His records of achievements speak volume and his place in history is immutable. This is why the late former governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, by every definition, remains a model and standard. Shola Oyeyipo writes
What is there to say than to admit that the late first civilian governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande came really prepared for the leadership, which was exemplified in his stellar performance?
When his death was announced at the age of 91 last Thursday, not only did he live long enough to see the state he nurtured from the cradle grow, his achievements reverberated as all the who-is-who in Nigerian politics paid glowing tributes to him.
What Jakande represented during his lifetime particularly, during the period he served as the governor of Lagos State, was well captured in the tributes of notable Nigerian politicians, who marked him out as a rare breed and a purposeful leader.
President Muhammadu Buhari posited that Jakande lived for the good of others and Nigeria and that his achievements in Lagos State would always be remembered.
“Former Governor of Lagos State, Chief Lateef Jakande, lived for the good of others, state, and country, and his legacy of standing for all that was right for humanity would be long remembered.
“His imprint on the commercial nerve center of the country, Lagos State, which was the national capital, will continue to awe and inspire, reminding everyone of the strength of character and sacrifices of the visionary leader,” Buhari noted in a statement by his media aide, Mr. Femi Adeshina, adding that he was a patriot whose contributions to the growth of democracy, good governance and wisdom would remain across generations.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote a letter to Jakande’s widow, Madam Abimbola Jakande, part of which read: “But by no measure can he be described as an ordinary man. He was, by all measure, a great man, an ardent patriot, a frontline journalist, an astute politician, and reputable administrator, a profile earned over the last five decades.”
The Senate President, Senator Ahmed Lawan, reckoned that the late journalist-turned-politician first made outstanding contributions to the development of the journalism profession in Nigeria, an achievement he replicated, when he ventured into politics, saying: “His feats and carriage as the governor made Alhaji Lateef Jakande a permanent face of progressive politics, which primary concern is the welfare and wellbeing of the people.
“Throughout his tenure as governor, he faithfully implemented the four cardinal programmes of his party, the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria. His numerous legacies continue to be appreciated, particularly in the education, health and housing sectors of Lagos State.”
The Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who described Jakande as a man of peace, who lived all his life serving humanity, said his invaluable contributions made Lagos what it is today.
Vice President Atiku Abubakar also wrote that until his passing, Jakande “remained one of the last icons of our nationhood and in whose life are enormous examples that we can get inspiration from in the much-needed drive in rebuilding our psyche as a people.”
Former Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, in a tweet said Jakande was an extraordinarily hardworking and visionary leader, whose achievements as a governor are still being felt by the people of his home state, because he lived a full life in the service of his state and country.
Former Lagos State Governor, Senator Bola Tinubu noted that, “The deceased stood as one of the most incisive and brilliant editorialists of his generation, who practiced journalism with the most audacious courage in defence of freedom, liberty, and equity even in the thick of vicious military dictatorship. As an accomplished journalist, Pa Jakande shone even more brightly as a governor and true leader of Lagos State.
According to Tinubu, “Papa Jakande could appropriately be described as the ‘last of the titans’ ranking with the likes of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Adekunle Ajasin, Pa Abraham Adesanya, Bola Ige, Olabiyi Onabanjo, Balarabe Musa and Aminu Kano, among others.”
He underscored the fact that Jakande was a matured statesman who was never given to histrionics or fanning the embers of disunity.
On his part, the incumbent Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said Jakande left impeccable records in Lagos State and that it explains why he remains a reference point for governors in Lagos and other parts of the country to date.
A former Ogun State Governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba, likened Jakande’s passage to the fall of “an Iroko tree as well as an elephant,” saying he left giant footprints behind.
Citing his remarkable achievements in journalism and government, Osoba said Jakande “will be remembered in history as a personification of the best in journalism and as a political colossus. Jakande singlehandedly founded both the Newspapers Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ).
“Jakande was the first black Chairman of the International Press Institute made up of publishers editors all over the world. He was a foundation member of both the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Guild of Editors.”
