The rift between former Lagos State Governors Babatunde Fashola and Bola Tinubu is nothing but a feud between a godson fighting to free himself from the influence of a godfather writes Okechukwu Jombo.
What first started as a rumour seems to have been confirmed at last, that is the division between former governors of Lagos State Babatunde Fashola and Bola Tinubu.
The confirmation came to the fore a few days ago when Tinubu and the current Lagos State Governor, Akinwumi Ambode, stayed away from Fashola’s three-book launch in Lagos and didn’t send representatives either.
Several leaders of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and even some commissioners who served during Fashola’s administration shunned the event. Many were appalled that the governor, who left office barely three months ago, would be quickly deserted by his political associates.
For Fashola, who attracted criticism due to his no-nonsense approach to governance, this is not the best of times. The embattled former governor has been in the news recently, not for his achievements in office, but for shocking allegations levelled against his administration, which some people claim is because of his rift with his former godfather.
Even though he achieved several developmental strides in the areas of urban renewal, construction of rural roads, hospitals, markets and rural electrification, his popularity seems to be threatened as he faces a litmus test after leaving office.
His problem came to the light when a group, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, dragged him before the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, calling for his investigation on an alleged scam over a contract for the upgrade of his personal website at a cost of N78million.
An allegation which the former governor denied, declaring that the state government, through the procurement office, did not disclose the details of the website upgrade to include some aspects making up the entire contract sum.
Fashola, who denied having children outside wedlock apart from the three he adopted, following the DANA plane crash, also denied involvement in the National Assembly crisis, saying he arrived the country on the day of the crisis.
Fashola, who served for eight years as governor, might have incurred the wrath of a lot of people within the APC and outside it, some of who felt he was “too arrogant” and now wanted to take their own pound of flesh.
Some even attributed the recent situation to Tinubu’s determination to block the chances of Fashola from becoming a minister in the yet-to-be formed cabinet of President Buhari.
This, prompted Fashola to declare in his published statement that he was not looking for a job, stressing that “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,” even as he threw a broadside at his opponents that, “When you wrestle with a pig, the pig gets happy and you get dirty.”
Some Tinubu supporters were reportedly said to be the ones fighting back because of the perceived ill- treatment their leader suffered at the hands of Fashola while he was governor.
Tinubu’s people are not the only forces against Fashola, a former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Demcoratic Party, PDP, Chief Olabode George, also berated Fashola for allegedly spending N78 million to build a website, describing it as a “reckless misappropriation.”
George, who called on President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate the alleged misappropriation, said the former governor’s defence is unjustifiable. In a statement entitled: Neither Fashola nor Tinubu, the PDP chieftain urged the president to probe the administration of Fashola and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in his fight against corruption.
“We are living in very interesting times. There is an air of repugnancy everywhere, specifically in my state where the immoral stench and the dark odium of Fashola’s regime is daily being unearthed. The so called poster boy of yesterday is now being revealed in pure pollutant largeness, reeking of sharp practices and financial untidiness.”
In addition, he said “What is most disgusting and annoying in all these is the arrogant and the befuddled attempt by Fashola to justify the apparent reckless misappropriation of Lagos State taxpayers money to set up a personal website. Fashola shows no remorse, no semblance of regret, no guilty nudging of conscience. Instead, he still attempts to ride a high horse, puffing and stomping in feigned seraphic innocence. We are not fooled.
“We knew all along that the emperor had no clothes. Using N78 million tax payers money to build a website is reckless misappropriation.
The phony N25 billion used to build a mere kilometer long link bridge is outrageous venality. The spurious N1.5 billion allegedly spent on phantom pedestrian bridges is another con game and there are so many of these screaming illegalities observable in the record of our poster boy of yesterday.”
Fashola’s supporters are not sleeping either, leading to some stakeholders in both the APC and Lagos State calling for a truce.
While the Tinubu camp have vowed to fight on, “to teach the former governor a lesson,” the Fashola side of the divide “is determined to ensure that his integrity is not tainted by those who are jealous of his ascendancy in the polity.”
However, Ambode’s aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said it was too simplistic for anybody to think that the government, headed by Ambode, was behind the ongoing corruption campaign against the former governor in order to rubbish his record of achievements while in office for eight years.
“Ambode is not interested in the smear campaign against Fashola, it is a non-issue. It is too simplistic to suggest that, it is left for people to find out who is doing this. I can tell you that the government is not involved. It is not possible for government to have a hand in that. The governor is a pragmatic person and ready to move on by restructuring the state,” the close source said.
