NATW: How The Rumour Mill Created A Mythical Fashola

Recall those days in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when the elders turned tales by moonlight into a frantic search of seeking to define the images emblazoned on the moon. Long arguments would ensue after those intense looks at the moon. For all Action Group adherents, even though, the party was no longer in government during these times, they all, inexplicably agreed that image emblazoned on the moon couldn’t have belonged to anybody but Chief Obafemi Awolowo, founder of the Action Group and first Premier of the Western Region.

It was the extent of the veneration of Awolowo that followers of the party, even, outside government, sought to establish his patron saint status by persuading themselves that Awolowo, though alive at that time, only compared to extra terrestrials. If any body engaged thought otherwise, as there would always be, some whom logic would not depart even in the face of mind bending extrapolation of the political deeds of Awolowo to the spiritual realm.

This is what myths are made for. In political field it implies a special connect between individuals in government and the people they govern. Awolowo, long after his death, still engaged the political imagination of Nigerians and especially, the adherence of the people of the Yoruba South West Nigeria.

I was young in those days, quite young that I did not get to understand the querulous banters among the elders anytime the moon watching exercise started, but I knew they would invariably conclude on the spiritual prowess of Awolowo and how he used to beat and capture his enemies, chief of which, back then was Chief Ladoke Samuel Akintola. I am very sure that late Ahmadu Bello and Nnamdi Azikwe must have had such mythical yarns around them; I did not grow in their regions of influence, so I wouldn’t be too sure.

History has moved past those iconic gladiators of that particular era, anyway. It would seem that a new creation of the imagination of people, especially, those in Lagos State, is in the making. This may be the first time since Awolowo that people are virtually spinning yarns around a government official. Though, there was a bit of that in the short-lived administration of assassinated military head of state, Gen. Murtala Muhammed. The new image that we may possibly be watching out for in the near future may be that of Babatunde Raji Fashola, Governor of Lagos State and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

Suddenly, it would seem that Fashola held court with individual Lagosians, where he informed them of his next action and how he would implement it. So, it was that the word got out on the streets that the Lagos State Governor had directed that anybody found wearing rubber slippers on Lagos roads should be arrested. The directive, according to these “confidants” of the Governor, is because Fashola did not expend so much money building roads for slippers wearing Lagosians to come and deface the them.

A house-wife was said to have been sold on the Fashola directive that she had to run across from her home carrying her husband’s shoes when that one went out with his friends. She protested that no one would be there to salvage things for her when Fashola gets her husband arrested for wearing slippers.

There was this other one about Lagosians that would have cause to go out of the state to spend their holidays last December. The rumour mill was agog with story of how Fashola had instructed that tax officials would be waiting at the Lagos toll-gate end of the Lagos-Ibadan express road to check the tax certificates of returnees. Again, the wild rumour was so effective that some Lagosians started making discreet enquiries about tax payment.

Then, there were stories about the Governor’s nocturnal visits to hospitals and construction sites, how he used to alight from Keke Marwa to inspect the stage and pace of works at the site. The people in the Alimosho Local Government area are particularly fecund with such gist, it would sound as if the only place the Governor gets to supervise his construction was in the Alimosho local area.

The yarn of the Governor’s late evening unannounced visitation to Mercy Hospital nearly assumed the near truth status because it was actually published in a newspaper. The Governor was said to have entered the children’s hospital on the Lagos Island and had witnessed how medical personnel treated in the most ignoble manner patients and their mothers. A particular woman was said to have talked with the Governor about her travails in the hospital upon which he entered the Doctor’s room as just one common only to throw the hospital into a state of confusion when the Doctor identified him.

All these and many others made the rounds before the Governor descended on Oshodi. If you don’t know Oshodi it means you’re not a Lagosian. Oshodi had been a settled bedlam since I have long forgotten. The about one kilometre stretch on the Agege Motor Road had always been noted for a minimum two-hour traffic and a beehive of criminal activities layered on a robust tradition of street trading.

Different government since we started reading them in secondary school history and civil study books have made strenuous efforts to dislodge everything that gave Oshodi its character but none have been successful. Then this Fashola came along three weeks ago. In less than 24 hours the place reverted to civility. Outstandingly amazing!

Now, this has given new filip to the Fashola beyond human talk in the state, no mortal could possibly run through Oshodi and bring to it sanity in a day. New but more fundamental meanings are given to anything Fashola. You would notice immediate movement or removal anytime anybody announced Fashola was on his way to clear a certain area of the state.

The yarns still continues, but what it implies is that people now respect and trust government, it is the first requirement of democracy, it shows the connect between government and the governed. But I hope we would not be looking out for the image of Fashola in the sun that must be hurting.

Despite what some would say about creating markets before markets are bulldozed by the state government, I think this governor is performing and do not sympathise with a Lagosian that decided to make the road his or her means of sustenance.

