Nigeria’s poster boy for good governance caught up in corruption allegations

The much celebrated former Lagos governor, Babutunde Fashola, is facing a series of allegations. But is a political falling out behind the controversy?

Babtunde Fashola (left) meets South African minister, Jeff Radebe (right). Photograph by GovernmentZA/DoC.

Babatunde Fashola (left) meets South African minister, Jeff Radebe (right). Photograph by GovernmentZA/DoC.

Once hailed by the UK’s Telegraph as “The man who tamed Nigeria’s most lawless city”, Babatunde  Fashola has now found himself in turbulent political waters.

Since stepping down as governor of Lagos in May, after a maximum two terms in office, the internationally-celebrated Fashola has been confronted with allegations of misuse of finances. The former governor has been accused of awarding hugely inflated contracts and of leaving an astronomical debt burden of over N400 billion ($2.1 billion) to his successor, Akinwunmi Ambode.

Fashola has denied allegations of corruption, describing the claims as “manipulated and unsubstantiated”.  Meanwhile, some of his supporters have suggested the accusations are part of a political campaign by the former governor’s opponents to prevent him being awarded a top job in the new government of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Once seen as a shining light amongst a new breed of younger Nigerian politicians and possible future president, could the 52-year-old Fashola now see his reputation undone?

The making   

A lawyer by trade, Fashola’s first break in politics came in 2002 when Bola Tinubu, who was then governor of Lagos, appointed him his Chief of Staff. A few years later, Tinubu rewarded Fashola for his loyalty and hard work by handpicking him to be his successor. The lawyer-cum-politician won the 2007 elections, under the banner of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), comfortably.

Questions were asked about the process through which Fashola had been chosen for the role, but as political analyst Mark Amaza told African Arguments, the way in which the young governor was chosen by Tinubu was not unusual. “Godfatherism in Nigeria is very strong. There’s hardly any public office holder that’s without one,” he says.

As governor, Fashola carried out far reaching reforms in a city with an estimated population of 15-21 million and a GDP of some $50 billion – if Lagos were a country its GDP would make it Africa’s seventh biggest economy.

Lagosians witnessed improvements in vital sectors including education, infrastructure, public safety and security, whilst special attention was also paid to increasing tax revenue, which now accounts for 65% of the state’s income.

Fashola’s tenure was not without its critics and controversies. For example, mass clearances of slums under the “˜urban renewal programme’ left thousands of low-income Lagosians without homes as the city’s business and political elite benefitted from redevelopment contracts.  But the consensus domestically and internationally was highly sympathetic to the governor of the bustling metropolis.

“Fashola preached transparency in government and was a role model in public administration,” says Simon Kolawole, former editor of This Day newspaper.  Meanwhile, outside Nigeria, Fashola received plenty of praise, with the Economist magazine describing him in a 2011 editorial as “a rare good man” and the International Crisis Group naming him as one of seven outstanding personalities worldwide in 2015.

The eye of the storm 

Many saw Fashola as a highly effective politician and when the 2015 elections came around, Buhari called on the Lagos governor to help his campaign. Fashola headed up the  campaign’s finance committee and worked hard to deliver his share of the votes in Lagos.

In return, many have been expecting Fashola to be awarded a big portfolio in the new government, with the positions of Chief of Staff to the President and Secretary General to the Federation (SGF) being mentioned.

However, this possibility may be looking a little shaky now. Within weeks of leaving the governor’s office in May, allegations of financial and personal impropriety began to surface.  Fashola was said to have spent N78.3 million ($390,000) on the upgrade of his official website, N139 million ($700,000) on the drilling of two boreholes at the government secretariat and to have awarded a N640 million ($3.2 million) contract to German engineering firm Julius Berger for the reconstruction of a car park and other associated works at the Lagos House Marina, his official residence.  The story of an illegitimate child also made its way into national dailies.

Civil society organisation The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) have led calls for Fashola to be investigated, and the group has forwarded eight petitions to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC) detailing the allegations.  CACOL’s executive director Debo Adeniran has said that the Lagos State government under Fashola saw “frivolous spending on white elephant projects, lack of due process in budget implementation as well as inflation of costs in contract awards”.

For his part, Fashola has penned an official rebuttal titled “When you wrestle with a pig, the pig gets happy and you get dirty” in which he called the claims “distorted allegations without evidence”.

