by Stanley Azuakola
Governor Babatunde Fashola is no longer the darling Lagosians used to love.
Nowadays, his every move is greeted with suspicion and it suddenly feels like the governor can no longer do anything right in the sight of lots of Lagosians. To many, it seems like the governor is in a direct competition with the FG over which of the two would have the longest list of banned items by the time their terms are over.
The latest order from the Fashola administration is a gag order, barring political office holders and civil servants from granting interviews to journalists or speaking on its behalf.
The new directive was contained in a circular by the Lagos Head of Service, Mr. Adesegun Ogunlewe, who said it has become necessary to do so in order to sanitise the flow of information from the government to the people.
In cases where the official involved sees a strong need to grant the interview, the governor opened the door slightly. Such an officer must first seek and obtain permission from the Ministry of Information, which would censor it.
According to the circular: “It has been observed that some public officials have formed the habit of granting informal interviews and in the process divulging official information on public policies which are still under consideration and are not yet approved for action by government.
“Consequently, the governor has therefore directed that no government functionary (public servants and public office holders) should grant press interviews or issue press releases without the concurrence of the Ministry of Information and Strategy.”
“Furthermore, under no circumstances should any public servant or public office holder comment or discuss government policies which are still under consideration.
“Government is aware that officers may be required to represent their political heads and read speeches at events, but such officers are to limit themselves to the contents of the written speeches which must have been cleared appropriately prior to the event by their political heads.”
Violation of the order would attract sanction, said the circular.
Already, the order has been condemned by a cross section of Lagosians. The Coalition against Corrupt Leaders accused the Fashola administration of running a secret government.
In a statement by its Executive Director, Debo Adeniran, the group said, “How can a governor, who rode on the wings of democracy and the rule of law, a supposed expert at law for that matter, order public servants not to grant interviews or issue press releases without the concurrence of the Ministry of Information?
“If Fashola does not have anything to hide, he should rescind his decision on this issue. He is responsible and accountable to every Lagosian and the Nigerian masses as a whole.
“Lagosians are entitled to the true position of situation all the time. Why should the Information Ministry censor the information to be passed to the general public? Has the Lagos government ceased to be accountable to the people that put them there? Why should they run the government like cult group? It is only cult groups that operate in secret.’’