About eleven days ago, Babatunde Raji Fashola, former Governor of Lagos State was assigned with a higher national responsibility as Minister of Power, Works and Housing. Before this appointment, many people prominent among them, inhabitants of his own Lagos State worked assiduously to truncate the ambition.
As a matter of fact, as soon his successor, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode assumed office; Fashola began to enjoy ample bad press. Although the All Peoples Congress (APC) to which both Fashola and Ambode belong attributed the bad press to the handiworks of mischief makers sponsored by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the contents of the bad press portrayed a different direction. This is because the allegations that Fashola spent N78.3m on his personal website, www.tundefashola.com and N139m to construct two boreholes at the Lagos House, Ikeja, when he was governor were allegedly found on the state government’s website. Meanwhile the government did not refute the allegations but merely denied authorship making it easy for the Senate to premise its clearance of Fashola on his response to the allegations.
This column was compelled to wonder at the time why our people are ever so uncharitable bearing in mind the several achievements of the man as governor. We had thought that what happened to Fashola as soon as he left office contradicted the major infrastructural face-lift he gave to Lagos in several areas like roads, hospitals and sports. It was in earnest impossible to seek to undermine the instantaneous transformation of the chaotic Oshodi bus stop and its notorious under the bridge brigandage. The same is true of his contribution to the creation of a Traffic Management Authority LASTMA– a strategy that was designed to ease the burden of the heavy traffic in Lagos.
Like any other being, Fashola is human and thus can have his own weaknesses which; from the benefit of hindsight, can be said to be too few in the face of his overwhelming good performance. Those who say many of his projects particularly housing were elitist may have a point but it is no longer the place of Fashola to attend to that. If he built for the rich, let his successor be admonished to now build for the poor while those of us who admired him as governor are allowed to continue to relish his simplicity and unfettered understanding of governance. He is a leader who listens; when we joined other Nigerians, to condemn his deportation of some Nigerians from Lagos, he reversed it with a public apology.
Luckily, President Muhammadu Buhari believes in him because he did not only discountenance the orchestrated but unproved allegations against Fashola but used his own understanding of the man’s competence to give him a 3-man assignment. We commend the President and urge other Nigerians not to get carried away by fake whistle blowers who have only a selfish agenda. One way of doing this is never to join in condemning anyone until his version is heard and rejected by a court of competent jurisdiction.
For instance, while we cannot vouch for former Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s integrity or what he did as Governor of Rivers State, we learnt a lot when a professional colleague who has lived all his life in Port Harcourt said the other day that he doesn’t admire Amaechi but doesn’t prefer Governor Wike. I said why? He replied that if the allegations against the former governor were genuine; the state government would have inundated our anti-corruption bodies with massive proof instead of organizing media documentaries to prove the same allegations which a judicial commission was hearing alongside the media hate speeches. Otherwise, why present a case to a court when simultaneous trial is holding on the media through news features, documentaries, paid averts and the internet? Even if allegations are true, our constitutional injunction that every accused person is deemed innocent until proven otherwise should prevail. It is the best way to differentiate the real from fake allegations
We should always appreciate those who like Fashola have worked well. In any case if the rest of the country cannot see sense in all we have said about Fashola, Lagos State where the primary evidence is domiciled should. Fortunately, Governor Ambode while delivering a keynote address at the Lagos Business School Alumni Conference last week noted that “We are privileged to have my predecessor in office at the center in charge of Works, Power and Housing.
This effectively means we have a synergy between Lagos and the Federal Government to accelerate and actualize our current plans for infrastructural development.” This idea is by far superior to the old posture in which Lagos was at war with the federal government to its own detriment during the Obasanjo Presidency. More importantly, we all want an end to our perennial power dilemma. Another great Nigerian, the late Bola Ige was there before but was made to fail. Herein lies our major fear for Fashola—will generator and diesel contractors and other interests allow him to work?
Two things are however currently in favour of Fashola. The first is a track record of service which made Wole Soyinka to refer to the man as a mechanic who “approaches things in a very clinical mechanized fashion.” According to Soyinka, Fashola “diagnoses the problem and then goes at it like a skilled mechanic, looking at the pieces. The ones which work, he puts back and those that don’t work, he sets out to completely eliminate or transform them. And he does it ruthlessly because he is not a politician.” The second is poetic focus which Fashola has in abundance. When all was against him the other day, instead of despairing, Fashola put his detractors behind when he said, “When you wrestle with a pig, the pig gets happy and you get dirty. For those who still wish to remain in the mud, they should look in the mirror. For those who wish to throw mud at me, they should look at their own hands. As for me, I have moved on. My job is done.” We wish Fashola and Nigeria well.