There is the sectionalist, intriguer, nepotist, lawyer, self-acclaimed philosopher, perhaps a new messiah under the African sun.
It just might make great sense if we returned to the festering Babatunde Fashola fiasco. One has to immediately admit that it is not part of Fashola’s sins that he has the ambitions of Caesar. It is only meet to record that, like his psychic guide, Fashola, too, wills to cross the Rubicon. And as is expected, he too is in the game of wanting to install himself, his connections and successors thereof, as an eternal line of potentates. Like Caesar, too, Babatunde Raji Fashola is quite a behemoth. There are too many parts in his complicated whole. There is the sectionalist, intriguer, nepotist, lawyer, self-acclaimed philosopher, perhaps a new messiah under the African sun.
Luckily, it is just one small part of his mazy universe that interests us today. And it is about what he had to or not say about the darkness that is the nation’s lot under his supervision.
This time, however, we shall be revisiting the Fashola subject with a world of sympathy, that is, while admitting to his foot-in-mouth disease, we are more interested in his being largely a victim of his age. Fashola is a victim of an epidemic, if fashionable, ignorance that has overwhelmed his tribe. This is his tribe of scribal technocrats, or better, lawyers, economists, etc.
If only to maintain a sanitary distance, let us recap by quoting a third party. “Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola’s outburst blaming the private sector operators the other day over the intractable poor power supply may have put paid to any glimmer of hope of a turnaround in the sector. What a great disappointment from a government that has been raising the hope of people, in this connection. In what appears as a clear admission of failure, the super-minister, unabashedly, told Nigerians not to blame the federal government for poor power supply.” … Fashola’s unwarranted sophistry was a barrage of assault on the sensibilities of Nigerians who have suffered untold hardship from pigheaded decisions, actions and inactions of government, particularly in the power sector. Fashola’s gaffe over poor electricity (Fashola’s gaffe over poor electricity).
And in an ensuing paragraph, the authors go on to conclude: “This is a public relations tragedy at this time of reckoning for the government that has been in power for three and half years of a four-year tenure.”
This, in our opinion, is where the pundit gets it right, but perhaps on the shiny surface. He didn’t go deep enough. Yes, it is a public relations tragedy, but that is just the skin of a deep-seated rot, if not cancer. The real problem is that that foot-in- mouth disease of Fashola’s is a knowledge-gap ailment. But the greater point is that this Fashola-style ailment is, despite the many certificates that abound, a standard affliction of the Nigerian elite. And this knowledge-gap mismatch, more than any other defects, contributes most to the rite of Nigerian underdevelopment. Fashola here is just an anchor or poster boy of such ignorance-powered underdevelopment. Meanwhile, let it be on record that we are aware that Fashola is a lawyer, even a SAN. We repeat we are aware of those.
Now, the same report says as follows: According to Fashola, “If you don’t have electricity, it is not the federal government’s problem, take the matter to the people who are operating the power sector, generation and distribution companies … But let me remind you, all of the assets that the Ministry of Power used to control for power have been sold by the last administration before I came.
“And so, if you don’t have power, it is not the government’s problem. Let us be honest.” … “Let us be honest; if your bank over-charges you interest … So, let’s be clear, this is now a private business by Act of Parliament 2005.”
If you read this piece from him, you will notice the repeated rhetorical assertions: let us be honest, let us be clear. These are stock phrases of a high moralist and professor over his morose or even brain dead and perhaps duplicitous audience. So, it can be assumed that Fashola takes it that he, Fashola, is a bleeding genius or something, clarifying issues to his technically-challenged, if not stupid, audiences. So, he speaks of esoteric things like Acts of Parliaments, in tone of “let us be honest.
Also, it is important to him that his audience are, in spite of themselves, dishonest. And they have to be reminded of it. Now, his assumption is that only he, Fashola, is both professor and holy imam. That is, for a Fashola his own, genius and honesty are assured. His problem is the near stupidity and duplicity of his audience, that is, Nigerian electricity consumers.
