22nd May, 2014
By Dotun Adeniyi
Prior to early 2007, with its political scheming to find a worthy successor to the erstwhile people’s governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, only few knew about the man called Barrister Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) in the political sphere. But God, in His wisdom and mercy chose him amidst the motley crowd of pretenders to the coveted governorship of the Centre of Excellence. Back then he could not have been seen as the most qualified in terms of political pedigree or having structures on ground. But God knew better.
As a Muslim taking over the baton of governorship from another, religion was not the basis for his choice, no doubt. Ability to deliver on the party’s manifesto was. Good enough, the man fondly called BRF (Better Rewarding Future) has gone ahead to justify the immense confidence Tinubu, the progressive party then called Action Congress and the good people of Lagos State reposed in him.
By 2015, however, two Muslims (Tinubu and Fashola) would have ruled Lagos state for a combined period of 16 years! On that score and given the sensitive role religion plays in the life of Nigerians, it would be unfair, unjust and unkind for anyone to want to downplay or ridicule the growing clamour by Christian faithful in the state to have their own man as Fashola’s successor. That is the bitter truth.
Considered from the prevailing circumstances in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious city such as Lagos presents, it would also be an insult on the Christian community for anyone, no matter how highly placed, to promote the wrong notion that they, (the Christians) are incapable of producing someone good enough to build on the lofty legacies Fashola would be leaving behind, come 2015.
Even in a secular state such as Nigeria, the reality of using religion as a balancing factor in building the socio-economic equation for development informed the choice of Dr. Alex Ekweme as the Vice President to Alhaji Shehu Shagari during the NPN-led Second Republic. Ditto for the PDP-led administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (a Christian) that chose Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (a Muslim) as his Vice President in 1999. This too must have led to an arrangement that has a Christian as Governor’s Fashola’s Deputy.
According to a pressure group in Lagos that goes by the name, Christian Consicence led by Dr. Sam Ogedengbe who incidentally is a Special Adviser to Governor Fashola on Religious Affairs, the next dispensation provides the ample opportunity to have a Christian at the helm of political affairs in the state. Said he: “For long, Christians have been sidelined in the scheme of things because many thought that politics is a dirty game. But our position is that if the game is dirty, Christians have the responsibility to clean it.”
His boss is however singing a different tune. Recently, Fashola warned religious bodies across the state “to take better control of our pulpit and be more restrained in what comes from there,” saying religion should not be a consideration for politics or election. He made this statement at an inter-faith conference organised by the state’s Ministry of Home Affairs and Culture at the Golden Tulip Hotel, Lagos, with the theme: ‘Peace, Religious Harmony and Good Governance: Issues and Challenges’. At the conference attended by Christian and Muslim clerics, the governor said he could not remember the last time the governor of the state was elected based on his religious belief, or if it had ever happened.
Truth is that Fashola should not look too far to find out why the Christians in Lagos State are growing more insistent and raising their voices a pitch louder for one of their members to take over from him. Insinuations are rife that he, the incumbent governor, is angling for another Muslim to be his successor. Were it not so perhaps, the increasing tenor and tempo of their demand would have been assuaged.
Fashola was quoted as asking: “What will the preference for a governor of one faith over the other benefit us? Will it give one religion what the other faith cannot use? Will it give them to schools that children from the other faith will not be able to use?”
The answer is that having a Christian to take over from him would give a sense of fairness, equity and justice. He should look closer to him and find out how many Christians are his Commissioners and aides. Do the figures tally, in terms of equity? Of course, not. He should be reminded that when Asiwaju Bola Ahemed Tinubu presented him to a cross section of prominent Lagos citizens as his preferred candidate, at the Bar-Beach in 2007, it was Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas, a Christian who led the endorsement. In addition, it is on record that a vibrant Christian denomination, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG has been engaged in a monthly prayer session for the state, being a microcosm of Nigeria since Fashola came to power in 2007. He should therefore, not allow the same set of Christians feel betrayed by the quest to foist a Muslim on them this time around. One good turn, they say deserves another.
•Adeniyi wrote from Lagos