Babatunde Raji Fashola – The Cicero Of Isalegangan At 50

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Babatunde Fashola

Leaders demonstrate a high sense of connectedness with the society as they have great and deep understanding of the relevance of power and that it becomes useless if it is not deployed in serving the people. Service to the people they believe can only be seen and expressed in the degree to which the proclivities of power manifestations become instrumental to impacting positively, the lives of the citizens. In essence governance can only be relevant to the extent to which it has touched the lives of the people and the community.

It is in these dimensions that we have come to analyse the Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola who hails from Isalegangan quarters of Lagos Island and he  has for the past six years bestridden the seat of government in Lagos State. In the Lagos House of Assembly the Speaker Adeyemi Ikuforiji do call him Actualiser, Adebisi Yusuff Representing Alimosho 1 describes him as “The Best Man for the Job”, while I simply call him the Cicero of Isalegangan.

It is important to say this, that Marcus Tullius Cicero  was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul and constitutionalist. He came from a  municipal family, and is widely considered one of Rome’s greatest orators and prose stylists. In European history, there were two major orators, Cicero and Demothenes.

There is this popular slogan that if Demosthenes speaks people will say that is a good speaker but if Cicero speaks people will say let’s go to action. May I say that it was the late Stanley Macebuh that wrote an article immediately after the 1983 general elections after the late Chief Bola Ige Lost to Dr. Victor Omololu Oluloyo entitle ‘Cicero Goes Back To Esa-Oke’. Although his excellence is from liberal school of thought, I am from the socialist tradition. Indeed one of the cardinal attributes of Asiwaju Bola Ahamed Tinubu was that he succeeded in bringing different ideological spectrum together in southwest Nigeria geographical contiguity

This is not an x-ray of the government of Fashola in Lagos State but a celebration of a man who has seriously disappointed his critics and avowed enemies with his astounding understanding of the place of service in leadership including his deliverance of governance benefits to the people that he governs. He has remained a symbol of pride to those who stuck out their necks in support of his leadership in the state from conception and as he marks his golden jubilee of existence on mother earth, his grade A performance has not waned, rather, it is gaining increasing momentum.

The struggle that led to his emergence as the governor of our great state is still very fresh in the minds of political insiders. Despite all the fears and trepidation in the hearts of those who resisted his emergence, he arrived on the scene and wooed everybody with his dedication and commitment to serving the people of the state. His deft touches everywhere in the state immediately marked him as a leader that should be reckoned with as he was able to mobilise the citizens, uniting them under one indestructible banner for a greater Lagos State which has continued to serve as the core driving politics and governance standards not only in the southwest of Nigeria but throughout the length and breadth of the country.

We make this humble submission that positions or platforms of whatever nature are frameworks that are used for attaining certain objectives. However, it is the character of the individual or people running such platforms that define the degree to which they are turned into positive standpoints for success. The operators of these platforms therefore largely determine their direction, hue and vibrancy or otherwise. The immediate import of this is that a bad leader would run down a vibrant platform entrusted into his hands while a creative leader would turn a rundown platform into a successful and vibrant construct for continuous service delivery to the people.

The big shoes which he inherited from our great leader and  living legend, the Jagaban – Bola Ahmed Tinubu, could still be sustained. He never fell short of the initial  intention of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Rather, he has worked on the legacy foundation of his mentor Asiwaju of Lagos. He anchored on that to propel his assignment which is to consolidate the solid foundation which had been laid and extend its frontiers so that the capacity and capability to bake more cake will be increased. This, he has done creditably well pushing the frontiers of his performance beyond the expectations of Lagosians and those that stood by him.

He has refused to be drawn into the morass of prevailing mediocrity that has generally afflicted governance in Nigeria. He rather courageously decided to toe the path of excellence in order to make a difference and impact positively the lives of Lagosians. He has managed the huge population of Lagos in a grand style. I still remember the number of governors that came down here earlier in his first term to understudy his governance dynamics. It would have been easy to have chosen to become like others and loot the treasury dry since this has become endemic in the nation’s governmental processes at all levels. Vehemently however, he stood by the principles of morality, honour and integrity in government.

In fact his performance and that of his counterpart in State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has negated the idea of neoliberal school of thought on Africa that claims  that organised political power does not exist in Africa, if it does, it must have been brought from outside the  continent. In the study of Rwanda it is called the Hermitic hypothesis.