But there are other details. The first is that despite the professorial postures of Fashola in this matter, he is completely in a state of unknowing and error. First of all, law and acts of parliaments are technical devices to service society. That is, to the extent there are laws and acts of parliaments, it is under a framework of society, an organic society.
And society in its modern form hires people like Fashola, who have nothing better to do, to keep its affairs in good and excellent repair. Fashola’s/politician’s duty as handed over to him by society is to labour as drones towards the greater welfare of society.
Next, these politicians as agents may, through the tools of sub-agency, hand over aspects of their briefs, that is, achieving the welfare of society, to other third parties, say businessmen, crooks, prostitutes, lawyers, vote-riggers, fools, etc. However, one fact is insistent: society has no contracts as society with sub-agents. Yes, individuals in the society may, but not the society as a group, as an entity. So, the problems of society are the briefs of her paid agents, politicians and such like persons as Fashola and his masters. They are not the briefs of sub-agents. Thus Fashola alone or his masters cannot be drawing his stupendous emoluments on us and be handing us over to stranger sub-agents. That is not their brief.
Let us illustrate. When the price of gasoline rises for American motorists, American governments [under Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, etc] have been known to cross borders and squeeze Saudi Arabia and even Nigeria, etc, to up production and ease supply/prices in New York. American governments were not telling gasoline consumers that it’s “market society stupid.” Or that the “Seven Sisters” and other market players are in it for the blames, not governance.
So, the question is, how did this simple truth elude Fashola? We shall hazard answers. It is in the wrong Americanisation of Nigeria. Perhaps, since inception, American politics has been a hunting ground for its lawyers. And Nigerian lawyers seem to have learnt, sorry, copied. But fact is that American legal education is not very related to the Nigerian counterpart.
To be a lawyer in America, it is required you first take a degree in one other course. An American lawyer is by definition a two-discipline mind. The fact of this gifts him with binocular, that is, fuller, understanding of things. So, the American lawyer is wont to hesitate, is never in a hurry to proffer opinions on things he is not sure of. By the logic of his first-line training, he gets to know that everything is not to be captured in the laws of evidence or even acts of parliaments. So, lawyers in America and much of the Western world are happy to be humble scribal technicians and little else.
But down here in Nigeria, it is something else. Let us take this from a university administrator who should have known.
“To lawyers, you have been endowed with a special training. A training that allows you, if well-absorbed, to participate in every part of the society with unusual distinction. Don’t allow anybody to categorise you. Don’t let them tell you that because you are a lawyer, you can’t be an administrator, an infrastructure developer or an outstanding engineer. You have been trained to have an open mind to be able to absorb information, distill it and use it properly. (Babalakin: Nigerian Intelligentsias are Endangered Species)
How does one explain this, except that the author is a lawyer, a made-in-Nigeria lawyer? What he is hinting at, in other words, is that all other faculties are superfluous? Yet the typical Nigerian “public office or affairs” lawyer takes the Babalakin thesis as a truism. And they begin to comment magisterially and in public on matters they are at best uninformed lay men.
This style Babalakin canard is the fare Fashola’s great ignorance, Socratic ignorance, feeds on. His is the tragedy of a sophist not knowing the limits of his knowledge. Anyway, to cure this style dilemma, the incomparable British, about 70 odd years ago, developed a special discipline, the so-called Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE). PPE is a go-to course for British aristocrats who want a stint in politics. The idea is to give you a working knowledge of society as a polis, not a skein of laws.
The finer point is, if Fashola had read first year philosophy or politics in a structured manner, in any of the great faculties of Harvard, Oxford etc, he won’t have slipped into the gregarious error of thinking law is everything and everything is law, not even as sophistry. Nor would he have been teaching his superiors, the people, in phoney professorial tones, that society has been outsourced to businessmen and the stock exchanges. For his or his masters’ profiteering? Fashola Ronu!