By Olayinka Ajayi
Following the nagging issues in the polity, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, a former governor of Lagos State, bares his mind on the demise of Madiba, corruption, the education sector and leadership. Excerpts:
How do you see the demise of Dr. Nelson Mandela?
Nelson Mandela was a great man. When he was alive, he made public service inspiring because he lived his life in all possible difficulties and I am grateful to God for the enviable life he lived. What would South-Africa have become today if not for the anti-apartheid struggle led by him. 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, may he sleep well.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has written to President Goodluck Jonathan saying he is unfit to run for the presidential race in 2015 and describing his government as corrupt. Do you share his perspective?
I am not interested in any open letter to anybody neither will I comment on it, but the level of corruption in this country is a national tragedy and we have never had it so bad.
So many people in this part of the world see you in good light based on your contributions as an Awoist in terms of politics, health and education. What is your take on the education sector in Nigeria today?
I am not quite happy with what is going on. For instance, I am very sad that university lecturers could stay out of work for more than five months, it is a thing of shame on both ASUU and the Federal Government because the government carries the burden, the government should have done everything possible to prevent such a situation from happening. At the end of the day, it is those who cannot afford private universities that suffer and this country cannot afford such situation to happen.
What is your view about dilapidated structures in primary and secondary schools nationwide?
It is very disappointing to see those who benefited from the free education we initiated during our tenure doing virtually nothing to bail out the nation. I would like to appeal to my friends and colleagues in government to give education priority; after all, the future belongs to children. I remember that when we came into office in 1979, our priority was to give quality education to the masses. We had three shifts of learning, morning, afternoon, evening, and we were able to accomplish it. So if we could accomplish it during our time in office, why can’t they accomplish those petty projects now? I pray that God should touch the hearts of our leaders.
Nothing is more rewarding than building men of stature. The other day when I was in a gathering, I met some people that 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 every time what would these people would have turned out to be if they had not had such opportunity . I pray that God will enter the hearts of our present leaders. All we hear them talk about now is spending billions on projects that do not add to our progress.
How do you react to the embattled PDP governors that decamped to 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 reason. If they have problem in their party, let them resolve it . Let conservatives be conservatives and the progressives 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 in office?
Most of our leaders today are not helping Nigeria, but I pray God will make Nigeria better. They should save the 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 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. In public service, the average Nigeria must come first and that was the reason I was able to resolve educational problems in Lagos State within a week. Some people thought it was also impossible when I said we were going to build houses all over the place, saying the houses would be poultry houses. I hope the critics are still alive today to witness what they thought would be poultry houses. What matters most is determination and clear cut program.
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 and we will not go back. God has given us all the resources we need to be a great country, why should we fail?