By Tonnie Iredia
Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former Lagos state governor and now national leader of the All Progressive Congress APC stands tall among Nigerian leaders who have the ability to identify talents and deploy them appropriately while leaving them with ample discretion to achieve a lot. He, it was, who gave to Lagos state, wonderful governors, Babatunde Raji Fashola and Akinwunmi Ambode.
It can thus be argued that Tinubu has turned Lagos into a moving train that no one, including himself, can stop anymore. Should other Nigerian leaders put pettiness behind and pick the best hands for the job, development would come to many areas of the country. Today, this column takes a look at the posture of one of the train drivers, Raji Fashola, a Lagos boy whose capacity for unending excellent service is worth projecting for public enlightenment.
One of the things I often recall about Fashola concerns his reaction to my fierce criticism of his deportation from Lagos in 2013 of some fellow Nigerians to their states of origin. Many other critics were similarly angry with the governor on the subject but he surprised us all when he swiftly reversed the policy with a public apology. Indeed, as Governor of Lagos state, he impacted much on people such that a few of his political party members who had toyed with the idea of obstructing his reelection easily gave up the thought leaving him to spend his constitutionally allowed 8-year rule.
Thereafter, the prospect of his moving into a higher level as Minister was fiercely opposed. It looked like an insider media fight following the appearance on the state government’s website of allegations that Fashola had spent N78.3m on his personal website; and incredible sums to construct two boreholes at the Lagos House. When asked to comment on the development, Fashola made a poetic declaration that “when you wrestle with a pig, the pig gets happy and you get dirty. 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.”
In earnest, Fashola has moved on. He did not only become a Minister but one with 3 heavy portfolios of ‘Power, Works and Housing.’ As one of Nigeria’ few leaders whose eyes are on the verdict of history, Fashola has been busy here and there, making great strides and leaving his name in gold. This month alone, the Minister was personally at project sites in several states in his bid to develop the nation. On May 08, he was in Kebbi, where Governor, Atiku Bagudu, confirmed that “most of the local governments in his State are getting 18 to 20 hours of power supply, from Kaduna DisCo.” A week later the Minister was in Yola, Adamawa state to boost the morale of his operatives with what he called the road map for incremental power. On the occasion, he officially announced the completion of Azura Power Plant.
Four days later, that is, May 19, Fashola was in Anambra state to verify the workability of a funding mechanism evolved by the Federal Government to fund infrastructure projects that would make the country globally competitive. Speaking to stakeholders in the state, the Minister argued that because of the mechanism known as the modified tax credit policy, the Sukuk Intervention Fund and the Presidential Infrastructural Fund, nothing would stop the completion of the second Niger Bridge. His visit was in fulfilment of the one he made to Governor Willie Obiano in February last year that he would constantly inspect the project until its completion. Two days later, Fashola left Anambra and headed for Lagos to flag off the rehabilitation of the Ikorodu-Sagamu Road to boost agriculture and the state’s economy. While there, he got the assurance of the people that they would support the project notwithstanding the inconveniences they would undergo during its execution.
What makes Fashola’s performance worthy of note is that he is one of the exceedingly few office holders of our nation that do not sacrifice development for politics. This same month when he was busy at his duty posts and projects, many of his colleagues were busy sponsoring parallel party congresses in several states and over-heating the polity. To mention but a few, there were parallel congresses in Ebonyi state, featuring Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, Minister of Science and Technology and his group versus the one led by Senator Julius Uchar.
In Oyo state, Minster of Communication, Adebayo Shittu held one different from that of Governor Abiola Ajimobi. In Rivers state, Rotimi Amaechi Minister of Transportation had one different from the group led by Senator Magnus Abe. In Enugu state, the group to which Foreign Affairs Minister, Godfrey Onyeama belongs organized one different from that of the group led by Group Capt Joe Oji former Military Governor of Gombe state. In Kwara state, Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture and his group operated differently from the group loyal to Dr Bukola Saraki, Senate President. In Cross River state, it was a battle between the group of the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Uguru Usani and the National Vice Chairman, South, Ntufam Hilliard Eta.
Those of them who abandoned their offices to get involved in the intrigues of parallel congresses at the expense of governance betrayed the confidence of the nation. Of course some of them who are clearly political neophytes in their localities only wanted to show to their national leaders that they are heavyweights at home spending more time than makes sense identifying enemies of the president/governor whom they have to fight against to prove their own loyalty to their principals. In the process, politics is all that is happening in our clime, no development.
In fact, when candidates get voted into office, they spend all the period meant for societal development plotting for reelection; and when they are in their last allowable term, they start to plot the emergence of their anointed successors. Here, we have two pleas; the first one is for our president to have more faith in those who perform effectively in office instead of loafers who wear loyalty badges. The second is for the media to stop purchased awards to full time politicians; they should rather publicize the Fasholas who draw a line by seeing political office as service. This would help many more people to join the league of patriots committed to national development.