Babatunde-Fashola

Fashola represents what we all advocate, a detribalised and regionally indifferent Nigerian with the skills and talents to create an environment of vast ideas, opportunities and possibilities. So, it’s only wise to remind him of the faith we have in him as he seems to have found himself in a politics more complex than the largely homogenous one experienced in Lagos. He must be roused to see that he is a model, to whom we, the younger generation look up for inspiration. It will be quite disappointing to find such a refined leader losing his steps in the politics of regional ambassadorship, when he is expected to uphold pan-Nigerian virtues.

Paulo Coelho in his book, The Devil and Miss Prym, said and I quote “In the beginning there was only a small amount of injustice abroad in the world, but everyone who came afterwards added their portion, always thinking it was very small and unimportant, and look where we have ended up today.”

When President Muhammadu Buhari appointed his ministers and merged the ministries of Power, Works and Housing into one, with the former Lagos State governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, tasked to head it, or rather to serve as what one may refer to as “Prime Minister” – as the new ministry is indeed pivotal to the structural development of this country – many people in the North expressed a certain concern behind the scenes.

The reason for this was the fear of inequality or favouritism, as is often the tradition, in the identification of projects to either execute by a ministry of such influence and impact in various geo-political zones of the country. Based on my knowledge of Fashola’s track record as a visionary governor, it was easy to dismiss such concern as needless paranoia, for he appears to represent the ideals of a new Nigeria with his postmodern leadership style that seems to defy ethnic, religious and regional sentiments, which many of us are familIar with.

So, it came to me as utterly shocking and extremely disappointing when I saw items proposed by the Fashola-led ministry in the proposed budget for the 2016 fiscal year. It was hard to applaud the projects proposed for execution by the ministry in each of the six geopolitical zones, as detailed in an article by the Daily Trust. Fashola proposed the following disturbing amounts for each of the geopolitical zones:

South West – N88.7Billion
North West – N30.1Billion
North Central – N29Billion
South South – N22.5Billion
North East – N9.4Billion
South East – N2.9Billion

In his defence, Fashola claimed the figure for South-West is this high because of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway which, alone, is said to have been allocated N50 billion! This is much more than what the South-South, North-East and South-East are getting combined, which is just N35 billion. As if this isn’t enough, Mr. Fashola went on to add a whooping N38.7 billion (more than the allocation for the North-West) to the budget for the South West to make it a total of N88.7Billion. Haba, Honourable minister! If the Lagos-Ibadan expressway is that important, why not capture it alone in this year’s budget and then the remaining projects can be captured in the 2017 budget? Is the minister implying that there are no important projects in each of the regions that can also gulp such amount? As important as the Lagos-Ibadan expressway is, is it much more important than other critical and pending projects in the remaining regions? I’m utterly dumbfounded at the minister’s moral courage in even justifying these atrocious budgetary allocations. Also, how does he expect the Senators and House of Representative members from the five other geopolitical zones in the National Assembly to approve this? By allocating a mere N2.9 billion to the entire South-East, isn’t the minister further alienating these aggrieved Nigerians who have been fiercely protesting their perceived marginalisation?

Fashola’s proposed allocations give him away as insular, as he seems to have no actual understanding of the challenges in any region other than the South-West. If he were any sensitive while drafting the budget, he wouldn’t have missed the fact that the North-East has been ravaged by terrorism, that the North-West serves as a major economic hub of the country, that the North-Central connects the North to the South, that the South-South has been ravaged by oil spillage and that the South-East, aside from being an economically vibrant region and a manufacturing hub, cries to be pacified, especially in the time the Niger bridge is still an unfulfilled promise. These are because the wish of every government is to be embraced as fair to the yearnings and deficiencies of all federating units of the country.

Let there be fair play in the ways our APC-led government leads this great nation. We must ally to defeat nepotism, regionalism and all forms of economic and political drawbacks that have held us backwards for too long. We must ally to build a nation we can all be proud of and call our own, where leaders oppose disintegrating policies.

With due respect to the Honourable minister, this is NOT the change we advocated and voted for. It’s insensitive acts like his that have driven the PDP to the mortuary and certainly we will not fold our arms and remain silent while our great party seeks to tread the same path. I have been a strong supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari since he joined politics about a-decade-and-a-half ago, but even if he were responsible for the insensitive allocations, I will point out the lapses and offer my honest reason for doing so. As an intelligent man, we expected better from the Honourable minister; he ought to know more than us that inequality and injustice only breed revolt and resistance.

Let there be fair play in the ways our APC-led government leads this great nation. We must ally to defeat nepotism, regionalism and all forms of economic and political drawbacks that have held us backwards for too long. We must ally to build a nation we can all be proud of and call our own, where leaders oppose disintegrating policies.

It’s a task upon us to not only keep the government on its toes, but to appeal to it to recognise its mistakes and oversights. And in this case, it’s not hard to get that equitable distribution of developmental projects across the country as the surest way to appease the people and give them a sense of belonging in this polarised nation.

I wouldn’t have been outraged if these budgetary allocations were proposed by any person other than Fashola. It’s a task upon us to not only keep the government on its toes, but to appeal to it to recognise its mistakes and oversights. And in this case, it’s not hard to get that equitable distribution of developmental projects across the country as the surest way to appease the people and give them a sense of belonging in this polarised nation.

Fashola represents what we all advocate, a detribalised and regionally indifferent Nigerian with the skills and talents to create an environment of vast ideas, opportunities and possibilities. So, it’s only wise to remind him of the faith we have in him as he seems to have found himself in a politics more complex than the largely homogenous one experienced in Lagos. He must be roused to see that he is a model, to whom we, the younger generation look up for inspiration. It will be quite disappointing to find such a refined leader losing his steps in the politics of regional ambassadorship, when he is expected to uphold pan-Nigerian virtues.

Salihu Tanko Yakasai writes from Kano State.