Fashola, Lagos’ Pigs of Bida, a Truth Commission By Ugoji Egbujo

*Gov FasholaSuicide is bad but one would understand why Hitler preferred it. The boko haram variety is propelled by the lust for heavenly virgins. The delusional is sick , so his plight is perhaps understandable. But when my undergraduate second cousin drowned herself in shaving powder some years ago because her school boyfriend jilted her, anger more than sorrow took hold of me. Lagos APC is currently possessed by such a terminal folly. Vindictiveness is pathetic.

If the revelations streaming out of the offices of the Lagos government like sewage from a burst pipe of an over crowded block of flats are to be believed, then Lagos with its vast budget must be a piggery with many fat ,dirty, vagrant pigs like Bida. When a government turns an ‘iya ebute meta’ , it hurls obscenities and embraces sensationalism. A veteran Iya will go not to the police, nor to the courts.There must be something about pigs and filth. Like pots and kettles and blackness. In Onitsha of the 70s, dirty pupils were pigs (ezi) but the epithet ‘Ezi Bida’ ( The pigs of Bida) was reserved for those who were perceived chronically and irredeemably dirty. Pigs of Bida had enormous filth in a vast swathe of putrid swamp that had become a communal open piggery to twirl and grunt with abandon. Bida was Onitsha’s Amukoko in Lagos.

The damage must be done in the court of public opinion. She will drown her enemy in verbal warfare with a barrage of scandalous filth that , for effectiveness , must not come in one volley. Single shots , fired pornographically, over many weeks into the ears of neigbours and friends will vandalize whatever reputation the rival may have built. So Lagos state goverment despite the din has said nothing about investigation and prosecution . But wait a minute, did that ‘live and let live’ cheerfulness belong to a mask?

Who would have thought that vindictiveness could be found in those bland poses and plastic smiles of simplicity Lagos was adorned with during the campaigns. Is Ambode truly the director of this drama? I grew up to learn that despite Bida , pork is good meat , pigs aren’t necessarily dirty animals and piggeries can be very clean, shiny, like electric kettles . But Fashola has brought the old association back, and I have remembered Bida again.

Fashola has a fabulous reputation. But many say that reputation and character don’t always fit. Fashola is arguably the best governor ‘Nigeria has had since the return of democracy. Prof Soyinka sang his praises, once referred to him as a dedicated technician /artisan preoccupied with fixing the society with resolute craftsmanship. The consensus amongst the residents of Lagos was , and perhaps is , that Fashola was a responsible governor who ran a responsive government.

Fashola, unassuming and self effacing, was the poster boy for good governance in Nigeria . And his astuteness , zeal and simplicity was recognized and commended by politicians of all shades. Was it all abracadabra as Bode George once suggested? The APC promised change. And their evidence of things to come then was Fashola’s good performance in Lagos. If APC went on to rout the PDP in most of the south west states it was down, in part, to Fashola’s performance. Tinubu’s political relevance after 2007 rested and thrived on Fashola’s industry.

If Fashola hadn’t done well and if APC hadn’t campaigned on ‘continuity’ of Fashola’s good works , the APC may not have won the hotly contested Lagos governorship seat. Fashola ,in many ways, made APC authentic. And the lion of bourdillon relished and feasted on Fashola’s distinction. He claimed Fashola proved his genius , the one who saw what others didn’t. Ambode owes Fashola so much in gratitude for his legacies. Or did we get it all twisted? Was Lagos not that inviting contrast against which the shoddiness of the PDP federal government was perhaps visible to the blind?

Wasn’t that why many gave the APC a chance? Why would an APC government hurry to destroy that legacy? Crime is crime they will say, it’s not a family affair. And I agree. Barely 3 months in , Ambode wants to tell us Fashola was a mistake and continuity was a ruse. And he wouldn’t even hold a press conference. Governor! Permanent secretaries have been sacked , land acquisitions revoked, vendetta is spreading.

Governor Amaechi will perhaps feel slightly better because Wike has been digging up filth and littering the newspapers, but he expected it.. Dogara has said that after killing corruption we must kill political godfatherism and its crippling whimsicality. Fashola was the face of the Lagos governorship campaign. He took the heat for Ambode who could not match the charisma and versatility of the PDP candidate. He was Ambode’s manifesto, while Ambode struggled to find his feet, some rhythm, any rhythm, with the gaucheness of a rigid German attempting to dance ‘Atilogwu’.

