Nigeria: The Lagos Driver

t’s a 41-member crew with Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola serving as the train driver. Destination is PATH- Power, Agriculture, Transport and Housing – and the passengers, 20 million people. Having spent two days watching the “driver” as he piloted the affairs of the state, Olawale Olaleye presents Fashola at close range

The index: The train is herein referred to as Lagos State conveying an estimated population of 20 million people (as often quoted by the state). The train crew denotes the cabinet members, and of course, Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN), is identified simply as the “driver”.

It was a structured assignment ab initio – a two-day task. Day one was the roadwork and the second, participant observation at the state executive council meeting otherwise called exco.

The first day, May 9, was a Thursday and not a typically crowded day even though Fashola was unable to heave a sigh of relief until evening. At exactly 10.25 am, Fashola sauntered out of his inner chamber at the Lagos House, Marina, Lagos, to a few guests already waiting in the living area downstairs – all journalists.

Smart and sharp with a file containing sheets of his speeches clutched to his side like a “school boy”, Fashola joked at his guests: “Gbogbo irawo le ko wa,” which literally translated to: “You’ve come with a star-studded team”. But that sounded like a familiar line coming from the governor.

Characteristically business-like, Fashola was not going to waste time as he was met on the way by his aide-de-camp, who took the file from him and made straight for his waiting official car, a Range Rover, and the convoy left for the governor’s first assignment at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos.

The event was a two-day programme at the instance of the state’s Ministry of Health, themed: Creating Universal Access to Healthcare in Lagos State. At exactly 11.50 am, Fashola began to address the audience. Although a lawyer by training, Fashola, by virtue of his in-depth knowledge of matters outside the legal profession, displayed a good understanding of the workings of the health sector and this was reflected in his address.

With a mastery of delivery, the governor held his audience captive for the few minutes that he spoke. Starting with how he had wished he was a medical practitioner but for his poor knowledge of mathematics which discouraged him, Fashola said his passion and respect for the profession “remained undiminished”.www.thisdayonline.com

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