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Why BRF Has Been Very, Very Silent On Tinubu's Presidential Ambition

Have you noticed that the Minister of Works & Housing, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola has been very, very silent? For months now, he has been operating below the radar. Not many Nigerian commentators, spectators or analysts have been able to figure out the role or place of former Lagos State Governor and serving Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola in the recent presidential primaries in the All Progressive Congress, (APC).

There were suggestions that the Minister's deafening silence is a pointer that he does not support the aspiration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, hence his silence. Babatunde Fashola, of all of the loyal boys of Asiwaju, was expected to play a major role in the campaign activities of Asiwaju, but he was rather invisible in all the activities.

This got Nigerians thinking there is a silent crisis going on between Asiwaju and Fashola. Recall that Fashola was also accused of a similar offence while Asiwaju was away on a medical trip to the United Kingdom.

Some commentators also believe Fashola may have resolved to pitch his tent with his fellow Minister and two-term Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, who had openly insulted Asiwaju at one of his political meetings in his state. City People can categorically tell you that all is well between Asiwaju and Fashola. In fact, there has never been any time both Asiwaju and Fashola didn’t connect during this period.

The Minister belongs to the class of people who chose to remain quiet, but are committed and satisfied to do their jobs, and tend to keep their plans to themselves. At a time when everybody wanted to be president, he stood out in silence. He would later state that he will only be contesting for president of his own household.

Recall that it was Fashola who hinted to Nigerians that Asiwaju would declare for the presidency in January 2022.

He told Nigerians to be patient with Asiwaju when the pressure to force Asiwaju out of his corner to declare and assured them that Tinubu will do the needful in due course.

Unknown to many, Asiwaju and Fashola’s closely knitted relationship has endured many years and has gone beyond politics and corporate administration. Fashola has become more like a younger brother and friend to Asiwaju. However, his ministerial appointment would not allow for evident support while he’s a public servant who is expected to be neutral in his dealings beyond political party affiliations. Asiwaju also has once said an injury to Fashola is an injury to himself and warned people to stop sharing fake news about the Minister.

He said an attack against the performance of Governor Fashola is indirectly an attack against him and the edifice of achievement they both have constructed in leading Lagos State out of a protracted time of stagnation and into an era of sustained progress and development. It was the first time Asiwaju Tinubu would speak out over claims that he was sponsoring individuals and groups to sustain media attacks against Fashola. Asiwaju and Fashola don’t joke with each other. Even though they are not usually seen together.

Speaking about how they both met, Fashola said his first contact with Asiwaju was a visit that Wale Tinubu, his nephew and himself undertook to his office when Tinubu was treasurer of Mobil at Bookshop House in Lagos, a day after the Eid-el Kabir Festival in 1990.

“What struck me was that in his suit as a Senior Executive, he had the time not only to have arranged fried Sallah ram meat for his staff who were less privileged. He was supervising the distribution of the fried meat neatly packaged in polythene wrappers among the staff from floor to floor in the bookshop house.

“He could have asked somebody to simply go and distribute them as many of us would probably have done. Our interactions were fewer and far between until August 16th, 2002 when I assumed duty as his chief of staff.

One of the first assignments I had to deal with in the early months of my tenure was the voters’ registration exercise in preparation for the general elections and presidential visit to Lagos in 2002.

“Of course, we all know, that voter registration is a federal government responsibility carried out by the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC).

It is not important to dwell on the ineffectiveness that characterised that effort. Suffice to mention that many should recall that what should normally be a continuous painless exercise in better-organised jurisdictions that appreciate the value of planning, was a rushed exercise of a few days that produced stampede, emotional stress and anguish for the citizens who were to benefit. Many were let out.

“What did Bola Ahmed Tinubu do? As usual, the federal government got the full length of his critical tongue, but he is not only a talker. The logistician set to work, we printed forms, we organized the courts and local governments and got all the people who were excluded to complete forms and swear an oath to the act of their exclusions. The same foresight and organizational ability were brought to bear during the last census exercise.

“It is to his organizational credit and ability that Lagos must remain grateful during this exercise, first that he declared a work-free day which saved the loss of many lives that would have been lost on the broad street during the exercise when the Bank of Industry building partially collapsed. if fate was at play, the result that produced a figure of 17,250,000 people as the real population of Lagos in 2006 was the product of sheer doggedness, organisation and a spirit that never gives up.

“As chief of staff, it was my schedule to organize all the local government chairmen to co-ordinate the recruitment of men and women as our local enumerators who followed the federal government enumerators from house to house. They collected the same data and it is perhaps strange that they arrived at different results.

“But I recall very vividly, every night for about 10 days that the exercise took place, we all met from 9pm at the state house, Marina with the logistician in the chair, listening painstakingly to every enumerator, and the problems they encountered on the field every day.

“To each, a solution was provided and we gathered the next day at night long into the early hours of the next morning to monitor progress, review new challenges and provide answers. He was simply unreservedly committed to getting the headcount right.”

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