Senator Remi Tinubu gave Fashola a sliding tackle during the screening of ministers this week. This is how it all unfolded on the senate floor.
Remi Tinubu has a reputation for straight talking these days (BellaNaija)
Senator Oluremi Tinubu who represents Lagos Central in the upper legislative chamber, left ministerial nominee and former Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, in an awkward and embarrassing position on Monday, July 29, 2019.
The venue was the red chamber of the senate and Fashola had spent all morning taking a barrage of questions from senators who wanted to know why federal roads in their respective constituencies were in such poor states.
Fashola did his best to lay the blames for Nigeria’s poor road networks elsewhere—road projects were prioritized in order of economic and commercial importance, funds were scarce and he’s always been handed a deficit budget, funds are never approved on time or are approved in piecemeal, old contracts from previous administrations were cancelled because government defaulted on payments, only instruments like Sukuk can help Nigeria bridge its infrastructural gap and on and on he went.
Fashola exits the red chamber after an hour of grilling on Monday, July 29, 2019 (Twitter: @DOlusegun)
40 senators (the most any nominee has received since the screening commenced) wanted to ask Fashola a couple of questions and the man was left standing on the podium for perhaps longer than necessary.
Most ministerial nominees are simply asked to “take a bow and go” and handed a soft landing amid rounds of laughter. Not Fashola.
His case was different and understandably so. The man must have been cursing his luck as the questions arrived in such quick successions, he barely had the time to catch his breath.
In steps Tinubu
It is the norm at this ministerial screening session for Senate President Ahmad Lawan to ask senators from the nominees’ constituency to say a word or two, late on.
Oftentimes, the senators heap plaudits on the nominee from their states and make a watery case for why he or she should be asked to “take a bow and go”.
As Fashola answered the last question bordering on the poor state of roads in the Northeast, Lawan did the honours.
“Distinguished Senators Oluremi Tinubu, Adeola Solomon Olamilekan and Adebayo Osinowo…you have the floor”, Lawan stuttered.
All the aforementioned senators are from Fashola’s State of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital and most populous city.
Senator Remi Tinubu says she got nothing from Fashola 1st time out (Punch)
Mrs. Tinubu stood up to speak. “Thank you Mr. President and I believe that on behalf of my colleagues..and I know they are going to say something…to thank my distinguished colleagues for the support that honourable ministers have enjoyed today because I know what our colleagues can do. So I want to thank you.”
Tinubu was gesticulating the whole time as she spoke, bowing and turning this way and that. “Thank you for even telling us that he (Fashola) should take a bow at this point…”
She should have ended it here. But she had more on her chest and she wouldn’t be stopped.
“Sir, I want to really thank you”, Tinubu continued. “My only addition is that even during your first tenure, I didn’t get any chance to give employment letters to my constituents.
“So when you get there this time, just remember senators here…we have people back home…our constituents asking us for employment slots and as senators…and I want you to put that in your agenda for your second term that we all need slots for our constituents”, Tinubu concluded.
Ministerial nominees Fashola and Aregbesola shake hands before their sessions (DOlusegun)
You could have heard a pin drop in the red chamber at this point and just as well.
Screening sessions in the senate are not usually avenues to beg for ‘jobs for the boys’ or to make a case for the patronage network that underpins Nigeria’s politics. But Tinubu bucked the trend in the manner only she can–unashamed and unafraid.
She had rewritten the rules here and left Fashola red faced and a tad embarrassed.
May we add that Fashola didn’t address the point she raised; and that could probably be because he had no time to or that he considered it unimportant.
As awkward moments go in this ‘bow and go’ ministerial screening session, Tinubu’s speech has to be up there among the very best.
And Fashola won’t forget this for a while, we are certain. He never saw it coming.