Ambode hid behind Fashola’s record. Now, he is busy, needlessly burning that bridge. It is perhaps true that Fashola had his preferred candidate and was outsmarted by the lion of bourdillon but Fashola couldn’t have done more publicly for his own candidate than he did for Ambode. He may have refused to deploy Lagos state government funds into the governorship campaign as many have speculated but he did much more positively. His sin, for some of his party men, is his perceived selfishness. They say he is a “chop alone”.

Many will argue that corruption wherever found must be exposed regardless of who is involved. And that it serves the society better when politicians fight and expose themselves. I agree. But I would expect a governor who ran on the legacies of another , on continuity , to address the state if he opts for discontinuity. To apologize and say “I fooled you”. He must then institute a commission of enquiry or simply ask the police to investigate and prosecute. But Ambode has not personally talked to Lagos . Governor!

Fashola talked about pigs but didn’t tell us whom his pigs were . In his initial published defence he dwelt more on the issue of the allegation of child outside wedlock as if that mattered to Nigerians. Fashola is a muslim and can rightly have many wives. Besides, concubinage and politics in Nigeria flock together. His defence against the allegation of contract inflation was all emotions and no substance .

He treated the allegation and its makers with disdain and in so doing arrogantly poured contempt on the public that has been waiting for his response. Fashola is simple and calculated, so what could have provoked the rage and lack of comportment so evident in that written statement? Fashola must defend himself with clarity . His feeling of indignation may be justified but won’t answer begging questions and helps no one

Fashola’s defence is built on the legality of the transactions. The supposition that the observance of the rituals of due process absolves him of all guilt is cynical. It’s always easy to meet the low bars of legality set by wheeling and dealing , unscrupulous politicians. The “rub me, I rub you back” enterprise, immoral dalliance between governors and houses of assemblies augmented by the actions of choreographers who pose as members of tenders boards . Any recourse to such legality will not save Fashola’s reputation in the court of public opinion.

Fashola must defend himself against many IT experts who have sworn that the 78 million naira website cannot cost more than 6 million naira. The excuse that it went through an approval process is disingenuous. The public has built a lot of confidence in Fashola and Fashola must not rely on the logic of pigs. If he feels he is a caged Samson whose eyes have been disgorged then he can as well muster some strength and bring down the roof.

If a god father is scared of the rising profile of his godson then we cannot pity him enough. I hope Ambode freely understands the full implications of the course he is treading. And like Kukah pointed to Buhari , he is scripting his own fate. If Fashola stole so much , as the Lagos govt is alleging, then it is expected that Ambode who wouldn’t steal will outperform Fashola. Lagos must be in for real good times. We are watching.

Fashola is a special political specimen in spite of the allegations. It is true that in the country of the blind one eyed men rule. But the public also knows, as they say, that if you search well and deep enough every anus has some faeces. Is it then proper to say that every one by virtue of having an anus is filthy ? A pig will say yes. Because pigs want all labeled dirty. Fashola said pigs feel happy when they get you dirty . The public has a fair idea of those who are insatiably venal and greedy.

If governors like Fashola , Amaechi and a few others with good reputations have many serious allegations of grave financial impropriety flying around them , we will inevitably overwhelm the criminal justice structures with a raft of investigations and prosecutions. Corruption in government is presumably so widespread , so total. So what do we do?

The Sagay committee may have let the cat out of the bag prematurely by asking for confessions. The peace council and Bishop Kukah want the anti corruption war carried out diligently but they also want Jonathan’s easy concession of power rewarded. They have been ambivalent, and deliberately so. They would welcome a truth and reconciliation commission. A commission that will insist on the confession of all atrocities along with restitution of all stolen funds in exchange for indictment but no imprisonment. A sort of financial truth and reconciliation commission. That will make sense now.

Criminal justice structures are not built for epidemics of crimes and often cannot survive its gross endemicity. They function optimally when crimes are the exception and not the rule. But since the political culture here has allowed corruption and stealing to be the rule, we can have a clean break from the past by an arrangement that will allow a collective rebirth. It is hoped that we are on the threshold of a rebirth.

The nation can recover what has been stolen, while recognizing that systemic and cultural laxities contributed to the proliferation of criminal embezzlement of government funds. The new measures must be sufficiently deterrent to prevent impunity. Those who are responsible for the most grave acts of looting of the treasury , whose degree of culpability abhors any such forbearance can receive short prison sentences and be barred from holding future political offices.

The electoral process must be reformed and made refractory to the influence of money , thuggery and filth. Political relevance must be decided by political legacies and realistic visions. We must consider some form of social security for the poor and jobless. For if the majority live below poverty line and manage their survival precariously, hour after hour, the nation will remain vulnerable to looters of national treasury and drug dealers and many sorts of pigs.

Close quarter battles are dangerous.

Eko o ni baje oo