Saint Fashola’s Cross And His Disciples

Mr. Babatunde Fashola is often referred to as the symbol of good governance by his numerous admirers. Now, it does not matter if I feel he is overrated. When a man is popular, he is popular. The story of his good deeds in office has not stopped reverberating across the length and the breadth of Nigeria .

I remember an encounter with some youths when I visited the north-eastern state of Yobe during his tenure as governor of Lagos state. On discovering I came from Lagos, Fashola became the talking-point. I saw the enthusiasm with which they spoke in glowing terms about the former governor of Lagos.Joy was etched on their faces as they say sugary things about Fashola. My

Conclusion was simple: This Babatunde Raji Fashola (BRF) is really popular

In fairness to the governor of example (apologies Sam Omatseye), he did his best for Lagos. Whether his best was good enough is a matter for another day. But this piece is really not about Fashola's performance or non-performance.BRF is in the eye of the storm.

He is facing baptism of fire from all angles. His towering reputation is threatened, following allegations of corruption given prominence by Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL). What are these allegations?

Many Nigerians were stone shocked when the story of Fashoa's alleged N78.3m website broke. Even before Lagos former governor uttered a word, many had risen to swear by all they worship that Fashola couldn't have spent such a huge amount of money to build a website,as if they share the omniscient quality of God to know a man’s heart. In responding to the allegation, Fashola confirmed the money was actually approved. My headache here is not whether the whole of N78.3 m was actually spent to build a website. It is the thought of allocating the money in question to build it,and its subsequent approval by the Lagos state House of Assembly. It reveals the see-no- evil-hear-no-evil nature of the legislature in a good number of states across the federation .And who knows how many of such approvals have escaped the radar of critical observers?

Just as the dust raised by Fashola's website was about settling ,details of some contracts allegedly awarded by the administration of the former governor was again splashed on the official website of Lagos state.Of interest are the N139m and N160m allegedly spent on drilling two boreholes and reconstruction of a car park respectively ! And I ask, what kind of borehole costs N69.5m in a state like Lagos? And N640m for reconstruction of a park? Well, Fashola has loads of explanations to make on these seeming obscene contracts. Oh,I almost forgot the allegation about illegal acquisition of government lands and several other assets.

Expectedly, the rumour mill went into overdrive with insinuations as to what might have triggered the travails of BRF.The conspiracy theorists, the what-abouters and Fashola’s praise singers went to town with all manner of stories. They fingered the former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and current governor Akinwumi Ambode for working harder than the devil to ensure that he is not appointed as minister by president Buhari. They even accused the duo of being very corrupt. While one cannot dismiss their accusations with a wave of the hand, the all-important question should be: Is Fashola innocent? Fashola’s travails has again brought to the fore our pro-corruption attitude even when some of us mouth anti-corruption rhetoric . How we react to a corruption allegation is sometimes dependent on who is at the centre of it and several devices are adopted to justify corruption.

Front-rank columnist, Simon Kolawole, Identified one of these devices In his “Pro-Corruption and anti-Corruption “article in This Day newspaper of 25th July, 2015. Hear him:”…The third device is the cry of “political vendetta”. You know it: “It is because we are not in the same party” , “It is because my grandfather did not allow his granduncle to pluck mango from our yard”,… The golden question, I suggest, should be: Did you steal or not ? If you didn’t, the logical step is to clear your name in the court of law,not in the court of public opinion. Vendetta is very easy when you have soiled your hands.I do not by any means dismiss vendetta as a factor, but what about the substance?The ultimate antidote to vendetta lies in clean hands.” Brilliant! I can’t let agree less!

Nigeria is the the only country I know where “excellent performance” in a political office is synonymous with integrity. To many defenders of Fashola , a man’s impressive performance is enough to wash his sins away,and vault him to sainthood. Tell them he has questions to answer, and the cry of political vendetta begins. They wave his stellar scorecard in your face, as if it answers any relevant questions. Interestingly, the same people are ever- quick to bay for the blood of Goodluck Jonathan’s men on hearing allegations of corruption. We can’t kill the vermin of corruption with this hypocritical attitude.

No doubt, Fashola is carrying a heavy cross, and I don’t envy him. His integrity is being put to the test.But his defence so far has been less than convincing and watery. He must fight tooth and nail to save his reputation,else it goes to ruins. And he may just wrestle with the pigs. Will he win?

Ladesope Ladelokun writes from Ogun state

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Articles by Ladesope Ladelokun