Tayo Ogunbiyi pays tribute to Lateef Jakande, former governor of Lagos State
Death, which legendary playwright, Williams Shakespeare describes as a necessary evil, finally caught up with the first civilian Governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande (LKJ) on Thursday, February 11, 2021.
His death has been described as a great loss to Lagos State and indeed the country as a whole. It is, however, gladdening that the pace-setting former governor passed on at the ripe age of 91, having selflessly served God and humanity in various capacities and fields.
A consummate journalist, publisher, politician and public administrator, Alhaji Jakande touched and transformed many lives, especially in Lagos State, through his visionary leadership, selfless outlook to life and spartan lifestyle.
An associate of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Jakande epitomised honesty, fairness and justice. A fearless journalist, he was the first President of the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and a former Editor-in-Chief of the Nigerian Tribune newspaper.
One of the golden eras in the socio-political evolution of Lagos State was, without a doubt, between October 1, 1979 and December 31, 1983 when Jakande held sway as governor. From the outset, he had clearly promised to give Lagos a purposeful leadership. Upon inauguration, LKJ pledged to model his government after that of the defunct Western Region of Nigeria, from 1952 to 1959, headed by Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He said: “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 pacesetter- the first to do all good things that others later copied. There has never been a government like it in Africa before or since.”
True to his words, LKJ assiduously went to work to realize his vision. There is hardly any sector that the magical hands of this visionary leader did not transform. LKJ simply took governance to an un-imaginable height in Lagos State. Till date, many of his populist policies and programmes, especially in the housing, public transportation and education sectors, still endear him to all and sundry.
His passion for the development of Lagos State knew no bounds. The ambitious Lagos metro line project, which, if it had seen the light of the day, would have revolutionized public transportation in the state, was conceived by his administration. Till date, some of the housing estates he established across various locations such as Iba, Isolo, Iponri, Ejigbo, Amuwo-Odofin, etc., are still serving the housing needs of Lagosians.
It was under his administration that movement into the State’s current Secretariat at Alausa, Ikeja, began. LKJ reportedly attached so much urgency to the construction of the present government secretariat that he was bent on the relocation plan that he virtually caught everyone unawares when it finally happened. According to him, if it was not done when it took place, there would be no appropriate time to do so. So, the state holds the present secretariat’s vision to him.
Being a consummate journalist, and following the trend of his political mentor, Chief Awolowo, who established the first television station in Africa, the defunct Western Nigeria Television Station (now Nigeria Television Authority), LKJ also established Lagos Television, (LTV), which happens to be the first state-owned television in the country. Aside this, he also established the Lagos State University in 1983 for the advancement of learning and establishment of academic excellence in Lagos State. His administration also constructed water works at Shasha, Agege, Somolu, Apapa, Badagry, Aguda, etc., to improve water supply and avoid outbreak of water-borne epidemics.
A workaholic, LKJ worked round the clock in his bid to fast track the development of Lagos State. Reports had it that on December 31st, 1983, when the Shehu Shagari civilian administration was toppled, in a military coup d’état, soldiers who came to arrest LKJ met him at his office working deep in the night, on a New Year eve. Such was his legendary dedication to duty and passion for hard work!
It is, therefore, not surprising that LKJ became a star among the 19 governors of the Second Republic (1st October 1979- 31st December, 1983). He soon became popular and given several appellations in the media such as ‘Baba Kekere’ (junior Awolowo), ‘Friend of the Masses’, ‘Action Governor,’ etc. Out of the lot, the one that really became most prominent is ‘Action Governor’. Sure, during the Second Republic, LKJ was an ‘Action Governor’, the kind that we refer to in local parlance as ‘talk and do’.
It was LKJ that begun the transformation of the state’s transport sector. On November 29, 1979, 59 new buses belonging to the Lagos State Transport Corporation were inaugurated with a view to enhancing public transportation in the state. On January 28, 1980, the parking meters began to function in some busy streets in central Lagos. It was the first of such to be introduced in Nigeria.
In the area of opening up public education to accommodate more pupils and students, the Jakande administration did a whole lot. After only one year in office, additional schools were constructed by the administration. For instance, the number of public primary schools in Ikeja Local Government alone increased from 54 to 86. The number of public secondary schools in the area also increased from 13 to 42. All within just a year!
Throughout his public service career, LKJ was on the side of justice and fair play. As a governor, he lived in his private house (where he lived till his death) and drove in his personal car, a ‘Toyota Crown’. In a society where leaders go to unbelievable length to acquire ill-gotten wealth, LKJ opted to be different. It is hoped that leaders across all sectors would take a cue from the life and time of this visionary patriot and learn selfless leader.
They also need to pay heed to the words of Ron Kaufman that “Selfless acts are a source of profound meaning for yourself and your life”.
For the departed legend, death has not, by any means diminished his stature. Though he is passed on to glory, he has left behind a good name. His name has become his legacy. It will continue to reverberate in our consciousness the good deeds of a man who lived to serve.
Ogunbiyi is Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja