ANALYSIS: Fashola’s ‘Deserted’ Treatment, A minus To The APCFeatured, Featured Contributors/Columnists, Latest News, Tajudeen Balogun Friday, August 21st, 2015
*How Far “The Pathfinder” Can Drive?
By Tajudeen Balogun, Head, African Examiner, Nigeria Bureau – I am one of those who suspected “political power play” and subsequently anticipated more shockers, when “Mr. Consolidator”, the incumbent Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, in less than a month he was sworn-in into the office, relieved a total of 82 former State’s MDAs and boards’ heads. Some of the affected were those appointed by his immediate predecessor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), “the Actualizer” and “Navigator”. There was no other significant reason then adduced for the sudden development than the claim, relating to decision to allow Ambode, constitute new heads, that would implement his agenda in the state. Which agenda? A new one, or the existing, for him to consolidate? I wondered!
Following this, it came as no surprise to me, when the news broke and spread like fire last week that former Governor Fashola expended over N78.3 Million to maintain and upgrade personal website. The issue which was opened to the public by the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) has since been admitted by Fashola, but said the figure quoted included other contracts, adding the website in question “came into being as a result of the decision” he made to make his telephone number public for the several thousands of people seeking to reach him daily, while he took the mantle of leadership in the State.
Also in his reply, the immediate past Governor gave the impression that due process was followed in awarding the contract, which he confirmed he used till his last day in the office, as the Lagos State Procurement Agency did not oppose the proposal (website), sequel to advice of the State’s Ministry of Science and Technology, which he pointed out advised his government on Information and Communication (ICT) related matters. Another quick posers, why the misappropriation exposure now, after years of existence of the website? As vigilant as CACOL appears over the years, especially on its searchlight on Fashola’s first four years in the office, why this revelation at this particular time?
Recall, the same CACOL around 2010 raised issues relating to alleged corruption and financial impropriety against Fashola, then leading the campaign that the former Governor was not qualified and never deserved to seek re-election into office. It was a simply wasted effort and mere grandstanding as the claims failed to impress the residents and the general public, who overwhelmingly supported and re-elected Fashola for the second term in office.
The stress being hazard by me here is not about the revelation itself, but its source as well as its timing. Of course, it is not about making nonsense of any sincere and genuine move to take up the matter and far, via the appropriate government agencies, for the purposes of through and independent investigation of the entire deal and prosecution, if need be, rather, the fear is possibility or likely hood of using the saga to fight a target victim or might be another power play, calculated to achieve ‘personal political interest’ at the expense of another.
Recent unfolding events in the Lagos State’s ruling party and among its power brokers appear to be more planned than being accidental. Consider this please. The reactions, comments and controversies trailing the huge spending on the website were still ongoing on different platforms of public communication – mass and social media, when another chapter of the wrangling in the State’s ruling circle was again unavoidably exposed to the public.
On Tuesday (this week) political watchers and the general public were taken by surprise when none of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftains in the South West, other parts of the country and at its National level attended the three books (launch) titled:The Great Leap, In Bold Print And The Lagos Blow Dawn In The Honour Of Mr. Babatunde Fashola, Former Governor Of Lagos State authored by Hakeem Bello, the ex-Governor Press Secretary, attended and failed to share the historic moment with one of the party’s heroes and an event that could have epitomized celebration of the progressives.
It was so baffling and quickly called for questions whether it was a coincidence, deliberate or planed, when Fashola’s former boss and his predecessor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the “Pathfinder”; the APC Governors and other leaders of the party, such as the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, only sent their representatives to the books’ launch! More surprising was that Fashola’s successor, Governor Ambode’s absence. I am not aware of his representative at event either. What a shocking moment of an administration; of a Governor who promised to “consolidate” his past and immediate predecessors’ landmark achievements!
What could have given birth to the situation and uneasy calm in the Lagos political circle, especially as related to the past Governors and incumbent? It is important the point is clearly made here, that this writer is not doing ‘an errant’ image laundering for former Governor Fashola; nor attempting an attack against Tinubu’s persanlity and not at all driving at undermining the sitting Governor, Ambode. Instead, it is a critical assessment of the issues involved and personal blunt views on them. Readers and followers of this column can attest this.
For instance, the history behind the choice of Fashola by Tinubu in 2007, against the expectation of some of the ambitious politicians then, is very clear to the public and still fresh in the memory. Definitely, due to genesis of his ascending to power, Fashola to a very large extent accommodated his ex-boss in his eight years tenure of office. I am very much aware that the core Lagos politicians (in the ruling APC) will take exception to this, as they were the arrowheads of many gossips, resentments and debates, diatribes some of which later snowballed into serious acrimonies and rancor between the two – Fashola and Tinubu.
