• Sunday, March 03, 2024
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Fashola says performance trumps integrity in politics. That’s utterly perverse!

Nigeria’s 17million housing deficit data is baseless — Fashola

Babatunde Fashola, SAN, former governor of Lagos State and outgoing minister of works and housing, has a reputation for erudition and a knack for memorable turns of phrase. Recently, Professor Wole Soyinka credited him with what he called “the Fashola Dictum”, based on his saying that elections should be “carnivals and festivals”, not wars. Yet, sometimes, Fashola’s logic is flawed and, sometimes, his views are warped. Take his recent apologia for Bola Tinubu, his former boss and immediate predecessor as Lagos State governor.

In an interview on Channels TV, Fashola was asked about Tinubu’s integrity. He ducked and dived. Despite the interviewer’s best efforts, Fashola was so slippery that pinning him down was like nailing jelly to the wall. Eventually, he delivered an appalling apologia. Allow me to quote the words verbatim.

Seun Okinbaloye (Channels TV): “You were Tinubu’s chief of staff. Why is it that the man has so much controversy around him? There’s controversy about his true age, controversy about his true educational status, controversy about his name; in fact, there are controversies about whether or not he has dual citizenship, controversy about his past life in the United States. Can you clear the air about this man?”

Fashola: “I think that’s what makes it the more interesting. And I think those issues have been ventilated sufficiently, and, you know what, the Nigerian people have decided those issues don’t matter. That’s what they have said by this vote.”

Which vote? Did Fashola study the results of the presidential election? Going by INEC’s figures, 25m Nigerians voted in the election; 8.8m voted for Tinubu, 16.4m voted against him. If Fashola knows anything about democratic legitimacy, rather than mere constitutional technicality, he won’t imply that the votes of 8.8m people are more important than those of 16.4m. If the election was a referendum on Tinubu’s character and integrity, well, 16.4m out of 25m voters rejected him. So, who were “the Nigerian people” who “decided those issues don’t matter”?

Strangely, Fashola, who repeatedly said religion shouldn’t be brought into politics, brought God into the issue. “I think now that Tinubu has surmounted all of these hurdles,” he said, “maybe there’s a divine purpose for it.” Divine purpose? That’s a pathetic transcendental apologetics. And it’s the surest route to destroying what’s left of Nigeria’s democracy: for any fraudulent election can be justified on the basis that “there’s a divine purpose for it.”

Recently, Premium Times, the independent media outfit, known for its investigative journalism, said its analysis of the results posted on the INEC Results Viewing portal, IReV, shows that Peter Obi, not Tinubu, won in Rivers State. Similar discrepancies, showing highly inflated votes for Tinubu, are reported in Lagos and several other states. Surely, God doesn’t need an acutely flawed person and a fraudulent election to achieve His purpose for Nigeria. Does He? Well, Fashola suggests God does, and has a theory, a dictum, to support his view! I call it Fashola’s perverse doctrine!

Here’s the doctrine. In the Channels TV interview, Fashola said: “Governance is not about integrity, it’s not about sainthood, it’s about efficiency, it’s about performance, it’s about delivery.” He admitted “there’s a level of integrity to which you should never compromise” but insisted that government is about “getting the results”, not about looking for a saint!

Of course, leaders are not saints. But are the level and nature of controversies swirling around Tinubu acceptable? The issues transcend Nigeria. Recently, a foreign newspaper quoted a foreign diplomat as saying: “Tinubu’s personal story is remarkable. His age, place of birth and education are the subject of speculation.” Should anyone trivialise or justify that?

Recently, Tinubu’s interview with The Guardian newspaper in October 1998 went viral. The interview started thus: “Senator Bola Tinubu, 52, returned from self-exile recently.” If Tinubu was 52 in 1998, how could he be 71 in 2023? And how could Tinubu be a biological son of the famous Tinubu family in Lagos and yet be so indigent that he couldn’t go to primary and secondary schools, as he claims? Didn’t he himself admit to forfeiting $460,000 to settle a drug-trafficking case in America? Of course, he did! And what’s Tinubu’s relationship with Guinea that he obtained the country’s passport? A president with dual citizenship?

Anyone who says these integrity issues don’t matter is unpatriotic, an enemy of Nigeria. Truth is, honesty and integrity matter in politics, and a president without integrity imperils democracy. Furthermore, in democratic governance, performance and integrity are intertwined, and can never be separated. You can’t have one without the other.

Let’s consider two examples: one from Britain, where performance and integrity usually go hand in hand; the other in Nigeria, where they don’t. Take Britain. In 2000, Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, introduced the “congestion charge” to tackle the unbearable traffic in London. The charge reduced traffic and generated huge revenue for the London government. Here’s the point. Livingstone had absolutely no commercial interest in the company collecting the congestion charge or, indeed, in any company collecting tolls in London. So, here, performance and integrity were in tandem!

Now, consider Nigeria. As governor, Tinubu raised the Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, of Lagos State from N600m per month to over N7bn (estimated to be worth about N50bn today). However, it has long been widely speculated that he’s a co-owner, albeit by proxy, of the company, Alpha-Beta, that collects the taxes and IGR for the Lagos State government. Indeed, in 2020, in a writ of summons deposed to at a Lagos High Court, a former boss of Alpha-Beta alleged that Tinubu owned but concealed a large equity interest in the company.

Going by Fashola’s doctrine, the increased IGR (performance) trumps the alleged conflict of interest and corrupt enrichment (integrity issues). Indeed, that was the view of Dele Alake, a top Tinubu aide, when asked about Alpha-Beta on Channels TV. “Does Tinubu own Alpha-Beta?” Alake was asked. “I don’t know, and I don’t care who owns it,” he replied, adding: “As far as I’m concerned, Alpha-Beta is delivering on its objectives and that’s enough for me.” So, like Fashola, Alake believes performance trumps integrity!

But no serious nation decouples integrity from performance. Sadly, neither exists in Nigeria. Take performance. Where’s performance when Lagos, which Tinubu and Fashola governed, is the “second-worst city to live among 172 cities worldwide”, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2022 rankings?

Read also: Controversy trails Fashola’s comment over Tinubu’s dual citizenship, others

Where’s performance when two out of three people in Lagos live in slums, according to the World Bank? And, nationally, where’s performance when 133m Nigerians are multidimensionally poor? Or when Nigeria cannot meet the basic needs of its citizens, cannot protect lives and property?

In 2015, when President Buhari formed his first-term cabinet, he created a super ministry – power, works and housing – for Fashola and called him a “Super Minister”, based on his overhyped achievements in Lagos. But Fashola failed woefully in Buhari’s first term.

The only thing he was remembered for was his infamous statement, in 2018: “If you don’t have power, it’s not the government’s problem.” In 2019, starting his second term, Buhari stripped Fashola of the “super ministry”. He took power away, leaving him with works and housing. But even so, Fashola will leave office on May 29, failing to fulfil his promise in 2019 that “the Federal Government will complete ongoing and abandoned projects.” So, where’s the “efficiency”, “performance”, and “delivery” he’s talking about?

Sadly, for Nigeria, it’s a double whammy: no delivery, no integrity! Yet, if Nigeria must succeed, performance and integrity must be two sides of the same coin, totally inseparable! So, Fashola’s doctrine is perverse: performance doesn’t trump integrity!