I have no reservations whatsoever in joining many others at home and abroad in advance on Wednesday, June 28, to celebrate the birthday of a rare breed that bestrode the Nigeria polity like a colossus. First as Governor of Nigeria’s most populous state, Lagos with a splendid performance, which earned him the moniker “Action Governor”. It is therefore apt and most appropriate to serenade Babajide Raji Fashola, CFR, SAN on the occasion of his 60th birthday. Born on June 28th, 1963, he will be sixty in a couple of day’s time, and he truly deserves to be serenaded.
Fresh from his two-term stint as a Federal Minister where he distinguished himself as a quintessential ‘Poster Boy’ of success in the Buhari Administration. The lettered silk surmounted challenges as a key fulcrum for eight years and some of his modest achievements, including cracking the hurdles and advancing the delivery of the country’s most difficult projects like the Second Niger Bridge, Lagos- Ibadan Expressway, the Abuja- Kano Road and installing a 1.5 mega watt solar power system, the first and the biggest in any public building in Africa, in the headquarters of the Works and Housing Ministry
As the curtains rise on a milestone birthday celebration, it’s time commemorate the life and accomplishments of an exceptional statesman and egghead like BRF. With six decades of remarkable achievements and unwavering commitment to public service and governance, Fashola’s journey serves as a testament to the power of ingenuity and renewed vigour in transforming societies and inspiring generations to come.
His early years and formative experiences came to fruition in Lagos where he was born at Lagos Island Maternity Hospital into the family of Alhaji Ademola Fashola, a former journalist from the stable of Daily Times of Nigeria, and Olufunke Agunbiade, a nurse. Born into modest beginnings, Babatunde Raji Fashola’s early years were marked by a thirst for knowledge and a profound sense of purpose. His pursuit of education led him to excel academically and laid the foundation for his future successes. These formative experiences shaped his values of diligence, integrity, and a relentless drive to make a difference in his beloved nation.
BRF’s trailblazing political career witnessed a political journey that has been nothing short of extraordinary. From serving as the Chief of Staff to his predecessor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR who’s now Nigeria’s president and C-in-C then to the being Executive Governor of Lagos State for two consecutive terms to his last position as the former Minister of Works and Housing, he has demonstrated remarkable leadership and an unwavering commitment to the welfare of Nigerians. His visionary policies and innovative initiatives have revolutionized the infrastructure landscape and improved the quality of life for millions with projects that dot the federation.
In the ecosystem of infrastructure development, BRF has been a catalyst for change. Under Fashola’s stewardship, infrastructure development has taken centre stage as a catalyst for socio-economic progress. His emphasis on strategic planning, efficient execution, and public-private partnerships has yielded tangible results, including the construction and rehabilitation of roads, bridges, power plants, and affordable housing projects. Let’s cast our minds back to the cocktail of chaos in Oshodi during his early days as the helmsman of Lagos State. He engineered quick fire plans that morphed Oshodi from a cacophony of chaos to an oasis of prosperity devoid of trading on the roads, crime and the eyesore of huge refuse dumps that dotted the scenery therein. The delivery of the Lekki/Ikoyi link bridge by construction giants, Julius Berger during the second term of BRF to stem the perennial traffic situation on the Island, after securing permits and concessions from Nigeria Inland Waterways (NIWA). These transformative initiatives have not only spurred economic growth but have also enhanced the daily lives of Nigerians, fostering a sense of pride and optimism for the future.
In the realm of championing sustainable development via Sukuk Bonds that delivered results in the infrastructure space that has never been done before. Beyond his role in infrastructure, Fashola has been a vocal advocate for sustainable development and environmental conservation. Recognizing the urgency of addressing climate change and its impact on the nation, he has spearheaded policies promoting renewable energy, waste management, and environmental preservation. His holistic approach to development is a testament to his commitment to leaving a legacy of a greener and more sustainable Nigeria for future generations.
BRF is also a beacon of leadership and inspiration; Fashola is ingrained with a leadership style that is characterized by his accessibility, pragmatism, and unwavering dedication to public service. He has inspired countless young Nigerians to pursue excellence, fostering a new generation of leaders committed to the nation’s progress. His astute decision-making, ability to galvanize teams, and genuine empathy for the people he serves have endeared him to citizens across the nation, transcending political boundaries. During his tenure it was a delight to see submissions and memos sent to his quarter as the number one citizen of Lagos, as this author was opportuned to witness the manner he addressed these relevant correspondences with his minutes on documents to approve or disapprove initiatives in bureaucratic terms. BRF also engineered a bandwidth of monitoring and evaluation for projects across board where he would visit sites to assess work-in-progress via visual documentation to be abreast with development therein. How he mustered such strength is beyond beggars belief and stranger than fiction.
The practice of addressing memos via bureaucratic channels was a space where BRF reigned supreme and he didn’t stop while he was in motion with files and books that dot his official vehicle then that looked like a library or sorts laden with leadership books of Lee Kwuan Yew, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington amongst others. Fashola is a leader who dwells in the currency of ideas where he fosters seminal and intellectual process amongst human capital in the public sector ecosystem. He’s a cake that’s well baked that’s craved by all and sundry – That’s in metaphorical terms before naysayers and fifth columnists seek to cut his personage with a knife.
As a vision for the future with BRF’s celebration of six decades of a life well lived, his vision for Nigeria remains steadfast. He envisions a nation where equitable opportunities abound, where infrastructure serves as a catalyst for socioeconomic progress, and where sustainable development is at the forefront of the national agenda. Fashola’s unwavering dedication and renewed vigour serve as an inspiration for all Nigerians to collectively strive towards a brighter and more prosperous future. On the day of his 60th birthday, it’s welcome for merriment to wine and drink on this milestone with his dear wife, Dame Abimbola Fashola, his kids, siblings and teeming well wishers to a proud son of Lagos and citizen of Nigeria who has paid his dues.
Ayoola Ajanaku is a Communications and Advocacy Specialist based in Lagos, Nigeria.