Governor Fashola of Lagos have been widely praised for his many infrastructural developments and advances in Lagos state. While a lot of this has to do with Lagos unique financial position as the business capital of the nation; there is another major factor that has been responsible for this reality that many have overlooked and which reflects in the recent Ekiti state election result.
In Nigerian democracy as it is with many worldwide; there are two pivotal legs that hold our bourgeoning democratic edifice. First is Politics. Second is Operational Governance. Politics has to do with the oiling of the party political machinery and keeping the foot soldiers happy, engaged and loyal during the many months of political inactivity between elections. This involves in the Nigerian context, keeping the boys and godfathers happy in whatever way possible. Politics also involve managing the aspirations of party members and their hopes and ambitions for the next election. This involve building the party structure and supporters and making sure they do not decamp to the opposition. For this to be achieved; you will need to spend lots of money and skill to manage and control the grassroots.
The second leg is about the art of governing. This relates to the operational and infrastructural development and the bureaucracy of governance, law enforcement and planning for growth and prosperity for all. Lagos has been unique amongst all other states because of the ubiquitous presence of Asiwaju Tinubu. Ex Governor Tinubu leads on and has taken full ownership of the real Politics leg in Lagos state. This has in turn freed Fashola to concentrate of governance without worrying or being distracted by many political gymnastics by party loyalists. When was the last time you heard that Fashola was settling fight between party members in Lagos. Almost never. Tinubu rules the politics arena and keeps the foot soldiers happy. This has allows Fashola to concentrate on governing and that has served Lagos well. Fashola would have been less successful like many other governors if he had the misfortune of daily party management of political shenanigans in addition to operational delivery.
In all other states in Nigeria; there is no Tinubu figure. There used to be one in Kwara in the late Dr Olusola Saraki. So all other governors have had to occupy both roles in Politics and Governance. But most have not been able to do this properly. They struggle to get the balance right. Fayemi was good at operational governance but he was bad at politics. He was good with one leg but failed with the other. So much so that the party split under him with some going with Bamidele. It was naïve for Fayemi to think that operational governance alone was sufficient to re-elect him without the price of real politics being satisfied.
In every democracy; there is always a need for a strategy to keep the base happy while at the same time delivering infrastructural and developmental outcomes. So Fayemi was inexperienced if he thought simply brandishing the projects and infrastructure he had completed was sufficient; when he failed to effectively and cohesively motivate the base (and the voters) for his candidacy. In the USA, the truth of this thesis was borne out in last week’s de-selection of Eric Cantor for re-election as Republican candidate in the US House of Representative. Cantor was the most powerful republican in the house outside of the speaker. He was the number 2 man in the house. Very influential and effective. But he neglected his base in his constituency. The base felt he was no longer caring for them and that he was too preoccupied with operational delivery of the house agenda in Washington. So they voted him out. Cantor’s complacency was so brazen that on the day his base were voting; he was pictured having lunch in far away Washington while his opponent was still travelling the local street canvassing for support of the people. Fact is in a democracy; you have to be able to balance both the operational governance of officialdom with real politics of grassroots development that keeps the party base happy. You must be able to do both.
Leaving aside any perceived underhand activities some alleged; Fayose clearly has the real politics sorted in Ekiti. But will he learn from his past mistake by also working to develop the state infrastructure and operational development like Fayemi did. There are many examples of governors that seem unable to multitask on both these legs. Fashola has been lucky. He does not strike me like a typical real politician but a bureaucrat. Without the shield Tinubu provided for him, he would have been unable to achieve as much as he did if at all.
The lesson for all political office holders from a strategy point of view is to either learn to work these two legs, or ensure there is someone handling competently the real politics for you while you focus more of governmental operations. You cannot win elections simply by operational delivery of infrastructure and development; you MUST also be able to play real politics in ways that carry your base with you and ensure their loyalty. You cannot walk far or fast walking on one leg; so also you cannot win re-elections based on one democratic leg.