By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor
ONE hundred and sixty six days after dropping the saddle as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Nigeria’s richest state, Lagos, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), who would forever be remembered for the sobriquet, Eko oni baje, was yesterday recalled from rest to take up a higher responsibility for national assignment when President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated his cabinet and assigned portfolios to the ministers.
While social media leaks had skirted around the probable nomination of Fashola as Minister of Works or the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), no one, not even the ex-governor, would have won the bet on the president’s plans to assign three heavy portfolios. Alas, when the president unveiled the ministers and their portfolios, the former governor of Lagos got the lion’s share as he was given a combination of three ministries – namely power, works and housing.
He joins the newly constituted cabinet on the strength of his antecedent with his above-average performance as Lagos helmsman. Former governor Bola Tinubu’s eight-year administration laid the groundwork of modern Lagos as has been rightly termed ‘The Navigator.’ Fashola came on board and did his spell as ‘The Actualizer’ to implement the development and policy thrust of his predecessor before Akinwunmi Ambode’s emergence, who is touted as ‘The Consolidator.’
Fashola, the ‘Actualizer’ must have earned the absolute trust of President Buhari for a few reasons, some of which shone brightly during the intense campaign for the general elections. Others were the way he carried himself brilliantly during his eight-year administration of Lagos, which made him far ahead of his peers and first among equals of the Governors’ Class of 2007 to 2015.
Before the president selected Fashola as a ministerial nominee, there was a lot of talk from some quarters that Buhari might drop him due to some powerful forces within the ruling All Progressives Congress APC working against his nomination. However, the president had other ideas. He had so much faith in Fashola. Moreover, Buhari saw Fashola as a disciplined man just like himself who was ready to work assiduously.
One of the qualities you can’t deny Fashola of is his high spirit of patriotism. The former governor has always showed his passion for the progress of Nigeria. He believes in the project of a prosperous Nigeria. He proved this sufficiently when he steered the ship of Lagos, and became the toast of other African countries and foreign investors across the world.
Next to his patriotism is the fact that Fashola is a workaholic. The new minister of power, works and housing is a person who never gets tired of whatever he sets his eyes to achieve. When he came in as governor of Lagos in 2007, he could count the number of grey in his hair. Today, the reverse is the case. Eight years of intense work has made his hair all grey.
The minister, who would be the cynosure of all eyes in the new cabinet, also has a soft spot for innovative ideas. And his signature and indelible marks are all over the state. From the boosted Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to the Lagos State Security Trust Fund, which assisted in reducing crime in the state; the restructuring of the once notorious Oshodi under bridge and beautification of some notorious hotspot are few examples.
For the poster boy of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Fashola has proved the saying to be true that the reward for hard work is more work. In a sense, he has had his short rest abruptly truncated to help deliver the change the ruling party promised Nigerians.
In August, when during the twists of an intra-party high-wired politics that was meant to dim his chances of being considered for a national call into the president’s team, he had replied his traducers, particularly the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) on the subject of the N78 million personal website that he was not looking for a job.
“I cannot conclude without responding to the crusade of CACOL and their ilk, seeking my prosecution on allegations that have no proof and writing “pre-emptive” letters to the Presidency. In case they are unaware, I am not looking for a job. I expect them to know that allegations of wrongdoing are not resolved without evidence, neither are they resolved in press conferences.
“I have served my state, and by extension, my country for twelve and half years and I did so with my heart. I am taking the rest that I believe I have earned. For those who still wish to remain in the mud, they should look in the mirror. For those who wish to throw mud at me, they should look at their own hands. As for me, I have moved on. My job is done.”
After taking the oath of office yesterday as Minister, the job is beginning afresh, on a national scale, where he is expected to drive the vision of the president.
All hopes are on Fashola to succeed. Some of the fangs he released at the Federal Government during the previous administration will now be used to measure his achievements in office. The Federal Government must live up to its responsibility to Lagos. Expectedly, he stole the show during the ministers’ screening at the Senate, Nigerians now expect him to steal the show with a sterling performance.