The minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola explains in this interview published in “Asiwaju: Untold Story of The Leader”, a special publication of The NEWS, on how he first met his mentor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Q: When and how did you meet Senator Bola Tinubu? What was your first impression of him?
A: That is an invitation to walk down memory lane. I think it must have been 1990 or 1991. He was treasurer in Mobil, then. His office was at the Bookshop House at CMS on Odunlami Street. I didn’t directly meet him. I had seen him at parties, but we never met. At that time, I was a senior associate at the law firm of Sofunde, Osakwe, Ogundipe and Belgore, where I was practising. Wale Tinubu, his nephew, came to join the law firm, then. He was always mentioning “Uncle Bola”, and one day, he said: ‘’let’s go and see my uncle.” We got there and went out to lunch with him. That was then I could say we formally met.
From then on, he would consult us on legal issues and we would help and give him advice. Sometimes, he would just come and say. “See we have this issue, what do you lawyers think?” We ran around and he would always give us pocket money. I think one thing that left some impressions on me was his commitment to his staff and that was symbolised by what I witnessed on a particular day after the Sallah celebration.
He brought Sallah meat to the office and supervised its sharing from floor to floor. As exalted as his office was, he was concerned to ensure that those who could not come to his house, even to the lowest driver, got part of the Sallah meat. I recalled that after the sharing of the meat, he sent someone to aggregate how much it would cost to buy soft drink for everybody and equally distributed money to them.
The incident left an impression on me and what became a practice when I started observing the killing of rams for Sallah. For me, it speaks of his concern about those working for him.
Q: Tinubu described you as one of his greatest achievements. What does this mean to you?
A:Well, there are many ways to look at it. For me, that kind of statement coming from him puts more pressure on me. I thought that I had seen all the pressure that could come from this experience to be governor of Lagos State. That adds pressure on me in no small measure.
I think how I became governor is public knowledge. Nothing could put pressure on me than the commitment in pursuit of his decision in 2006 that I was the candidate he was endorsing for governor and the cost in terms of stress, disagreement, fights and long-draw emotional arguments. Of course, immediately I won the election, the biggest pressure was to ensure that I didn’t regret the decision.
One, the people of Lagos State could have said: “We didn’t know the man you have brought and he has turned the state upside down.” There are other sides to it that I would want to keep to myself. As I have said time and time again, he should sit down and write his memoirs so that people may know the story of that election. This is what he should use to explain to Lagosians the offers, the counter-offers and choices he made and why he, as it were, went for broke.
The question to ask is: What was his abiding commitment after eight years as well as questions on who became governor, and who did not? But, in terms of a next step from there, it is to say that it is an enriching experience for our democracy, and not simply about me. It is also about institution building in the sense that I have continued to compare our 13-year journey in spite of its twists and turns with those that we seek to benchmark ourselves against.