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FASHOLA DRAWS BATTLE LINE…DARES STATE ASSEMBLY

ULD by ol’Victor Ojelabi

There had been no indication of a freeze in relationship between the Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola and the legislative arm of the government of Lagos State, at least, not until this past Friday, 2 January, 2009.

The signing ceremony into law of the state’s 2009 Appropriation Bill had been scheduled for the State House on the date and as at 10.00a.m; in the audience waiting for the Governor were the state Deputy Speaker, Mrs. Adefunmilayo Tejuosho, the House Chief-Whip, Mr. Abdul-Rasaq Balogun, the House Chairman of the Appropriation Committee, Mr. Kolapo Korede Oshunsanya and Mr. Onibiyo Adelabu, a member of the State House of Assembly. Also present were some members of the State Executive Council; the Deputy Governor, Mrs. Sarah Sosan, Commissioner for Transport, Prof. Bamidele Badejo, Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Muiz Banire and the Commissioner for Agriculture and Cooperative, Chief Enoch Ajiboso. The state Head of Service, Mr. Yakubu Balogun and the Special Adviser on Transportation, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, were also in the audience that had a heavy presence of members of the media that were invited to cover the signing ceremony of the N405billion Appropriation Bill into law as passed by the State House of Assembly.

Fashola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, has a reputation for time consciousness, so when it was more than one hour past the scheduled time for the signing ceremony and the Governor had not emerged from his office in the State House to the venue of the signing ceremony in the same State House, it emerged that a stand-off between the Governor and the State House of Assembly was in the offing. At about 11.30 a.m; the Governor’s Special Adviser on Legislative and Political Matters, Mr. AbdulLateef AbdulHakeem, informed the audience that Mr. Fashola would not be available to sign the appropriation bill because his attention was urgently required at another function.

Immediately after the announcement, the tension in the State House became palpable as traffic of government officials in and out of the Governor’s Office became frantic but it was to the office of the Speaker of the State’s House of Assembly that the frenzy of the underlining tension in the assembly became noticeable. The absence of the Speaker at the venue of the signing ceremony even when it was obvious he was at his office, a stone throw from the Governor’s office, had raised silent concerns among those that understand the nature of political alignment in the state.

Even more curious was the fact that just a few cabinet members of the Governor’s Executive Council were present at the aborted signing ceremony, of significant concern was the fact that State Commissioner for Budget, Mr. Ben Akabueze and the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Opeyemi Bamidele, were not present at the venue.

Meanwhile, as the event of the signing ceremony of the appropriation bill was suddenly called off with the announcement of the Special Adviser on Legislative and Political Matters to the audience, it became obvious the contents of the appropriation bill as approved by the State Assembly must have roused the resentment of the Governor.

Mr. Fashola had, on Monday, 10 November, 2008 presented the year’s budget of N405 billion to the State House of Assembly for the mandatory legislative debate and review. On Tuesday, 30 December, 2009, the Chairman of the House Appropriation Committee presented the report of the committee on the budget. The report recommended that the sum of N405 billion be approved as presented by the Governor even as the sum of N159.284 billion was recommended for approval by the Appropriation Committee as proposed by the Governor and the sum of N245.716 billion be approved as total capital expenditure also as proposed by the Governor. The State House of Assembly allowed the recommendations of the Appropriation Committee and passed the bill at the same sitting.

If the House had approved the budget proposal as presented by the Governor, what then could be responsible for obvious act of refusal by the Governor to sign the bill into law? Source close to the State House informed that the House imputed a self-accounting procedure into the bill.

“The House decided to create its own funding sub-head and required that the State Assembly funding should be independent of Executive influence under a self-accounting procedure that is alien to the Governor. I think this is one of the reasons the Governor’s refused to sign the bill,” the source explained. “Besides, the House Appropriation Committee moved figures around within heads and sub-heads of the budget. Though the final figure tallies with the figure the Governor proposed to the Assembly, the Committee removed funds budgeted by the Governor for some ministries and agencies and moved them to other ministries and agencies that they considered more needful of funding. This, of course, did not go down well with the Governor who felt that he understands the needs of each ministry and agency as they affect service delivery to Lagosians.”

The House has its own axe to grind with the executive arm of government in the State. The Assembly Appropriation Committee had, as part of its recommendations, canvassed the House to sanction the ministries of Home Affairs and Culture and the Environment for failing to appear before the House to defend their budget proposal. The Liaison Office, Political and Legislative Powers Bureau, Lagos State Building Investment Corporation, Lagos State Property Development Corporation, Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency and office of Mineral Resources, were also recommended for sanction for refusal to defend their budget proposals.

As published in the January 12, 49th Edition, of Fortune&Class Weekly Magazine.