The lingering feud between Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos and his predecessor, Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, became more pronounced last week at the 10th Bola Tinubu Colloquium, an annual event organised by associates of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who served under him during his reign as governor of Lagos between 1999 and 2007.
The event, held on March 29 to celebrate Tinubu’s 66th birthday has already pitched supporters of Ambode and Fashola against each other. While Fashola’s supporters claim there was a calculated attempt by the Lagos State government to undermine Fashola, supporters of the governor claimed that nothing of such occurred as the former governor was accorded the respect due to him.
Also, some political analysts have argued that given the role assigned to him by President Muhammadu Buhari to reconcile aggrieved members of the party, Tinubu and the organisers of the colloquium should have used the opportunity to reconcile the two political gladiators but failed to maximise the opportunity the occasion provided.
Fashola, Ambode’s Supporters Trade Blames
Many of Fashola’s supporters shortly after the programme had taken to social media to lament what they called humiliation of the minister and an attempt to erase his legacies as a successor to Tinubu and predecessor to Ambode which was evident at the colloquium.
They also argued that if Tinubu and Ambode failed to recognise the presence and efforts of the former governor in their remarks, they were shocked by the attitude of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who throughout his presentation at the occasion also failed to acknowledge Fashola’s role either as Chief of Staff to Tinubu or as governor of the state.
They also claimed that the colloquium which began in 2007 when Tinubu left office as governor was the brainchild of Fashola, who aside succeeding Tinubu as governor was his Chief of Staff from 2002 to 2007.
According to them, despite all these, no mention was made of the former governor throughout the programme by the speakers especially by Governor Ambode, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the celebrator, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, despite the fact that Fashola was present at the occasion.
According to a special adviser who served during Fashola’s first term in office, he said he was shocked to hear that Fashola was present at the colloquium by a friend who was also lamenting to him the treatment given to the minister.
“You know the whole hall was filled. It was quite a large gathering so you really can’t know who was present or not. So, I never knew ‘oga’ (Fashola) was present. It was one of our friends who later told me he was around. I was shocked beyond words. How can a two-time governor of the state who initiated the colloquium be present at such an occasion and he was not acknowledged?
“Given Asiwaju’s role as the chief reconciliator in APC, we believe charity should begin from home. He should have used the opportunity presented by the colloquium to reconcile himself and Fashola on the one hand and Ambode and Fashola or the other, but they failed to maximise that opportunity and chose to make him feel as if he is irrelevant in the scheme of things.
“The shoddy treatment meted to Fashola didn’t start today. It started since 2016 when Ambode organised his first colloquium as governor. But they should realise that Fashola built on the foundation laid by Tinubu and Ambode is also building on what was left by Fashola. A lot of people have claimed that he (Ambode) is trying to erase Fashola’s legacies in some key areas such as transportation and waste management, but I don’t want to believe that”, he said.
However, countering his claim, an aide of Governor Ambode, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Lagos State government accorded Fashola the honour he deserved by inviting him to the colloquium.
He also added that as a serving minister, Fashola was also given a seat among fellow ministers where he sat.
He, however, argued that nobody expects anybody to be singing Fashola’s praises at the event as the colloquium was organised to discuss “issues of national importance and not achievements of past or serving governors of the state.
“For those criticising the state government, the question to ask them is was Fashola invited or not by the organisers of the colloquium? As a serving minister, was he allowed to sit with his fellow ministers in their designated seats or not? Was any special preference given to former governors of the state, like giving them a special area to sit? The answer is no. So, what is the fuss about?
“I think Fashola himself chose to remain silent at the occasion. As a super-minister in the cabinet of President Buhari he should have maximised his position to be in the entourage of the president by following him to commission projects across the state but he chose to walk in silently. Maybe he felt he will be booed by loyalists of Asiwaju Tinubu who perceived him as being disloyal.
“I think Fashola himself is trying to make reconciliation difficult. He was absent at last year’s colloquium despite the fact that he was duly invited. He didn’t come because President Buhari was not present. I think he only attended this year’s edition because the president was around but even at that he chose to remain quiet throughout the duration of the event.
