Opinion

George Kerley: Is Governor Fashola The New Chatterbox Of APC?

Clearly, Governor Fashola of Lagos State has found a new habit in reckless utterances and making accusations against the Federal Government. There are those who say that the recklessness of his anti-Federal Government utterances increased after President Jonathan began to appoint key Lagos sons and politicians into critical positions in the Federal cabinet.

First he attacked Ekiti people and questioned their integrity and character when they chose to vote out Governor Kayode Fayemi and voted in Ayo Fayose. He accused Ekiti of voting for their stomach sake.

Then he accused the Federal Government of complicity on the matter of the so-called missing $49bn? $20bn? $10bn? It did not matter to him that the highest law making body in the land, the National Assembly and the Senate had comprehensively declared that NO monies were missing. It was easy to interpret this as an attempt by the Lagos State Governor to undermine the National Assembly.

Fast forward. Only last week, Governor Fashola again, accused the Federal Government of not utilizing federal allocations efficiently for the good of the Nigerian people. He claimed that the revenue allocation formula was unfair to state and local governments and cited the inability of the Federal Government to meet the challenges of power and insecurity despite the huge 52% revenue allocation that the government was receiving.

It did not matter to Fashola that the Jonathan Government has shown utmost transparency, accountability and responsibility in the manner it deploys resources across the nation even in the face of limiting challenges.

It also did not matter to Governor Fashola that the Federal Government through the Ministry of Finance publishes on a regular basis, monthly allocations to all tiers of government.

Did Governor Fashola forget that it was the Jonathan Government that signed the Freedom of Information (FoI) bill into law? Maybe.

For a governor who has refused to show accountability, transparency and responsibility by divulging the cost of many of the projects that his government has carried out, this is surprising.

Governor Fashola it was, who, when nudged by key public interest groups to make public the cost of projects being carried out the state government, replied that he was not obligated to divulge the costs of projects carried out by the Lagos State Government because there was no Freedom of Information (FoI) Law in the State.

Using the absence of the Freedom of Information Law in Lagos State as cover, Governor Fashola has made it impossible for Lagos people to verify how much indebtedness that the Lagos State Government has sunk itself into even as it continues to borrow to fund projects whose contracts are awarded to cronies, friends and families.

A few months ago, a Non Governmental Organisation, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accounatbility Project (SERAP) dragged Governor Fashola to court over an alleged failure of the Lagos State Governor to release information and documents relating to spending in public schools in Lagos State for the past five years.

Amongst others, SERAP sought for an order of the court for the Lagos State Government to release information and documents on how the government spent a $90m World Bank Loan meant to improve education in the 639 public secondary schools in Lagos State. SERAP demanded to know the details of the projects carried out to improve infrastructure and facilities across primary and secondary schools in Lagos State.

After getting wind of the fact that the Governor had begun to sack school principals and teachers who were whistle blowing and exposing the extent of decay in some schools, SERAP went a step further and sought an order of mandamus to compel the Governor or his privies to rescind the suspension of anyone including principals and teachers in any of the schools for whistle-blowing or allowing journalists into the schools to cover the state of decay some of the schools were suffering.

Some of the schools covered by SERAP include Ewutuntun Grammar School in the Mafoluku area of Oshodi; Ikeja Grammar School; Iloro Grammar School in Agege and Fagba Junior Grammar School, Iju Road.

To hear Governor Fashola speak out how the Federal Government is not utilizing federal resources and allocation for the good of the common man is truly laughable especially when we recall that this was the same Fashola who, barely eight months after he won an election that returned him for another four years in office, sent well armed policemen to forcefully and brutishly disband protesters at the tollgate along Eti-Osa – Lekki – Epe expressway with tear gas and batons. Talk about defending and providing for the common man.

Commercial motorcyclists were not spared. Months after they rolled out one of the most intense campaigns for Fashola that ensured his return as Governor, they were slammed with a ban on their operations on about 400 rounds in the state.

People say that Fashola runs the most ‘elitist’ state government in Nigeria and so people wonder when he feigns populism when he attacks the policies of the Federal Government.

Abiodun Aremu, Secretary of the Joint Action Front, a labor and civil society coalition group, captures it succinctly when he said; “For the rich, they celebrate Fashola as a successful governor in Lagos State because they benefit from his exclusive policies”.

Quite a number of Lagosians agree that there is truly nothing spectacular in what Fashola is doing in Lagos State given the unique position of Lagos as a former Capital of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the measure of resources at its disposal.

Many former Governors and military administrators of Lagos State have had stellar performance outings in the state but Lateef Jakande stands tallest amongst them even though he ran the state for just 4 years.

Unlike Tinubu and Fashola, Jakande adopted a welfarist approach to governance and paid good attention to affordable housing and free education. He single-handedly built the Lagos State University at Ojo and ensured that every Lagos resident irrespective of state of origin had access to quality education.

Decades later, Governor Fashola would announce an increase of more than 400% in the cost of tuition and related fees at LASU.

Former Military Governors like Gbolahun Mudashiru converted a lot of the Jakande type schools to modern prototypes. Raji Rasaki stepped up the delivery of infrastructure across Lagos State and cleaned up Lagos State. He built the Opebi-Oregun link road/bridge and rebuilt the sinking Alapere Bridge.

They were able to do all these without sinking the state neck deep in debt like Fashola is doing right now.

As Military Governor of Lagos State between 1996-1999, Buba Marwa adopted a more people-approach to governance than Babatunde Fashola.

Marwa implemented programs such as ‘Operation 250 Roads’, which greatly improved motoring conditions throughout Lagos. He revamped Public Health institutions and ensured that free malaria treatment was available to all. His administration upgraded infrastructure in poor neighborhoods. He proclaimed edicts to regulate rent, contained the illegal eviction of tenants and ensured that tenant-landlord relationships were in accordance with due process.

In July 1998, Marwa opened what was at the time, the largest asphalt plant in Lagos State. He did not plunge Lagos State into debt.

Rather than meet and match the people approach of his predecessors (before Tinubu), Governor Fashola has preferred to up the ante in the dubious privatization of Lagos in line with the antics of his master and mentor Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

It is unfortunate that Fashola will refuse to acknowledge the giant strides that the Federal Government has achieved in its power reforms especially with the completion of quite a number of power projects across the country as well as the successful privatization of critical components of the power sector as part of a comprehensive and holistic process to transform the Nation’s Power sector which has been in the doldrums for decades now.

It is also unfortunate that Governor Fashola will refuse to acknowledge the giant strides that the Federal Government has achieved in the transformation of the railway transportation sector. Funny enough, the Deputy Governor of Lagos State was one of the honored guests at the presentation and commissioning of new luxury coaches by the Nigerian Railway Corporation not too long ago.

The objective of government and governance is to provide productive leadership through effective and efficient collaboration between the various levels of government in such a manner that one complements the other. It is not for one level of government to politicize governance, trade blames and give excuses for its failures and lack of performance.

Governor Fashola’s refusal to acknowledge the role of the Federal Government in the approval of International loans for the Lagos State Government, speedy approvals for Refineries, Deep Sea Ports and Eko Atlantic etc as well as the maintenance of Federal roads and medical facilities in Lagos State is a sad show of gubernatorial incompetence that will not do anyone any good.

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Written by George Kerley writes in Afrom Abuja and can be reached via  [email protected]

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