Reporting From Punch;
[dropcap type=”1″]T[/dropcap]he immediate past Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, on Thursday refused to answer questions on the allegations of corruption levelled against him. Fashola was alleged to have spent N139m on two boreholes at the Lagos House, Ikeja, and another N78.3m for the upgrade of a personal website. The former governor, who was the guest speaker at the 16th Bishop Mike Okonkwo Annual Lecture, urged Nigerians to ensure that they hold their leaders accountable always. The event, which was held at the Shell Hall of the MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos Island, was titled, ‘The Nigerian political Class and the Citizen’s Quest for Good Governance.’ The governor said most Nigerians failed to hold their political leaders to their campaign promises after elections. However, a mild drama unfolded during the question-and-answer session.
A journalist from The SUN, Mr. Chika Abanobi, noted that Fashola was right to urge Nigerians to hold their leaders accountable. He, therefore, asked Fashola to respond to the allegations of corruption levelled against him which included the N78m the former governor spent on the personal website. Some personalities at the high table, which included the host, Dr. Mike Okonkwo, who is the presiding Bishop of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission, did not feel comfortable when Fashola was put on the spot as some signalled to the journalist to keep shut and sit down. Popular comedian, Tee A, who was the Master of Ceremony, jibed, “Mr. SUN, continue standing in the Sun.” Fashola, who was taken aback by the journalist’s audacity, responded, “To the man in The SUN, I don’t respond to allegations on the pages of newspapers.” While delivering his lecture earlier, Fashola listed his various achievements while in government. Specifically, he mentioned the restriction of commercial motorcycles, among others.
He said good governance did not necessarily imply impressing everyone. He said good leadership entailed improving the general standard of living of the people. While defending his restriction on commercial motorcycles, he said, “Some people felt that we were anti-poor. But let us look at the result of the policy. The 15 deaths per month dropped first to three per month and later to one per month and later there were no reported deaths in the whole of 2014. “The over 600 reported accidents dropped to about 100 accidents monthly (83 per cent) and the Commissioner of Police reported an 85 per cent drop in crime over a 10-month period of the enforcement of the law. “For those who say this is not good governance, I will refer them to Section 14 (2) (b) and (c) of the 1999 Constitution.” The former governor defended the expenses on his website, insisting that it helped make him more accessible to the people of the state. Fashola noted that when he resumed office, only 500,000 people were paying tax across the state. He said by the time he left office, over 4.5 million people had started paying tax. He, however, revealed that there were still over four million taxable adults in the state not paying tax. The ex-governor said the state would be better off if people paid their taxes regularly and assist the government. Also speaking, a former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Prof. George Obiozor, explained that the event was to commemorate the birthday of Okonkwo who turns 70 on Sunday. Obiozor defended Fashola who had also come under fire for allegedly spending N139m on two boreholes. Obiozor said, “He (Fashola) is one of those few people that God answered his prayers. I want to tell him that the game in which he is involved is called politics. Believe me, success is the beginning of threat. Nobody is after anybody who has failed.”