. He lacked verbosity. But the weight of his words measured with the size of his raiment. At campaign rallies Audu composed and rendered songs to the admiration of his fans. Simply put, Audu had a way with the audience.
Adoja had great taste for the profound. As governor, he etched his name in gold in the development of the State. His administration established structures for the smooth take-off of the young state. Kogi State University Anyigba, Kogi State Polytechnic and State Library were in this category. He also conceived Obajana Cement before Aliko Dangote, the richest African bought into it and made it the envy of all eyes. Confluence Beach Hotel, Commissioners’ quarter, 4th Republic estate and some roads were among his legacy contributions. His invaluable inputs led to the establishment of Federal Medical Centre, FMC, National Television Authority, NTA, Graphic newspaper and Radio Kogi, all in Lokoja.
Perhaps for the intricacies of his royal blood or some deeper human complexities, Audu was an imperial governor. His subjects cringed at his feet. Traditional rulers abandoned their palaces to sing-praise the executive governor during homages. At other times, they kept vigil in endless waiting for his reception at Jamata Bridge as he returned from his regular economic missions abroad. Those who craved quick notice and compensation in term of government patronage in their communities, must come with cow-ropes or better still cow-heads.
Audu was a no nonsense leader. As governor, he left no one in doubt about the enormous powers of his office. Subjects flinched before his royal governor. Aides must be on their knees or squat while addressing him. A recalcitrant royalty may be demoted or banished to exile. Certainly, to maintain your place around Adojah, one must always sit up.
At the peak of his reign, he boasted to a bewildered national audience, that his party would continue to rule the Confluence State for the next 25 years. It turned out a failed prophecy. Neither Audu nor his party even lived to see the 25 years, as it happened. But even more instructive, is the fact that the next time the Kogi people went to the poll to elect a Governor, they rejected Audu and his party. He was never to taste the office of governor again until his death. What a God!
But, Audu did not die. His labour was not in vain. The Prince left adequate mutations that have kept the political space busy in the Confluence State. His children and family are keeping alive the Audu light. During the last APC Governorship primary, not less than three aspirants, namely Mohammed, Mustapha and Yahaya represented the Audu family. Each of them unsuccessfully sought to fly the party ticket. In the same vein, one of his former wives and Mustapha’s mother, Aisha is candidate of the Young Progressives Party in the Nov. 16th Governorship election. She is asking the Kogi people to elect her as governor.
Audu may have died, but he lives on in our hearts. As I remember him this season, tears role down my eyes. Rest in peace, Prince Abubakar Audu, the first and second executive governor of Kogi State.