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RAT RACE OVER FASHOLA'S 2ND TERM

By NBF News

When the need to search for a successor for former governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu midway into his second term arose, the name of the current governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), was not on the list of the shortlisted names of would be successors. He was just within the corridors of power as Chief of Staff.

Some names on the list included commissioners like Dr. Tola Kasali, Hakeem Gbajabiamila and Dr. Leke Pitan. Suddenly, the supposedly anointed aspirants had started representing their boss at various events, organising Press conferences, and campaign rallies.

Interestingly, however, the name Babatunde Raji Fashola (BRF) came up and this jolted those already on the campaign field. Instantly, they became the proverbial masquerade that danced first at the Market Square and later became part of the spectators at the end of the day.

However, the uproar are the twist the event generated pushed Tinubu to the public 'dock' to explain.

Addressing media executives on the issue at the State House, Marina the former governor had hectic time convincing them that 'what I see in all these aspirants, you may not see it.' According to him, all the aspirants, Fashola inclusive, were working with him and that he knew the stuff all of them were made of, assuring that 'with Fashola as my successor, you would not be disappointed.'

Daily Sun then sought out Fashola to tell his own story. He just stated as a matter of fact that 'Nigerian youths are very vibrant and knowledgeable enough to take this country to the promised land.' The youthful Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Fashola then assured that 'you would not be disappointed in me,' pointing out that 'as one of your generation, I am in a position to know what is good for our generation.'

So, on April 14, 2007, the 43 years old Fashola was elected to be governor on the ticket of the then Action Congress (AC), now Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). And true to his promise, Fashola did not leave anybody in doubt that he meant business by executing projects stipulated in his party's 10-point agenda to the admiration of the masses and his elated predecessor, Tinubu.

And at several fora, Tinubu has not been mincing words to describe Fashola as 'The Actualiser.' Even on several occasions, Tinubu has described his successor as 'my success story.' So far, Fashola had been vindicated in his assertion that 'only today's generation can understand the problems of its generation, and be in good stead to solve them.'

And while commenting on the performance of Fashola, an activist and General Secretary of the Oodua Self Determination Group (COSEG), Razak Oloko-Oba, said 'the young man has not disappointed the youth.'

Oloko-Oba, who described Fashola as Nigeria's youth Ambassador, is of the strong conviction that 'youths, who are as vibrant as Fashola abound throughout the length and breadth of this country,' advising that 'they should be fished out to take leadership position during the 2011 general election.'

He expressed confidence that, second term ticket for Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos state was a forgone conclusion, adding, 'Lagos people and Nigerians in general cannot imagine Governor Fashola not running for another term of four years either on his own volition or denial of the ticket by the Action Congress (AC).'

Expectedly, barely two years in office, newsmen asked the governor about his second term ambition which they thought was sacrosanct and a foregone conclusion. But the governor kept on telling them 'it is my party and the good people of Lagos State that can look at what I am doing and decide what next for me.' Fashola's achievements have undoubtedly become a reference point in Nigeria, as even members of the opposition parties agree that he is giving the people of Lagos good run for their votes.

Former Minister, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, took a critical look at what the political dynamite of Lagos State is doing and declared that 'Fashola has shown us that good governance is possible in Nigeria.' And at several political fora, discussants would hardly conclude their speeches without referring to what is happening in Lagos State as 'heart warming.'

However, as the accolade for the unassuming governor continues, the political atmosphere was polluted as the rumour mill had it that things were falling apart between Tinubu, and his actualizer political son, Fashola. The rumour further had it that the face-off might cause the latter a second term.

As the rumour was being examined by political watchers with a view to ascertaining its authenticity, a group, by the name 'True Face of Lagos', jolted the citizenry with an allegation of financial impropriety against Fashola.

The group even went took the allegation to the House of Assembly for a probe. It was when the House, under the leadership of the Speaker, Adeyemi Ikuforiji constituted a probe panel to look into the allegation against Fashola that people started to insinuate that something serious might be amiss between the governor and Tinubu.

But the Speaker has also stated on several occasions that 'there has never been a plan by the House to remove the governor,' saying 'he is one of our own. We elected him and we owe the party the duty to protect him.'

The political atmosphere now became charged even with denials, as individuals, independent analysts and groups started taking sides on the issue.

A group, 'Lovers of Raji Fashola (LORAF)', rose up and organised rallies to pledge support for his second term as well as to warn whoever might want to scuttle the second term project to watch it. Addressing one of the rallies, the LORAF president, Bishop Biodun Alani Olugbenro, said that no well-meaning Nigerian would ever imagine that a performing governor like Fashola would be denied a second term.

Even, the National Chairman of the Masses Movement of Nigeria (MMN), Idrees Alabi has said that 'for now, the man at the helm of affairs in Lagos State, in fairness to him, is doing something good and we can partner him as regards the 2011 governorship election.' Alabi, who is a lawyer, though added that 'it does not mean that if we have a candidate, who claims to have a better IQ than him, it does not mean that we cannot consider him and field him,' he stated, however, that 'but for now, in fairness, he is doing a good job and I hope his party would encourage him and if he has no choice but to look out, he could seek for another party like the MMN.'

When the ACN National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, was asked pointedly whether Fashola would go for a second term or not, he said he could only scale through, through a process that is yet to be put in place.

But Akande, who is proud of Fashola for doing a good job in Lagos, said on a personal ground, he would prefer Fashola to go for a second term.

As it is today, mum is the word among party chieftains as they are not ready to comment on the fate of one of their governors, whose hardwork has endeared him to the heart of all and sundry. But, time, the ultimate decider of fate, would in due course, decide when the party holds its primaries mid-October.