A leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, has distanced himself from the recent ordeal of the former governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola.
In a statement Wednesday, Mr. Tinubu said he is not behind the latest “rancid attacks” on Mr. Fashola.
“An attack against the performance of Governor Fashola is indirectly an attack against me and the edifice of achievement we have constructed in leading Lagos state out of a protracted time of stagnation and into an era of sustained progress and development,” said Mr. Tinubu.
It was the first time Mr. Tinubu would speak out over claims that he was sponsoring individuals and groups to sustain media attacks against his successor.
Mr. Fashola, who governed Lagos State between 2007 and 2011, had been the subject of a media blitz after details of contracts he awarded during his administration was made public earlier this month.
Two weeks ago, the Civil Society Network Against Corruption, a coalition of anti-corruption organizations, petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over the “questionable expenditures” of Mr. Fashola,
The group urged the EFCC to probe a controversial N78 million spent on the upgrade of Mr. Fashola’s website.
The group’s petition came after a public outrage that greeted the revelation by analytic firm, BudgIT, that Mr. Fashola approved numerous “inflated contracts” before he left office in May 29 this year.
In an addition to the sum awarded for a website upgrade, Mr. Fashola also approved N1.2 billion for the construction of pedestrian bridges along the Eti Osa – Lekki – Epe expressway – the contract did not specify the number of bridges or their locations.
The former governor also spent N25 billion on the 1.36 kilometre Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge, N330 million for the renovation of the immediate past deputy governor’s residence, and N3.4 billion for the renovation of a beach resort at Ilase.
Mr. Fashola himself had offered what many consider as an unconvincing response to all the allegations against him.
But in his statement on Wednesday, Mr. Tinubu accused opposition elements of a deliberate attempt to sow discord in the APC by peddling falsehood.
“I for one will not bend to the artificial provocation of those seeking to tear at what we have painstakingly built over the years,” said Mr. Tinubu, who was also a governor in the state, between 1999 and 2007.
“In my mind, Governor Fashola and I are and shall always be political allies and fellow travelers on a vital journey; that alliance is unshakable and our journey must not be interrupted. I would no more attack his character or his administration than I would attack myself.”
Last week, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode approved the termination of a concession agreement between the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation and Afriland Properties for the re-development of the Falomo Shopping Complex, Ikoyi.
According to the governor, the concession, which he put at N50 million over a 50-year period, is “grossly detrimental” to the people of Lagos State.
That move by the governor, coupled with the decision of his administration to publish the details of the contracts awarded by Mr. Fashola on the state’s procurement agency website, fueled speculations that Mr. Ambode was carrying out the bidding of his godfather.
Just as he selected Mr. Fashola to succeed him in 2007, Mr. Tinubu also handpicked Mr. Ambode to take over from Mr. Fashola.
”I am proud to say that I played an instrumental role in bringing Governor Fashola into politics in the first instance,” Mr. Tinubu continued.
“He served as my trusted chief of staff, performing excellently in that role. Due to his leadership qualities and diligent work ethic, I endorsed him for governor notwithstanding the stiff and vocal opposition of many. I am not ashamed of backing him. I believe the progress the state made under his administration has more than vindicated my endorsement.
“Fashola, the present Governor Akin Ambode including myself are the products of a progressive political institution and its programmatic expressions. I laid the governance foundation and started the first lap, running as well as I could.
“I handed the baton to Fashola, knowing he would do the same. He did; he ran as well as he could. Now, he has handed to Ambode who is off and running as well as he can. We have achieved much in Lagos; but, we recognize as much as anyone that we have much more to do.
“We also know that progress is fragile and easily undone while destruction is easily transacted but hard to undo. I for one am not the type to tear down my own house or to bring my enemy’s rubbish into it.”
Mr. Tinubu said the APC had governed Lagos State as an open forum where democracy and free expression were respected.
“Those who are against us were never placed in fear of the heavy hand of government descending on them even as they played funny tricks,” he said.
“We also must remember than in any democracy, a number of people will always oppose you no matter the quality of your performance. If an office holder has an approval rating of 70 percent, this means, in Lagos, roughly five million people dislike the person. Also remember the PDP is just recently out of office at the federal level and that it built a vast, unprecedented financial war chest to contest the elections.
“The residual of that war chest is still at work, buying media space to plant rumors in hopes of spreading discord through the APC. Thus, the enemy camp may be a minority but it is a large and well-funded one that knows its only chance lies in us attacking ourselves.”