Fashola: How The Rejected Stone Became The Cornerstone

image“This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.” Perhaps this biblical verse from the New Testament, offers an apt summation of the circumstances culminating in the nomination and subsequent swearing in of the former Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola as a minister.

Infighting: The genesis

Recall, the former governor once canonized as the poster boy of good governance – by his immediate folk in the political arena, was vilified, objected and persecuted – by members of his political kindred, in the wake of an apparent falling-out between he (Fashola) and his ‘godfather’ and predecessor, Sen. Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

The once cordial relationship between both men, according to political pundits, hit the brick wall due to political differences, vested interests and the rights to choose Fashola’s successor. While Fashola preferred another candidate to serve as his successor, the ‘godfather’ anointed incumbent governor: Akinwunmi Ambode – against Fashola’s wish.

Though Tinubu has debunked rumors of a rift between him and his ‘godson’, the simmering cold war provoked a barrage of defamatory articles against Fashola.

Besides making unsubstantiated claims bordering on financial impropriety, the timing of their ill publications was carefully crafted to give impetus to a more sinister motive. As the media splurged on the defaming articles, the originators intended to undermine Fashola’s chances of being penciled down on Buhari’s now famous September Ministerial List. In a bid to achieve their myopic objectives, they chose to fight dirty.

Perhaps in their flights of fancy, the rabble-rousers had delusionally envisaged a situation where the immediate past governor would fade into obscurity and be rendered hamstrung in the political firmament. For them, resorting to wholesale calumny was the last throw of the dice in their futile attempt.

Reading between the lines, Fashola in his now famed rebuttal addressed the issues. He also made it implicitly clear to his detractors, he was aware; he was being targeted in a maleficent orchestration to dent his chances of being nominated for ministerial appointment.

Therein, he responded thus: “I cannot conclude without responding to the crusade of CACOL [Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders] and their ilk seeking my prosecution on allegations that have no proof and writing preemptive letters to the Presidency.” He added: “In case they are unaware, I am not looking for a job.”

At this juncture, permit me to say, ‘sorry Mr. Fashola!’ Why? Well, the reason is pretty obvious isn’t it? Fashola now has his work cut out for him.

Two feathers in Fashola’s cap

As was the case, when he appeared before the Senate at ministerial screening, wherein, he left the audience spellbound, while defining his concept of loyalty, Fashola, yet again stole the show at the swearing in ceremony of the new cabinet.

Yes! He brought his talismanic effect to bear once more – receiving the explicit mandate to superintend over the affairs of two key ministries – the Ministry of Power and the Ministry of Works and Housing.

After a phenomenal reign as Governor of Lagos State, this feat no doubt sets him on the pantheon of Nigeria’s greatest administrators – much to the utter disappointment of the provocateurs – and their paymasters. The onerous task placed on Fashola to salvage both ministries, by President Muhammadu Buhari, underscores the president’s distinct recognition of the ethos that give vigor to the ‘Fashola Brand’ – hard work, dedication, forthrightness and vision.

Make no mistake, the long winding road ahead is fraught with challenges, but with Fashola on the driver’s seat, with regards to the state of affairs of both ministries, Nigerians can be assured of Fashola’s uncanny ability to deliver on expectations. Remember! This was the dynamo who tamed Lagos.

Familiar terrain

Following Fashola’s swearing-in, there have been talks in some section of the media impugning the rationale behind the decision to set him in charge of the Ministries of Power, Works and Housing. As a lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, some observers have been quick to note that the Ministry of Justice would have been befitting – and fit like a square peg – in a square hole.

To other observers, the rationale behind this submission is unfounded. Eight years, in the saddle as governor of Nigeria’s most boisterous state – coupled with his ability to tame it, formulating and actualizing blueprints in different facets of human endeavour – they submit, is clear-cut evidence Fashola is quite familiar with his new terrain. They couldn’t have been more spot-on.

Fashola’s stride in the power sector

While serving as Lagos State Governor, Fashola, it would be recalled initiated and brought to fruition five Independent Power Projects (IPPs) across the state. They include: the Island Power project, Island Power Project Expansion, Akute Power Project, Alausa Power Project and the Mainland Power Project. These feats were accomplished during his tenure despite legal constraints which limits the ability of states to produce power for the citizenry. .

Island Power project

Located at Marina, the Island Power Project boasts a capacity of 10 Megawatts. Commencing operations in May, 2011, this project remains the fastest executed (9 months) and one of the most successful Independent Power Projects in Nigeria. The project is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) between LASG and Island Power Limited (IPL).

