LAST INTERVIEW WITH JAKANDE: People mocked me to my face when I said I would build houses all over Lagos

PDP urges leaders to emulate late Jakande’s legacyBY OLAYINKA AJAYI

Tributes have been pouring in for Alhaji Lateef Jakande, the first civilian governor of Lagos State, who died on Thursday at 91. Jakande’s demise marked the end of an era: He was the last of the five governors of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) of the Second Republic under the leadership of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

His contemporaries were the late Chief Bola Ige (Oyo), the late Chief Onabanjo (Ogun), the late Chief Adekunle Ajasin (Ondo) and the late Chief Ambrose Alli (defunct Bendel). Each of then-governors executed the defunct party’s four cardinal programmes but many observers believed Jakande stood out of the pack.

Because of the free education he provided in Lagos, which was perceived in many quarters as qualitative, many residents withdrew their children from private schools and put them in public schools. Jakande established Lagos State University (LASU) as part of then-UPN passion for education.

The administration’s housing policy was second to none as estates he built are still everywhere across Lagos. Indeed the estates provided those who otherwise may never have been landlords an opportunity to own houses. In our last interview with the late elder statesman, conducted in December 2013, he spoke on issues at hand including the state of the nation. Excerpts:

Dr. Nelson Mandela, South Africa leader, just died and people across the world have been speaking glowingly about him. What is your perspective of Mandela?

Nelson Mandela was a great man. He made public service inspiring because he lived his life in the service of humanity. What would South Africa have been today if not for the anti-apartheid struggle led by Mandela? Apartheid is now a thing of the past in South Africa. We have every reason to thank God for creating a man like Mandela. I pray that by the grace of God he sleeps well.

So many people in this part of the world see you in the shoes of Mandela based on your contributions as an Awoist in terms of politics, health and education. What is your take on the state of the educational sector in Nigeria?

I am not quite happy with what is going on. For instance, I am very sad that university lecturers have stayed out of work for more than five months. This is a thing of shame on both ASUU and the Federal Government because government carries the burden and it should have done everything possible to prevent such a situation from happening because, at the end of the day, it is those who cannot afford private universities that suffer and this country cannot afford such a situation to happen.

The annoying issue is that nothing constructive has been said by both parties to address the situation. I want to appeal to both sides to shift grounds on negotiations in order to save this country. Government, especially, should, in the name of God, do something to bring the strike to end.

There are dilapidated structures in primary and secondary schools everywhere across the nation. Are you comfortable with that?

It is very disappointing to see that some of those who benefited from the free education we initiated during our tenure and are in positions of leadership today are doing virtually nothing to address the predicament. I would like to appeal to my friends in government to give education priority; after all, the future belongs to these children.

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I still remember that when we came to office in 1979, our priority was to provide qualitative education to the masses. To accommodate every child, we had three shifts of learning, morning, afternoon and evening, and we accomplished it. So, if we could accomplish our goal during our time, why can’t they accomplish those theirs now? I pray that God should touch the hearts of our leaders. Nothing is more rewarding than producing men of stature.

The other day I was in a gathering when I met some people who came to appreciate me, saying they were products of my educational system. I can never thank God enough for the privilege because I ask myself what these people would have turned out to be if they had not had such opportunity. I pray that God in His infinite mercies will enter the hearts of our present leaders to do what is proper. All we hear them talk about now is spending billions on projects that do not impact on education.

You just spoke on ASUU strike. Reports say government’s failure to fulfill agreement led to the stalemate. Do you have any word of advice for government?

Government should honor the agreement they had with the striking lecturers because it has gotten to the last point, but I will also appeal to ASUU to be kind enough to consider the children that are bearing the brunt of their struggle. If not for anything else but for the sake of the children, ASUU should go back to classroom.

How do you see the coming together of some n-PDP governors and those of APC?

Quite frankly the idea of moving from one party to another does not help the country. People in partisan politics should do it on the basis of commitment and not moving from one party to another for any reasons. If they have problem in their party, let them solve it. I appeal to them to let conservative be conservative and progressive be where they are and look at service to our people which is the major thing we need. I hope they spare us these nagging issues. What we need is service to the people.

Are you impressed with the performance of today’s leaders?

Our leaders are not helping Nigeria, but I pray God will make Nigeria better. To be honest, I am not impressed with the performance of our leaders and I want to appeal to them to save this country from collapsing. They should put the interest of the Nigerian people at heart. They should go into politics with the determination to serve because there are so many things to be done and this country is greatly in need of them and I hope that they clear up all the mess in order to get back to the right course of serving our people.

If you have the opportunity to correct anything, what would it be?

It is very simple, once you put your mind in the right place, you will certainly achieve your goal. In public service, the people must come first and that was the reason I was able to resolve those problems I addressed my mind to.

Although some people thought it was impossible to address those problems. When I said we were going to build houses all over Lagos, some people mocked me to my face, saying the houses would become poultry. I hope they are still alive today to see the ‘poultry’. So what matters most is determination and having clear cut programs.

What is your advice for Nigeria?

Nigeria is growing and we have a great future. I am totally convinced that we shall get there because this is a country created by God. God has given us all the resources we need to be a great country, so why should we fail? We will not fail by the grace of God.

Vanguard News Nigeria

The post LAST INTERVIEW WITH JAKANDE: People mocked me to my face when I said I would build houses all over Lagos appeared first on Vanguard News.

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