Walking the political tightrope  

While the veracity of the allegations remains to be seen, some observers trace Fashola’s current travails to his fractious relationship with his former godfather Tinubu.

There were signs of rift between these two Lagos big dogs as early as 2009, when Tinubu was thought to be unhappy with Fashola’s unwillingness to toe his line. There were even rumours that Fashola might be impeached.

This dispute seemed to simmer down, and Tinubu endorsed Fashola for a second term in 2011, saying “I am the pathfinder. He is the navigator. I am the one that identified the talent.” But bad blood resurfaced a few years later over the choice of Fashola’s successor as governor. Tinubu eventually emerged victorious, with his preferred candidate Ambode being chosen. Ambode went on to win the governorship, cementing Tinubu’s role as kingmaker.

Relations between the two former governors appear to still be raw, however, and earlier this week, former minister Femi Fani Kayode publicly asked Fashola to “make peace with his benefactor Bola Tinubu before it is too late.” Tinubu though denied a rift, saying yesterday: “Governor Fashola and I are and shall always be political allies and fellow travellers on a vital journey”.

Nevertheless, suspicion remains that the corruption allegations – whether true or not – are linked to a behind-the-scenes wrangle for power.

For his part, President Buhari is probably hoping that a reconciliation between these two influential allies of his will come soon. If the accusations turn out to be true, Fashola’s reputation will take a tumble. But if this is at heart political manoeuvring, Buhari will be keen for it to be resolved so he can bring Fashola into his team. The young(ish) former governor is a seen as a credit to the APC government, and as Amaza puts it, “Fashola is actually effective despite all his shortcomings and his popularity will bring the Buhari administration plenty of goodwill.”

Lagun Akinloye is a journalist and Nigerian political analyst.

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34 thoughts on “Nigeria’s poster boy for good governance caught up in corruption allegations

  1. The former Aviation Minister Mrs.Stella Oduah was accused of buying two BMW bullet-proof cars at $1.6 million about N280 Million,while former Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola bought the same bullet-proof cars at N650 Million,let Fashola tell the Nigerians and the whole world how is own is higher.

    The day another political party will take over Lagos State that whole world will see the canker-worm,evils and atrocities that APC as a party has committed in Lagos with the assistance of Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

    Only God will save us from all these evil political leaders.

    Ossy .O. Ossy.


  3. If Buhari is serious about fighting corruption, the first will be for him to remove all oil blocks from any individual.Nigeria is the only country where thieves are allocated the country’s natural resources in the name of oil blocks.If anything like oil block must exist, then this should be given to the states so each state will use the proceeds to develop that particular state. This will ensure that the dividends are enjoyed by all Nigerians.

  4. Who can give Nigeria another Murtala Ramat Mohammed; someone that really cares to clean house throughout Nigeria for the common people of Nigeria to benefit.

    He was killed for doing good; “the good is oft interred with their bones”

    He did not sit down and fantasized on state management. He was ready from Day One to kick arses, no matter whose. In ONE WEEK the results were evident nationwide. To even consider someone as Fashola to be in office after all the ruse he has presented.

    Nigeria has to prove it is not called the giant of Africa for nothing: giants step on toes, clean house; guarantee that corruption is wiped out for good; infrastructural development (roads, bridges, ports, etc.) in all parts of the nation is a must and closely monitored; schools and education of the masses is guaranteed; health, power and electricity is for all Nigerians 24/7.

    Things cannot and should not be going on as if there were no new blood in the system. This president has to step up his game plan and act.

  5. Babatunde Fashola should be let alone, he remain a brave Governor who has made his citizen well, he did his best to make Lagos what it is today,. If EFCC is looking for corrupt governor I think they should listen to the petitioned made by Abian people against their non performed Ex Governor T.A Orji who is enjoying another level source of public office to cover up.
    Nigeria, knows governor who did well and those corrupted one, but because the stolen money they feel nobody has the monopoly power to challenge them and the can easily buy their way, let us stop the noise and let those opportune to steal do since the respective financial agency has fail to deliver, rather they are also getting corrupt.
    Until our leaders apologize to all Nigerian for their for disappointing us and change from their greedy and selfish style of leadership the system would corrupt.

