Temidayo Akinsuyi / LAGOS
The total boycott of three books launched by former governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola by chieftains and governors under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has once again brought to the fore the undying feud between the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and his estranged godfather and benefactor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Without mincing words, it has also demonstrated whose voice the party members, especially those in Lagos will obey should Tinubu and Fashola call them out in a show of solidarity. Aside the fact that Fashola’s successor, Akinwunmi Ambode was conspicuously absent at the launch, even Fashola’s two deputies, Sarah Sosan, who served during Fashola’s first term and Adejoke Orelope- Adefulire who deputized between 2011 and 2015 also shunned the event.
Good Boy Gone Bad
Little was known about Fashola within the political circles before Tinubu brought him up. He was a complete gentleman showing no interest in politics or its antics aside from building a strong Law chambers where he can practise his Law particularly with his status as SAN which he got when he became Tinubu’s Chief of Staff. There is no denying the fact that Tinubu is indeed a ‘godfather to Fashola Fashola having made, installed, established and crowned him as his a worthy successor ahead of prominent heavyweights
During the 2007 campaign, while trying to justify his selection of Fashola over and above people like Rahman Owokoniran, Kunle Lawal, Oyinlomo Danmole, Omotilewa Aro-Lambo, Tola Kasali, Jimi Agbaje, Remi Adiukwu- Bakare, Hakeem Gbajabiamila, Tokunbo Afikuyomi, Ganiyu Solomon, Femi Pedro and others, Tinubu assured Lagosians that he settled for Fashola because he knew he would perform and even surpass his own achievements. It will also be recalled that this singular decision by Tinubu to stick out his neck for Fashola cost him many of his political associates. Agbaje, Afikuyomi, Danmole, Lawal, and Adikwu-Bakare defected to the Democratic Peoples Alliance (DPA). A week after, Afikuyomi went to the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and emerged as its governorship candidate. Pedro left for the Labour Party (LP). Later, he went to the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP). In DPA, Agbaje defeated Adikwu-Bakare at the primaries. Lawal became his running mate. Adiukwu-Bakare hurriedly left for Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA).
The dust finally settled and Fashola become governor. But trouble between the godfather and godson soon reared its ugly head towards the end of the Fashola’s first term in office. Some political friends of Tinubu and party loyalists especially those in the ‘Mandate Group’ claimed that despite sticking out their necks for the governor in the 2007 elections, he refused to carry them along in the scheme of things. Some traditional rulers in the state were also not left out. Some of them complained about the governor’s tight-fistedness whenever they are opportune to meet with him, unlike his predecessor, Tinubu who is a benevolent donor. For this, they urged Tinubu to dump Fashola and replace him with a politician who understands their needs. It was also reported that Fashola, basking in executive power as the then number one citizen of Lagos decides to go against some directives of Tinubu and was even working underground to buold his own political base. Thus signal the beginning of cold war between the two.
According to a report on the crisis “Media reports traced the genesis of the tumult in Lagos to an agreement that was entered by all the parties to the political affray, to the effect that Governor Fashola would be Governor for one term and thereafter, Dr. Muiz Banire a former University of Lagos Law lecturer and Commissioner, would have a shot at the Lagos state gubernatorial seat. No one outside the combatants can attest to the veracity of the existence of this deal. Further news reports, traced another cause of the political fracas to an attempt by Governor Fashola, to review the tax consultancy regime put in place by the Tinubu administration, under which, the Tax consultancy company earns a whopping 10% of all the taxes it collects for and on behalf of the Lagos state government monthly. Other reports have traced the quarrel to disgruntled elements who are not happy that Governor Fashola has focused 100 % on the development of infrastructure in Lagos state, while the political apparatus that swept the governor to power has been largely ignored and ‘un-watered’
True Face Of Lagos Allegations
Despite denials, the simmering crisis between the two gladiators reached a boiling when a newspaper advertisement detailed several offences based on financial malpractices against the Fashola administration. The advertisement placed by a group known as “The True Face of Lagos” was signed by one Dr. Tunde George and Mr. Kasali Martins who many believed were sponsored by Tinubu.
The group cialimed that Fashola spent N1.5 billion to demolish the Bank of Industry (BOI) building, paying a company introduced by one Tunji Olowolafe in cash transfer only for him and his cronies to claim the land adjacent to it. It also alleged that Fashola’s government awarded part of Western Avenue (Funsho Williams Road), about two kilometres road for N7.7 billion without the construction of any bridge. The project was carried out by Julius Berger.
Other claim by the group was that the Fashola government awarded the construction of a road and drainage inside Gbagada General Hospital for over N1.8 billion to DEUX Projects Limited owned by Dr. Tunji Olowolafe, a close friend of the governor. That the sum of 1.5 billion naira of un-appropriated fund was claimed to have been spent on demolition of Oshodi without approval.
The Lagos state House of Assembly earlier attempted to probe Governor Fashola based on the allegations of the faceless True Face of Lagos state. The House of Assembly could not proceed with the probe as planned, due to the effect of an Order made by a Lagos High Court .
