FELLOW Citizens of Lagos State,
On Saturday, 28th, July 1979, you elected me, by 559,070 votes to 126,805, the first Executive Governor of Lagos State. Today, as a result of that election, the Chief Judge of this State, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of Nigeria, has invested me with the office. This is an inestimable honour of which I am very conscious. It is a call to service that I take very seriously in all humility. And I want to assure you that I shall spare no effort to justify the confidence which you, the good people of Lagos State, have demonstrably reposed in me.
God moves in a mysterious way, says William Cowper, His wonders to perform. His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour.
The creation of Lagos State, like all great events, is not the achievement of one single person. The territory now known as Lagos State is the former Colony Province created by the British Administration for their own administrative convenience. Following the cession of his sovereignty to the British Crown by King Dosunmu in 1861, Eko was administered independently by a Governor of the Settlement of Lagos. Under the Commission of 19th February-1866, the Settlement of Lagos was governed by an Administrator and a Legislative Council responsible to the Governor of the West African Settlements residing in Sierra Leone. This continued until 1874. By Letters Patent dated 24th July, 1874 the territory was administered by a Lieutenant Governor subject to the Governor of the Gold Coast Colony.
Nine years later, by Letters Patent of 22nd January 1883, Lagos was administered by a Deputy Governor responsible to the Governor of the Gold coast Colony.
In 1886, Lagos was again set up as a separate colony in response to a petition by the people of Lagos who resented being governed from the Gold Coast. It was administered by a Governor of the Colony of Lagos under Letters Patent dated 13th January, 1886. This was the first time that the territory now known as Lagos State came under one administration. The administration continued under various constitution until 1954, when Lagos was separated from the rest of the Colony and constituted Federal Territory, that is to say a No-Man’s Land.
Thus, it is evident that, for 89 years from 1862 to 1951, Lagos (with or without the rest of the Colony) enjoyed a separate and distinct existence as a unit of administration with its own Governor, Deputy Governor, Lieutenant-governor, Administrator or Commissioner as the case may be. For 68 years from 1886 to 1954, the Colony of Lagos (i.e. the present Lagos State) was administered together as a unit, an inseperable whole. From 1914 to 1923 the Colony of Lagos had its own Legislative Council while the rest of Nigeria had another Council.
Thus the foundation for a Lagos State had been well and truly laid by history. But, in the circumstances of our dear country, it still had to be fought for. And two of the earliest fighters for a Lagos State must be remembered with gratitude on this occasion. They are Chief Theophilus Adebayo Doherty and Prince Ibikunle Akintoye. They dreamt of a Lagos and Colony State. It was left to a later generation to make their dream a reality.
In 1964, while I was serving a seven-year sentence for treasonable felony and conspiracy in the Maximum Security Prison at Kirikiri, Apapa, I came to the conclusion that the time had come to put forward a reasoned case for the creation of a Lagos State. With the assistance of my friends outside the prison walls, and deliberately breaking prison regulations, this conclusion resulted in a booklet published in 1966 with the meaningful title of “The case for a Lagos State”.
In the preface to the book I said inter alia: “It seems now to be generally agreed that if Nigeria is to survive as one organic whole one of the conditions precedent to such survival is the creation of new states. I have endeavoured to argue the case for a Lagos State in the following pages as objectively as possible and without emotion. One is bound to recognise that this case rests almost entirely on historical circumstances and moral principles. But this does not detract from its validity. A series of historical circumstances have culminated in neglect and injustice such as can only be effectively removed, in a Nigerian Federation, by the creation of a Lagos State”.
In August 1966, the then Administrator of Lagos, Major Mobolaji Johnson, summoned a Conference of Young Indigenous Lagosians to deliberate on the place of Lagos in a future constitutional arrangement.
This book formed the basis of a memorandum submitted to the conference. The conference, among other things, decided that a Lagos State comprising the Federal Territory and the Colony Province of Western Nigeria should be created in a Nigerian Federation.
On September 12, 1966, the then Head of the Federal Military Government and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Yakubu Gowon, established an Adhoc conference on Nigeria’s future. The Lagos Delegation was led by Doctor Taslim Elias until he became Attorney General of the Federation when the mantle of leadership of the delegation fell on me. But it was under Doctor Elias’s leadership that the Lagos delegation submitted to the Adhoc Conference a memorandum for the creation of Lagos State. That memorandum was substantially a reproduction of “The Case for A Lagos State”. And it was that memorandum, no doubt, which enabled the Federal Military Government to reach the decision to create a Lagos State in 1967.
I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Brigadier Mobolaji Johnson for his invaluable contribution to the creation of this State.
Throughout the period of the 1966 Adhoc conference he was unwavering in his conviction and unsparing in his endeavours for the creation of a Lagos State. It was his lot to become the first Military Governor of the State. And he made a good job of it, all things considered. May I also thank the last of the Military Administrators, Captain Ebitu Ukiwe, for the voluminous handing-over notes he has given me and in particular for his physical presence this afternoon. It is a kind gesture which I greatly appreciate.
