Governor Babatunde Fashola: Five Years Of Endless Intrigues

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Babatunde Fashola

Babatunde Fashola

Lagos State governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola, is currently marking his fifth year in office. KUNLE AWOSIYAN zeroes in on the political intrigues that have trailed his tenure.

ALMOST five years in office, the Lagos State governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola, appears to have enjoyed relative support of the people of the state, though with intermittent censure of some of his policies.

His first two years were trailed by excitement and enthusiasm following his administration’s beautification policy. After long years of neglect, Fashola moved in to recreate Lagos, the Centre of Excellence, pulling down illegal structures and evacuating hoodlums under the ubiquitous bridges within the metropolis. In the course of these, he stepped on toes of many, including members of his party, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the business community.

His policies on taxation and demolition also elicited much harsh public reaction. Many considered the policies as being in contrast tothe yearnings of the ordinary citizens. However, the governor was undeterred in his commitment to the polices and managed to survive the criticism from members of the public and opposition parties.

Fashola is known to have signed more bills into law than his predecessors.

Despite Fashola’s high public rating in his first two years in office for changing the face of Lagos, the governor’s seeming inability to back up some of his policies with “good politics” almost threw him into murky waters when a group, The True Face of Lagos, accused him of abuse of office. The group lobbied for his impeachment, but failed. At the end of the day, the group was widely accused of trying to use the House of Assembly to check what the governor’s detractors considered as his “arrogance.”

According to some critics, the insinuations of impeachment and the steps by Fashola at the time showed that there was a gulf between him and some party leaders. They believe that Fashola became governor on the proposal of his predecessor, Senator Bola Tinubu, but the former was not acknowledging the leaders appropriately for their individual and collective efforts that culminated in the actualisation of his political ambition. In contrast, Fashola became the toast of the Lagos elite and business class. However, in practical terms, although many of such personalities possess awesome financial muscles, they lack the overriding power in the process of election.

At the initial stage, many considered the governor as less tactful in political manoeuvering. He did not control the party machinery. It was against this background that many thought that the sundry allegations levelled against him could be a true test of his political sagacity. Predictably, he rose to the occasion as some forces soon sprang up to defend him and deny the allegations. However, he denied on several occasions, any link with the groups that challenged the The True Face of Lagos and ACN leadership.

The crisis revealed how squirmy the governor could be in critical times, as he had to move from one leader to another to appease his mentor (Tinubu), who was said to have resolved to shop for a replacement for Fashola as ACN governorship candidate for the 2011 election. Several meetings were organised by some stakeholders to broker peace between Fashola and Tinubu. Many of the meetings involved members of the Lagos elite and traditional rulers, but some of them ended in a deadlock. Again, he was able to survive the political wave.

Somehow, the problem took a toll on governance. It was most discernible towards the end of his first term. His performance, according to some observers, nosedived because he invested more time in politicking than the implementation of policies.

Another acid test for his administration came from some professional groups, as his concentration on state matters was intermittently disrupted by industrial actions. Resident doctors of the state university teaching hospital took the lead over their demand for a new salary structure. Again, it took the intervention of the Lagos Medical Doctors’ Elders’ Forum to calm the frayed nerves.

Analysts claim Fashola was smart to give in to his predecessor when it mattered the most. He was also said to have cleverly pursued his belief that taxpayers’ money must be accounted for and spent judiciously on Lagos projects alone. He, according to reports, did this without jeopardizing the interest of his party, ACN, in its quest to overrun the South-West politically in the 2011 elections.

However, in the run-up to the 2011 governorship poll, Fashola was believed to have had a Plan B in the event ACN refused to pick him for second term. Though his “team” leadership style had endeared many of his cabinet members to him, there were insinuations that his inability to use his influence at the party level rubbed off on a number of other commissioners and special advisers.

Some critics claim that even at present, most members of his cabinet are tied to the apron strings of the Osun State governor, Mr Rauf Aregbesola and Tinubu, making it difficult for the governor to exercise more authority.

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In : Lagos