Thawing executive-legislature frosty relations: the Fashola example

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By John Dithaiye

In February this year, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, SAN, and some key officials of the National Assembly had disagreement over cuts in budgetary allocations to some critical national infrastructures under construction across the country. The disagreement degenerated to highly inflammatory verbal attacks that sought to consume the image of each other. In the cross-fire, it would appear that the spokesman for the National Assembly was particularly gifted with the power of vulgarity of the extreme. But that does not matter anymore. The good news is that wisdom has finally prevailed and the disagreement has been resolved.

The heart-warming resolution of the issue occurred when the Minister honored an invitation to appear before a Special Committee of the National Assembly.

With characteristic humility and candor, Fashola confirmed to the Committee that he made a statement in response to the attack on his person by the spokesperson to the National Assembly who he said abandoned the substance of the issues raised by him, preferring to besmirch his person. He declared that his comments were never directed at the entire members of the National Assembly, who, he said, he respected. He then offered apologies to the National Assembly if his statement was misconstrued. The impact of the apologies on members of the Special Committee was self- evident.The proceedingsof the meeting was thereafter conducted in an atmosphere of understanding, maturity, cooperation and reconciliation.

Members of the National Assembly and the Minister deserve to be commended for displaying maturity and understanding and not allowing the situation to deteriorate. Avoiding deadlock is the secret of crisis management. Deadlock of crisis has incalculable effect on government capacity to achieve results. A man of character, with strong positive mental attitude like Fashola has the  capacity to fall back on himself and stand alone to account for his actions at all times. He once again endeared himself to  countless young Nigerians who look up to him for inspiration.

Fashola has, since coming to public office, demonstrated that, in politics, issues are not just relative. There are absolutes upon which one can make clear judgment particularly when it has to do with the values of right and wrong. Indeed, the weight of morality in politics is compelling such that politics without morality shuts out  progress in the society. Fashola’s moral strength cannot afford the levity that ignores the values of speaking out in absolute terms. Thus, a celebrated technocrat like the Minister cannot escape conflictual situations and being at loggerhead with less inspired individuals in an environment where levity and corruption is endemic.  Although, he is self motivated to do the things he does in honor of thosewho trained him to become a better person, we as a people should encourage him to remain steadfast with his moral high ground as a man of principles, a moral bastion and a flicker of light in the dark alley of the Nigerian political trajectory.By continuing to shine like luster, he would have compensated the labors of his mentors in great measure. Make no mistake about it, the road will be rough!

The National Assembly has been struggling to restore public trust to itself and boost the plummeted imageof that important arm of government.

The need for tolerance and understanding cannot, therefore, be overemphasized. Both are key values that are imperative and foundational to leadership success at all levels and situations in life. Before now, it was thought that the National Assembly had transformed into a legislative behemoth whose preoccupation was to intimidate and cajole the executive with its powers. But the Special Committee that interrogated the Minister  constructively engaged the issues and arrived at decisions that will promote cordiality between the executive and the legislature. Whether anyone likes it or not, there is only one government at a time. The success or otherwise of the government will be credited to the elected officials in both political arms of government, executive or legislative.

Fashola, a quintessential administrator, has proven to be self-motivated by vision that leaves no room for uncertainty and driven by cold resolve to accomplish set targets. It is against this background that his anxiety over the seeming needless slashing of budgetary allocations to key power infrastructure projects can be understood. Was it necessary to slow down the completion or progress of work of critical national infrastructures in order to finance less important programms such as the building of health  centers, schools and procurement of tricycles at the behest of members of the National Assembly? For a man that has been humanized and instructed by exposure and experience, the least he could do under the circumstance was to speak out because, given his track records, the burden of expectations on his shoulders are heavy! But on a deeper examination, the action of the legislators does not make them less patriotic; rather, it speaks of a narrative from another ambience. The truth is that the priority of the legislators who have their eyes fixedon the next election thereby  under intense pressures to make impact at the grassroots is slightly different from that of the Minister whose concerns for election is more impersonal and less attended by a sense of urgency. This marked the point of clear departure that lacerated the polity and created  claims and counter claims!

It is, therefore, important to salute the resilience and hard work of all those who realized the imperative of thawing the perceived frosty relationship between the executive and the legislature on this matter. Fashola emerged from the conflict with his impeccable integrity intact. This is one man that embraced the philosophy early in life that nothing was impossible and, by so doing, etched his name on stone creating a new narrative for Lagos State. He has again demonstrated that he represents excellence in a nation where humility and good leadership is an exception. On the other hand, the lawmakers demonstrated that they are ready for constructive engagement with the executive realizing that they cannot always be on the same page on all issues. Nigerians must therefore seek to understand their parliament and stop the disparaging characterization of members of the hallowed chambers. A closer engagement with them will show that they are not as conspiratorial and power drunk as Nigerians are made to believe. Let us all build on the Fashola example!


Dithaiye, a public affairs commentator, resides in Benin-City


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