Fashola Vs Sahara Reporters – 19th November seminar at the London School of Economics

by Olusegun Fakoya

If a government performance were to be measured by the performance of its head at a public forum consisting of citizens of the state and country at large, then Governor Raji Fashola would have been chastised for disgracing Lagos State at the interactive seminar titled: “Lagos: Confronting Change in a Global Megacity”, which took place at the London School of Economics on the 19 November 2010. This was a forum that was well attended (for obvious reasons) by Nigerians. It appeared to have been a genuinely interactive session until question time. All went well until it got to the turn of Sahara Reporters to ask questions. Here, an over-adulated governor who had been so used to hero-worshipping became uncomfortable when confronted with some stark reality of his tenure. He strived to maintain grace and composure but eventually lost the battle and became anything but polite and civilized. It was a real shame.

Mr Fashola was asked a question that was streamlined into four components:

1. A point of correction on his assertion that there was no fire incident in Lagos since the end of 2007. Sahara Reporter informed him of the Dangote Truck accident with its resultant devastation of 30 lives by fire. Mr Fashola erroneously (but rather stupefying) insisted that this accident happened in Ogun State. This beggar’s belief!

2. The issue of tax collection in Lagos came up and this brought up the role of Alpha Beta Consults. Sahara Reporter stated that this company is owned by ex-Governor Bola Tinubu and wanted to know how much the company (and by inference Tinubu) is paid on monthly basis.

3. The next question wondered at why Governor Fashola is afraid of being investigated and why, in particular, he ran to the courts to prevent his being investigated (presumably by the Lagos State House of Assembly).

4. Last was the dichotomy and the unevenness in the development of Lagos State, contrary to the much touted hype of the Fashola wonders in the state. The question was why the “deodorization” of the rich sections of the state and the “ghetorization” of the poor ends.

To the first question, Mr Fashola erroneously but rather stubbornly and in a stupefying manner insisted that the accident happened in Ogun State. I have since made some checks and can categorically state that Mr Fashola is completely wrong. To put a big dent on the assertion of Mr Fashola, the Punch editorial of Thursday 8 January 2009 lamented on the un-abating spate of fire incidents in the state. The Compass newspaper of Monday 19 2010 also reported on the alarming rate of fire incidents in Nigeria with examples cited in Lagos State. Finally, the Dangote Sugar Refinery accident/fire incident happened opposite Otedola estate in Lagos State. Mr Fashola must at least read one of either Punch or Compass newspaper!

One is not asking the chief executive of a state to be a walking encyclopaedia. Nevertheless, such a leader should be magnanimous enough to admit ignorance when such is the case. Lying in the process of trying to blow one’s trumpet is akin to someone who falsified his CV in order to get a much desired job. The truth need to be restated here that Governor Fashola goofed badly on this point. Again, it is not altruistic to push the responsibility for the unfortunate fire accident to the domains of beleaguered Gbenga Daniel who has been causing more than enough commotion in Ogun State.

To say that a state in Nigeria has been fire incident free for almost three years is to be economical with the truth. Pray, to whom does Lagosians owe this blessing – the almighty presence of the state government who could not even stop the tide of medical practitioners strike from extending to the third month? Or is it the ubiquitous presence of the state’s fire brigade – that amorphous organ of state that seems to be in permanent limbo? These are questions Governor Fashola should ponder upon.

The role of Alpha Beta would always be a recurring decimal in the history of governance in Lagos State for as long as the Tinubu dynasty continues. And the reality is that this dynasty is still very much alive under Fashola. True, the dreaded EFCC in the days of Nuhu Ribadu looked into the issue of Alpha Beta. Its findings are not thoroughly documented in public domain, except for the exoneration alluded to by Mr Fashola at some public fora. The major reason for trumpeting the uniqueness of this organization is its supposed ability to increase the IGR (Internally Generated Revenue) of the state from 600 million in the days of Tinubu to over fourteen billion Naira monthly at present. However, the salient question refused to subside – who owns Alpha Beta Consults?

The company website lists the management team of Alpha Beta, what about its board? We have all grown wiser with the antics of our leaders and the numerous facets of corruption in our national life. If Mr Fashola insists that Tinubu is not in any way connected with Alpha Beta, then let him tell us the true owners of this company that is milking billions from the public purse monthly. Again, we are curious as to the mode of awarding this mega-billion contract to this company. Was there a public tender? Were there biddings? Were other companies shortlisted before the eventual choice of Alpha Beta Consults?

