First civilian governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, has urged the political class to provide service for the nation, arguing that Nigerians appreciate selfless service.
Jakande, who spoke at a special press conference at his Ilupeju, Lagos residence, yesterday, as part of activities to mark his 80th birthday, said the country is in dire need of service.
He said Nigeria needs a committed and visionary leader to bring the country out of poverty and under-development.
â€œNigeria has no business being poor. The economy of Nigeria was sustained for decades on three agricultural produce â€“ palm oil from the East, cocoa from the West and groundnut from the North,â€ he recalled.
â€œWe have the resources. We only need the people with vision and commitment to use these resources to better the life of the people of this country. We pray that God will raise such a person for us,â€ he said.
Dressed in his usual simple native â€˜bubaâ€™ and â€˜sokotoâ€™ with a cap, Jakande, who stood all through the one hour media parley, also spoke of his post-office experiences.
He said he had received kind gesture from some of those who benefitted from his free education programme.
According to him, â€œNigerian politicians and leaders should take note of this particular element of the Nigerian people; that they are always appreciative of good service and do not forget their leaders who served them diligently.â€
The former governor who recalled some of the instances where beneficiaries of his administration free education programme have shown appreciation to him said â€œThe only thing that lives on long after you have gone is the service you rendered to the peopleâ€. He also recounted how his military predicessor Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe said free educatin was not possible in Lagos, pointing out that â€œUkiwe did not see what I sawâ€
According to Jakande free education in Nigeria is not only realistic but imperative, pointing out that Education is the basic foundation of any progressive nation and whatever money spent on it is a resource well spent.
â€œThere is no alternative to free Educationâ€, he said adding that the efforts being made by the new generation of leaders to develop the country would come to naught if equal opportunities are not given Nigerian children to be educated.
On the problems he had implementing the Free Education policy in the State, the former governor said the greatest challenges he had at the beginning were the provision of land and the construction of schools that would accommodate the large number of pupils that turn out as a result of the policy.
â€œWe had problems with provision of land and the construction of the schools. The first set of pupils studied under trees. At a point, I instructed my experts to build schools anywhere they found space and anybody who asked them why, they should tell the person that it was a directive from the State Governor. The response was goodâ€, Alhaji Jakande said adding that he also told the experts that what he wanted was functional classrooms.
According to the former governor, who said a lot of criticisms were made from several quarters concerning the quality of buildings constructed as classrooms, â€œMy response to those critics was, thank you, but the houses are not for you but for those who need themâ€.
He said one of his greatest regrets as governor of Lagos State was his inability to build a metro line rail transport system for Lagosians, adding that the metro line is inevitable
â€œIt was a project to provide rail service to the people of Lagos State. We had a consortium of French companies. We had negotiated with them at a total cost of N700 million to provide 19 trains and build the rail tracks â€œ, he said adding that the routes of the track had already been mapped out before the contract was terminated by the military coup of 1993 .
Defending his tenure as Minister of Works and Housing under late General Sani Abacha he said
â€œI have no regrets serving in the administration of General Abacha. I saw it as a divine call to serveâ€.