Lagos State Second Republic Governor Lateef Jakande is celebrating his 90th birthday tomorrow. In this interview, former Secretary to Government Olorunfunmi Basorun reflects on how the ‘action governor’ ran the Centre of Excellence between 1979 and 1983 and what lessons the present and future generation of leaders can learn from his style of leadership. Group Political Editor EMMANUEL OLADESU met him.
Yourformer boss, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, is 90. What are your impressions about the ‘action years’ of Jakande in Lagos?
We are looking forward to the action years coming back. Very exciting. Very penetrating and not only result-oriented, it was fruitful at the end of the day. The impact of the action years is still being felt up till today. Virtually all school premises in Lagos, which belong to the government today, were acquired during the action years of Alhaji Lateef Jakande. May God continue to bless him with good health.
What are other qualities you admire in him?
The land policy of the new order; that was the title he gave it. It did a lot of good to the state. Under the land policy of the new order, there was what was called the ‘rush hour’ allocation that were cancelled. The allocation were used to build low cost housing. Let us come to Amuwo Odofin. Let us come to Iponri. There were several other allocations. Low cost housing is important. Lands were sand filled and allocated to those in charge; governor’s friends and cronies. The land were made available to develop low cost housing for people.
The metro line project would have been a landmark achievement. But, when the military came, they cancelled it. Shagari government, with all the arms, the executive, the legislature, I don’t know if the chief justice was not there; they all came to the ground breaking at Yaba, near the Presbyterian Church. Shagari was there. Vice President Ekwueme was there. Joseph Wayas, the Senate President, was there. Ume Ezeoke, the Speaker of House of Representatives, was there. All of them. The beauty of it was that while other governors were going to Shagari for approval for foreign loans, Lagos never did. It was only on metro line. Some of the containers had arrived. But, for reasons best known to the military, they set up a body, headed by the late Aboyade Cole. That body recommended that the thing should continue. But, they claimed to have cancelled it based on the recommendation of Aboyade Cole.
I was one of those invited to the committee to give evidence. one of the members of the panel, who because he did well was made a judge, said, ‘Mr. Basorun, you didn’t know what happened. be careful.’ I said I knew what happened. I said when Jakande was going to get approval for metro line, he made sure that every member of the executive council made contributions. Should we do it, should we not do it? Then, he set up a committee comprising himself as governor, myself as SSG, Olusegun Coker as Commissioner for Works, Agbabiaka as Commissioner for Finance, Hamzat, the late Oba, as Commissioner for Transport, and others who were directly involved. Then, he appointed a very skilled and efficient perm sec Dr. Soule as the General Manager. The thing was set before the military came. It would have been the best thing to happen in Lagos. Thank God, something similar to it is going on now. We pray that they will do it and succeed. That was metro line.
We had three shifts before we got to government. In six months, through building of functional classrooms, the three shifts were eliminated for secondary and primary schools. And normal school was going on. We called them functional classrooms. The classrooms were not plastered. There were no windows. But, during the last quarter of 1983, I was in charge of education. I had left SSG. We had decided to give out contracts to many party members to upgrade the schools, to do the floor, put doors, put windows. Only they could not do it before the military came. We were already planning to upgrade the schools. But, we thank God today. All the schools are still there. My advice to those there now is that they should be forward looking. They should protect the lands because the schools must expand as the population is increasing in Lagos.
As Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu settles down for work, what is your advice to him?
My advice is that he should carry the people along. He should make as his cardinal people service to the people and for the benefit of the majority of people in Lagos. He should do things that will touch the lives of the people within the limit of the available resources anyway. Those of us outside the government are praying for him. He should not shut his door at the citizenry. Jakande was seeing people all the night. He did not break down. I am not saying he should adopt that method. Adopt your own method. But, don’t shut your door against, particularly, leaders in the state. Try as much as possible to have exchanges with them. if you can’t see them, find them in the night and knock doors. It is an impossible thing for some people. But, it is very good. God will bless him. God will continue to assist him.
What is your reaction to the security situation in the country?
Everybody is frightened about the situation. One prays that we are able to go over it soonest. I believe the president is not at fault. The social media, the newspapers, even the television, the electronic media, have contributed a lot to the confusion we are facing on security. People raise alarm here and there. People are saying they are herdsmen. When people were killed in Zamfara, were they Christians versus Muslims? When people were being killed in Sokoto, Katsina, were they herdsmen. When Jacob, Evans kidnapped or killed, can we say those were herdsmen? But, that is what we hear. I sympathized with Pa Fasoranti. I pray that God will give him a cool mind to bear his loss.