  6. The talk about fight against corruption is for me a misplaced priority IF the right thing is done first. Remember everything created in life after the fall of Adam has corrupt life in itself, to heal the world of corruption; we must put structures in place that prevent it. Nigerian constitution has so much lapses that encourage possibilities to be corrupt. To defeat corruption in any society the instrument of state governance must be amended to tighten every loss nose else they are in a dream land that pursue an elusive monster call corruption. cheers

  7. I still believe that Fashola has done his very best for Lagos state and Nigeria. The whole allegations is political. I will call on the incumbent governor to concentrate on his work because 4 years is around the corner and it is only his work that will determine whether he will get re-elected or not. President Buhari should bring Fashola to join his winning team.

  8. Please Nigerians, let’s leave Fashola alone. He has tried for Lagos State. It is justifiable for one to work hard and earn his benefit than not doing anything but enriched himself with state money. Can anyone compare Fashola’s Lagos with Audu Abubakar’s Kogi State? Or with Ibrahim Idris’s Kogi State or Wada’s Kogi State? Fashola worked very well for Lagos and eat money while Audu/Idris/Wada did nothing but converted Kogi State treasury into their personal farm. So let’s leave him alone.

  9. The problem with Nigeria is that it is a place were everyone is so busy lowering the bar that they don’t even recognize how bad it is because they have no one to compare their efforts too.

    Fashola has been hiding money in dummy corporations which was taught to him on how to do by his mentor Bola Tinubu – The so called “Godfather” of politics.

    This guy, over his 8-year tenure, has hidden close to $90 million dollars in approximately 5 hidden private corps. But the Nigerian continued to give him awards because that is simply how Nigerian behave.

  10. Why all this bad behavior going on in NIGERIA. I have a lot of respect to Buhari, let
    him not allow under carpet corrupt individuals a chance in his administration. This
    is the time, all corrupt individuals have to be naked and flushed out and they
    should be prosecuted accordingly based on the law of land. Nobody is above the
    rule of the land. This is why I so much like and love UNITED STATE OF AMERICA.
    It can not have in USA, it happens but you will be fished out punished accordingly.

    A lot of bad behavior have being going on in Lagos State, even all the previous
    governor of the states in Nigeria are corrupt and knife of two faces.

  11. There are serious character questions to be addressed in Nigerian politics. Viewed from the context of the US, Canada, the UK and other advanced democracies, non of the present Nigerian politicians, from the admired (such as Fashola and Kwakwanso) to the dregs (such as T. Orji and Alamiesiegha), should be spared a jail term for they are crooked, mean-spirited, and overly self-centered. Instead, they are, often, rewarded with more demanding portfolios through executive appointments and manipulated elections. Let’s hope and pray for Buhari to locate the reset button for good governance.

  12. You are a Nigerian and you do know what SGF stand for.If it was an American acronym ia m sure you would know it.

  13. these people have no clue how to govern. and not just Nigerians, the whole bloody continent! bring back the europeans for at least 100 years (4 generations), but this time have them teach the locals how to govern, build roads, not be corrupt, provide water and sewers, etc. etc. in other words, all the disciplines needed to run a country!

  14. The last time Fashola had political differences with Tinubu, a long list of corrupt allegations were released to the public and there were moves to impeach him. After sorting out the differences, those allegations vanished. This might just be one of those politically motivated allegations. Why now? He may not have clean hands, but while in office APC campaign in other South west States centred around Fashola. He made his mark. If he is corrupt, let him face the law, but if he’s clean, Buhari please let him join you in FCT. Let’s treat Tinubu’s fuck up once and for all!

  15. You all are lacking understanding and orientation,Point 1.
    Buhari is a BOKO HARAM LEADER , APC used boko haram to gain interest in Nigeria,now boko haram has less operations according to order nd command.
    the boko haram are the leaders not the people who die, why not you herd any leader of boko haram dead since of ttack? IT A GAME.
    my people were too blind to see hell coming on Nigeria, my people even good luck jonathan fearfully went and accept result that was hijacked by mr jegge and his INEC partners , good luck disgrace the entire trust that voted him in, look they start shorting down churches in Lagos, .

