By: Adewuyi Adegbite
The colds hands of death snatched the former governor of Lagos state, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, in the wee hours of Thursday, February 12, 2021. He died at a ripe age of 91. He was born in 1929. Jakande distinguished himself in life in many endeavours he engaged in. He was a distinguished journalist, astute politician, prolific writer, and administrator and a publisher. Beyond this however, Jakande was an idealist. He was not an idealist in the sense of being a philosopher like Fredrik Engel, Hegel, and Karl Marx etc. Jakande had an idea of what he wanted for his society and whenever opportunity presented itself in the course of public service; he showed the stuff he was made of. Talk of any field of endeavours he found himself, he left legacies behind. For example, as a journalist of international repute, he was one of the founders of International Press Institute. Not only that, he was the brain behind the establishment of the Nigerian institute of Journalism in Lagos. More so, he was a brain behind Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria NPAN. We can continue but for space. As a politician, Jakande belonged to the left of the Nigeria political divide. He was a progressive and remained one till the end. Ideologically, he believed in Awoism and was an Awoist. Awoism is philosophy of government espoused by the late Avatar, Obafemi Awolowo, which centers on socialst welfarism. Awolowo as the Premier of the old Western Region of Nigeria in the first Republic made people’s welfare the kernel of his policies. In this sense, he executed policies that centre on the development of the people to attain their potential to the fullest. This resulted in free education, free health services, gainful employment, and rural integration among others. His era as the premier witnessed the establishment of the first television station in Africa, first Olympic size stadium in Africa, cocoa board, industrial estate in Lagos etc. Jakande as a follower of Awo took after his leader when he had the opportunity of serving as the first civilian governor of Lagos State between 1979 and 1983 and this gave him the appellation of Baba Kekere by the grateful Lagosians, who saw in him a replica of the sage. Aside the fact that he implemented to the hilt the four cardinal programmes of the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, he went further to introduce innovations that stood out Lagos as a centre of excellence, its modern day sobriquet. Before his coming, there was shifting system in Lagos educational policy due to lack of classrooms for the teeming Lagos students. Immediately he was sworn in, he abolished shifting system and built massive schools/classrooms in all available spaces in Lagos State. Many of the classrooms were makeshift structures but with time, he succeeded to the consternation of those who gave him no chance of success. In addition, he established colleges of education, technical colleges and Lagos State University to cater for the tertiary education of the Lagosians. To provide housing facilities to Lagosians, he embarked on building of housing estates throughout the State and the results are there for all to see all over Lagos State in form of Jakande estates. We recollect that during his brief stint as the Minister of Works and Housing during the military regime of General Sani Abacha, he reintroduced housing policies he carried out in Lagos. This was not as successful as the Lagos experiement because of the shenanigans associated with military regimes. In the field of transportation, he was the brain behind LSTC. He also introduced ferry services, Ita Faaji and Baba Kekere on the inland waterway. As a matter of fact, his vision on Metroline project for Lagos State was the peak of his achievements and which would have gone a long way in solving transportation problem in Lagos but was truncated by the generals that truncated the second Republic on December 31, 1983. The seat of government of Lagos State, Alausa secretariat, Ikeja was the brainchild of Jakande. What makes people marvel about Jakande revolution in Lagos was that his budget never exceeded millions of naira in his days. Yet, he accomplished that much. The reality is that Jakande’s prudency is second to none. He was a man of vision and mission. He did not live in government house but in his modest residence at Ilupeju, Lagos. Secondly, he did not ride official cars but his modest Toyota car, no security. He did not travel abroad in search of non-existence foreign investors and did not borrow a dime from lenders organisation either foreign or local to execute his project during his four years tenure. His children attended the public schools and there is no doubt that he had the love of his people at heart and above all he had his eyes on history. Remarkably, when the Generals that toppled the Second Republic government put to trial many of the Second Republic office holders and jailed many, Jakande was given a clean bill of health.
On February 12, 2021, Jakande answered the supreme call, and as Ira D. Sankey rightly observed, he will “only be remembered by what he had done.” There is no doubt that his memory will linger in the hearts of many Lagosians, especially those whom he served wholeheartedly and progressive Nigerians who see in him a role model. One hopes our modern day leaders could borrow a leaf from him and make the people the centre of their policies and not personal aggrandizement as we can see today and which has brought the nation on her knees. For LKJ, here lies honour and posterity.
Adegbite writes via [email protected].