Still, these hawks must go into the history and check whether the immediate past Governor
of the State was substantially submissive to the “Ifa Eko” (the Lagos Political Oracle) or not. A very good example is the immediate past Governor of Abia State, South Eastern Nigeria, Theodore Orji. He and Fashola have some features in common. Just like in his State’s counterpart, Orji was the Chief of Staff to his former boss and political mentor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu (1999-2007). Also both succeeded their superiors the same year and stepped out at the same time-after two terms in the office.
The point here is that the politicians who were against Fashola and always set him against his political godfather are fully aware that unlike Tinubu, Kalu hardly enjoyed two years of cooperation, compliance, submission and understanding from his former subordinate and successor. In fact, the former Governor (Kalu’s) influence was so tamed and demystified to the extent that he was refused a return to his old opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and contest political office under its platform. Whereas, his political son- Orji who was elected under the platform of the defunct Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), the party Kalu single-handedly funded to actualize his political ambition in 2011, had since dumped it (PPA) and returned to PDP.
Those who were against Fashola and cause rift between him and his former boss should be told that Orji was so against his ex-boss to the extent that the smear campaign against Kalu was over bearing that he (Kalu) despite political skill lost credibility and relevance in Abia and the National PDP. He was called all manners of names and ultimately described as a failure! Today, indigenes, home and away, described Abia as a ghost State – an enterprising entity in shadow of itself.
Has any of these folks ever imagined similar travails could possibly had befallen the “Pathfinder” or in the years to come in the similar circumstance and magnitude? I hold that if the same treatment has been meted out to the “Oracle”, heavens would not fallen, but regrettably, only politicking would have held sway. Consequently, Fashola would have totally lost focus and governance would have suffered dearly, just as it was in the instance cited above. Above all, the “Pathfinder” would have been the major loser, hence, the prestige, respect and accolade he enjoys today in the Nigerian political landscape would have been totally lacking!
Again, let the point be clear that this is not a ‘commercial’ pro-Fashola piece nor to drag the “Jagaban” in the mud, rather, a serious concern shared by me and so many onlookers of the goings and happenings in the ruling APC, both in Lagos and at the National level. As a matter of fact, I personally adore Tinubu’s tested bravery and political savvy as it has been demonstrated in the last 16 years of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria. Still, the Tuesday’s ‘prodigal’ treatment, to Fashola which seemed to be at the instance of his (“the Pathfinder”) body language and many possible off the-screen instructions and directives do not speak well of “the Pathfinder’s” future political record; it is a wrong signal to correct understanding of the progressives inclusive principles; a bad omen to sustainability of the ruling party membership and the party as a whole.
Why the type of ‘dealing’ to Fashola Tuesday? What is or are the grievous offences committed by him to merit such a ‘naked’ and ‘pronounced’ desertion from his party leaders and men at such an eventful occasion? What Tinubu is actually after or wanted Fashola to do or not to have done while in office or now? Of course, I still remember Fashola’s, fierce but belated battle with his predecessor, on the choice of incumbent Ambode. Interestingly, the “Lion of Bourdillon” himself declared after his party State’s Governorship primary that the noise on rift between him and Fashola was a mere ‘creation’. He went ahead to rebuke the media for blowing the matter out of proportion. That blame with the ongoing, has been defeated.
Again, I ask, does Fashola deserve the Tuesday type of treatment? Think about this. The immediate former Lagos State Governor, sufficiently lived up to his “actualizer” appellation. BRF as he was otherwise addressed changed the face of governance, not only in Lagos, but in the entire country, to the extent that the opposition PDP while still in power, affirmed he was a Governor to beat. Fashola, his style and approach to governance in no time, became a reference point within and outside his party, at the political rallies, even of the opposition (given an exception to him and his adminstration) and more significantly, continuously received accolades together with his predecessor from abroad.
It is a common knowledge to hear people saying across Nigeria that BRF succeeded in achieving the task the Military administration failed to actualize. The popular Oshodi overhauling and others in the same perspective, are quick and good examples.
Just like he learnt from his political master, Fashola was focus, efficient and uniquely diligent. He worked till the last day he handed over the baton to his successor, “Mr. Consolidator”. I must confess, I respect him so much for that. His exemplary handling, managing as well as collaborating with the immediate past administration (Federal Government) on the outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the State last year July was heroic, historic, impressive and very inspiring. The best for me to say on this man is that Fashola is another one, of my heroes.
Sincerely, I have interacted and engaged people, especially the Lagos residents on the ex-Governor’s performance with respect to his successor’s. Many have expressed doubt in the incumbent’s capability. Still, I view and always impress it upon people that Ambode does not have option than to perform; that I am equally faithful in his ingenuity; that even, if he could not surpass his immediate predecessor’s records, he would and must maintain the tempo of government activities he inherited.
