Fashola, Jonathan and that Religious Jibe
By Kayode Ojo
Since he became governor of Lagos state in 2007, Babatunde Raji Fashola has largely avoided unnecessary controversies. Rarely did he engage in those acrimonies that usually distract his colleagues, which many believe accounts for his unwavering focus on issues of governance. Even when his predecessor-turned-godfather turns the heat on him, as he regularly does, Fashola keeps a cool mien. The result, you must concede to him, is that he has performed above average. However, for some inexplicable reasons, Fashola is now turning that legacy upside down by jumping into unnecessary controversies.
From his actions and utterances, he now gives the impression he is not the smooth guy we have all been led to believe he is. Not only has he chosen, in the twilight of his tenure, to hurl political missiles across the land, he is raising so much dust in the process. His recent statement that President Goodluck Jonathan spends more time inside the church than he spends leading the country is one of such unfortunate statements. Fashola made this statement while speaking at the sixth Bola Tinubu Colloquium in Lagos, tagged “The Summit of the Common man,” urging Nigerians to decide whether they want someone who spends most of his time in church or the man who is ready to spend his time on the job.
While it is difficult to relate the above statement to the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, it is even more difficult to understand what he intends to achieve with it. And this leads to the question: is Fashola a true Muslim? The question is necessary because, as the governor of a multi-religious state like Lagos, famed for tolerance among the adherents of the various religions, it is surprising that Fashola has chosen to disparage the Christian faithful, just to score a cheap point over President Jonathan. Besides, Muslims in all climes have over time labored to convince all of us that theirs is a tolerant religion — one that respects other faiths. The governor's recent unguarded outburst would therefore appear to give that effort a bashing.
What has the President's devotion to his Creator got to do with his performance, so much that Fashola believes it is time wasted? Let's juxtapose this position, for if indeed he is a true Muslim, he would probably observe the mandatory five prayers every day, most times abandoning state duties to do so. When you contrast this with President Jonathan who takes time off to worship in various churches on Sundays, Fashola would appear to be the one who spends more time in ablution and mosques. Yet no one quarrels with that. Would he rather the President spends his time with the Babalawos in Badagry like his godfather is wont to?
In playing the religious card against President Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party, Fashola forgot the realities of his own party and his state. That Christians in Lagos state which he governs have over time been sidelined as far as the governorship slot is concerned, is one. The raging controversy that his party, the All Progressive Congress, is gearing for a Muslim/Muslim presidential ticket for the 2015 elections with his godfather as major beneficiary is the other. Add that to the criticism that the party's top leadership is preponderantly peopled by adherents of the Muslim faith, and you will wonder why a man like Fashola who lives in a glass house, should be busy throwing stones. Rather than advert his mind to those indictments of the political platform and the dynasty that propped him up and continues to hold him to ransom against the wishes of the Lagos electorate, he has chosen to cry wolf where none existed.
Fashola's attitude to Jonathan is revealing indeed, for it is a curious insight into how he regards his wife, Abimbola Emmanuela Fashola, a born again, fire-spitting, tongue-speaking Christian just like his godfather's spouse. If he has such disdain for Christians, how has Abimbola been coping with him all this while? Is it not likely that Madam regularly gets on Oga's nerves often for spending time in church or prayer, and getting bitterly scolded in the process?
It is understandable that Fashola's increasing estrangement within his All Progressive Congress caucus in his Lagos state and at the regional and national levels may be driving him to frustration, but it is still not excusable for him to vent his frustration on the wrong person. In the past few weeks, Fashola as a sitting governor has wallowed in the political wilderness of Lagos, shut out from the crucial decision-making in the APC, including the search for his successor. Not only has Bola Tinubu taken the centre-stage in playing the state's political chess, he has continually rubbished the sitting governor in the process. Yes, Fashola is increasingly seeking relevance, and how best to do that than to take a swipe at the man who will ultimately be his godfather's nemesis, even if he rakes religious dust along the way. The stage and the timing cannot be more opportunistic for a sidelined godson seeking to warm his heart to the godfather by fighting his perceived enemy.
After all he has been through, including wriggling out of landmines planted for him by the Lagos State House of Assembly, ostensibly for “mishandling of public funds” in the ongoing mega city project, but obviously over a dispute over 2.1 billion Naira worth of monthly commission with a certain former governor, Fashola is the most unlikely man to rake up controversy. He may have lived for so long under another man's shadow, even as a state chief executive with enormous influence and power at his disposal, and may now want to find his voice. But he is going about it the wrong way. After avoiding a possible impeachment, he should do well to also avoid consciously putting his neck in-between the guillotine, for that is what religious politics is.
Kayode Ojo sent this piece from Ketu, Lagos.