By Ochereome Nnanna
YOU can call former Governor of Lagos State and now Super-Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) any other thing, but you cannot call him “dumb”. That he ain’t. Who else except Fashola and his cerebral and eloquent cohorts could go before brand new Eighth Senate which was still looking to convince Nigerians that they were serious with their business, and deliver that memorable “may your loyalty never be tested” speech while undergoing screening for appointment as minister?
May your loyalty not be tested? That’s an odd philosophy. I thought it should be: “may your loyalty be tested”. It is only then that we, your watchers, can say if you are loyal. Fashola was telling those who accused him of disloyalty to his estranged political godfather, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) that they should wait until their own loyalty is put to the test. Fashola’s oratory was so entrapping (he actually seemed like a Mr. President addressing the Senate) that, despite technically admitting he failed the loyalty test “with reason” he was given express confirmation after only being delayed so that the Senators could have more of his mesmerising sophistry.
Penultimate Monday, I wrote an article on this forum entitled: “Is Fashola representing Lagos?” It was my own reaction to his apparent cold shoulder to the development of his home state which he governed with some measure of success for eight years. His successor, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, had openly complained that Fashola was “frustrating” his efforts to give several Federal projects in the state, especially the Oshodi –Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Road, a massive facelift. Fashola had issued a statement exonerating himself, saying Ambode’s requests were still undergoing “due processes”.
Hmm. Twenty two months have already passed out of the 48-month mandate Nigerians gave the All Progressives Congress, APC, to demonstrate what they meant by “change”. The APC was born in Lagos, and its former presidential flag-bearer, General (now President) Muhammadu Buhari, was adopted, bathed, dressed up, promoted and co-sponsored by Lagos to enable him finally break the four-run barrier to enter the Presidency. I thought the perfect stage was set for Lagos to work in synergy with Abuja to get its fair share of the Federal booty for its development, especially with Fashola as the holder of the plum infrastructure portfolios of the regime.
We have seen almost two years of nothing from Abuja, except the snail-paced continuation of the Lagos-Ibadan Express which was started by President Goodluck Jonathan. Should Buhari take it into his head to listen to Fashola’s traducers and reshuffle the cabinet, sending him to, say Labour and Employment, what will he tell his people he did with the golden opportunity he was given? Fashola would surely go into his grave with that burden. Unlike the Metroline project which Buhari as military Head of State infamously blocked without bothering to explain why, Lagosians will remember that Buhari gave their son the most prized ministerial posting which no Northerner (even in this reign of shameless nepotism) ever got and he simply sat on it.
Well, Fashola has put on the proverbial “thinking cap”. Talking of thinking caps, I was once told that the Chief Obafemi Awolowo round skullcap was “the thinking cap”. But I have seen so many sophisticated moronic politicians wearing this cap, perhaps to portray themselves as visionary as the Awo legend purports. The hood never makes the monk. I don’t think the “thinking cap” is really a cap because Fashola was not wearing one when he performed the smart, ice-breaking caper: paying Governor Ambode a surprise visit.
You know Ambode and Fashola have been fighting dirty. It all started when Fashola wanted to produce his own successor in the person of Olasupo Shasore. But during the APC governorship primaries in 2014, Shasore was roundly dusted by Ambode, the official candidate of Asiwaju BAT. Ambode went on to win the governorship election, and Fashola, having fallen into the good graces of victorious Buhari, became his touchstone infrastructure minister (though many Nigerians say Fashola has not exactly walked his bragging talk in any of the three sectors at his command).
When Ambode assumed power in Lagos, he did not forget Fashola’s disavowal of his candidacy and demonstration of questionable loyalty to the great BAT, so he played some bad cards during Fashola’s quest for ministerial confirmation by allowing alleged “corrupt” deals under his predecessor to pop into the social media. Blowing the whistle on Fashola was probably a continuation of the battle of wits. Fashola knows he cannot win because Ambode is putting himself across as a leader eager to serve but being stonewalled.
I (like most Lagos residents) hope the petty jousting is over between these two, now that Fashola has extended his hand of fellowship. We want it to be followed by concrete action. I want to see the Airport Road reconstruction started soonest. I want to see the completion of the Oworonshoki-Oshodi-Apapa Express, which the past administration had done more than halfway, completed. I want to see the Federal Government taking up its responsibilities to the former Federal Capital which is now the economic capital and national Big Apple, and Fashola is the man who should drive it. And I want Abuja to pay Lagos back the money spent looking after Federal facilities.
I want Abuja and Lagos to come together and give Lagos its due. Right now, Abuja merely exploits Lagos, freeloading on its ports and its vast Value-Added Tax (VAT) and corporate tax resources to share among the 36 states and the FCT. Lagos has been rendered into a cash-cow that is milked and abandoned to the care of the Lagos State Government alone. It has been like that since the seat of government moved to Abuja.
It must stop now. All eyes are on Fashola to make the difference. When the Prodigal Son returns, there is rejoicing in the family. There is great feasting and merriment. Let it start.