“For those criticising Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for failing to recognise the former governor, I think they were wrong. If you listen to the speech of the vice president, he said, ‘Many of those who started the idea of the colloquium probably are here with us today. Most of us had worked with the then governor of Lagos State, Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for several years, some for four years, some for eight years’”.
To me, he has acknowledged Fashola because Fashola was part of that eight-year reign. Also, he also acknowledged Fashola without mentioning his name when he talked about what the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing which Fashola heads has achieved in the last three years compared to what they achieved under the Goodluck Jonathan administration. What else do Fashola’s supporters want?” He asked.
Also speaking on whether the colloquium was Fashola’s brainchild, another chieftain of the APC, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said while he is not sure whether Fashola initiated it, he is aware of the fact that the first colloquium held in 2007 was bankrolled by Fashola as the then governor of the state.
“I don’t know who initiated the colloquium but the vice president told us at the event that he and other cabinet members of Asiwaju Tinubu initiated it and not an individual. But Fashola, as the then governor was the first person to sponsor it. Fashola sponsored the first colloquium and nobody can deny that.
“It was when it got to the 4th one that he messed himself up by challenging Asiwaju that he should be fair in his dealings. That whenever a governor will be chosen for Lagos, Tinubu should carry them along. And Tinubu right on the spot gave it to him back that if he had been fair, would Fashola had emerged as governor? That was when the crack started. That was when Fashola showed sign of disloyalty. He wanted to be part of the process of electing the next governor or if possible, installing a successor”, he said.
Also, speaking on the colloquium, a Lagos-based journalist, Olawale Olaleye, argued that it is ironical that Fashola who was the brain behind the colloquium and funded it throughout his eight years as governor was neither recognised nor allowed to speak at the 10th colloquium.
According to Olaleye, “I would like to put it on record that the colloquium was Fashola’s idea. Typical of him, he had become irritated by the then practice by LG chairmen in Lagos, who competed about the chairman with the biggest ram as gifts to Asiwaju and ultimately threw some ‘owambe’. He thought an intellectual angle should be introduced to match Asiwaju’s status and sustained for generations unborn.
“He then sent for Professor (Yemi) Osinbajo to drive the idea and immediately ‘mobilised’ him to start. That is the story of the birth of the now celebrated colloquium and throughout his stay in office, Fashola funded it.
“Isn’t it therefore sad and an irony that on the day an idea he mooted turned 10 years, he was neither recognised nor asked to speak? And this is where and what I found not just curious, but preposterous. The same Pastor Osinbajo that was assigned to drive the idea would not also recognise Fashola but said in passing that ‘some of those with whom they started the idea were probably here?’ Damn, God is indeed patient!
“That is very ungodly. I do not know how a pastor, supposedly, is able to go to bed and sleep peacefully, knowing that he had wronged a fellow man or been unfair to him. It is fine. God’s ways are certainly not the same as ours. But from a canal point of view, nothing can justify what the professor of law did last Thursday.”
Tinubu Denies Fashola Snub
In his reaction, Tunde Rahman, Tinubu’s media aide, said it is untrue that his principal deliberately ignored Fashola during his speech at the colloquium.
He said, “That’s not true. It’s not correct at all. If the former governor of Lagos, and present Hon. Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, was left out, as you claimed, this could not have been deliberate.
“I can say that categorically. If you were present at the event, you would recall that His Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was so excited about the honour done him by everyone present particularly President Buhari such that he raised his written text, cast it aside and spoke extempore to the admiration of many. He also did not strictly follow the order of protocol. He left out many important dignitaries and this was clearly inadvertent.
“The Asiwaju that I know would not deny the former governor of Lagos State, the Honourable Minister Raji Fashola his eminent place in the history of governance of Lagos State”, he said.
Efforts to get the reaction of the Lagos State government proved abortive as calls and text messages sent to Kehinde Bamigbetan, the Commissioner for Information, were not replied as at press time.