His educational policies are based on his solid philosophy that our educational system should produce children of relatively equal competence and social status and should not therefore become an instrument for creating a polarised society. This is another pointer to the great vision for an egalitarian, growth–oriented and progressive society which he holds. He looks into the crystal ball and warns that we have to get it right educationally to avoid creating a deeply divided society where there will be a deep gulf between the rich and the poor. I believe that this is the clear vision of a great leader who has seen the small fingers of deeper challenges that may confront our nation in a big way in decades to come if nothing is done now to mitigate them. This explains why he is at the forefront of various scholarship schemes and bringing a larger mix of students from diverse backgrounds and levels to study in the state’s tertiary education system. This is what drives his policy of free universal and qualitative Basic Education in Lagos State which has gradually but consistently closed the gap between private sector schools and public sector thus has given the average Lagos child access to quality education at no cost to parents.

From his days as a growing child in the streets of Lagos, as a student in the secondary school and his journey through the university, one would see a consistency of character and stability that signposted what would inform his lifelong philosophy especially in leadership. Those who knew him very well will therefore readily attest to this fact that the dynamism and sheer doggedness which he has brought into governance in Lagos was all along exhibited before now. They were honed through his experiences as a growing child. This is a testimony that shows that our governor is not a fluke or a one-time performer but a seasoned and constant performer who would consistently deliver on promises and performance expectations whenever the opportunity to serve presents itself.

Our governor is a leader that is very conscious of the fact that one success does not make leaders great neither does it make a nation the best it can be. Rather, he believes in continuous and consistent delivery of service to his people at all fronts. This may have propelled him into tackling multiple projects simultaneously and turning all nooks and crannies of Lagos State into project sites.

He has demonstrated completely for everyone to see that he has pledged his life and honour to the service of the people of Lagos State. It is a belief that is borne out of the understanding that when every Nigerian plays his own role effectively, a critical mass of greatness will be built that would generate the needed momentum for national renaissance. His leadership motive therefore is not limited to the confines of Lagos State but has an innate pursuit of contributing to a Nigeria that is able to deliver justice and welfare to her people and a greater world that would provide equal access to global resources to all peoples of the world.

I have watched with admiration and awe the continued transformation of Lagos State under the dexterous hands of our governor. Our governmental processes are becoming compliant with global standards while various institutions of governance are being strengthened. He is in fact creating a state that would outlive and contend with its contemporaries as he leaves his imprints in everything that he has touched thus far. His marks are indelible.

The popular word in the mouths of the majority of Lagosians and in the streets has been “Fashola is working”. Everywhere you go, you hear men and women singing praises of the efforts of this governor who has succeeded in turning governance into a symbol of hope and not of despair that many other leaders have come to foist on the citizens of other climes since the inception of this democratic experiment. There is no facet of the state’s economy that has escaped his transformative touch.

He has always demonstrated his acute realisation that governance is a team effort. The enthronement of a smooth interface between the Executive which he leads and the State Legislature where some of us belong is a conscious effort to create a functional, effective but constructive democratic governance that would produce the best result possible for the benefit of the majority of the people of the state. Where other governors have attempted to meddle with the activities of the State legislature within their confines, he believes otherwise. This has given the legislature an unfettered opportunity to be creative in their functions thus providing the state and governor one of the most effective laws and statutes that not only empowers the citizens but facilitates governance.

A great party man who has championed the cause of the party that bred him and gave his political ambitions vent to express itself, the governor has implemented most of the policies of the ACN, adhering strictly to the dictates of its leadership and never seeking to overthrow its leadership or pocket its leaders. He has encouraged free choices and abhorred all decisions. This has helped to make the party more cohesive and vibrant in the state than ever.

As he marks half a century of life and living, we want to join millions of his admirers all over the world, especially in our great state, to say that this golden age should continue as a golden opportunity to continue delivering golden services and leadership to the people of the state. Like an old wine, our governor will even become tastier. He will deliver better services to us and the state as a whole.

To some of us who have the privilege of working with him and knowing him  more closely and to all of us whose lives he has impacted positively through his great services, we would not want this day to pass without celebrating it. It is an opportunity to blow the trumpet for this unassuming achiever who would have preferred the unanimity of quietude and may berate some of us for celebrating his achievements.

We are moved to celebrate him not only to encourage him to do more or to aspire for other platforms for greater service to the motherland but to also encourage ourselves and other aspiring leaders all over Nigeria to strive for excellence wherever they find themselves. He is a role model for all of us and should not only be emulated but understudied. His example has inspired many thus in our march towards building critical leadership in every sector of the polity, he recognises the power of planning. Today world economic system is tied to the dollar. The dollar is now the king of all currencies. This could only come about through planning. We must recognise and celebrate excellence in leadership whenever and wherever it emerges.

As he turns the golden age of 50 on the 28th day of this month, we still maintain: “BRF remains the best man for the job.”

•Jimoh is a member of Lagos State House of Assembly Representing Apapa Constituency 2



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