But, the report we have got from the police; these gun people chose one person and killed. There were three other people in another vehicle. the police said they rescued them. Why not rescue the lady who was killed. What I will say is that it was assassination. There are examples like that. People, governors, eminent people have come up with all sorts of suggestions. Which oone do they want the president to address to nip the insecurity in the bud? We want to reduce this whole thing to prayer. People should change their mind and allow the government to use its resources and machineries to fight insecurity in the country. The Boko Haram is a different one. This particular one we are facing now, they are product of several things. Some of them are armed robbery, outright assassination. We all know herdsmen. I grew up to know them in my village. They don’t carry AK 47. Who are these people carrying AK 47? We should find out. Are they being organised by some people who give it to them. We must unravel it.
Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo has warned about the likelihood of Nigeria sliding into a Rwanda-like situation. What do you make of his letter to President Muhammadu Buhari?
If it is another person, I would have taken him serious. He is a very senior person. Why not go to Buhari and advise him? He is one of those who caused the problems in the country and he will be put to shame by the grace of God. He is an apostle of doom. He is well placed to say he wants to see Buhari and Buhari will see him. He said he wrote so that people will know his position. Which position? Everything done by this government is not good. He should go and have a re-think. He was in government for eight years as a civilian. He was there for some years as military. What magic has he produced? What is in his favour is that he has got experience. Let him go privately and discuss with the president.
Is the porous border not contributing to all these security challenges?
That is another area the government should look into. By the time they investigate, they may even find out that most of the people doing all these things are foreigners. One of your colleagues was discussing with during with me before what happened to Fasoranti. Six eminent Nigerians wrote to the British Parliament- Solomon Asemota, Zamani Lekwot, T.Y Danjuma, Priscila Kuye, Igwe and Emeka Ezeife. They were alleging that the president was planning Jihad in Nigeria to eliminate Christians. I was telling the person that killing in Sokoto, would that be Jihad? Muslim against Muslim in Zamfara, in Katsina, the home of the president? A well placed man was killed and N200 million was being demanded. Is that Christian versus Muslims? Let us face the problem. People who do not believe that Buhari should be president are nursing grudges and they feel threatened. That colleague said the borders were porous and it should be addressed. I agreed with him.
Some people are saying that state police or community policing can be of help….
I support state police. But, we must put safeguards against abuse. If you allow state police, you find a governor using it to suppress a perceived opponent. In the local government, which you call community, the local government chairman will go wild when he has the opportunity to be in charge of state police. But, when the constitution is amended to accommodate it, we must put sufficient safeguards and control the extent the governor can use it. The constitution, the court and the federal authorities should be able to intervene and nullify it.
What are your expectations about President Buhari’s second term?
Buhari has resumed and he has not put in place those who would advise him; his cabinet. They are not yet there. I do not know why he should have problem. It is the norm that when somebody had done first term, say with 50 people, he would have known the 50. If he does not know them, then, he is not in charge. He should know those who can go along with him, if he does not want disruption. You first of all take those ones out and you add some. If I were him, the moment my election was announced in March, I would have got the cabinet ready. He is saying now, and I agree with him, that he wants to choose those he know to come and work with him. Hitherto, he was working with people suggested to him. He does not need to spend another three months before doing that. Those who worked with him who are good, he can still work with them; those who are not good can leave. He had enough time to do it. He may want to give compensation to governors who lost elections. It is his choice. Quality is good. If it is just because they are party men and he wants to compensate them, I think he has to watch that. That compensation could be dangerous.
Apart from security, what are the areas you want the president to focus on in his second term?
Power is number one. Power has not improved at all. He has to focus on power. Then, roads. The rail will, for instance, be of tremendous use. He should be able to focus on it. We are facing a lot of transportation problem now, particularly in Lagos. If there is rail, all these trailers will not be giving problem. Dasuki who became the Sultan, when he was chairman of Railway, that was the time they bought tankers. They should not always be in the roads. The rail must be encouraged. They have been doing it. They should continue. Power went up to 700. Now, it has come down to 300. There is a lot of sabotage. Government needs to address this area.
Then education. It is not the personnel as such. It is the planning. UBEC, the federal, is releasing money to SUBEC, the state. But, it has not helped. The rule is that you must provide counterpart funding. Many states are not getting the money because they are not able to provide counterpart funding. They should look at this. They have the monitoring system. In most state, those physical and administrative structures are not in place. The physical are classrooms, desks and benches. They are not in many schools. Instead of 45 pulls, 100 occupy a classroom. Then, the staff. All these should be done with planning. We should have the record of what the schools have and what they are lacking.
