By Bisis Lawrence
I have been given cause to wonder how much the life of a human being is worth to us as a nation, since the reported illness of President Umar Yarâ€™Adua.
I have tried to puzzle out how much value we place on human feelings, as different from the importance we ascribe to the emotions of, for instance, a chicken we are preparing for slaughter.
The chicken, unlike a lamb, would not go quietly to the knife; it hollers blue murder, because that is in fact, what is about to happen. It would rebel just as loudly, to be sure, even if it were a more humane method of ending its life that confronts it, since it could not have been ready.
But we have virtually sent off our President with our tongue, because he is known to be in ill health though, in fact, we are the sick ones – and that is a pity.
No sooner had some details emerged about the supposed seriousness of his illness than legislators and other politicians, columnists and other commentators, and anyone who felt entitled to give an opinion, began to launch out on a trip of wild speculations and specious interpretations of the Constitution, touching particularly on the order of succession.
Even more sickening is the fact that this was all done with such obvious relish in most cases. So heated has the series of conjectures and assumptions become that it has now provoked denials, and modifications, and explanations, and clarifications about statements and attitudes of certain key players in recent days.
To add insult to insensitivity, it has all been laced with a duplicitous outbreak of appeals for â€œprayersâ€.
Granted that every citizen should be concerned about the disposition of the first gentleman of the land, but the preoccupation with the political implications of an undesirable (undesired?) outcome should not so openly overarch the expression of genuine humane feelings, as it has been so wantonly displayed in this case. It would have been tasteless even if he were absent.
But it has been done not entirely without the gentlemanâ€™s notice since he is still alive – very much so, in fact, and to the discomfiture of those who perhaps believe anyone needs their permission to fall ill. I wish President Umar Yarâ€™Adua a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, with good health and art ever-increasing faith in the rule of law.
When you look around some parts of Lagos these days, you wonder if you are in a new city. The morale of the people living in these areas also seems to have been given a boost.
Other parts of the State have also benefited to a noticeable extent. No one downloads the encomiums this effort deserves elsewhere other than at the doorstep of the State Governor, His Excellency Babatunde Fashola, SAN, whose faith in the continued prosperity of his people goes beyond the mere slogan, â€œEko o ni bajeâ€â€™ which proclaims it.
It is somewhat curious that the initial stages of the project attracted attention in the facelift they afforded the waterfront of the city, the Marina. The natives call that part of Lagos, â€œEhinâ€™gbetiâ€™, and follow it up with the popular saw, â€œBâ€™oju o ba ti Ehinâ€™gbeti, oju o ni tâ€™Ekoâ€.
(If â€œEhingbeti is not in shame, Lagos will never be ashamed.) I wonder if it was in keeping with the spirit of that old saying that the Marina seemed to have been the starting point of the State Capitalâ€™s return to glory.
But there have been achievements in almost every sphere of life in the State. The Civil Service has picked up a new lease of regard from the citizens in the course of performing its duties.
The officials seem to be more aware that theirs is indeed a â€œserviceâ€, even if that is taking it by and large. This has to be stated as the underlying force in the execution of several projects within the past two years within the State.
The Governor moves others by sheer personal dynamism. He has set a record of attendance at both official and social occasions. He remains professionally of consequence as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, visible on the intellectual terrain through the series of discourse on his website.
His contemporaries in the other states pay him the high compliment of emulation, and publicly commend his efforts. In fact, last year, he won the Best Governor of the Year organized by the National Leadership Award, and the newspapers are full of the acclaim of the populace from all parts of the Federation, and from different levels, high and low. Here is a sample of these unsolicited praises:
# Fashola diagnoses the problems and goes at it like a skilled mechanic. He wants to know what will work, and what will not work. He is transforming Lagos State ruthlessly because he is not a politician. (Professor Wole Soyinka}
#There is hope in our future. Kudos and commendation to Governor Raji Fashola for his untiring efforts to truly make Lagos a centre of aquatic splendour.
(Pastor Tunde Bakare) #Before assuming office in May 2007, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State had actually prepared himself for his new role. For this he can only achieve success. Whoever has Chief Obafemi Awolowo as his role model, and plays the role accordingly, can hardly fail. (Betty Agbi, Benin City.)
# With due respect to governors of other states, I suggest they take a cue from what Raji Fashola is doing in Lagos, and replicate it in their different domains. (Sule Mukthar, Kaduna.)
