Rafiu Jafojo: Exit of an Awoist

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Alhaji Rafiu Bakare Jafojo was the deputy governor of Lagos State under the administration of Alhaji Lateef Jakande (1979-1983) and an intimate disciple of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. However, he never joined the South-west wing of progressivism until about two years to his demise. Gboyega Akinsanmi writes

Precisely on April 24, Alhaji Rafiu Bakare Jafojo, former deputy governor of Lagos State, finally bid the world farewell. He was 80 years old. But none of those years was really wasteful. Until his transition to the world beyond, Jafojo played his different roles as a community leader, political strategist and key head of the Aworis in the state.

Judged by diverse testimonies of those who served with him at different levels, Jafojo lived a life full of activities either in politics or for the public goods at large. The manner he lived his life explained why the state governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode said his contribution to the development would not disappear from the public space of Lagos State in a hurry.

But rightly, of note was Jafojo’s defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). For what he ascribed to his political conviction, he defected at the height of electioneering on November 29, 2014. However, his defection was, no doubt, a huge loss for a party that had fought to no avail to seize the political power of Africa’s model megacity through the ballots.

But Jafojo’s exit from the PDP was a boost for the All Progressives Congress (APC), which had been at the centre of political storms. Beyond what the political calculation might be then, Jafojo could no longer simply continue in the PDP to what he ascribed to his progressive conviction, which perhaps the PDP did not really share until his eventual defection.

Jafojo’s defection truly provided succour for the progressives in the state. However, his defection did not change the political calculation in Ikeja and Aworiland, which formed Jafojo’s area of influence. Apparently, the APC lost much support in the areas, not because Jafojo’s political influence had waned, but the regressive forces thrived on the politics of ethnic bigotry.
Did his defection make him as a public hero? Of course, his defection made him a political hero worth celebrating today. Indisputably, the episode of his defection would perhaps form a chapter in his yet-to-be-written biography or memoir.

Jafojo actually came to the limelight in the politics of Lagos State in the Second Republic.
Before running with the state’s first democratically elected governor, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, Jafojo was not just an adherent of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Jafojo was equally Awolowo’s unrepentant disciple even though he left the mainstream wing of South-west progressives for a while. But that did not take away his progressive conviction.

On November 29, 2014 when he announced his defection to APC, Jafojo bore himself a testimony. After he was received by former governor, Babatunde Fashola, Jafojo said he was on sabbatical while in the PDP. He therefore noted that said his coming “to APC is homecoming and will yield a lot of dividends for the party and the public in general. While I was in PDP, I was on sabbatical leave.

“I do not belong there. Consequently, I decided to come back to the APC especially because they have lots of progressive programmes that have improved our society and deliver the dividends of democracy to the citizenry. As from the beginning of my political life, I have always been a progressive. That is why I joined hands with other progressives in the APC. I am well known for my progressive activities. In the APC, I am at home. There is no doubt about that.”

Indeed, Jakande testified to what Jafojo represented to his government and Lagos State at large. He acknowledged his high sense of loyalty and patriotism all through the period they served Lagos State together. He said they simply served in the spirit of progressivism and make life meaningful for the people of the state. He therefore said he was a loyal deputy.

Ambode’s account provided insight on how Jafojo deployed the instrument of progressivism for the development of Lagos State and humanity at large. In his condolence message, the governor wrote that Jafojo was part and parcel of the Jakande administration, which he said, had been applauded across Nigeria for milestones it achieved.

Ambode bears witness to his personality as a political strategist. He said he was an astute political actor who was very patriotic “to the course of developing Lagos State together with Jakande.” Unlike the case of Chief Adekunle Ajasin, whose deputy then defected to the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Ambode said: “Jafojo formed strong partnership with Jakande and developed workable template for the development of Lagos State.”

Jafojo’s spirit of progressivism was the reason he worked smoothly with Jakande between October 1, 1979 and December 31, 1983, at least to the extent of what the public could see. On this ground, Ambode wrote that he was a progressive political actor, whose conviction and patriotism was never in doubt. It explained why joined the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN).

Ambode thus noted that Jafojo “walked closely with the late sage and learnt the ropes and the ideology of putting the people first. He later joined the APC because he saw a semblance of what the UPN and Chief Awolowo stood for in his era.” That explained why the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa acknowledged that Jafojo “was known for progressive democratic ideals and advancement of equity and justice.”

For him, it could have been much difficult for the Jakande administration to achieve so much without Jafojo’s unflinching support. He said they both “laid solid foundation for the development of Lagos State. This is the foundation the subsequent administrations in the state built upon, just to make the state the centre of excellence” for which it is known nationally.”

His death was a major loss for the APC, according to the party’s state chairman, Chief Oladele Ajomale. He acknowledged that his death would affect the state chapter in different ways. He cited Jafojo’s adherence to peace and unity, which he said, had been of immense benefit to the state chapter since he left several PDP chieftains and members to APC in 2014.

Also, Ajomale acknowledged Jafojo’s astute political tactics, which he said, was evident in his approach “to mobilising and organisation. He was one of the best political actors in terms of mobilisation and tactics. We, their successors, have adopted the philosophy of good governance both Jakande and Jafojo introduced in Lagos State.

“His death will affect us in many ways unless we get grips of his followers. In Ikeja Division, Jafojo had many followers. He was also one of the head of Aworiland in Lagos State. He played his roles as a deputy governor, as a community leader and as a political force in the state. He worked with Jakande in a way that brought about positive impact upon the people.”

Beyond all said, one of his son, Adeniyi Jafojo, said his father died peacefully. He said he did not lose his senses. Rather, he lived a life full of activities until he passed on. Adeniyi said his father waited for all his children to “arrive home, especially those in the United States before he died. He mentored us and built confidence in us. He believed in empowering people. It will be hard to fill the vacuum he left for us all. We will all miss him for his contribution.”