As he counts down to May 29, the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, will be quitting not just as a resourceful captain of the All Progressives Congress but more profoundly, a star of his generation. Olawale Olaleye writes
One of his most fancied code names is “The Captain”. This is on account of his standing as the most senior of the All Progressives Congress (APC) governors, especially in the South-west region of the country. Although a few of his colleagues from other political parties would later pitch tent with their counterparts in that region, it hasn’t changed the status of the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Akanni Raji Fashola as their captain.
Much more dramatic about this title for Fashola is that as an adept footballer, acclaimed even amongst the practicing professionals, he is able to relate well with the captain status and understands quite intelligibly, what is expected of a captain in a team.
With both the intellectual and administrative gravitas needed to keep a cracking team going even where the climate appears inauspicious, Fashola has delivered an impressive leadership within a resounding eight years in office, with the kind of drive and passion that is almost unprecedented in the state’s contemporary history.
From the office of the Chief of Staff to the Governor to the office of the Governor, Fashola compels a reveling story of nowhere to somewhere, although not in literal connotation but significantly in what leadership ought to be.
For a man who had no clue he would be governor let alone any articulated vision of what he would do in office, Fashola has just cancelled out the pretext of the indolent and their sluggard likes that nothing is really and truly esoteric about governance, especially in the delivery of the basic needs of the people much less the ingenious slant to leadership.
Way off the inanity and crass nescience often associated with leadership in this part of the world, Fashola’s Lagos cuts a distinct demarcation from the Lagos many used to know in the era preceding his first coming. Urbane and cosmopolitan, Fashola boats an enviably rich knowledge in good governance as evident in his performance sheet, eight years after.
Whether in terms of style, a good grasp of issues or ability to provide leadership in crisis period, Fashola is miles ahead of his peers. He is no clown in office and sees governance in such serious mode that elicits admiration even amongst his ardent critics much less his own people. He is a quintessential post-modernist administrator.
Talk about articulation and presentation of policies, vision and mission as well as execution (enforcement is probably apt) – Fashola has always set the pace. An avid reader of books, Fashola before office and as governor has not had cause to attend leadership classes or training, yet, he gives talks on leadership in great institutions of the world.
Particularly instructive in the story of his rise to stardom is that as a matter of personal conviction, Fashola does not place undue emphasis on degrees at the risk of competence and capacity, having narrowly escaped being sent on automobile vocational training school, when his performance back in formal school was off-putting for his late father, Alhaji Ibrahim Ademola Fashola.
He had always known what he wanted for himself and today, he speaks on the world stage with mesmerizing facts and figures that the dons of these great institutions of the world listen and watch with awesome wonder.
This captain knows his onions and what more – he knows something about everything and everything about something. He cherishes knowledge as well as those who seek it and has over the years put in so much into personal development that formal institutions could not have churned out. The degree of such personal development is today an evident manifestation of his success story.
By May 30, Fashola would have left behind a huge challenge for his successor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, certainly. Indeed, he hasn’t made governance as well as leadership any easier for whoever is taking over from him, regardless of the misgivings anyone may nurse. He has set a benchmark for governance, upped the ante of leadership and challenged creativity as much as productive thinking in government.
Lagos, of course, was neither void nor without form when Fashola assumed leadership, that he has helped to give a very defining shape to the artery of the state’s socio-economic anatomy is equally not debatable. And so, with such conscious and clinically orchestrated redirection of the Lagos anatomy, even the most cynical of his critics already see a new and promising Lagos many years into the future.
Perhaps, his critics may have reservation about his somewhat iron-fist style – certainly – they don’t view his delivery with cynicism. Facts, as it were, don’t lie. As such, BRF, as he is fondly referred to, will always ride even roughshod on the crest and credibility of his scorecard.
For the purposes of an intelligent discourse, you may come along on a recap trip to the BRF eight years journey. When Fashola took over in 2007, he was the only progressive governor, taking over from Bola Tinubu, who had sustained a cracking opposition politics in the face of a menacing federal government. For many, however, the choice of Fashola was a huge gamble for Tinubu, knowing full well what was on the card.