Many Lagosians who were happy with the governor’s sterling performances in office especially the beautification projects and the taming of hoodlums however took to the streets in protest against what they termed the undeserved persecution and vilification, including threats, against Fashola. Under the aegis of Lovers of Fashola (LORAF) and under the watchful eyes of security operatives, the crowd took their protests to the secretariat of the Lagos Assembly. Some of the inscriptions on the banners and posters read: “The New Face of Nigeria requires wisdom to understand,” The music is nothing if the audience is dead” “Traditional rulers, bless the continuation of good governance”, “No controversy, Fashola is our man”, “Fashola is not corrupt, he is the best governor in Nigeria and Africa”, “ No Fashola, no Lagos”; “Good governance must be sustained,” “Carry go, don’t tamper with the Lord’s Chosen”, among others.
Arduous Battle For Return Ticket
While the crisis raged on, some political parties leveraging on Lagosians love for Fashola were courting him to dump the then Action Congress (AC) and fly their flag. Sensing the danger this might pose especially for the development of the state, prominent Lagosians, most of whom are not partisan politicians led by the Oba of Lagos and the late Iyaloja- General, Abibat Mogaji waded into the crisis. On the other hand, AC chieftains who believed the ugly development might signal the end of the party in the state prevailed on Tinubu to allow Fashola be.
Tinubu later gave in to voice of reasons and publicly endorsed for second term in office on the platform of Action Congress of Nigeria, (ACN). Presenting Fashola for second term in the presence of party members at a stakeholder meeting of ACN held at the party’s secretariat in Ikeja, Tinubu broke his long silence on the issue, saying the rumour of his estrangement with the governor was peddled by those he called, ”political rodents and enemies who did not know how I knew him.”
Tinubu who scored the governor 85 percent on his performance as the state governor in the past four years stressed that the governor remained the best man for the job of state governor.
His words: “He is my son .Those that were peddling the rumour are those that did not know how I knew him, what endeared him to me. The agents of destruction, political rodents, enemies and scavengers in the corridors of power that want to continue to loot state funds without working to deliver dividends of democracy. They said I was jealous of his achievements and all sort of things. If you have a son that has surpassed your records you celebrate him. I am the pathfinder. He is the Navigator. I am the one that identified the talent.”
Battle For Successor
Events towards the preparation for the 2015 governorship election later suggested that all is not well with the duo. While Tinubu preferred former accountant-general of the state, Akinwunmi Ambode, now the state governor as the worthy successor, Fashola who was goaded by some of his political friends to stamp his authority as a two-term governor and present his own candidate was rumoured to have jettison his godfather’s choice and settled for his then Commissioner for Works, Obafemi Hamzat. Having realized that this plan may not work as there was clamour for the emergence of a Christian governor; he dumped Hamzat and threw his weight behind a fellow lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Olasupo Shasore. The party later settled for primaries to determine who flies the party’s flag. While Ambode won with 3,735 votes, Fashola’s candidate, Shashore came a distant fourth with 121 votes.
That was another sin committed by Fashola, according to many political pundits. He later retraced his steps and supported Ambode throughout the campaign, telling Lagosians he is the best man to succeed him. But it was belated as many saw it as damage-control approach. There were also unconfirmed reports that Fashola facilitated Ambode’s early retirement from the Lagos State Civil Service at a relatively young age of 49 in 2012.
Corruption Allegations And N78m Website Scandal
Having completed his term and was waiting for a likely ministerial appointment from President Muhammadu Buhari, a civil society group, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) , urged the president not to consider Fashola for appointment, saying his administration was engulfed in several controversies which could not be overlooked.
According to the organisation’s Executive Chairman, Debo Adeniran, his organisation was troubled by many dilapidated schools in the state. He noted that when the Socio-Economic Right Accountability Project invoked the Freedom of Information Act to know how the Fashola government spent a $200m World Bank education funds, the state government refused to disclose it. In the statement titled ‘ Don’t Elevate Fashola’, Adeniran said independent investigations by his organisation showed that the 1.36km Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge which was reportedly built for N25bn by Fashola , cost only N6bn.
While that was going on, the Lagos State Public Procurement Agency posted a report on its website stating that N78.3m was paid to a firm, Info Access Plus Limited, for the upgrade of his website www.tundefashola.com through the Office of the Chief of Staff to the Governor. The report is still generating uproar in the public and even the governor’s explanations that the contract followed due process and that the campaign was aimed at tarnishing his 12-year record in the state seem not to go down well with some members of the public who have always viewed him as an unblemished politician who has written his name in gold in the annals of governance in the country.
With the boycott of his book launch by party leaders and even serving governors, who are apparently showing solidarity with Tinubu, there is no longer denying the fact that Tinubu and Fashola’s relationship has irretrievably gone sour. While it is also not clear whether he still remains in Buhari’s good books given the allegations against him, it however remains to be seen how the lawyer-turned-politician hopes to survive in the APC’s murky political waters especially in Lagos where Tinubu’s leadership is not in question.