It is now our historic duty to take off from where the military left. In doing so; I have no illusion whatsoever. When on Saturday November 4, 1978, I was nominated by my party, the Unity Party of Nigeria, to contest the gubernatorial election for this State, I said inter alia in my acceptance speech: “I am conscious of the problems and the opportunities that abound in Lagos State. I know that the citizens of Lagos State are the most sophisticated in the country. I know that every tribe and every ethnic group, in Nigeria are represented in Lagos State. I know that for most Nigerians Lagos is the El Dorado, with matchless opportunities for prosperity.
I know that the indigenes of Lagos State have a natural right to the services provided by their state. I know that the non- indigenes of Lagos State have an indisputable right to the services provided by their State of residence. I know that Lagos State is said to be the most developed part of the Federation. But I also know that below the majestic flyovers, the mystifying ring roads, and the spiralling skyscrapers there is abject poverty in this State. And I know that there are in Lagos State some of the worst living conditions that can be found in any part of the Federation.
I am sure that it will surprise many Nigerians in other states to be told that Lagos State is as much in need of development as any other State.
Perhaps our need is greater. Because of the pressure of population, which is the highest in the country, the demand for services is extremely severe. Besides, Lagos State is Nigeria’s shop window.
These, problems are enormous. But the consolation is that the opportunities for solving them are there. And they are exciting and challenging”. I can only underline that statement on this occasion of assuming office as Governor of Lagos State.
We shall model our government after the Government of the Western Region of Nigeria, from 1952 to 1959, headed by Chief Obafemi Awolowo. That Government was the most efficient, the most dynamic, and the most responsive of all the governments of the Federation. That Government was the country’s pace-setter — the first to do all good things that others later copied. There has never been a government like it in Africa before or since. And we know that in giving us their massive vote, the good people of Lagos State were influenced by their memories of the good old days of the Awolowo Government. We shall live up to their high expectations, especially as Chief Awolowo is still very much around and will continue to be our source of inspiration for many years to come.
In this connection, I am glad to affirm that free education at all levels, of which he is the greatest advocate in Nigeria, will become operative in Lagos State with immediate effect from today. On September 15, 1979, I issued an appeal to all school headmasters and all principals in this State not to demand or accept fees from school children in primary and secondary schools. I am grateful to all those who heeded this appeal, although it had no force of law. Now that I have been sworn in as Governor of Lagos State, I direct that education shall be free at all levels in this State. For the avoidance of doubt, no fees should be collected from any pupil or student for anything whatsoever.
Where fees have been collected immediate steps should be taken to refund them to their payers. In all Boarding Schools Parents/Teachers Association shall take over the management of boarding facilities, and they will be given all possible assistance by the education authorities until boarding is completely phased out. Arrangement have been made to enact the necessary legislations for this purpose.
The Unity Party of Nigeria is irrevocably committed to change things and to bring about a new order. We have come to serve the common people of this State. We have clear-cut programmes for which we have received your mandate. I want to assure you that we shall do everything that is humanly possible, under God’s unfailing guidance and protection, to execute these prorammes and honour the solemn pledges we made to the electorate.
In implementing these programmes we shall be scrupulously fair and just to every citizen, be he high or low; we shall seek at all times and on all occasions the greatest good of the greatest number. We shall be guided by the timeless principle that the will of the people is the supreme law.
There will be no discrimination against anyone on the ground of political affiliation, religious belief, ethnic or state origin, sex or social status. But we can do all of these things only if all sections of the community cooperate fully with the Government they have elected.
We need the absolute loyalty and cooperation of the public service. We are going to move much faster than perhaps the public service is used to. We are bringing to the Service a new sense of direction. At the same time we shall ensure that every public servant in this state is adequately rewarded for his labour. Merit will be recognised regardless of language, colour or creed.
We need the support and cooperation of all ratepayers and all tax- payers in this State. We are prepared to serve. But service can be provided only to the extent that the finances of the State permit. I believe that this state is quite capable of generating the necessary funds to make life better for all citizens. I, therefore, call on all adult citizens to make their own contribution to the common good by paying their rates and taxes as they fall due.
We need the support of the law enforcement agencies. We are aware of their deplorable conditions of operation. And we shall, within the limits of our constitutional powers, help to improve those conditions. For it is only in an atmosphere of peace that progress and development can take place.
We need the co-operation of the judiciary. I am a firm believer in the independence of the judiciary, and I am happy that independence has been enshrined in our constitution. We shall do everything possible, within the limits of our constitutional powers, to remove any obstacle in the way of speedy and efficient administration of justice in this State.
We need the vigilance and patience of all citizens. The problems which we have inherited from the military — extremely bad roads, poor drainage, inadequate water supply, deplorable housing, neglected agriculture and the lack of markets for example will not disappear in one day. But they certainly will disappear during our tenure of office by the grace of God. We shall start solving these problems from today and from now to the end of our term we shall do nothing else.
I ask you to pray constantly for us. More things are wrought by prayers than this world dreams of. We are embarking on a war against poverty, against community neglect, against reaction, against disease in Lagos State. And, by the grace of God Who loves us, we shall win.