Once again, President Muhammadu Buhari has justified why he is referred to as pia pia, one of the several aliases by which he is known in the north. As you might have rightly surmised, pia pia is the name many northerners call ota pia pia, a popular insecticide known to many Nigerian homes.
The pia pia appellation had its root in the first coming of President Buhari as military head of state between January, 1984 and August, 1985! The twenty months he and late General Abdulbaaqi Babatunde Idiagbon ruled was the second time Nigerians had the opportunity of having a committed leadership. In essence, the pia pia appellation, which became popular when the General joined the political fray, is an acknowledgment of what people believe the president is capable of doing. He has not disappointed!
Ordinarily, commonsense would have taken the backseat had powerful voices been allowed to decide the composition of the Buhari/Osinbajo cabinet. If it were so, the big masquerades behind the Pull Down Fashola (PDF) campaign would have succeeded in keeping former Lagos governor, Raji Babatunde Fashola [pictured abive], out of the cabinet. And Nigerians would have been denied whatever value Fashola was capable of bringing to governance.
President Buhari’s ministerial list conforms to his pledge to be his own man. What the president did has put paid to the practice of the past when state governors and party leaders ran the show when it comes to the choice of cabinet members. The message is clear: if we are serious about building strong institutions, the buck should be seen to stop on the desk of the president who should be the one that should be held accountable for the action of ministers!
Still on building strong institutions! That, precisely, is what Fashola did for most part of the eight years he served as governor of Lagos state. It is for this reason that residents and visitors to state unhesitatingly attest to the ‘Lagos is working’ mantra. From working in the city from the late ‘80’s to the early ‘90’s, to being a regular visitor ever since, I can lay claim to knowing Lagos to be able to make a fair assessment! The Lagos of the 1980’s I knew was chaotic; a typical no-man’s-land where everything went!
Up to the mid ‘90’s, Oshodi was still a place people regularly get mugged in broad daylight. The place was home to all manner of people, a place where that innocent looking-face staring at you could be that of a mugger, a pimp or a hired killer! Gays, fraudsters, executive and non-executive beggars and red-eyed, fierce-looking touts whose mere appearance stood your hair on edge completed the picture. Sometimes in December, 1989, a journalist with a nose for investigative stories got his nose bloodied, at noon and in full glare of pedestrians, for trying to tell the story of Lagos from Oshodi.
Today, chaos, which was one of the reasons cited for the relocation of the seat of government to Abuja, has ebbed. Oshodi and other dark spots have not lost completely lost their notoriety but sanity has returned to the point that people are not mugged in broad daylight. Today, Oshodi is a place where a pin can now be picked with ease even at night; few years back, a pin had no hope of dropping! In most part of today’s Lagos, people now use footbridges without having to sidetrack wares displayed by street hawkers or have their dress pulled by desperate beggars.
Good governance has virtually ended the practice of red-eyed roughnecks extorting ground rent from innocent citizens. Adhesive-sniffing and reefer-reeking Area Boys and Girls who held the city by its jugular have been taken off the streets, thanks to a far-sighted government that did not have to resort to the Ita-Oko tactics of the Obasanjo military years to sanitize Lagos. What happened in Fashola’s Lagos is a positive guide to what a determined and focused leadership is capable of doing.
Lagos has been lucky, anyway. Right from the military administration of General Buba Marwa through that of Asiwaju Tinubu up to the Fashola years, Lagos could be said to have been in safe hands. At a point, the anger of those who accused of Fashola of usurping power simply for defying the godfather evaporated after Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu found himself in an awkward position of pouring encomiums on Fashola!
All these do not lighten the allegations against Fashola! But, until they are proven, it will be wrong to deny Nigerians whatever value Fashola could add to governance, simply because he fell out with some big political masquerades. It must be conceded, however, that the face-off between Fashola and Asiwaju has its benefits. For instance, it has shown that even before the corruption allegations against him are proved, Fashola, like all humans, is vulnerable after all and this must have left those who expected a cabinet of saints from President Buhari sorely disappointed.
The reason Lagosians regularly chorus Eko oni baje is that voters in Nigeria’s business and commercial capital can differentiate between clear-headed leaders and pretenders. In must have been in the spirit of pushing the Lagos Agenda that Lagosians voted for Governor Ambode despite a last-ditch, multi-million Naira desperate efforts by Mr. Goodluck Jonathan to turn the tide in favour of the PDP. Governor Ambode will do well to justify the confidence reposed in him by the people instead of fighting a needless battle.
After almost giving up on the prospect of transparent elections, Nigerians are beginning to realise that the ballot box remains the best option to change clueless and non-performing leaders! Already, Governor Ambode has done enough damage to himself by spearheading the PDF campaign at a time he should busy himself with besting the performance of his immediate predecessor. This, he cannot do, if he continues to fight the battle of a vindictive political godfather.
While the godfather watches, Nigerians too have their eyes trained on His Excellency, Governor Ambode who cannot afford to join the swollen rank of disingenuous leaders! Yet, there is a palpable feeling that the wish of the wonderful people of Lagos state for another action governor to succeed Fashola, is in jeopardy.
Abdulrazaq Magaji lives in Abuja and can be reached at email@example.com <234-805-138-0793>