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Toying with Lagos

By Owei Lakemfa
IT is generally accepted  that Lagos State under Babatunde Raji Fashola is the best run government in the country.

Many in the period 1999 to 2003 agreed that the administration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu was  the best in the country. All these were of course within the context of the virtual absence of serious governance in the country.

Lagos is a complex mega city with lots of pressures due to the fact that daily, many pour into it in the hope of having a better life. The luck  of Lagos is that it has had some outstanding and visionary  leaders like Alhaji Lateef Jakande, Tinubu and Fashola.

They contributed in no small measure in not only ensuring its development despite opposition and lack of sympathy from most governments at the centre,  but also in  ensuring that the state remained progressive. In these administrations, the populace could feel the presence of government and governance.

Tinubu, almost like a religious obligation, tackled traffic problems in the state and built or  rebuilt some major roads like  the Yaba- Ojuelegba, Igando and Kudirat Abiola.

He had perhaps the best executive in the country which was achieved by appointing persons he felt were competent even if they were not ‘indigenous’ Lagosians. His first Chief of Staff who was the de facto Deputy Governor, Lai Mohammed was from Kwara State,  his quite industrious  Works Commissioner, Rauf Aregbesola is from Osun State, Information and Strategy Commissioner, Dele Alake is an Ekiti, that of  Environment, Tunji Bello is from Ogun State and Mr. Akabueze who was in charge of Budget And Planning, an Igbo.

I do not recall any region or state with such a mix. Yet, this is modern day Nigeria where ethnicity and religious divide have been elevated to State policy.

Part of the luck we had as a country was the Tinubu administration standing up to the dictatorial Olusegun Obasanjo presidency when the latter threatened to impose a state of emergency on Lagos state over civil disturbances especially in the Ketu/ Mile 12 area.

In subsequent years, this abuse of Federal might was displayed in Plateau State, and in the orchestrated sack of the governors of  Oyo, Plateau and Bayelsa states.

In the campaigns leading to the 2007 elections, few had heard of the name Fashola and fewer still thought he could win the gubernatorial elections or be a good governor.

But Tinubu who had faith in him, insisted that this new man to top level politics, was the right choice to be made. He  turned out to  be correct.  The team work in Lagos seemed to be a beautiful one; while Tinubu ran the party and the grassroots, Fashola concerned himself with governance and delivering the dividends of democracy to the electorate.

I do not know when differences began to surface, but like such disagreements, they began as rumours including the shocking one that there were steps to impeach Fashola.

My first reaction was that there are fifth columnists at work; no matter how smooth a transition is, such as that from Tinubu to Fashola, there are bound to be persons  who lose power or are no longer in a position to feather their nests. Such people are likely to carry rumours or feed the rumour mills. All persons of means or in a position to dispense favours are vulnerable to these fifth columnists.

Of course, there are  those in various power centres who want to undo the progressive work in the state.

Hawks are abound especially from the backward sections of the opposition and the ruling party at the centre who can’t wait to seize Lagos. What these call for is eternal vigilance.

It is not impossible for Fashola to have rubbed Tinubu on the wrong side, but what Tinubu should do is absolve this as much as possible and regard Fashola as a younger brother who can go wrong or be in the wrong. He should play the role of an elder brother.

It is clear to me that in the event of a clash, both sides will be adversely affected and Lagos as the centre of  pro democracy in the country and the impregnable fortress of progressive politics may take a whipping.

I do not see an easy victory for either side; yes, Tinubu controls the party machinery, the grassroots and has strong backers but Fashola has State power and has come to have a high level of acceptance amongst Lagosians.

In any case, if Tinubu succeeds in stopping Fashola from getting a second term, how is he sure that the next governor he backs will be as loyal, hard working and dedicated as Fashola? Why open Lagos to its enemies?

There is an urgent need for people of good will to intervene and ensure that the winning team of Tinubu-Fashola  is not  fractured.

It will be in the interest of progressive forces if Tinubu whom I know can be adamant, listens to such voices.
I have had no personal relationship with Fashola, but I have with Tinubu.

He knows I do not belong to any political party, do not chase contracts nor seek personal favours, so I have no ulterior motives.

Given these, I am quite comfortable appealing to him and his supporters, some of whom I know at personal levels, to do everything in their power  to apply the breaks. Eko O gbodo Ba JE O!


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