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In Kogi, the Pilot must fly over the Prince: Emmanuel Bello

One of the skills of the Kogi State governor, Captain Ibrahim Idris Wada, must be his ability to fly through stormy weathers. Well, he would be needing all the training he got in Flying College to surmount the storm posed by the All Progressives Congress' candidate, Prince Abubakar Audu, in the coming poll. And just like in the upcoming Bayelsa election, a lot are at stake in this historic state, as the contenders slug it out. The APC would be angling to consolidate on its total conquer crusade of the North, even as the PDP would be fighting hard to hold on to the last bastion of its influence. Defeat shouldn't be that overall.
Kogi is one of the states in the North still stubbornly clinging to the embattled PDP. Gombe and Taraba states have also remained loyal. The others have all been confiscated by the ruling party. Then there is the President Muhammadu Buhari factor (what Hausa people call Sak!) – that tornado – that was like magic for all those who contested and won elections under the APC irrespective of who they were. But Kogi is holding on in spite of the pervasive aura of the APC and its candidate in the next election. So who is going to win?
Let me attempt a prediction. It's a dead heat at the moment but pundits believe the gentle captain may yet win in the coming epic battle. Prince Audu too, like a comeback kid, is not relenting. He has his past records both good and bad working for him, for good or bad. The other thing is his charisma. The former governor is the very soul of popularity (some would say notoriety) as he still gets praise chants from sycophants and, may be, sincere admirers. His outings are always heralded with the beating of drums as the shouts of his local praise names rent the air. Personally, I don't know what to make of the prince. I was in audience once when he addressed us – reporters in his expansive mansion at Asokoro, near the Presidential Villa. I left thinking this is a man of style and class. But I also couldn't help thinking he cherishes sitting atop his people where he imperiously dishes out handouts to the poor masses. Those drawn to him may be like moths drawn to a deadly flame. He is attractive, no doubt but is it all that glitters that is gold? What about leadership; respect for people; accountability; conscience? Should popularity be the only quality that should enthrone a leader? And I know some kogites who are also not in love with the man.  Audu too leaves no one in doubt of his royal roots. As governor, he reportedly enjoyed the regal treatments of having his commissioners sit on the floor while in council. The name clearly brings back memories of those dark day when it appears he was not just a prince but the wealthy emperor who allegedly misapplied the state resources.
His supporters are quick to rebuff all of that pointing out that the prince is actually the maker of modern Kogi. They said all the visible development in the backwater state started and ended with Audu. The university, the hotels and many of the roads in Lokoja and environs are some of the highlights of his administration. His critics are quick to dismiss this on the grounds that many of the so-called achievements are nothing but cosmetics touches. A smart politician, Audu took home peanuts from his stash to his impoverished people who gave him a heroic welcome. Buoyed by hunger and confronted with an uncaring leadership, Audu became the ultimate Robin Hood to the people.
But Captain Wada say some observers, have been trying to change all of that by trying to uplift the downtrodden. From his first entry into the murky waters of Kogi politics, Wada has striven to restore some decency into governance. A gentleman, Wada had avoided the glitters of power, preferring to quietly deal with some of the challenges of the state. That may be his Achilles heels. He may have stayed too quiet for too long and may have been too decent in an environment where brashness and a certain level of local thuggery is the modus operandi.
Not many know, for instance, know that Wada has completed the Nigeria-Korea
Friendship Institute of Vocational Training and Advanced Technology, one of its kinds here. Or that he established the Lokoja Mega Transport Terminal with capacity to receive 50, 000 travellers per month, 250 buses and up to 50 trucks per day, as well as having a clinic, shopping complex, police post, auto mechanic workshop and drivers' lounge. As a tourist state, he built and equipped the New Kogi Hotel in Lokoja, which has over 100 rooms, 500-guests capacity Conference Centre, six VIP chalets, an Olympic-size swimming pool and it is 95 per cent complete.
He has been tackling road issues, which is pivotal to development by constructing the 16-kilometre Ganaja-Otokiti Bypass; township roads in Lokoja, Ankpa, Kabba, Dekina, Idah and Okene; over 20 rural roads across the 21 Local Government Areas; embankment at the Greater Lokoja Water Scheme to protect it from destruction by flood.
So you begin to wonder why anyone would want him out of the way. But then we are living in unusual times when despots and clowns can become popular choices. And then you feel like weeping for the fatherland again.


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