The project currently supplies power to General Hospital, Lagos (Including the Mortuary & Doctors quarters), Island Maternity Hospital, Lagos State Health Service Commission, High Court of Lagos State, High Court of Lagos State Annex, Igbosere Magistrate Court, Lagos House Marina, E-learning Centre, Lagos City Hall, Freedom Park and public lighting installations on 22 Streets within Lagos Island.

The project also includes an 18-km dedicated underground distribution network which guarantees power delivery to these public infrastructure targets all being powered using Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). The Island Power Project has drastically improved the reliability of power supply to the named facilities from 35% to 99.4% and provided constant street lighting and cost savings for the state.

Island Power Project Expansion II

Also situated in Marina, with a capacity of 10 Megawatts, this project provides 24 hours uninterrupted power supply to crucial Lagos State facilities within the health, education, security, water, waste management, science & technology, judicial, sport and transportation sectors on Lagos Island.

The project has extended the IPP distribution network from 18KM (Phase I) to 57KM. It has also increased the number of LASG facilities connected to the plant from 10 facilities to 38 facilities and public lighting network from 12.6KM to 70.7KM.

AKute Power Project

With a capacity of 12.15 Megawatts, the Akute Independent Power Project provides power for the Lagos Water Corporation (LWC) water works located in Akute. The project is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) between LASG and Akute Power Limited (APL). The Akute Intake facility is responsible for 80% of the water supply to Lagos.

The plant is currently operated on a 24-hour basis and enables the Lagos Water Corporation to pump over 130 million gallons of water daily. The plant also runs on environmentally friendly natural gas. This is delivered via a 13km pipeline from Gaslink Nigeria Limited’s existing gas distribution grid.

Alausa Power Project

Located at Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos State Capital, this project boasts a capacity of 10.4 Megawatts. Commencing operation in October, 2013, the Alausa Independent Power Project provides power for the Lagos State Government Secretariat and facilities within Alausa, Ikeja.

The project is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) between LASG and Alausa Power Limited. This project is the most significant power project LASG has undertaken in regards to improving the state government’s service delivery to the public that visit the seat of government.

Mainland Power Project

With a capacity of 8.8 Megawatts the Mainland Independent Power Project provides power for Lagos State Government (LASG) facilities within Old Secretariat, Ikeja GRA. The project is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) between LASG and Mainland Power Limited (IPL). This project will power Lagos State University Teaching hospital (LASUTH), High Courts, water works, Old Secretariat complex and over 20KM public lighting.

Though, they may seem as modest achievements, Fashola leaves Lagosians under no illusions to the fact that greater achievements in the power sector would have been recorded by his administration, but for laws which leaves state governments somewhat handicapped.

“If tomorrow, the National Assembly legislates that states should generate and distribute power, a state like Lagos will conveniently generate its own electricity and distribute same to its residents,” he once remarked.

Fahola’s strides in public works and housing

Fashola also boasts a stellar reputation in the area of public works and housing, evident in the long list of public works project – especially in housing, road design and construction These have earned him accolades and recognition – both locally and internationally.

Noteworthy, is his experience in bridging funding gaps and other challenges – through the formulation of innovative solutions. One of such novel schemes worthy of note is the Lagos Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme Lagos HOMS – which delivers befitting and affordable housing to Lagosians – via flexible mortgage options.

Fashola and the Biblical Joseph

No doubt the sordid intrigues that played out before Fashola’s appointment as minister – with an unprecedented two portfolios – does bear similarities with the story of the biblical Jospeh. Like Fashola, Joseph was betrayed by members of his kin. More so, just like Joseph was sold into slavery in a foreign land, Fashola was equally cast out, alienated and left to his own devices.

As opposed to dampening Joseph’s dream, the pernicious actions of his brothers, conversely served as a catalyst to accelerate the crystallization of his dreams. In the same vein, the actions of some members of Fashola’s immediate political kindred further paved the way for his reemergence as a political colossus.

While Joseph later found favour in the land of Egypt after initial turbulence, so did Fashola find exceeding favour and responsibility in the Federal Capital Territory – after the initial storm.

Just as Joseph’s brothers soon came to him, on their knees begging and in dire need for aid as the biblical story puts it, only time will tell, if members of Fashola’s kindred, who betrayed him initially – will later come, cap in hand seeking his favours for the common good of Lagos State – by virtue of the exalted positions he currently bestrides.

When this time comes, will Fashola embrace them and take them back into his fold like Joseph did? Time will tell. Nonetheless, regardless of how things turnout, it’s expressly clear Fashola had the last laugh in this tale.

*IK Briggs writes from Media Accents Nigeria

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