For seven years running, Babatunde Fashola, immediate past governor of Lagos State, has lived with the bewilderment of a rare accomplishment that could have cost him his name, reputation, indeed, everything, if it had gone amiss.
He confessed recently that the performance of that feat gave him goose pimples, noting that, in life, every mortal at one time or another experiences some desperate moments.
Addressing a large gathering of guests inside the Shell Hall, Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos, venue of a public presentation of three books in his honour, Fashola explained that he had the longest 10 seconds of his life in 2008.
Speaking specifically on the third book, The Lagos Blow Down which essentially chronicles the events surrounding the 2008 controlled demolition (by implosion) of the partially-collapsed Bank of Industry (BoI) building on Broad Street, the first of such feat in Africa, which drew global attention to Lagos, he said that all the time the contractors were planning, they never told him what they wanted him to do.
“A few seconds before the building went down; I still lack words to capture how surreal my thoughts were. There was fear but we found the will to do it and we did it,” he said.
“The contractors handed me a walkie-talkie and said I should give the last order whether to go ahead or back out when they began to count in the last 10 seconds to the end of the entire exercise. There was apprehension; but there was no going back,” he added.
It could be perfectly interpreted that the contractors wanted to leave the decision squarely at the doorstep of the former governor. Like the surgeon who would not carry out a caesarean section on a woman except the husband gives a written approval, the contractors, though were not in doubt of their expertise, wanted the blame to be heaped on Fashola in the event of any misadventure. Thank goodness, it ended well!
He explained that the demolition of the BoI building was meant to attain a better and safer society for the older, present and future generations of Nigerians.
According to him, before undertaking the demolition amidst fears of what could happen in the course of bringing it down, the state had taken a global insurance, underwritten by AIG, an American insurance firm, to indemnify for any unforeseen circumstances.
“What people did not know was that we had taken global insurance for every single building around the vicinity, in the event we got it wrong. The blow down has gone global. Nothing like this had been done before. The Oklahoma building that was partially brought down had no building close to it. But here, there were many buildings around the target. Not even a church (the closest building to the BoI building) lost a window blade,” he recalled.
The books presented were In Bold Print, The Lagos Blow Down and The Great Leap authored by his media aide for eight years, Hakeem Bello and Dapo Adeniyi.
Fashola in his remarks also advised the citizens of Nigeria to be more committed and adequately prepare for the 2016 National Census.
He emphasised the importance of planning in development, warning against the practice of manipulating census figures. He said: “Given the people that we are, and from the people who did our last census now owning up that figures were falsified, the onus is on us to get it right in 2016.
“I say this, because data, in my view, is important. If the work of government is to provide services to people, its efficiency will be determined by its knowledge of how many people need service. And therefore, without accurate census figures, it may seem that we are not determined to head on the path of development.”
He noted that the last head-count was fraught with manipulation, which defeated the purpose of providing authorities with useful data.
The former governor said the population size “has changed from 160million to 170million and sometimes we now hear of 180million.”
The immediate past governor explained that because the state officials worked parallel with National Population Commission (NPC) during the exercise, it was easy to see-through the manipulation.
“When the NPC returned with a number of over nine million for Lagos, it was clear that it had become, in Fela’s words, ‘government magic’. Because I recalled very clearly that for 11 nights and 11 days, we did not sleep.
“It was my office as the then Chief of Staff that led, including all the Local Government chairmen. The population commission told us that they were going to enumerate households and the definition of a household is one family; of husband, wife and children.
“At the end of the exercise, we enumerated 4.5m households in Lagos. Yet, they returned with only nine million as Lagos population. It meant that all households in Lagos have only husband and wife, and no children. But that is a matter for us to take seriously this time and play our roles when the time comes,” he said.
Fashola added that it was important for the citizenry “to remain where they live and be counted there, because census is not about where one comes from. The number aggregated in a place is the data that would be used to plan lives of the residents and that of the next generation.”
A harvest of eulogies
Both in office and out of office, Fashola has continued to grab newspaper headlines. Analysts say, for the good reasons.
The occasion of the book launch afforded many people the opportunity to pour encomium on the person of Fashola, whom they described as an enigma that cannot be wished away.
Opening the floodgate of praises, Fola Adeola, chairman of the occasion and founder, FATE Foundation, said those who chose to play bad politics would not recognise the quintessentialness of Fashola. He said: “The true essence why we are here is because he is your friend, your brother or cousin. He no longer award contracts. So, anybody who is here is because he is brave. They are also the ‘Omoluabis’”.
Adeola also noted: “I have not attempted to describe a perfect man; I just described a human being. I know one place where people are perfect is heaven; where the angels are perfect.
“Those who take decisions are faced with multiple choices. So, many leaders die on that spot, deciding whether to go left or right. The only thing about taking decision is not just taking decision, but taking it on time. I want to tell you that Fashola has taken decisions; on May 29 he ceased taking decisions for Lagos. I said that those who are here are bold and brave. Being brave at doing this; being bold does not make us enemies of anybody,” he said.
Bukola Saraki, Senate president, represented by Gbenga Makanjuola, deputy chief of staff to the Senate president, said Fashola was one among few Nigerians that believe and uphold the tenets of democracy.
According to him, “his stewardship as governor of Lagos State speaks for itself. He came, he saw and he achieved. He is a great analyst, a friend of the common man; Fashola believes in general interest than in personal interest. He is a bridge builder, visionary and accomplished leader.”
Tunde Samuel, a special adviser on education in Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration praised Fashola’s intellect and skills in political engineering.
He said Fashola was an irrepressible political oracle, an embodiment of “intellectualism with capacity to think right,” and that he was taking a step further on “his performance audit in the last eight years in office.”
Olatunji Dare, a professor, a veteran journalist, writer and author, who was represented at the event by Angela Adejumobi, noted that Fashola was one of those that declared early enough that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) days were numbered. That was when the then ruling party was boasting that it would rule Nigeria for 60 unbroken years.
While ending his review of the books, he said: “Something tells me he will be summoned again to the national stage to work his skills.”
Fashola was born in Lagos on June 28, 1963. He attended Birch Freeman High school Lagos and Igbobi College Lagos. He studied Law at the University of Benin from where he graduated with a Bachelor of Laws, LL.B.(Hon), degree in 1987.
He is married to Abimbola Emmanuela and they have children.
He was called to the Nigerian Bar as a solicitor and advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in November 1988 after completing the professional training programme at the Nigerian Law School, Lagos, which he undertook between 1987 and 1988. His legal career of over one-and-a-half decades, commenced in the law Firm of Sofunde, Osakwe, Ogundipe and Belgore, where he cut his legal teeth as a litigator over such wide-ranging areas of specialisation as, intellectual property (registration of trade marks), commercial law, covering general contracts, company activities, mergers, acquisitions, right issues, ownership of shares and equity of corporations, as well as land disputes, criminal law and chieftaincy matters, in all of which he has come to acquire appreciable expertise and vast experience.
Fashola, a Notary Public of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, has been variously honoured with awards and certificates of merit including the Distinguished Alumnus Award conferred on him by the University of Benin Alumni Association in recognition of contributions to the Alumnus association and humanity. He is also a recipient of Lagos State public service club Platinum Award for outstanding contribution towards development.
Culled from Business Day Nigeria
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