Japheth Omojuwa profiles Babatunde Raji Fashola: There is something about this man (Y!/YNaija.com Person of the Year 2014 Nominee)

by Japheth Omojuwa

The giant of Lagos politics, Bola Ahmed Tinubu would love to be credited with many successes, but except he succeeds in helping Nigeria get a president who’d save the country from its present ailing condition, Bola Tinubu’s greatest success can be summed up in two words “’Tunde Fashola.”

On whether Governor Fashola has done well for Lagos, when PDP’s gubernatorial candidate for the 2015 elections, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, told me during a public discourse that “there have been some achievements here and there,” it was an admission from a Lagos resident more than it was that of a politician. Governor Fashola has not satisfied everyone in Lagos but you would be hard pressed to find anyone who’d say he has not at least uplifted Lagos over the last 7 or so years. The biggest accusation against his tenure would be the fact that he didn’t pay as much attention to the slums as he did the posh parts of Lagos. Without a doubt, that bit will now be the responsibility of his successor.

I have had two major personal encounters with Governor Fashola, many things stand out from both experiences, but nothing more than the fact that he is first an activist before being a politician, and he holds his beliefs strongly.

At the launch of Simon Kolawole’s The Cable online newspaper at the Lagos City Hall, Governor Fashola was invited as the Governor of Lagos but the only way he represented that on this day was only in the introductions. His contribution to the panel – which had Channels TV’s John Momoh and a corporate executive and was moderated by THISDAY’s Nduka Obaigbena – was that of an activist. Fashola spoke of how he thought “we the people” were not doing enough to make change happen seeing as put together, those who ran Nigeria were less than 20 thousand people. Reading a man’s words are one thing, hearing him say them is another. On this day, Fashola sounded angry, as angry as any genuine Nigerian activist would sound, only this time, he was speaking dressed as the Governor of Lagos.

His critics will say, “he is only planting flowers” but those amongst them who are not afraid to open up their minds to the truth would appreciate some of his strides. A city will rise out of the waters of Lagos a few years from now, a Fashola legacy irrespective of which Lagos governor oversees the commissioning.

Governor Fashola knows his Lagos, he feels its streets and he is touched by its soul. An original Surulere boy, Fashola is still very much in touch with the street he grew up in Lagos. The accusations about abandoning the slums may stand but so is the fact that every part of Lagos has felt his transformational touch. As he is not the one to obsess with slogans like “Transformation Agenda” else that bit of slogan, while being a Nigerian paradox, is a Lagos reality.

Unarguably, Lagos boasts the best quality in terms of the candidates for the gubernatorial elections, that in itself is a Fashola legacy. Thanks to the strides of the man from Isale Gangan, Lagos has raised the bar of leadership in Nigeria. Whoever succeeds Fashola of Akin Ambode or Jimi Agbaje, Lagos would at least have a governor who should perform, at least on based on their pedigree.

The Nigerian Federal Government published a book “EBOLA” and practically ascribed Nigeria’s victory over the virus to the leadership of President Jonathan. That absurdity is not out of place in Nigeria. Governor Fashola’s leadership, when Ebola chose to make an entry through Lagos, was nothing short of presidential. He rallied Nigerians across the board, he rallied the president too and on this front, Fashola was the leader, the president was a willing follower. If the president deserves credit here, it would be that he was a willing follower. Who wouldn’t be? Ebola was going to kill everyone so this was no time to pretend to be president, it was a time to let real leaders lead and in Fashola, the essence of leadership shone through.

As legendary leaders do, the governor has never failed to hail the heroes of the victory, in doing so, he mentioned the names of the many heroes, including that of the late Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh, who was shockingly bypassed for national honours.

What is Fashola’s most telling legacy? That question would probably have as many answers as the number of people you ask. His one true undeniable legacy is the fact that he raised the bar of leadership in Nigeria and deservingly got accolades from far and wide for same. What he does not next is not in this writer’s hands but what he must do is to tell his story, in a book that’d help shape our understanding of what it means to be Babatunde Raji Fashola and by then, what it meant to be the extraordinary governor of Lagos. His legacy deserves more.

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