Cheerio Fashola, Welcome Ambode By Lateef Raji
Babatunde Raji Fashola, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, a descendant of Bello Fashola of Isale Gangan, who picked the gauntlet to lead in the pursuance of sound democratic governance for the good people of Lagos State on May 29 2007 will be bidding Alausa, Lagos State’s power hub bye on May 29 2015.
How time flies! An eight year of astonishing and meritorious service to Lagosians in the Centre of Excellence has come to a glorious conclusion. Its needless asking a mimosa how it closes its laps; the unquestionable God cannot be questioned.
Courteous, suave, prudent, focused and attentive, it’s no gainsaying that Fashola is a brilliant manager of men and resources who successfully managed Lagos State and cemented its financial independence. He refrained from governing his people with any form of abandonment. He is lowly at heart and in principle.
On reflection, my first encounter with Fashola in 2005 wasn’t a quite a pleasant one. As the State Secretary of Alliance for Democracy (AD) in Lagos, a colleague requested that I accompany him to Fashola’s office to secure an order to supply Ileya Rams. The then Chief of Staff to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu declined, and was blunt in his refusal. According to him, the contractors list was exhausted. Not pleased with what sounded like a casual dismissal, I pushed further stating that the man in question was an executive officer in the state a strong member of our party in his Local Government but Fashola, stricto senso maintained his ground.
Our second encounter was equally no so much different. Sometime in June, 2006, Members of the State Executive Committee of our party were to have a meeting at the instance of the Governor, on getting to the Round House at the appointed time, the governor was away on a more crucial assignment and the Chief of Staff held brief for him. Yes, he received us cordially and delivered his Oga’s message in his most characteristic officious and efficient manner. He however mentioned nothing about the logistics of the parley despite the fact that some of our members journeyed into Ikeja from as far as Badagry and Epe. It took some persuasions and convincing to get him to provide the necessary logistics. He affirmed that he did not have such instructions. I didn’t like it one bit as the facilitator for the visit. That was putting me on a spot among my colleagues.
However, as the battle to succeed Tinubu gathered momentum in 2006, I got a shocker from my leader. Cardinal James Odumbaku, Alhaji Ganiyu Badmus, Fouad Oki, Abdullahi Enilolobo, Wasiu Moshood, Alhaji Eyinfunjowo, myself and others were in Abuja for the First National Convention of the now defunct Action Congress which was formed in order not to be caught in the web of the fractionalization of AD.
Engr. Rauf Aregbesola, the incumbent Governor of State of stormed our hotel room and announced that Babatunde Raji Fashola the man for Lagos in 2007! We all marvelled, and as a loyal party men and devoted supporters of Tinubu, our national leader, we were bound to accept and give life to the decision knowing his capacity to discover and nurture talents.
The eight years of BRF in Lagos strongly lends credence to this fact, as Nigerians will soon discover with the ascension of Asiwaju’s brand of ideas-driven progressive politics on the national stage.
Accordingly, from that moment, we swung into action. Our platform-The Mandate Group was instructed to swing into action, and we willingly obliged. Right from the convention ground, the information had caught on that Fashola was the man to fly. In fact, a serving Permanent Secretary who was also a governorship aspirant came to wag a threatening finger at Fashola where we were seated, but Fashola, the gentleman, kept his cool.
He eventually emerged convincingly at party’s primaries held at the Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja. Some of his opponents were aggrieved and sought other platforms to pursue their aspirations. Jimi Agbaje picked the ticket of Democratic People’s Alliance. Femi Pedro sought accommodation in Labour Party; Akeem Gbajabiamila made do with what remained of the Alliance for Democracy. Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi considered the option All Nigeria People’s Party but upon persuasions, he found his way back to the fold and even served as the party’s State Returning officer for Fashola’s elections.
On April 14 2007, the ‘do or die’ rigging machinery of the then Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo and his party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) that had hijacked the mandates of the people across the nation of Nigeria could not fly in Lagos. Lagosians trooped out to vote and defended their votes. Despite the resort of his main opponent, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro to violence, easy-going Babatunde Fashola was handed a four year mandate by the people to administer Lagos State.
The landslide he returned in 2011 is more than enough to underscore the value he delivered to Lagosians. He knocked his main challenger, Adegboyega Dosunmu of the PDP with the widest margin ever.
When Fashola was presented to us in 2006, little did I know I was meeting a man who will make so much difference in this generation. A man of positive ideas. Today, I can confidently proclaim that Fashola is leaving Lagos a lot better than he met it. He has given Lagos a lift in virtually all sectors.
Today, marvellous parks have emerged from the slums and confusion of Oshodi, Ojota and a number of such locations across the state. Transformation from dens of criminals to tourist centers of choice.
He will for long be remembered for the first class Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge, the Cardiac and Renal Centre in Gbagada is also a lifetime legacy. Today, the number of Nigerians travelling to India for renal and cardiac attention is reduced considerably courtesy of the hospital. The eight Maternal and Child Care Hospitals sited across the state are life changing innovations.
The Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) continues to expand and evolve as a true world-class teaching hospital. He will be leaving behind 16 skilled acquisition centres, and five functional Technical Colleges in Lagos. In his time, the annual Lagos Carnival assumed international status.
As a part of the creative measures to reduce traffic gridlock in Lagos, the Lagos Traffic Radio came on air. Today, the station has become a favorite day planner for Lagosians. Lagos State University, (LASU) Ojo is getting adequate attention as one of the best state university in Nigeria.
Furthermore, through public-private partnership, projects such as the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Eko Atlantic City, Lekki Free Zone, etc. are delivering efficient for the benefit of the people.
Presently, massive work is ongoing Adiyan Phase II Waterworks to supply water to Badagry, Ojo and Ijanikin axis is ongoing. The Mile 12-Ikorodu road is almost completed. The light rail aimed at widening the Lagos traffic nodal and give the people other alternatives is steadily on course.
That BRF has accomplished so much should not surprise even a cursory observer. He is a man of purposeful and these are the type of people you can find around Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Governor Emeritus of Lagos. He confidently enlisted his successor from the pool of talents available from the Nigerian private sector.
The society is not static and in essence no one government can do it all, it’s surely the end of an era when Tunde Fashola bows out on the morning of Friday May 29 2015, his experience will however be valuable in the coming days.
To continue to enjoy the support and confidence of the good people of Lagos, Asiwaju has decided to vary and flavour the greater Lagos agenda by recommending another seasoned technocrat, this time from the public sector to receive baton of leadership from the out-going Governor.
Akinwunmi Ambode is not new to Lagos; he was there when the going was tough, when the foundation of today’s Lagos was incubated. His profound experience will surely count and serve him in good stead. Without doubt, greater days are yet ahead.
Cheerio, Babatunde Raji Fashola, my boss and friend; welcome Akinwumi Ambode, my comrade in the struggle for a better Lagos.
Lateef Raji is the Special Adviser on Information and Strategy to Lagos State Government.