By Uthman Giwa
Since the advent of Nigeria’s democratic odyssey in 1999, one can safely argue that no public office holder or state governor has enjoyed so much popularity or admiration as Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State.
Though he didn’t set out to have this kind of movie star cult-following among Nigerians, his relentless pursuit of the ideal, pervasive and profound achievements, despite a drastic shortfall in federal revenue allocation,and catholic devotion to bettering the lives of Lagosians have earmarked him as a primus inter pares.
The fact that he doesn’t make a song and a dance of these achievements further prove that he is an exception in a political clime where governors celebrate paying the salaries of civil servants. Really, it is hard not to love BRF as he is fondly called by Nigerians of all ages and races and religions.
A gangling force of nature, Fashola’s gregarious charm, razor-sharp intellect and the innate gravitas he brings to governance make many analysts and social commentators compare him to the charismatic American President, Barrack Obama.
Interestingly, the comparisons are hinged on their trajectory and individual characteristics. Both are trained lawyers serving their second terms in public office. Both are southpaws, keen sports fans (Obama plays basketball and doesn’t mind getting bloodied on the court while Fashola plays football avidly) and have incredible appeal among youths.
That is where the similarities end.While Obama rode into office on a tidal wave of genuine love and desire for change, Fashola was the anonymous, self-effacing technocrat railroaded into the maelstrom of Lagos politics by his former principal, the former Governor of Lagos, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Interestingly, while Obama’s rating in the eyes of Americans has plummeted in the last one and a half years, Fashola has been enjoying stratospheric adulation wherever he turns whether in Lagos or Lafia and everywhere else.
Yet, it is not because Obama has lost his mojo and oratorical appeal; it is just that Fashola’s type is rare in this clime. His dynamic insight and robust foresight have placed him as a leader who never flounder in torrid times. Going forward, that is the kind of leader Lagos State needs, not tentative, ill-prepared also-rans.
Lagos is Nigeria’s most important state. And one does not need higher education to understand this. It is the socio-economic nerve-centre and heartbeat of Nigeria. It is home to Nigeria’s second largest population after Kano, according to contrived census figures but Nigerians know better.
Lagos is too important to be left in the hands of charlatans or inordinately ambitious politicians whose only aim is to feather their own nest and that of their cronies at the detriment of millions of Lagosians. It is therefore very interesting to see the horde of aspirants jostling to succeed Governor Fashola.
As at the last count, there must be over thirty potential candidates across the major political parties jostling to win their party’s ticket.
In the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, there are no less than ten gladiators ranging from the current Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, Commissioner for Works, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, Akinwunmi Ambode, Senator Ganiyu Solomon, to the former Attorney General of the State, Olasupo Sasore.