Fashola after some moment of silence responded in a statement ‘‘This statement of profound wisdom informed my silence in the wake of manipulated and unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing being levelled against me.
‘’They started a few weeks to the end of my tenure, and have continued till date. They range from allegations of extra marital paternity of children, to mundane and phantom conspiracy in the National Assembly, a debt profile for Lagos State and lately a website upgrade contract of N78 million, which is being distorted.
‘‘In so far as the allegations of paternity are concerned, they are wicked and false. I have no other biological children other than my two children. Of course, I adopted three children who became orphaned as a result of the tragic DANA airplane crash of 2012 and the adoption followed due process. As far as the website contract is concerned, yes there was a contract. It went through procurement and was approved by the government agency authorised to do so.
One of the services was an “upgrade” quoted for N12.5 million but awarded for N12 million. There were other services that were new; like a handover countdown clock, mobile Apps for Google, for IOS and ipad, for Microsoft, and for Research in Motion (Blackberry), which the existing website did not have, as well as the annual maintenance cost for managing it.
‘’It was for all these services that the contract was issued for N78 million, which the Lagos State procurement agency gave a No Objection based on the advice of the Ministry of Science and Technology, who are the government’s adviser on ICT matters. In publishing this contract award which was the government’s tradition under my watch, the procurement agency’s website summarised it as “upgrade” only without detailing the other services and this has been distorted by the agents of hate as their suspected “smoking gun.
‘’The website that is now under attack helped me to do my job, respond to citizens and the contract was issued to run till my last day of office. It stands logic upside down for me to “fraudulently” award a contract and then have it published on a website. To date, there have been 27.666 million hits on this website, with 1,844 videos, 34,381 photographs, 2,531 press releases and 595 speeches, among other items of public communication.
‘‘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.’’
Investigations revealed that toward the end of Fashola’s first term, it was clear that he and Tinubu were not enjoying a good relationship. There were unconfirmed reports that Fashola was not complying with the advice and demands of his godfather. During the campaign for the APC governorship primaries last year, the immediate past governor was said to have favoured a co-lawyer, Olasupo Shasore, to succeed him, against Akinwunmi Ambode who was said to be Tinubu’s choice.
But Tinubu in a statement entitled, “My relationship with Fashola is intact,” said the report that his relationship with his successor is frosty was false.
“For a while now, I have noticed and read many published political stories on Lagos politics, in particular, and the personalities involved that are concocted, unsubstantiated, pure conjectures or outright falsehood. In this instance, I reference a story ran by a newspaper concerning my successor and me. There are no doubt political charlatans and enemies are at work, fuelling unnecessary rumours, insinuations and seeking to drive a wedge in an otherwise cordial and respectful political relationship.
“My relationship with (Governor) Fashola remains cordial both at the personal level and at the level of commitment to ensuring that Lagos State remains on the path of political stability, growth and development. Whether (Governor) Fashola had a specific candidate or not isn’t the issue here. What is important is to have a transparent process in the spirit of democracy to which we both subscribe. We often debate, agree or disagree. But when it comes to concluding on the interest of Lagos State, we are on the same page.”
Tinubu’s response, in the words of an observer, was released because “the APC did not want to wash its dirty linen in the public.”
Some political watchers were not convinced. Although Tinubu denied having a favourite aspirant before the governorship primary, the eventually victory of Ambode did not assuage the suspicions of the people.
A Yoruba adage that says “if there are no enemies within, the external enemies are not potent,” seems to aptly explain the cause of Fashola’s troubles after the end of his tenure.
Earlier, Governor Ambode had announced the retirement of 15 permanent secretaries who were said to be loyal to Fashola. The governor also approved the appointment of 19 new permanent secretaries.
A statement by Ambode’s Chief Press Secretary, Habib Aruna, however, stated that the appointments were in line with the governor’s drive to restructure the civil service for efficient service delivery. To some watchers of political events in the state, the sack was the perpetuation of the rift between Ambode and his predecessor.
The alleged Fashola/Tinubu rift has enormous implications for the ruling APC which had been in power in the state for the past 16 years. Some have predicted that aggrieved aspirants of the party in the last election who are not happy with Tinubu’s leadership may join forces with Fashola. The allegation against the former governor also brings some questions to the fore, especially if Fashola was right to have spent N78 million on a website? The APC, which rode to power on the strength of its anti-corruption campaign and judicious use of public resources, seems to be losing its admirers as many are in doubt if there are other inflated expenses that Fashola made while in power.