The screening of ministerial nominees continued on Tuesday in the senate, and the first nominee to stand before the senators was the former governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola.
Fashola held the attention of the senators all through his screening process which lasted over an hour as he addressed questions on his tenure as governor as well as policies he hoped to implement if confirmed.
Such was the interest generated by Fashola’s screening that he trended on Twitter, not just in Nigeria, but also in New York city in the United States.
Here are five quotes from his screening:
1 Fashola made a case that states from which more taxes are gotten should have the right to keep more of it. He anchored his argument on the need for competition amongst states.
“The states that contribute more in taxes should be allowed to keep more. Yes, some of the states are not as developed, but they need to have an incentive if they are going to do more.”
2 On security and the crime rate, Fashola said, “My attitude was to see criminals as my competitors. And my aim was to out think them. But our risks were different. I had to be right every time, the criminal had to be right just once.”
3 He thereafter made a very strong argument on state policing,”We are underpoliced. My recommendation is a compelling urgency to decentralise. The arguments against it do not go too far. I have heard arguments that governors would abuse police, but with respect sir, the abuse of power does not equal the loss of lives.”
4 On allegations that he spent N78m to build a website and N300m for aa borehole, Fashola hid his head in the sand.
“People may be surprised to learn that as governor of Lagos state, I don’t know about other states, I didn’t sign cheques, none of my commissioners signed cheques. I have never signed a cheque, I don’t fix contract prices, it is an institutional process. The only training I have is that of a lawyer, but in order to execute works on a project, we need the input of architects, we need the input of quantity surveyors, we need the input of structural engineers and we have consulting ministries.
“For civil works, it’s the ministry of works, for science, it’s the ministry of science and technology. The statisticians are there to fix prices from biro to iron rod to cement. It is approved and it becomes the benchmark price of government procurement; nobody can award any other contract over that benchmark.
“All of these things nobody has alleged that I have corruptly enriched myself, and I couldn’t be the master of all on technology, I need something to do my work and you make procurement in senate, who is involve how much you buy your stationery.”
5 Fashola was asked to explain his concept of loyalty. Although it was not said directly there are those who view the former governor as disloyal and the question implied that. His response was on the issue was an interesting one.
“The concept of loyalty is a strange one,” he said. “The real answer is that may our loyalties never be tested. I always pray that may my loyalty never be tested.” He narrated the story of two daughters who were unwilling to donate a kidney to their sick mum after the Lagos government promised to send the mum abroad for a transplant. He explained that that’s why he never wishes to be tested because one never knows the cost.
“In public life, I have remained loyal to causes that I have signed on to. And all my life, no one can accuse me fairly of giving my word and going back on it,” he said.
6 On the issue of the destitute people who were deported by his government in Lagos to the South East, he explained the issues surrounding that incident and said: “In a Federation sir, the right to free movement is not an absolute right. It carries with it a responsibility of not being a nuisance”.
He however recalled that he apologised for the incident and continues to do so in order that the fault lines of the country are not exploited.
7 On the issue of debts, Fashola said that the perception of debts by most is because of previous debts which weren’t used for the right purposes. He however said debts are necessary.
“The economy needs a stimulus, we must borrow. The notion of debt as a sin or something evil is something we need to revisit. The question is where is the money going? America is a big debtor but we send out kids to their schools, we go to their Disney land, cos the debts went into productive things. That is the kind of debtor I want to be. But we can’t borrow to pay salaries or run generators.”