In the university, the ASUU should reduce the amount of strikes because it has been affecting the students. Students are staying at home for over a year or a session. In health, there is a policy of primary health scheme all over the country to support the General Hospitals. This is not doing well. Instead of pumping money into this, you find the Federal Government setting up medical centres in the starts. They should scrap it and make the funds available to states to establish and fund more primary health centres which are close to the people. You get to primary health centres, you see the building sinking. PHCs are working 24 hours. People are enjoying their services. They are very close to us. in Bayeku, we have a PHC that is of its size. Not everybody should be going to the General Hospital. The minister can dictate the policy. Instead of the federal medical centres, they can fund the teaching hospitals, if they can’t give it to the states.
Some people are saying that, if there is restructuring, may be, the polity will be better…
Everybody has definition for restructuring. When I read them, I laugh. Some people are saying we should go back to the old regions. Has America gone back to the old 13 states? They were 13 to start with after their war of independence in 1776. They have not gone back. There was the treaty of Paris to record it. The US increased to 50, and it is now 51. I don’t agree with those who said we should go back to the regions. Let us sit down and take a decision that will be forward looking and that will be followed by our children and our children’s children, for which they will be proud that their forefathers had laid a good foundation. The National Assembly that should amend the constitution is not moving. We have had conferences in 2005 and 2014. We should now to talk about a welfare state. In Britain, hitherto we were hearing socialism, conservatism. When they are talking about is that if you go into government and yiu are not making an impact, you are going. Welfarism. This is very important. The government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich is not democracy. The rich is making it difficult, consciously or unconsciously, for the downtrodden to survive. Even, some people in the middle class are being pulled down. We make the welfare of the people the focus of governance. What is welfarism? Education is important. If education is not good, then, we will be sliding. We should develop health, roads, and good governance. There should be access to education by the citizenry.
We should stop fixing salaries and allowances across the six states. Let each state cut its cloth according to its size. I was looking at the figures last week. They said Lagos State had the highest IGR. A state in the Souhthwest was the last. If the Lagos man carries a big car, bullet proof and other 10 cars to follow him, Osun will also want to do the same. We are talking of N30,000 minimum wage now. Lagos should be able to pay it. It should even pay 50. When Awolowo raised it from two shillings to five shillings, other regions were crying. They had to adjust. Someone is saying the debt profile is rising. I said we will not run anywhere. We have the resources to back it. Every state and local government should cut its cloth according to its cloth. Eti Osa Council and Lagos Island should not be earning the same salaries and allowances. Sthe council in Badagry should not be earning the same with Agege or Ikeja. In 1979-83, Jakande tried it. He created 23 councils. But, he discriminated between A and B. Ikoridu Council was A. Irepodun Council was B. This was reflected in the salaries the chairmen were earning. Nothing happened. The resources available should be well harnessed and used for the welfare of the people. They said N12,3 billion will be distributed as welcome allowances for the embers of the National Assembly. I am not saying they should not take their entitlements. But, let them sit down there and consider the interest of the country, loosk at what they need and slash, probably by half. Some of them come from areas of the countries where the roads are bad. So, restructuring, in my view, is welfare of the people; education, health, roads, railway and security.
How can we make local governments to be effective in the performance of their functions?
For now, the constitution in Section 7(1) says we should have democratically elected local government. The control, in that section, is delegated to the states. They are talking of autonomy now. They say local government is the third tier. How is it a third tier? The first tier if the federal. There is provision for tge election of president and the National Assembly. The state is the second tier and there is the provision for the election of governors and House of Assembly. Let them show me in the constitution where these provisions are made for the councils. Local councils are under the control of the states. I am not saying that states should be interfering from time to time. Fortunately, the Supreme Court has said that governors cannot dissolve elected councils. What is important is to strengthen the executive capacities of the local councils. The staff should be exposed to regular training that will give them a sense of service to the people. Some people want to be chairmen to make money and acquire wealth. This trend should change. How to improve the lot of people through good roads, health centres, provision of more infrastructure for primary schools should be the priority. That is how to judiciously spend council money. The money lands in the hand of the state. In accordance with the laws of the House of Assembly, it is distributed. There is one they have been ignoring. In section 62(c) or so, a certain percentage, the percentage is not mentioned, of the state government total revenue should be added to whatever the Federal Government has sent. I say this will all joy and praise for Alhaji Jakande. In 1979-83, Jakande was setting aside 10 per cent of the total revenue of the state for the councils. Why should we not do it now? He was in charge. He will give thee, based on what plan or how they will use the money. He will not release it until you bring the list of what you will do with the money. Then, after releasing it, there will be monitoring. Since you have brought a list and someone was coming to monitor, you had no choice than to perform.
Culled from THE NATION