By Emeka Odikpo
Politics is not a game for the feint of heart. This truism has been reiterated in various shapes and forms. American politics is one of the most brutal. Nobody comes out of it with his reputation intact. Your political adversaries will pound at your name until it reeks of filth. Barack Obama confessed that he usually hides the Newspapers from his Children, because he hates their reaction when they read the hate filled diatribes against their father.
Nigerian politics has swiftly descended into a chasm where hate and filth are routinely hurled at people on the other side of the political divide. This has led to a situation where even though we have had more than 100 State Governors since 1999, not one single one of them is considered by our internet warriors of hate as being good enough for the highest office of the land.
Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, was Governor of Lagos State from 2007 to 2015. The Chance to evaluate his performance by residents of Lagos came up in 2011. That election offered a clear window into his evaluation by the people of Lagos. The Peoples Democratic Party’s nomination of an opponent for him for the election turned into a non-event. This is apropos of the fact that no heavy weight in the then Federal Ruling party wanted the nomination.
Musiliu Obanikoro did not bother to vie for the nomination, neither did the ebullient Jimi Agbaje. The only reason these Gentlemen did not want the poisoned chalice of an opportunity to run against Fashola was because they knew that the performance of the Governor was stellar and any contest against him was futile.
Fashola’s impact on Lagos despite all attempts by revanchists to change history has been phenomenal. In evaluating Fashola, you do not discuss tarring of roads, because he did this in their thousands of Kilometres, rather you discuss the reinvention of the multi modal means of transportation in Lagos.
The reality of the Mass Transit Light rail lines steadily emerging and innumerable flyovers that are being constructed from Okokomaiko to CMS has been the defining issue for experts on modern city reconstruction. The construction of the first Cable Stayed bridge in West Africa from Ikoyi to Lekki brought a refreshing dimension to the idea of governmental vision and delivery of a beautiful and well designed project. The reinvention of water-ways transportation of Lagos clearly showed the trappings of counter-intuitive thinking.
The sudden change of Lagos from a city of dirty dingy bus parks, such as Oshodi, Ojota and others to a city with beautiful gardens was the result of detailed planning and decisive actions. The ongoing constructions at the Eko Atlantic City that has created tens of thousands of construction jobs and is billed to eventually create a whole new city from the formerly flood ridden bar beach remain the stuff of legends.
It is impossible to capture a significant part of the works by Fashola in a short essay, therefore I will suspend the discourse for another day. The poser here is actually how the Fashola impact can be transferred to the National level. The onus will of course rest on the President and the role he decides to assign to the vision driven Fashola. Even more important will be a decision by the President to give this particular Minister some creative space. Any role that does not admit of counter-intuitive thinking and application will be a no-no for him. Most of the problems we have in Nigeria emanate from the poor quality of thinking by our leaders.
Every leader, even the most ridiculed, actually had an ambition to be hugely successful. The catch is that leaders with low quality thinking are soon overwhelmed by the problems they are meant to confront and they succumb to the easy part of regarding the problems as part of the “Nigerian Factor”. Great Leaders on the other hand realize that there is no such thing as the Nigerian Factor and that iron will ultimately melt at the right temperature.
That is exactly where a man like Fashola will be useful to Nigeria. His uncanny ability to see solutions, where other Nigerians see problems have made him one of the most successful Governors in Nigeria’s history. A fitting evaluation of Governor Fashola by Time Magazine op-ed writer, Alex Perry on May 2, 2011 illustrates this: “Fashola is not your usual politician. Rather than barging through his way across town with sirens blaring and lights flashing like other Nigerian leaders, he chooses to endure Lagos traffic with his fellow citizens. Also Fashola reads economic theory for fun. On his bedside table are books by development economists who see potential in poverty, people like C.K. Prahalad of the University of Michigan or Hernanado de Soto of Institute of Liberty and Democracy (ILD) in Lima.”
I can hardly evaluate the uncanny ability of Fashola in better perspective than Alex Perry. But I dare say that Lagos is a much better space because Babatunde Fashola happened to have been the Governor for eight years. A continuation of the constructions, vision and plans he and his team have clearly commenced and mapped out for Lagos will ultimately resolve the transportation conundrum that is the greatest problem of Lagos. The apposite hope herein is that the man will also affect an area of our National life positively at the National level if he is adroitly utilized.
Emeka Odikpo is a Lagos-based Legal Practitioner