  16. They are all birds of the same feather flocked together including Tinunbu and Fashola. The difference is the magnitude of the offense (stealing) committed against the nation of Nigeria. When you try to match Lagos GDP with the expenditure, it doesn’t add up. Fashola can not admit he is innocent in all these leakage because he’s part of it though he received some many awards. What am saying is, we need clean up! I hope Buhari will stay true to his promise. Revolution is underway! How, I don’t know but it will happen.

  17. Atiku made true comment when he said WE DID NOT NEED A RELIGIOUS LEADER LIKE BUHARI TO HEAD APC. boko haram. look they know thema self them ll na northerners trying to control Nigeria affairs but shame to goodluck and buhari ,, victory to FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF Nigeria

  18. Propaganda of the highest quality from JEALOUS BANDITS OF POVERTY DEVELOPMENT PARTY [P. D. P]. False allegations and junk news.

  19. If there is anything wanting from Fashola he should go and answer to eat, is not as if he clean as we all know how much revenue Lagos state alone generates and for 8 years it has be padi padi Government and as for Buhari l also agree that he collect back all the oil well and shear it to all states of the federation not given to any individual for any reaqson this is our national resources and should be used to develope every part of the Nigeria nation Good water for the people good road steady power supply from NEPA or wheat ever name you want to call them at least basic infrastructures and quality education like technical schools where we can manufacture our own cars even bicycles baby toys even most of the phones we use here are just hand works from most students in primary and secondary school levels in China this things we can put them in place, just like now that buhari is looking for country to sale him ammunition to fight insurgents, we can easily build this things here we have the skill all we need is little technical training and the idea grows from it.

    If Buhari know he is not ready to persecute all the corrupt government officials that has used their office to defraud Nigeria let him just pay attention to his change as i am sure he will do alot better is he really want to do is because the resources are they for him to work with.

    Fashola did well in Office. That cannot be taken away.
    He is now haunted by persons that want to tarnish his image, to limit his political future.
    look at the allegations; N78.3 million ($390,000) or upgrade of his official website, N139 million ($700,000). in a state with GDP of over $50b. These are not weighty. it is the kind of allegation for a Local Govt Chairman in Kwara State.
    Again since when did having an illegitimate child become an issue in Nigeria? Fashola is a muslim, entitled to Four Wives and Concubines
    Fashola has no case with these allegations. Let us hear new issues please

  21. Let give Buhari a chance. He was given a mandate by the majority of Nigerian people to effect a change and put Nigeria on a different path from our former so-called Leaders. It is not just Nigerians that are watching, the whole International community and leaders of the progressive world are watching and want him to succeed.
    If I was asked to advice him, inorder to ensure his success, I will advice him first to tighten up security around himself. Muritalla Mohammed demise should be a lesson learned. Secondly, I will advice him to seek and recruit capable Nigerian talents abroad who have held many years of leadership roles in big corporations who are are ready to hit the ground and run from day one on the job and above all who have not been tainted by Nigerian politics or have godfathers pulling their strings. Mix them up with a few honest and fearless individuals in Nigeria to form a perfect Team.Thirdly and importantly, to clean up the judiciary – starting from the State appointed Judges to the Federal appointed Judges. Make the judiciary autonomous/independent from the State and Federal Govt. Appoint fearless and honest Judges and give them the support they need without influencing their decisions. The judiciary should ensure and show that no one is above the Law. Once the masses see this, most people will automatically sit up and do what is right. Finally and not the least important, with our resources (capable people and money) we need to have in place the big missing piece of the jig-saw – INFRASTRUCTURE (good roads, re-vitalization of our railway system and water ways, and constant supply of electricity). With these in place, the capable overseas leadership talents recruited into his agencies and ministries can now convince or nudge many overseas companies & corporations (who have been dying all along to invest in Nigeria) to not just dip their toes into the water but to dive in. The result is that our qualified children both in Nigeria and abroad who are currently unemployed or under-employed will all have gainful employment before the end of his first term.

  22. Well I do not know how Fashola was made Nigeria’s poster boy. Those who chose to clean him up should be verified if they did not eat part of this pie we are talking about. He ca not and should never have been a called a poster boy. Maybe next time those concern should do a proper job at it.