Mr Fashola dwelt at length on his government’s plan for Ayobo (Ipaja area) while trying to deny the accusation of “deoderization” and “ghetorization”. He launched into a question that was never asked; the issue of the Lekki-Epe expressway. He eulogised the efforts of the government in achieving a workable public-private partnership and wondered at why the government was receiving knocks instead of kudos. He rambled on the security afforded by the planned expensive corridor in a mostly agrarian community. He praised his government stubbornness in the face of determined opposition on the part of the citizenry. It is a shame when an intelligent man became saddled with a responsibility for which he was not the initiator. It is even more pathetic when intelligence is put asunder in trying to defend the indefensible.

Every Nigerian is a living witness to the running saga of corruption and corruptibility in the management of Lagos State under Raji Fashola. The State House of Assembly has made fruitless efforts to instigate investigations, most times frustrated by court actions instituted by Mr Fashola and one journalist whose relationship to Fashola is yet to be deciphered. The consistency with which Mr Fashola has opposed an investigation into his tenure in Lagos is against his statement that he “serves Lagos bearing in mind that some day he might be called to account for his stewardship”. It is noteworthy that while Mr Fashola was untidy with his responses to the questions asked, he became very uncomfortable by the aspect relating to his corruptibility. Mr Fashola found it difficult to sustain pretence any longer; he took the easy way out – confrontation and aggression. “It would be better for you to do more investigation because of those who read your stories. I don’t!”

For those compatriots who felt that Sahara Reporters did not give Governor Fashola enough respect, I am waiting for them to point out the areas where respect was not shown. The fact that Fashola is a governor does not mean that he could not be questioned. In any case, the questions asked are all in public domain. That Fashola could lose his cool so easily in the face of a call to accountability reflects the level of insolence with which our leaders relate to us the ordinary citizens. His lacks of grace notwithstanding, there are still questions begging for responses. Alpha Beta cannot just be pushed under the carpet. His foray into the Lekki-Epe toll road issue also brings to the fore the issue of proprietorship of the rather effervescent LCC (Lekki Concession Company Ltd), a hurriedly contrived conglomeration saddled with th

e dubious priviledge of adding two lanes to an existing road. This insane priviledge extends to taking full possession for three decades with citizens having to toll for the same length of time every 5 kilometres. The question again is – who owns LCC? What is the Tinubu connection in these two companies – Alpha Beta and LCC?

On the issue of corruptibility, the onus is on the governor to prove that he is incorruptible. It is not for the people to show evidence of corruption. He who goes to equity should do so with clean hands. Fashola built a reputation that is now being threatened by circumstances that he is further fuelling. Gone are the days when the leader is the emperor and very unchallengeable. This is Nigeria of the 21st century.

One is tempted to state that the aroma of power and over three years adulation has distorted Mr Fashola’s values. It has gotten to the stage where he is becoming extremely intolerant of crticism. The three year old experiment in Lagos State has come out for what it really is – another attempt at social re-engineering where “deodorization and ghetorization” remain the objectives. A situation where the rich have their priviledges further expanded and the poor pushed backward to the inner stretches of poverty. The state government has run a government that has been insensitive to the yearnings and plight of the poor masses, all in a confused desire to create a mega-city that only befits the wealthy and affluent. Oshodi was –re-created – good enough, but where were the poor traders relocated? So many buildings were demolished and the government cared not whether the displaced citizens slept in trenches or gutters. This is the world of Fashola in Lagos State – brutality and insensitivity becoming the act of governance. The masses are now the tool in the hands of a pseudo-military civilian regime.

Just so that Mr Fashola might read this piece, it is my hope that some national dailies would have it published, as our dear governor does not waste his time reading Sahara Reporters and other such online media. It is however pertinent to state that this country has been taken for a ride for just too long. We, the people, have now decided to carve a voice for ourselves. We are citizens of the 21st century who have travelled far and wide. All we demand of government is and performance, sincerity and faithfulness in office. The uneven social engineering going in Lagos has gone on for far too long. It is now time for sincerity in the act of governance.

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Suraj Adenaike November 22, 2010 - 5:38 pm

Good piece. No leader should be beyond scrutiny.

abydayjee November 22, 2010 - 6:25 am

Dr Olusegun Fakoya definitely has a flawed judgement here. I don’t criticize SR because I appreciate their efforts, but Sowore was unethical in his overall approach. I know SR don’t do ethics because they are more of revolution than journalism, but then, some common sense ethics are needed. As for saying Fashola lost his cool, haba, do you expect him to become superhuman because he is governor? What he did is perfectly ok. Good job Babatunde.


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