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(Opinion) Fashola, ministers and the burden of expectations

Babatunde Fashola
Babatunde Fashola

Tayo Ogunbiyi

His brilliant performance at the senate’s ministerial screening only goes to authenticate to a global audience what some of us have always known about Babatunde Raji Fashola, the immediate past governor of Lagos State.

Many had called him the ‘Actualiser’ while others refer to him as a ‘SAN with a sound mind’. Others call him the ‘Poster Boy’ of change. Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, once called him a ‘social engineer’ who diagnoses the problems and goes at it like a skilled professional who wants to know what will work and what will not work he set out to eliminate. Irrespective of whatever he is called, one thing that is beyond doubt is that Fashola is one of the rising stars of the current political dispensation in the country. Hate him or love him, his brilliance and oratory prowess are evidently legendary.

Fashola is, however, not about brilliance and oratory alone. It is not all brilliant leaders who are blessed with great oratory skill that end up being good administrators. It is in his ability to successfully combine brilliance and oratory skill with great visionary and leadership expertise that Fashola towers above his contemporaries. Through visionary leadership, untiring commitment to excellence, technocratic competence and unalloyed commitment to results, Lagos, under Fashola became a planned city with developed new towns and satellite communities that form the basis of the infrastructure: rail, road and water transportation for the future. Today, Lagos remains one of the rising cities in Africa.

In Ken Follett’s historical novel, ‘The Pillars of the Earth’, the writer explores the development of medieval architecture as captured in the building of a cathedral in the town of Kingsbridge, England. Like the medieval architects in the novel, for eight years, Fashola reconstructed Lagos like a skilled builder.

Management thought leader, business entrepreneur, inspirational speaker and Harvard Professor, Dr. John P. Kotter, once submitted that “leadership, leadership, and still more leadership is the key to success in any human endeavour”. Undoubtedly, leadership is essential for all types of organizations, but even more important in public administration as tremendous complexity and diverse issues are continually arising in the public sector. Therefore, effective leadership is central to effective and sustainable implementation of government’s and policies programmes. One vital attribute which every leader must possess in good measure is courage. Fashola represents a tiny fraction of political leaders in the country who have demonstrated that courage is vital to success in leadership.

To attain change in an environment where people are used to doing things in particular patterns is, to say the least, a daunting task. Take for instance, the restoration of Oshodi which for years was a symbol of chaos and confusion in the state. What Oshodi turned out to be before Fashola’s intervention was not part of its master plan. But, for obvious reasons, no one was ready to upset the apple cart. But Fashola is different. Once he was convinced that the old Oshodi was a blemish on the State of Excellence, he set out to do the right thing. Today, a leader’s rugged display of courage, in the face of misplaced opposition, is paying off as chaos has given way to orderliness in Oshodi and, indeed, other such dark spots in the state.

It is not yet clear which ministry is likely to be assigned to Fashola to oversee. Speculations are rife in this regard. Many have claimed that he is going to be the next FCT minister while others have asserted that he would be posted to either the justice or sports ministry. My take on this is that Fashola should be taken to a ministry where a larger majority of Nigerians could feel his innovative impact. His expertise, experience, skill and leadership quality could help immensely to transform the state of our infrastructure in the country. One area where we are deficit as a nation is in the aspect of infrastructure. With what he did in Lagos, Fashola has demonstrated that he has what it takes to help fix our national infrastructure decay. It will be a great disservice to the country if Fashola is eventually tucked away in a ministry where his impact would be minimal on a national scale.

Considering the level of brilliance and firm grasp of crucial national issues displayed by a majority of the ministerial nominees at the senate screening exercise, one could moderately affirm that the much needed turn around for our dear nation might just be around the corner. In as much as it is true that brilliance and excellent oratory skills might not really translate to forthright administrative judgment, the antecedent of some of the nominees, however, elicits great hope. In all honesty, if we are not going to get it right with the calibre of people like Kachihwu, Kemi Adeosun, Audu Ogbeh, Babatunde Fashola, Ogbonaya Onuh, Chris Ngige, Malami, Kayode Fayemi and a host of others, who were on parade at the screening, then we might as well just forget it as a nation.

Now that the coast is clear for some of the ministerial nominees, they should recognize that they have got their work really cut out. Without a doubt, they have a huge task ahead of them. The reason for this is quite obvious. It would not be an overstatement to state that our dear nation is presently sick in several aspects. Infrastructure remains moribund across the country. National refineries are in sorry state. The economy is in serious state of decline. There have been several agitations by workers in several States over unpaid salaries. The security situation in the country has remains largely precarious. The several reforms in the power sector are yet to start yielding tangible results. Inflation is biting hard while unemployment soars daily.

It amounts to a national embarrassment for Nigeria, the most populous and most endowed black nation on earth, to operate a mono economy. For our economy to improve and meet the yearning aspirations of Nigerians, members of the next Federal Executive Council would have to bring up strategic policies, plans and programmes that could help develop agriculture, invest in tourism and the entertainment industry as well as offer a new lease of life to Small and Medium Enterprise, SME. Also, the power sector must, as a matter of necessity, be transformed to propel the economy. The centrality of power to the overall well being of the national economy cannot be over emphasised. Therefore, the much anticipated Buhari team need to creatively evolve strategies that would decisively tackle the power situation in the country.

Therefore, for Fashola and other ministers’ designate, the task ahead is enormous and it would definitely not be a jolly ride. The road would certainly be bumpy. But then, Nigerians expect nothing short of miracles. As it is often said, to whom much is given, much is expected. President Buhari and his team are condemned to succeed. No more, no less. God bless Nigeria.


Ogunbiyi writes from Alausa, Ikeja.

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