#Governor Babatunde Fashola is a man of his words. He keeps notes of every promise he makes in what he refers to as his Black Book. Is it therefore a surprise that he is such a distinguished performer, a man of focus, vision, development and achievement? (Seun Ayodele, Ekiti.)
#One would not be wrong to say that Governor Fashola is the Barak Obama of Nigeria. This is because, in less than two years, he has given us reasons to hope for a better tomorrow. This is what past leaders of the State refused to do. (Emeka Okafor, Enugu.)
#It will be extremely difficult for PDP to get Lagos back from the ruling Action Congress (AC) in 2011, as a result of the development policies of the present administration led by Mr. Babatunde Fashola. He has done a lot of things that he does not really need to campaign. (Senator Bode Olajumoke)
I have to confess that those comments were not all picked at random, though the over-all idea was to project the multi-faceted perception of approval based on that singular theme of excellence.
But when you juxtapose the opinion of Professor Wole Soyinka that Governor Fashola is not a politician, with that of Senator Bode Olajumoke that the Governor hardly needs any campaign to retain his seat in Lagos State, you might appreciate this comment of Biodun Adebogun from Ibadan:
#Fashola is an enigma…He is a good example of what a leader should be.â€
Mr. Adebogun perhaps would be just as close to the truth if, for â€œleaderâ€, he had substituted the word, â€œpoliticianâ€. I believe that in all, Governor Fashola is making a statement about the fact that those two positions are not mutually exclusive. I wish him a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
â€œThe passing year had its toll of unrest not only on the political scene, but also in our citadels of learning. It is needless to say anything about the fuel supply problem, which is yet to reveal any clear state of affairs through no less than three years of fears and anxieties.
And that has become inextricably linked with the mind-boggling situation of the power supply that is gradually strangulating sections of the cottage industry elements all over the country.
One should stop there because some problems that were once separate, and which individually offered themselves to efforts of solution, have now developed interlocking tentacles through sheer neglect, and transformed themselves into one massive predicament.
The problem of our universities, however, seems to be relatively disentangled from any other – so far. So let us stay with that.
All the same, when last visited, if you remember, the logjam over the fuel situation was unraveled by the labour movement under the leadership of Adams Oshiomhole.
We had a number of horrible spells at waiting for endless hours at patrol stations, but there was a purposeful thrust in the demands of the NLC, and the powers-that-be had to come to terms with the persuasive strength of â€œdialogue.â€ Mr Oshiomhole has since then moved on to higher responsibilities as the Governor of Edo State.
But that move has only proved that his right hand had not lost its cunning. It was through his efforts that another long spell of the closure of universities was averted this past year.
We may have referred here to this yeomanâ€™s feat a while back, but it would in no way suffer from a due repetition at this time. It was an achievement beyond the call of duly, and one that is not a run-of-the-mill contribution from our leaders. For
Governor Oshiomhole had indeed performed meritoriously in the office to which he was elected, and had already earned himself a lot of credit in the estimate of his peers.
He had also captured the imagination of his followers by the dispatch with which he accomplished the introduction of innovative measures in statecraft. That was glory enough to rest on.
However, the former labour leader permitted himself a short but productive diversion to his old terrain. He undertook a nationalistic excursion, though sure of his skills, but at the risk of his reputation all the same. This, unfortunately, is a country where we easily forget such sterling marks of patriotic service. As the year runs to an end, we hope the memory of this exploit lives on.
We wish the Edo State Governor a Merry Christmas and a successful New Year.
I hope to see all of you on this page again next year. Reluctantly, I must answer the call of my graying hairs. I do need a bit of rest. I thank all of you who have communicated with me -especially those who specified that their observations were not necessarily meant for publication. I know I did publish one or two, all the same, purely for the sake of public interest.
I would wish you to know, by the way, that the fact of the two State Governors featured today as an end-piece to the year, belonging to the same political party,
The Action Congress, is purely coincidental. As Professor Wole Soyinka would have us believe of Governor Babatunde Fashola, I also am not a politician. And if you listen to the good, old â€œprof long enough, he might even convince you of the same about himself.
This has been a very kind year for me. I hope it was for you too. And I wish, with all my heart, that 2010 will bring you all the joys your heart desires. Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year.