When in 2006, His Excellency Babatunde Fashola, contested the governorship election of Lagos State, with the slogan “Eko o nibaje”, I tried to find the meaning which I was told was “Lagos must not spoil”. The slogan did not sound serious to me then. It didn’t sound captivating as a campaign slogan. However, in May 2007, he won election and took over from his former boss, Senator Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
No sooner did he take over than that slogan started to make sense and meaning to me. Fashola showed that he was a man who had come to work. He showed why Lagos ‘must not spoil’. He show commitment on the dreadful traffic of Lagos at the time. Fashola initiated plans that minimized traffic congestion. Again, refuse dumps dotted Lagos. The city became rated among the dirtiest cities of the world. However, the coming of Fashola brought about the removal of these refuse dumps that today, Lagos competes with some European cities.
Two months ago, I boarded a BRT bus and had an exciting experience. Fashola transformed Lagos roads. He made Lagos the real Centre of Excellence. Everyone acknowledged the good works Fashola did. He transformed that state to become the pride of Nigeria. The then governor made visible impact on water, security and health. Everyone remembers the Ebola saga, and how Lagos State helped to stem the scourge of the dreadful disease in the country. He was later to be declared as the most Hard Working Governor, 2007 – 2015. When in 2015, President Mohammadu Buhari appointed him Minister of Power, Works and Housing, I jumped for joy.
I did not know that Buhari knew and saw the stuff Fashola was made of. It was at that point I convinced myself that Buhari meant well for Nigeria. For him to appoint Fashola to take charge of three ministries, gave credence that Buhari was out to rescue the country. As I rejoiced over his appointment, I remember leading a delegation as the President of Catholic Young Men Association (CYMA), now Catholic Brothers United (CBU), to Her Excellency, the then First Lady of Lagos State, Dame Emmanuella Abimbola Fashola at State House, Marina, in her capacity as the Patroness of CYMA now CBU. In my speech/address to her, I acknowledged the good works of her husband (Fashola) and wished and prayed for the time when “Eko o nibaje” would be taken to the next level – “Nigeria o nibaje”. Her Excellency then laughed over this comment. For me that comment made in 2012 was not only a desire but prophetic. Today it seems the wish has become a reality. As a minister, in charge of works, we are beginning to see the hands of Fashola in Nigerian roads, despite the current recession in the country. Furthermore, the power sector that seemed to have defied the efforts of previous administrations, a sector that billions of dollars had been pumped into, yet nothing to show.
Today, there is marked improvement on power delivery in ways never witnessed in the history of this country. I remember being in my residence at Maryland, Lagos, about three months ago and there was power failure, the neighbourhood was immediately greeted with tumultuous shouts – shouts of surprise and disbelief that light could be on for a period of almost two weeks uninterrupted as against the regular shouts we are used to when NEPA restored electricity supply, it is generally known that power availability has improved. Nigeria is without doubt witnessing the hand of Fashola in power. Thanks to the President for putting a round peg in a round hole. Even though we are not there yet, we’re heading to the time when power failure will be rare occurrence. The improvement we have recorded in power sector is a tip of the iceberg. Power as the most vital sector in this country is beginning to witness positive changes which will eventually translate to positive changes in other sectors.