Giving his outstanding roles in the last State’s electioneering campaign, why should the APC National leader led the packs of the party’s stalwarts extending the “strange treatment” to the former Governor? Is Fashola so a wicked fellow to his boss; colleagues in the political office? Is BRF a bad fellow? Recall, Tinubu was pre-occupied with the APC Presidential campaign, junketing with other party leaders, the nooks and crannies of the
country to seek support and votes for its candidate, the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, leaving virtually the burden of campaign and vote canvassing in Lagos for the APC and Ambode. Fashola, effectively did the job despite the ‘historic’ differences.
All of these were quite understandable. Therefore, positing Fashola won the last election for his successor, is just about saying the obvious. I also make bold to assert irrespective of “the Pathfinder” influence and grip on the party and its members, had BRF failed in his electoral promises, the story of the APC today in Lagos, would have been different, considering the thoughtless and desperate manner the immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan divided the State along the ethnicity line and squandered the national resources in a move to win and capture Lagos by all means. This is a plain fact and it is very obvious to all the APC leaders who deserted Fashola Tuesday at the moment he needed them most. But why this should happen to this complete gentleman, who completely avoided party politicking to his mentor and squarely faced the task of governance?
What is “the Pathfinder” aspiring to achieve? Well, despite denial of friction between the duo, it is no more news that Tinubu’s list of Ministerial nominees to President Buhari blanked out Fashola. Interestingly, Mr. President’s long interest in him from all indications (not sure, of after the website expenditure saga) has been obvious and persistent, hence the speculation that Buhari would veto his inclusion.
However, with the ongoing image smearing campaign against him, personally, I doubt if those after BRF would not gained upper hand – succeeded in their “conspiracy”, leaving President Buhari’s passion for him to wane and dwindle remarkably. Fashola himself has irritably responded in his reply to website criticism, that he was not looking for a job, challenging: “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.” The reply was apt and expected from someone in his shoes anyway.
So, if BRF’s name on account of the unfolding brawl and so many others which might not be obvious to the public, is deleted from President Buhari’s Ministerial list, (just) ultimately to satisfy the interest of the National Leader of his party and avoid confusion on the integrity of personalities in his cabinet, the question again is how far can the “Oracle” go and continue to impress his personal wish on Mr. President, other party’s leaders and the party in general?
For instance, the yet to be settled National Assembly (NASS) leadership crisis has divided the APC into about three blocs – the pro Tinubu; the Atiku/new PDP faction, then the President himself and his apostles from the two camps. Tinubu was alleged to be the brain behind the party’s NASS leadership choice of nomination. Although, I still maintain my stand that the Senate President, Saraki committed excesses in the first and second process of the Senate leadership election and Principal Officers’ emergence.
Again, “Jagaban” is presently alleged to be at loggerhead with his party’s National Chairman, over the choice of Bayelsa State Governorship candidate for the next gubernatorial poll slated for Saturday, December 6 this year. Tinubu is speculated to favour the ambition of the former Executive Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi Alaibe, while the APC National head, is speculatively favourably disposed to a founding member of the party – a position that is consistent to the principle that prompted the choice of the party in nominating the 8th NASS leaders, although rebuffed by the ruling APC Federal Lawmakers to a large extent in the two chambers. Therefore, how far and how long will, and can Tinubu go, in waging and winning seemingly battles with the party members and other Leaders, still remain relevant in the party’s scheming at all levels, especially with regards to his established stance of ‘every reasoning must bend and be crushed to make his, prevail?’
Asiwaju Tinubu, this time, you need to and must relax; take a look back and visualize the way and manner you wished to be perceived now and ever. “Jagaban”, I personally hail and commend your boldness, in particular, your consistence in the vanguard of the progressives. Agreed, you have your own excesses, ko si bi ase marin ti ori ko ni mi (There is no one without his minuses). Despite that, thumps up for your erudition; ability to organize, coordinate, manage and train human resource for leadership responsibility. Still, please you must further take a cue from a Yoruba adage which says: “Ilu to ba le laleju, yiya ni o ma ya” (excesses in a drum efficiency ruins it). In essence, kindly take a review in handling issues relating to your party; “personal interest”; and ultimately APC members in your State and beyond. You have been told, you are not “perfect”, but unarguably you are a “great” man. As for me, this is the highest honour and which a normal human being should embrace and unreservedly appreciate.
Finally, “the Pathfinder”, remember a living witness – a retired Military General in this country, who despite his brilliance, viable socio-economic policies and political sagacity, ended up rubbishing his eight years in power and labour as well as his hard earned ovation all due to crass and over ambition. Today, he is only living, but every adult Nigerian knows and agrees, he is a sad man. That is life for you sir. Therefore, accept the fact that the raging shabby and embarrassing treatment to one of your iconic political sons, is undeserving, hence the need for you to check and call to order, the foot soldiers and their smearing crusade against him. This is ultimately to sanitize our political terrain; encourage and reward excellence and diligence in public offices.
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