By Abdulhakeem Idris
The Kogi State gubernatorial election is scheduled to hold in November. With polls being just weeks away, it is important to compare the two major contestants, namely Prince Abubakar Audu of the APC, and the incumbent governor, Idris Wada of the PDP. The fact that both have had a chance at governing the state makes it easier to analyse each objectively; Audu was governor from 1999-2003, and Wada’s four year term is nearing completion.
In light of this, one could say that they have both had the same amount of time in the current democratic dispensation to prove their mettle, and that each candidate’s track record would greatly influence the choice of who the electorate choose. This comparative analysis will be done under six categories; infrastructure, tourism, job creation, disaster management, healthcare and education.
One of the first things that Audu did during his tenure was to see to the construction of essential new roads and the upgrading of existing ones. In the many speeches he delivered during his term in office, he reiterated the importance of good roads in enhancing economic activities, and therefore, concentrated a lot of effort in this area. The Okene-Kabba road, the Ganaja road (which connects Lokoja and Kogi East), and the Ayingba-Odu road, among others, are legacies of his administration.
Unfortunately, this sentiment has not been shared by Idris Wada (and also was not shared by his immediate predecessor, Ibrahim Idris). These roads have not been properly maintained and so glaring is his lack of interest in fixing this most basic infrastructure, that the road to his village – which goes through Odu Ofugo up to Okete – which was “upgraded” with red sand three years ago, has grown even worse due to erosion.
In the area of housing, while Audu constructed 1,500 housing units for civil servants in Lokoja, the state capital, Wada’s tenure has not embarked upon any such scheme or even hinted at any such initiative. It should be noted that Audu also constructed 500 other housing units for civil servants in both Anyingba and Kabba. The importance of affordable housing cannot be over-emphasized and a leader who pays attention to the needs of the people and designs initiatives to surmount challenges should be commended for doing so.
Many state governors in Nigeria seem to not care much for tourism and unlocking their state’s potentials. This fully applies to Idris Wada as his administration has made no moves whatsoever in improving tourism in the state. Audu, on the other hand, oversaw the construction of the Confluence Hotel and also ordered the preservation of the Ofejiji waterfall, among others.
This is one area where Audu’s credentials as an established professional and businessman greatly improved the lot of his people. Through his business connections, he was able to attract great investments to the state, including the Dangote Cement Factory at Obajana, and the commissioning of the Geregu Power Plant.
Despite the mineral deposits in literally every corner of Kogi state, the last four years have been atrocious in terms of attracting investment. Wada has been terribly inactive in this regard and till this day, the people often speak of the caliber of investors that Audu was able to attract to the state.
Going by their track records, if one had to choose the leader who would guarantee job creation, from the aforementioned, it would again be Audu.
In 2012, flooding displaced thousands of Kogi residents from their homes. In response to their plight, a fund of N2billion was provided for the construction of new housing units in which these citizens could be resettled. No such thing happened.
The issue generated so much controversy that the Daily Independent, a Nigerian newspaper, summed it up thus; “Despite the amount of N2 billion raised for that purpose, the state government is yet to complete the housing project for the victims scattered across nine local government areas of the state. Many of the victims are still displaced and still seeking for assistance”.
This dwells not only on ineffective disaster management, but a general lack of accountability. Funds were provided for resettling victims of flooding but till this day, the housing units have not been built and no one can even say for certain that the state government has a database of those who need to be resettled.
Although there was no natural disaster to manage during Audu’s tenure, he managed the infrastructural disaster quite well and is no stranger to providing housing units to those who require them. The thousands of units his administration provided testify to this.
Abubakar Audu is credited with the provision of well-equipped hospitals and health centres across the state. He also introduced a primary healthcare scheme specifically targeted at pregnant women which was charged with the responsibility of providing prompt services at centres situated in all communities across Kogi. This saw a resultant improvement in maternal health and a drastic reduction in maternal mortality.
In this regard, the Specialist Hospital, Lokoja was reportedly upgraded during Wada’s tenure, but not much else can be listed in his favour in this category. In light of all these facts, it is glaring, once more, that Audu did more than Wada within the same period of time in healthcare.
Qualitative education is the bedrock of a meaningful future, and it would not be an exaggeration to state that a leader who does not value education is no leader at all.
Wada’s tenure has the following achievements in education; cancellation of the payment of WAEC fees, owing teachers their salaries for the past eight months, allowing school buildings fall apart and failing to equip schools across the state.
On the other hand, it was during Audu’s tenure that a university and polytechnics were built, and all adequately equipped. Also, no teachers or lecturers were owed salaries. He supervised the renovation of primary and secondary schools in the state, built new classroom blocks, hired more teachers and effectively revamped the educational sector in Kogi state. The university built during his administration was then ranked among the top universities in the country but this tradition of excellence has not been maintained.
Again, if one had to choose between the two based on who possesses a higher capacity to deliver on education, it would be Audu.
Facts speak for themselves. It is a good thing that the two major candidates have had a chance to prove their mettle as this would enable the populace choose the candidate with a proven ability to deliver.
In light of all the facts that have been stated, it is obvious that the more qualified candidate is Prince Abubakar Audu, and one can only hope that the people of Kogi State make an informed choice.
Abdulhakeem Idris is a banker and an indigene of Kogi State.
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