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Man of the year Babatunde Fashola

By Jide Ajani
In history, onething has always led to the other.
Profound political voyages are replete with astounding tales of incredulity, raw power-play, a spice of con, and ultimately, the emergence of a mortal who carves a niche for himself and leaves in his wake a judgment of history, perpetually resonating.

For Babatunde Raji Fashola to become governor of Lagos State, it was a mix of raw, bare-faced political bravado and brute, executed by Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the immediate past governor of the state.
And so, Governor Fashola of Lagos State is Vanguard’s Man of The Year.

Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola
Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola

President Umar Musa Yar’Adua was the First Runner-up while, Ifueko Omoigui Okauru, of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, is the Second Runner-up.

The irony is that Fashola could not have become Vanguard’s Man of The Year if Tinubu had not done the magic of making him the governorship candidate of Action Congress, AC.

Indeed the success story that he has become as the Lagos State governor would have evaporated into then air.

If you reside in Lagos, you may not need to ask what Fashola has done to earn Man of The Year, but for the ordinary Nigerian not domiciled in Lagos, you only need to visit some parts of the financial capital of Nigeria today to catch a glimpse of the huge and massive transformations of Lagos..

Oshodi, once a notorious area, heavily under the control of street urchins, popularly called area boys, now wears the look of sanity; Okokomaiko, Iyana_Ipaja, Surulere, some parts of Alimosho Local Government Area, are already wearing attractive looks never imagined it would be possible.  Then you have the mega city project that has turned some parts of and is turning other parts of Lagos Island, Victoria Island, Ikoyi and Lekki Peninsula, around.

But Fashola’s success is not just about infrastructure.

He has brought a new thinking and attitude into the governance of Lagos State which would become the third most populous mega city in just about a decade from now. He says what he means and means what he says, refusing to be dragged into the politics of double-speak, commonly associated with Nigerian politicians.

Turning to taxation as a means of raising money for development, Fashola once told a team of Vanguard editors at an exclusive interview that his belief in the deployment of funds generated from taxes in the development of the state, though a somewhat new phenomenon, would succeed because “our responsibility as people entrusted with office is to lead people to a place where we are convinced within our knowledge that is beneficial to them and it will also be beneficial to the common cause.”

Fashola’s mien is a cross between a smile and a grin.  And that is actually what he represents.  At informal sessions, Babatunde Raji Fashola is an unmistakably playful, even considered very free and jovial.  But shift the focus to a formal session, and you’re confronted with a near-fanatical stickler for time, precision, accuracy, appropriateness and what ever makes for a thorough job.  That was his trademark as Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Chief of Staff.

Today, as Lagos State governor, Fashola has raised the stakes.

If staff in the Lagos State Governor’s Office thought Fashola was a workaholic during Tinubu’s tenure, they now have an even sterner overseer in the incumbent.

Fashola insists Lagosians have to bear with his administration in the face of what today looks like excruciating pains of a re-development scheme, maintaining that at the end of the day, Lagos would become a wonderful city, and for Lagosians a much happier people.

His passion is self-evident, the commitment, unrivaled.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Fashola believes in true federalism and due process.  He has had officials of state prosecuted for sundry corrupt practices and continues to insist that his administration has a zero-tolerance for corruption.

But there is a snag to all this!  There are those who insist that Tinubu’s presence around him is big distraction.  Asked in 2008 after a year in office about his predecessor’s alleged overbearing presence on the affairs of state, Fashola said:

“Yes, we go out together some times and we will go out together again.  We will continue to go out together.  People will still see us together (laughs)”

With stories of a cracks in the relationship between both men, and a state assembly baying for his blood, that statement may have become anachronistic, and a blight on a relationship thought to be good.

On the whole, Fashoila has brought a new thinking to governance, a template of which could actually be beneficial to the generality of Nigerians as a whole.  He can not salvage Lagos in one day but he has commenced the Herculean task.


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