That Tinubu himself was able to survive the onslaught, especially in the twilight of his era, was basically because he was a shrewd politician. To, therefore, bring as successor a non-politician was interpreted in political parlance as a greedy gamble that could boomerang. But Fashola turned out a good one.
With great circumspection and well thought-out approach to governance, Fashola soon start to change the face of Lagos. He did such wonder that world leaders like David Cameron of the Great Britain acknowledged the fact that a certain Fashola held forte in the state of Lagos.
This, to a reasonable extent, presented Fashola in a different light especially as one leader who sold the state and the country in a very positive light to the world as he held lectures across prominent organisations and institutions of the world – from the United Nations to the International Bar Conference.
This naturally set the pace for others to emulate his progressive approach to governance. As governor, Fashola leads by example. Calm and level-headed, he goes about the streets of Lagos without siren. Even while in traffic, he observes traffic regulations and would not trample on his own laws.
In changing the face of Lagos, his clearing of the one-time notorious Oshodi and resigning the reign of humongous refuse sight to the trash can of history showed the presence of governance and effective enforcement in a difficult terrain like Oshodi.
Soon, given the tide of developments, Fashola was blessed with other siblings from Edo, Ekiti and Osun falling in the kitty of the progressives. It was no surprise therefore that Lagos would return him in 2011 from the 800,000 votes of the previous election year to 1.5million votes.
Although naturally enamoured, Fashola isn’t an award freak. That he turned down the national honours of President Goodluck Jonathan wasn’t meant to score some tawdry political points, it was more because he could not defend it on the grounds of what is on the card.
Suffice it to say that the success of the merger of the opposition parties into the APC owes largely to Fashola’s performance in Lagos. The five Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors fell in line because they saw a lot in him and his vision as a person, in addition to other extant factors compelled by the party’s ideological leaning.
Fashola, it was, who translated progressive politics into progressive development. He is the progressive actualiser. He maintained and secured Lagos such that today, expatriates now jog on the streets of Lagos without the fear of the unknown. His content at debates and lectures distinguishes him. Particularly intriguing is that his market economy starts from Oke-Arin in Lagos Island before arriving at the corporate world.
Unfortunately, the question of the dismal performance of the APC in the state in the just concluded governorship election will remain curious for political analysts in a long time to come. The PDP, for the first time, came menacingly close in this year’s election, doubling its effort in the last 16 years. But for the discerning and close watchers, the answers are not far-fetched.
First is that in spite of the stage-managed primary of the party, the issue of imposition was prominently present, although properly situated. Fashola, however, may have differed on such a matter; he did not fail to recognise party’s supremacy and refused to rock the boat.
But it does not change the fact that the party was largely believed to have fielded about its weakest of the candidates. Whilst Mr. Ambode may not be a bad person, especially given his much touted record and rise in the state’s civil service, Lagos certainly wanted more than just what Ambode seems to represent.
But with what was eventually thrown on his laps, Fashola immediately realised he needed to get down to brass tacks, otherwise, the failure of successfully marketing his candidate would not be Ambode’s but his in the final analysis. He then started to go from ward to ward, campaigning because there was no mistaking that APC needed to hold strong its house.
Much as the interpretation of the close race and poor result posting isn’t good enough for a party that has held on for 16 years, Ambode’s biggest challenge is his ability to run on his own performance record in 2019. But for Fashola, he is obviously not done in the service to fatherland. Not a few Nigerians would desire to see him conspicuously on the national front delivering to the nation what he delivered to Lagos in his eight years of uncommon leadership and governance.
Fashola is definitely not passing the captainship to Ambode being the latest buy from the season’s transfer window, as that would either go to the Osun or the Edo State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola and Adams Oshiomhole respectively, Ambode will still be useful in the midfield and attack in furtherance of the progressives’ pursuit.
It is also in the interest of Lagos and the APC that Fashola, in another breath, remains a part of the Lagos technical crew if the team intends to come tops in the season’s political premiership.
But by and large, history – from all indications – promises to be kind to Captain Fashola, who came at the nick of time to save a drowning team from an orchestrated political misdirection, charted a path that completely redefined both the development and the politics of progressivism and handed over a legacy of an incontrovertibly good governance to the state of aquatic splendor with an addiction to excellence.