‘Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others’ — Marcus Tullius Cicero
Last Friday was a great day across the country. Indeed, it was a swell moment for the progressives among the political class. That was an epoch-making day when the progressives, for the first time in the annals of the nation, through their political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) took over the reins of government at the centre. Not just that, the APC is now in control of 22 out of the 36 states in the country.
This national electoral feat calls for intense celebration because some few months back, most Nigerians erroneously believed that the leadership of the progressive party was wasting its time because the centre’s reactionary party since independence had, through electoral gimmicks, remained inviolable. But the 2015 general elections put a lie to that over-rated assumption with the emergence of the Buhari/Osinbajo presidency at the centre.
At a time that other states were falling to the dictates of Olusegun Obasanjo and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) political chicanery, Lagos State stood against the rampaging reactionary elements like the rock of Gibraltar. Undoubtedly, this was made possible by the political ingenuity and doggedness of one man – Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Upon reflection, his toughest political battles as far as this column is concerned was the electoral battles he fought to win re-election in 2003 and more importantly, his bid to ensure that the conservative PDP under Obasanjo’s obnoxious leadership did not produce an unworthy successor to succeed him as governor of Lagos in 2007. The latter battle was the hallmark of Tinubu’s political sagacity as a great political risk taker for he went for an unknown political and widely rejected entity called Babatunde Raji Fashola. Many of his then inner cabinet rebelled against this decision but he stood his ground and opted to push for the then inconsequential Fashola alone. He deployed huge resources, time and immense energy against Obasanjo-contrived odds, including the federal government’s seizure of Lagos council’s statutory funds and using of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to attempt to circumvent governance in the Centre of Excellence under Tinubu.
To the chagrin of rampaging reactionary PDP elements, Fashola won the election to the glory of God and the sole efforts of Tinubu. Fashola didn’t spend his money for he could then not be described as a rich man. The party’s primary was a foregone conclusion for him through Tinubu’s clout, and the logistics, he knew nothing about because his first major exposure in life was when Tinubu made him his Chief of Staff – that opportunity that Tinubu gave Fashola kick-started his great leap to political prominence. His second term election was made easy through the same Tinubu. And any reasonable man from any continent of the world would have thought that at any opportune time like his formal handing over last week to new Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, Fashola would seize that auspicious occasion to publicly show gratitude to the man that God used to catapult him to fame from the position of a once proletarian lawyer, that was hardly known to his next-door neighbour.
Fashola did not do this; he merely send a worrisome index of ingratitude to the man that God used to fulfill His promise in his life when in his remark at the Tafawa Balewa Square last Friday, he said: ‘‘The great people of Lagos, from our very first governor, Brigadier Mobolaji Johnson, to Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande and all of those who have served; your royal majesties, former deputy governors and those who truly make Lagos what it is, I say thank you. Thank you; thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve all of you….’’
At this point at the venue of inauguration of the new governor, the mood of the crowd and facial expressions of many showed stern disagreement to the ungrateful posturing of Fashola by skipping Tinubu’s name which could not have been an oversight. This column appreciates the founding contributions of Brigadier Johnson and the penetrating efforts of Lagos first civilian governor, Alhaji Jakande. The column holds these great leaders in highest esteem but the contemporary contributions of Tinubu to Lagos’ political and infrastructural development can only be downplayed or overlooked by a mischief maker and more sadly, an ungrateful beneficiary of Tinubu’s large-heartedness and benevolence like Fashola.
At a juncture while at Ambode’s inauguration, this column remembered the edifying statement of former American President John F. Kennedy. He once said: “We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” Permit yours sincerely to satisfy his curiosity by asking: What could Tinubu have done for Fashola to make him maliciously skip his name while listing names of those that made Lagos what it is today, according to him? Apart from being a great benefactor of his, Tinubu was that far-sighted politician of global standard who was the architect of the policy foundation that made Fashola’s administration what it is today in the public gallery. Is it the BRT idea that was completed by the then governor Tinubu and selflessly left for Fashola to commission to kick-start his government? Yet, Fashola futilely tried to commission all projects, both completed and uncompleted, before leaving office.
Tinubu left very sound financial foundation for Fashola before leaving office but Fashola left a debt of well over N400billion and had even spent a reported figure of over 75 per cent of the budget by May when he left power, leaving virtually nothing for his successor to meet in the public till. When Tinubu backed Ambode for the governorship slot of APC, Fashola failed in his surreptitious sponsorship of Shashore, his friend and Femi Hamzat, his commissioner for works against his benefactor’s choice at his party’s primaries. Yet, in Fashola’s vying time, Tinubu managed everything for him without any serious opposition. Under Fashola, the greatest crime any officer of state can commit was to be perceived as very close to his benefactor or to be a buddy of somebody that was close to his great patron. To Fashola, the game of malice continues. Yet, at the time Asiwaju appointed Fashola to vie for the governorship, he made a hundred and one people unhappy only to be repaid now with ungratefulness by the beneficiary of his choice. How would Fashola feel if all those relations of his and close friends that he reportedly made heads of emergency agencies that he created while in power turn around to snub him publicly? This should be serious food for thought for him!
The simple act of publicly acknowledging benevolence of another is a demonstration of gratitude to an experience that was meaningful which affirmatively was what happened when Tinubu made Fashola governor from nothing. But when a beneficiary does not show gratitude in return, definitely, something vital has disappeared from his humanity. This is because a person would certainly be defined by his wilful desire to show gratitude to a benefactor, which Fashola at that auspicious inauguration time surprisingly failed to do.
On that occasion, history has recorded Fashola’s act as that of an avoidably mischievous beneficiary of Tinubu’s benevolence that reminds one of William Arthur Ward’s words when he pronounced: “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” What a calamity of immeasurable proportion that Fashola consciously missed during Ambode’s inauguration, being his last public official opportunity, to show the entire world that he is capable of showing gratitude to whom it is robustly due. What a repulsive example – and indeed a bad signal – from a supposed former governor of example!