Opinion

Opinion: The Babatunde Raji Fashola Performance Myth

Many are of the opinion that Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola, the Governor of Lagos State, has performed wonderfully well. In fact, he is often used as a reference point for good governance and how democracy dividends should be delivered.

I have read several comments on governance, both at the state and federal levels, and all have presented the Lagos State governor as a shining star, one that all should emulate. It is hard to find any commentary and analysis that has questioned his performance rating. All of his actions and policies are often explained away by several vociferous voices that dominate the Nigerian media space.

I think it is about time that discerning minds began to question whether Fashola really deserves the level of performance rating he enjoys. As a Lagos resident who often visits many parts of the city, it is my opinion that the Lagos State governor’s high performance rating has been exaggerated. Any objective mind that carries out an independent assessment of Lagos State in terms of infrastructure development, human capital development and social and environmental development level would no doubt come to this same conclusion. If, however, we argue that his performance level for eight unbroken years qualifies him for the rating he gets from assessors, then there are several governors who qualify for more accolades than the one RBF gets.

Here I am confident to mention Chief Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State. I can with clear conscience speak about his achievements having visited the state he governs. There are some who attempted to situate the performance of RBF vis-à-vis the state’s level of internally generated revenue, the highest in the country, and have come to the conclusion that he could have done much more than what he is being praised for. I agree with this viewpoint.

Let us take road infrastructure on which many have sung Fashola’s praises to the high heavens. Truly if you limit the Governor’s assessment to Ikoyi, Victorial Island, Lekki, where the rich and the big tax-paying conglomerates are situated; the Surulere axis where Fashola grew up and where his father lived before his death last year, the Ikeja area where the Lagos State government is domiciled and parts of the Lagos Island, the commercial nerve-centre of the city, you are right to rate Fashola highly.

Most roads in these areas have been resurfaced and the side-walks well laid. The environments look brighter. Then if you take a trip to Oshodi and the Yaba area, where a lot of clean- up has been carried out you could be enchanted and be made to think that Lagos begins and ends with these areas. Even in some of these areas go to the feeder roads, you would expect that RBF should have done better than what you will find.
I think also that in Fashola’s vision of a Lagos mega city, Lagos begins and ends in these aforementioned areas.

Unfortunately, that is where Fashola’s road construction magic ends. Come to Ajegunle and Apapa, where I drove through on Tuesday, November 5, 2014, you are sure to change your mind and begin to think that perhaps commercial and political interests were the overriding motive for the concentration of road development activities that took place in those areas that the current Lagos State government put its focus. Don’t forget all the works done in these areas took a cumulative 16 years to achieve (eight of his mentor, the Lion of Bourdillon, Bola Tinubu, and now almost eight of Fashola).

Come to Satellite Town, where I stay and drive through the Lagos- Badagry Express way, from the Mile 2 point, and take time to enter all the communities that adjoin the expressway you would wonder from where comes the rating which the Lagos governor enjoys.

Go to Alimoso-Kosofe, Ipaja, Abule Egba, Ojo, Okokomaiko, Amukoko, Okota and Ijegun-Egba communities and point to me what development has taken place in these areas. The roads in these areas are in deplorable state; they are broken down and are a constant source of agony to inhabitants of these areas and those who visit them.

Traffic and its management in these areas have become chaotic due to lack of inadequate and poor road networks that link the state roads to the community/local government roads.

Fashola has also shown his inequitable handling and enforcement of some of his government projects and policies against the non-Yoruba tribes that form part of the state and from whom most of hisinformal internallygenerated revenue,IGR, is drawn. Take the case of the operation of the Lagos State Vehicle Inspection Officers, VIO, who terrorise vehicle drivers whom they claim do not have the right vehicle papers.

Drive through Lagos and you will find out the operation of these group of government officials is predominant in the Mile 2 –Okomaiko-Badagry axis of the city where most of non-indigenous Lagosians live.

Drive to Alaba International Market and through to Ajangbadi, either via Volkwasgen Bus-stop or through Okoko-Kemberi road you would be shocked at the level of lack of government presence. Tax payers and voters live in these areas and Alaba International market generates a large chunk of Lagos state IGR.

Let us take a look at the level of educational development in Lagos. What should RBF be praised for really? Most of the public schools are not fit for human habitation; I could not pass them for places where real learning should take place. While you are likely to see the outside walls of some public schools look painted, the interior will shock you as you see the level of white-wash that has taken place. Recently a group (Certificate in Media Enterprise class of 5 of the School of Media and Communication of the Pan-African University alumni) which I belong organised capacity building workshop as part of its community social responsibility, CSR, programme for some schools in the Surulere area and I was shocked to see the decay in most of the public schools in these areas(especially around Eric Moore axis): broken walls, dilapidated infrastructure. This is true for most public schools in Lagos.

In the area of youth employment, all one could see are young agile men working as revenue collectors from okada(motorcycle) riders and commercial bus drivers. The girls are busy hanging around state ministries’ conference halls playing without having anything to do.

The health sector is not different as even the gate men are so uncouth that all they repeatedly ask is whether you pay their salaries. Drive to LASUTH where you are required to pay toll as soon as you step into the hospital gate. There you come in contact with young men ready to fight you if you refuse to pay the toll fee of N300, even if you are bringing in a patient. The only exception here are ambulances that are few and far between. It also does not matter that you might not get a parking space. The emergency ward stinks to high heavens and some of the doctors and nurses are recalcitrant to say the least.

Shouldn’t Fashola concern himself with these matters of the state and speak less of what some others like him have not done.
It is wisdom to first take out the log that is in your eyes so as to see clearly to take the speck that is in the eyes of another.

They will usually not lift a finger to assist or attend to you and woe betide you if you complained of their negligence and inefficiency. The trauma of LASTMA and other state traffic officers is another nightmarish experience. They compound and add to your traffic experience in Lagos rather than enhance it. A day in their net and you would wish you never had a car. It does not matter if your mistake was a genuine one or not. They rush into your car in the manner of thugs, armed robbers or kidnapper,wrest your keys from the ignition and forcefully drive you to their office which is equivalent to hell on earth.

The RBF tax regime and the manner of the states IGR drive could hardly pass the moral, equity and social justice test. But if you interview several Lagosians who have fallen victim of the executions of these activities you are sure to feel a citizenry that is choking under the heavy arm of tax collectors and IGR drive enforcers. Local government officials go about in painted but hidden plate number commercial vehicles, collect monies from shop owners without issuing receipts and anyone bold enough to request for one is immediately branded a trouble maker.

Shouldn’t Fashola concern himself with these matters of the state and speak less of what some others like him have not done. It is wisdom to first take out the log that is in your eyes so as to see clearly to take the speck that is in the eyes of another.
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Aaron Ukodie, publisher eWorld Magazine, wrote from Lagos.

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