  23. Fashola is a BIG Thief,pure and simple.Is there any where in the world that a one kilometer road is paved with $10 Million Dollars?a road not more than 4 inches thick of asphalt and crushed stones??The earlier the world realize that Nigeria as a country is a FRAUD,the better.As for Nigerians in Nigeria,they are all a people in a very sorry state of Dementia glaringly displayed in the average “i know it all” mentality.The best Nigerians are outside mostly because they saw through the fraud called NIGERIA.

  24. They are all devils painted into angels by the Lagos-Ibadan press. Honestly Buhari never fought against corruption any where but these same press men painted him into an anti-corruption man. Buhari never jailed any corrupt politician except his political enemies, whom he overthrew after accusing them of being corrupt. When he was governor, did he fight corruption? When he was petroleum minister, did he fight corruption. When was minister, million of dollars got missing without trace. When he was in charge of PTF, 28 million naira was missing without trace the press misled the people by touting him as an anti-corruption man. Let them tell us of his anti-corruption wars apart from jailing his political enemies.

  25. Thanks to God for sending a no nonsense man as our President by name Mohammad Buharia. ( In Ibo language, it means turn around ). The era of impunity, stealing and looting has gone. The Lord God Allah gave us commandment. THOU SHALL NOT STEAL NOR CONVERT THAT THAT DOSE NOT BELONG TO YOU. Those found guilty of this offenses should be sentenced to life imprisonment, after recovering their loots, (cash & properties )They have rubbished this country. Now Nigeria is angry and ‘ll rubbish them back.

  26. i enjoyed the article because of it’s balanced has presented the few facts as facts and made clear the speculations-which are many, are what they are- PURE speculations.As a citizen of Nigeria,which is a conglomeration of several big & small tribes, it is only natural for us to give a KNEE-JERK reaction when names of citizens are made to positions of authority. However after suffering at the hands of successive govts over the years i am fed up of the old ways of seeing & doing things & wish for a complete departure. That is why i am prepared to OVERRIDE my primitive reaction and take a closer look at the COMPETENCE and CAPABILITY of the appointees of our president. I have taken a closer look at the profiles of the latest appointees & discovered that such persons are VERY scarce.That is NOT to say that they are not available ACROSS the country but it will take some TIME to fish them out which is probably why the president decided to settle for those within easy reach.Who is to say that they will not be promptly replaced when other equally or better competent people are discovered from other sections of our dear nation.It is important for our people to CHANGE our way of THINKING as well as REFORM our ways of DOING things

  27. If President Buhari is hiding any of his assets, he then is a very good pretender.
    Since his speech he made, where he declared to have never taken a dime from the government, either when he was in or out of office. He challenged anybody, to publicly come out and make the same statement.
    Up till now, I’ve not seen any one come out publicly to either say Buhari is lying or say the same thing he said.
    I just pray that God in His infinite mercies, will guide and protect this great leader of ours, against devilish people like Atiku, Tinubu, etc.

  28. Why is it that all the sinners/corrupt politicians who defected to APC have all metamorphosed into SAINTS overnight? eg: Amaechi,Oshiomole,etc

  29. ONLY TIME LENDS PERSPECTIVE. HENCE, NONE SHOULD RUSH TO JUDGEMENT. It took a long time for the man, Fashola to build his sterling-reputation, hence, it shouldn’t be so quickly tarnished without any adherence to fair Prosecutorial practices and Due-Process within the confines of The Law, or even in the Court of Public opinion.
    In due time, for all it’s worth, the facts shall be made known, and the veracity of these alleged Corrupt practices and chicaneries shall either be clearly demonstrated or be considered an imaginary conjecture of those with a nefarious political-axe to grind against the erstwhile Gov. Fashola.
    May The Almighty GOD KEEP BEING FOR US ALL, and let the devil take the hindmost, In JESUS Most Blessed, Merciful and Precious Name, Amen ..!!!

  30. The former Governor of Lagos did a great job renewing the massive city and giving it a very mordern look especially between 2007 up until now. The huge expenditures in rennovating Lagos should be discounted before hurring to drum charges of corruption on him. He’s a nice man in all aspects and I would be shocked to hear he too is one of them corruption cronies!

  31. I don’t think people calling for Fashola persecution are genuine. These are political enemies trying to deny him any federal appointment. Remember, all these started when they heard that he is being considered for an appointment. To the best of my knowledge, he did well in lagos state and we must stop these politics of acrimony.

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