Former Minister of Works, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Sen. Adeseye Ogunlewe, has stated that the administration of late Lateef Kayode Jakande, the first Executive Governor of Lagos State, was able to get many Lagosians out of poverty because grassroots people were engaged in governance.
Ogunlewe, a Chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who was a top civil servant during the legendary administration, also stated that implementations of government programmes were handled by the civil servants under the Jakande government unlike what obtains now.
He revealed these in an interview with THE IMPACT at the weekend in Lagos.Ogunlewe said that over one million Lagosians were taken out of poverty within four years, adding that the government created many rich citizens.
“Within 4 years, Alhaji Lateef Jakande was able to move one million Lagosians out of poverty. It was a very simple thing to do. His government ensured that the public participated in every government project and contracts”, Sen. Ogunlewe revealed.
Explaining how the Jakande government saddled the civil servants with the responsibilities of implementing its policies, Sen. Ogunlewe said that contracts were not awarded to individuals, rather, the government ensured community participation in all projects.
He said that through this, money was given to the people directly and many were empowered in the process.
“That’s the way to lift people out of poverty. If people don’t participate in your projects and you are giving them N5000, that doesn’t lift them out of poverty. So, what did we do? If we wanted to construct 22, 000 classrooms and 10, 000 housing units, we will list the components of a single classroom like poles, cement, gravel, iron rod, blocks and others to be supplied by the public”, he said.
“We would go to Oko – Baba to address all the plank sellers and ask them to supply a certain number of planks to the Lagos State Government to build classrooms and housing estates. We did the same thing with those selling granite and other materials. Everything was done by the members of the public with the government having well over 20, 000 contractors.
“These contractors were members of the public and at same time, members of the party and they were getting their own money and building houses because of the system then. But if it is a system that allows for Chinese contractors, how many people will that Chinese employ? How do you expect people to participate in such a system?
“When we needed 20, 000 benches and tables for schools, we called all the carpenters and also invited those that would supply the planks together. While planks suppliers supplied needed planks, carpenters were readily available to make needed benches and chairs.
“Everybody was part of that government and that is why anybody who is rich today in Lagos State, participated in Jakande’s government.
“Also, whenever we were constructing drainage, it is the people in that community that would come together to do the drainage and not an outsider. They would do the job and collect money. These days, nobody participates in the government, how do you now lift people out of poverty?
“He (Jakande) was a lover of the structure of government. All these governments that we have now are not using civil servants for the implementation of their policies and programmes and that is what is bringing poverty to the country.
The former Minister said that the governments that came after Jakande succeeded in impoverishing people because they no longer engage them in government’s activities.
“There is no more direct labour project, no involvement of the civil servants in execution as everything is contracted out. How many will a contractor do that will elevate the poverty in the nation?
“Jakande gave free education to students all over Lagos State; free exercise books, free notebooks, free biro and pencils. How did he achieve this? He approached Macmillian to produce needed books for the students. We were buying directly from the publishers.
“These days, there is nothing like free education because there is no free book, biro or anything We are putting a lot of pressure on the parents by making them buy all these things which are 25% of the cost of education.
“Those are the areas where Jakande excelled as a governor. He was a thinker and friend of the masses who wanted to lift people out of poverty. Believe it or not, over one million Lagosians were moved out of poverty during his government.
He added that late Jakande’s administration also encouraged developments at the council level as many developmental projects were also happening at the ward and council levels.
“Virtually all the developments that you are seeing today in the State were developed by his government. There is no ward or local government that projects wasn’t carried out during his administration.
“He allowed all the councils to buy equipment like tractors, rollers and graders that were used for construction work. These were carried out by the party members and not private contractors but these days, things have changed and that is why the level of poverty is high”, he said.
The former Minister, however, urged that research should be carried out on how Jakande succeeded in impacting massively and positively on Lagosians than any other government in Lagos State.
“I think that people who are studying our contemporary studies in the University should find time to study the policies, programmes and budgets of Lateef Jakande so that they can be able to assess the type of person Jakande was”, Ogunlewe charged.
“Jakande was molded in the form of Obafemi Awolowo; well disciplined, articulate and usually planned well.
Recalling how the Jakande administration started in 1979, Sen. Ogunlewe said that numerous committees by friends of the former governor had produced working papers on various aspects of the state which, according to him, helped his government to hit the ground running as soon as it assumed office.
“Two years before he went for the election in 1979, he set up a committee called Committee of Friends that went round the state to determine where they would build secondary and primary schools, housing estates and roads that they would be constructed.
“All the policy papers of the committee for each area were already in place. Immediately he won the election, he started to consult and the first cabinet meeting that he held, he presented all the policy papers and programmes for approval and immediately they were approved, he handed – over everything to the civil servants for implementation” Sen. Ogunlewe said.