By ANEYO oyekola firstname.lastname@example.org
Going back in time, followers of partisan politics would remember that the first tenure of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola fueled enormous criticism. He made more enemies than friends in his early days in office. The decisions he made were never celebrated; they were subject to debate on every opinion poll in the media. Fashola’s steps were criticized and misinterpreted from the demolition of several illegal structures to countless arrest of street traders and hawkers, prohibition of Okada on designated roads, enforcement of all tax laws, the advent of BRT buses and lanes and the restructuring of various markets in the state. The list is not exhaustive.
Governor Fashola stood by his decisions despite the pain and the anguish the change he sought for had caused the people. From the top of the pyramid to the bottom, everyone was affected directly or indirectly.
His vision for a new Lagos, a well managed mega city, was a picture he communicated often to the people of the state through the media campaigns, but his approach and the execution of his plans were not as smooth as the eloquence of his speeches.
Capitalizing on his legal background, he engineered his actions with the tools of the law and applied force where necessary. A vivid illustration of this took place on Sunday January 4, 2009, when a demolition squad descended on the popular Oshodi market bulldozing everything including goods and properties. This action came to the citizens of the state as a big shock. The criticism was that traders were just resuming for the New Year with enormous responsibilities on their shoulders. The timing and the manner with which the government went about its execution was said to be wrong! Inhuman! Injustice! Arrogant! But Fashola carried on anyway, because he had the good of the people at heart.
However, today, the story is different. Oshodi is different and livable.
Fashola strived to redesign and redefine Lagos. Today, the state is used as a reference point and a model. The bar of qualitative leadership is being raised by his administration. But we must not forget the new Lagos came with a price.
The process of re-modeling Oshodi on Sunday January 4, 2009 is similar to President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to remove fuel subsidy on Sunday January 1, 2012. The decision aggravated tension all across the nation leading to civil unrest and a nationwide strike. His decision has come under very serious scrutiny from every strata of our society.
Despite the timing and Mr. President’s approach, it should be noted that for a leader, the best time to make a decision is now.
I believe the position of Nigerians would have been different if Mr. President had started out by taking the first step in transforming the power sector. If Nigerians had perceived one sector in the country that is working under the President, like Lagosians saw Oshodi transformed by Fashola’s administration, the reaction towards the fuel subsidy removal would have been less negative.
President Goodluck Jonathan must not keep the blueprint of his action plan away from Nigerians, we need to know the path he is going.
Governor Fashola painted a picture of a New Lagos for all to see and made things happen. This is a lesson the President and other leaders can learn from. Don’t put the cart before the horse if you want our journey as a nation to be smoother.
God bless Nigeria.