I like what I think I know about Governor Fashola and I can appreciate why some think he would be an ideal candidate for higher office. Recently, he gave a speech titled ‘The Challenge of Democratic Governance’ that has ignited people. On one blog alone, the speech generated over 190 comments. Superlatives have been used to describe the speech which urges more understanding of the importance of democracy for development and the responsibilities of parties and citizens.
Governor Fashola’s speech was also interesting for the things it did not say in the context of Nigerian politics and for the glimpses of disconnect which many of those in positions of power and privilege are guilty of.
“If the only options left to choose from were between freedom and development, I for one will rather surrender development than freedom.”
What type of freedom of choice do people have when they earn N18,000 a month in a country were rent is paid upfront for one to two years in advance? What choices do people make when the most basic infrastructure and services are not available, where there is no job security and loyalty is a critical element in keeping a job? It is noble to call on Nigerians to “find the courage to vote out an un-performing Government after its first term” but can this call compete with the decades of high and low-end ‘stomach infrastructure’ politics?
“If on major policy issues such as power, security, agriculture, corruption and unemployment the main opposition has disagreed with the party in Government… I wonder what else the party needs to do to prove that there is a difference.”
Let us count the ways. First disagreeing with PDP does not automatically make APC different. What is required is to say what APC will do differently. According to the APC Roadmap launched last March, APC will fight corruption by amongst other things ‘making INEC truly independent and free from political interference’. Laudable. This is something civil society and honest politicians (is this an oxymoron) have been talking about for years. But how will this happen? Will APC give up the President’s power to appoint the chair of INEC? It is this same opacity that haunts the accusation about PDP continuing to ‘import fuel with the attendant disruptions, and monumental corruption’. Under APC refineries could be working and profitable in four years, but while we wait would an APC presidency remove subsidies?
Second, is the ‘show me your friends and I’ll show you who you are’ issue. APC cannot complain when people say they cannot tell the difference between APC and PDP when they share many members. If the party has no clear ethos which would be fair justification for excluding an Ali Modu Sheriff for instance, then the accusation is fair. Granted, the practicalities of the merger would dictate that Sheriff as a party leader of ANPP would have to be involved…but has that initial involvement been worth the tarnished image from the association?
Would it not have been better to focus on encouraging millions of Nigerians to join the APC? Fashola says in his speech about the elite “It is only by their belief, that contributions can come in to fund parties, where members pay dues…” Does he know what it takes to join a political party? Is he aware of how opaque and mired in mystery the recent APC member registration drive was? If indeed the visionaries in the party foresee a time when APC is not beholden to men of ‘inexplicable wealth’ (the exact phrase used in the APC roadmap on fighting corruption) to fund the party, why isn’t there a transparent and secure process for registering members and raising money from the dues that they pay?
It is encouraging that Fashola acknowledges the challenges and opportunities which APC has to address them but sometimes the scab on a sore needs to be removed to apply antiseptic and the speech merely pats the scab. There might be unreasonable expectations of Fashola, unknown before 2008, and who has not publicly indicated expectations beyond Lagos, but whatever the case, Nigerians have him in their cross hairs. To whom much is given much is expected – unfair, but true.
One can only hope that Fashola recognizes the irony that his lofty words on democracy and party ideology and differentiation were spoken to commemorate a controversial figure like Timipre Sylva whose antecedents are well known – and who is now a member of APC.