Fred Itua, Abuja
Prince Mohammed Audu is the first son of the late former governor of the state, Prince Abubakar Audu and the self acclaimed leader of the Audu political family. In this interview with Daily Sun, he expressed fears that if the crisis in the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is not resolved, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will take advantage of the situation to win the forthcoming governorship election.
APC will hold its governorship primaries in Kogi soon. Do you plan on contesting for the party’s ticket?
I have not purchased my form yet. I am watching to see how democratic our party, the APC will become in the days to come. We want a free, fair and open contest which I believe the national leadership of the party is working on right now. As soon as that opportunity is given, I will throw myself in the ring. We are sure of our support base. We have the largest structure in the state and we can revive it anytime. What we are doing now is to create a level-playing field so that our people can ventilate what they feel about the current government in the state.
There have been this back and forth regarding indirect and direct primary, where do you stand on this?
Because we have been in the game for a while, we are indifferent to anyone that comes. When you go direct, it is almost like a walkover because of everything happening in the state like the non-payment of salaries and pension, non-existence of viable projects, collapse of the healthcare, education and private sectors, no innovation or any kind of incentive given by the governor. All these things cumulatively, will form the basis of the response of the people if we go for direct primaries and you can see that the governor is running away from that.
There is one snag however; there is an existing court case in which the authenticity of the exco is being challenged. There is a Mohammed Abdullahi-led exco and Hadi Ametuo-led exco. Now, for some regional reasons, Hadi has abandoned his own faction and joined the Abdullahi-led exco. However, other members of that exco are still resolute that the mandate of the congress that was carried out around 2017 or so is theirs and they are ready to challenge it all the way to Supreme Court until their rights are resolved and handed over to them. Now, what we are saying today is that because of the fact that the party also mentioned or prescribed indirect primaries, these same people instituted another case again because they now felt left out.
If there is indirect primary, it means only the Abdullahi Bello-led exco will be patronised, so they are now asking all members of APC to participate so that, should the outcome of the court case go in favour of Bello-led executive or them, it would not jeopardize the outcome of the primaries. That is why people are seeking for direct primaries, because we don’t want what happened in Zamfara to happen to us.
Because, what will happen is that if we do not respect the courts and if those people do not withdraw their case for any reason, we do not know what the outcome will be. We don’t want a situation where we would win election but be robbed of victory.
If the APC doesn’t defer to your wishes, does it mean that you will join another political party and still run for the governorship position?
I am an APC member and I have told you that we will go with the indirect primary. I am sure that the performance of this administration leaves them wanting.
The APC under Bello’s leadership won many seats at the national and state houses of assembly and even the presidency and gave people the impression that the governor has a strong structure, how do you plan to challenge this perception?
I am going to exercise restraint in expressing what happened in the last elections. However, just before the elections, the presidency beckoned on the Audu political family to give them our support. We met with the Vice President. After series of meetings, we decided to work for Buhari. Many stakeholders in the state felt that a victory for APC in the state will be an endorsement of the state government. But the Vice President was able to navigate and the APC got an overwhelming victory for Buhari. I can’t say the same about the other elections in the state.
When the presidency got your support during the last presidential elections, did you also get their nod to support your gubernatorial ambition?
We didn’t do that. We asked that salaries should be paid; you can see that they are doing that. We asked for a properly articulated social intervention programme and they are about to do that. We also asked the Federal Government to intervene in providing critical infrastructure and so far, they’re working on that. I can see that they have taken the first step.
Since the demise of your father, it is assumed that you have taken over the Audu political family. Since you are contesting and your younger brother is also contesting, does that signify a crack?
The Audu political family is different from the Audu biological family. As a member of the Audu biological family, I am a member of the Audu political family but, I seem to be the only one in the biological family who is a member of the political family. Other people may decide to prosecute their aspirations in various ways. I think the young man wants to gather enough experience. He wants to give it a shot in his own way. I will not be like the current administration in the state where if somebody feels that he can give something a go, if it is not in your interest, you go after them. I will rather encourage the young people to learn. Even though, I know they still have a lot to learn, but experience will best teach them.
You had earlier called for a caretaker committee to conduct the primaries in the state. Is this still your stance?
What we are looking for is free and fair primaries. It will make sense to have a caretaker committee because the executive that is there now are either friends of Bello, family members of the governor, friends of his appointees, family members of his appointees, their kinsmen and strong supporters. They constitute majority of the executive, thereby skewing advantage unnecessarily to their side. So, again, that maybe inconsequential, but the very important reason why the caretaker committee may be the best way to protect the integrity of the primary is because if that faction of the executive conducts the primary and at the end of the day the courts say they are illegitimate, every single action of theirs follows suit and in that case, it would have been an exercise in futility. That is why we are saying in other to play safe, we want a neutral set of people and a level playing ground.
Do you harbour fears that the PDP could be the biggest beneficiary if the APC doesn’t put its house in order?
The PDP are masters of this; they call it free lunch and those people can smell it from a thousand miles away. I am urging the APC to be careful because I can see the eyes of the PDP in this problem already. They’re beginning to take interest in what we are doing. Imagine we will go and struggle and convince the entire people of the state and then the other side will inherit the labour or your hands. They’re masters of this game. You can see that it happened in Zamfara and in Rivers States. Let’s not allow that to happen in Kogi State.
There is an argument that since 1999, Kogi East has always produced the governor and that the same senatorial district wants to use ethnicity to get the same position from the first governor from Kogi Central.
If the current administration had performed excellently well, I wouldn’t have been offering myself for this contest, I would have supported them instead. But the administration doesn’t even have the will to perform. So, that argument is not sustainable. It doesn’t matter where you’re from. If you have the will power to galvanise everybody, no one will care where you’re from. Our take in politics is good governance and nothing else.