Osoba, therefore, described him as an astute politician, who left giant footprints wherever he had the opportunity to serve at state and federal level. In his lifetime, a lot of people poured eulogies on the late former Lagos State governor for his enduring legacies in the state and at the national level, when he was Minister of Works.
At his 90th birthday on Tuesday, July 23, 2019, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, noted that Jakande was a man whose legacies could never be forgotten. He said he was a revolutionary and transformational figure in the political history of Nigeria.
“The largest number of houses ever built by any state government in one cycle, including even the federal government, was built under the Jakande’s administration.
“He has shown that governance to the common man is possible and it is possible to impact on the lives of our people if we are dedicated and committed,” Osinbajo said, urging current leaders to learn from Jakande.
As governor of Lagos between October 1, 1979, and December 31, 1983, Baba Kekere or LKJ as he was also known and a staunch disciple of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Jakande, was able to write his name on the sand of time, because his government built the current Lagos State Secretariat, which houses all the state ministries as well as the popular Round House used by all the governors of the state that came after him.
His government built the Lagos State House of Assembly, the Lagos State Television (LTV 8), the Lagos Radio, Lagos State University, the General Hospital in zones across and promised free health care, the Teacher Training College, and the College of Education.
An important landmark of the Jakande administration was the construction of low-cost houses in Ijaiye, Dolphin, Oke-Afa, Ije, Abesan, Iponri, Ipaja, Abule Nla, Epe, Amuwo-Odofin, Anikantamo, Surulere, Iba, Ikorodu, Badagry, Isheri/Olowu, Orisigun and other parts of the state.
It was he who also established the Water Management Board and Waste Disposal Board on August 18, 1980, constructed the Adiyan Water Works to increase water supply in the state to 18.16 million liters per day, improved and expanded the Iju Water Works, which earlier opened in 1915 and by so doing increasing its daily capacity to 204 million liters from 159. He bought and commissioned the giant car crusher equipment with the capacity to crush 45 used vehicles per day.
He constructed some parts, rehabilitated some parts, and resurfaced Epe/Ijebu-Ode Road, Oba Akran Avenue, Toyin Street, Town Planning Way, Alimosho-Idimu-Egbe Road, Idimu-Iba-LASU Road, Victoria Island/Epe Road, and opened an asphalt plant for the Lagos State Department of Public Works.
It was during his regime that the Electricity Board for Rural Electrification was created and saddled with the responsibility of putting streetlights in place. He modernised, expanded, and commissioned Onikan Stadium in 1982.
In the area of education, his government created a singular school system, implemented free education in which beneficiaries are in different important positions around the world.
From 605, he increased the number of primary schools in Lagos State to 812 with 533, 001 enrollment against the 434, 545 pupils in schools, when he came to power in 1979.
Secondary schools were increased to 223 with 167, 629 students as against 105 schools with 107, 835. It is on record that his government between March and August 1980 constructed 11,729 classrooms with a maximum of 40 children per class. By 1983, he had constructed over 22, 000 classrooms.
A beneficiary of Jakande’s free education in Lagos, who went on to graduate from Geography Department, University of Ilorin, Mr. Kazeem Amao wrote: “One of the finest governors in Nigerian history. I remember checking for my size of three pieces of free school Uniform in the early 80s, in my headmaster’s office at Agege local government. Primary School. He was a G.O.A.T.! A very true Greatest Of All Times in Nigerian Political sphere.”
Jakande launched the Lagos State ferry services in July 1983, with two commercial passenger boats named ‘Baba Kekere’ and ‘Itafaji’, which ran the Mile 2 – Marina (CMS) route on the Lagos lagoon.
He took possession of the Lagos State Printing Corporation in July 1980 and started financing it. He set up the first State Traffic Management Authority, put in place a small-scale Industries Credit Scheme, which preceded the EKO Bank, and more.
When President Buhari ousted the democratically elected former president, Alhaji Shehu Shagari in the military coup of 1983, Jakande experienced one of the low points in his political career when he was convicted of treason.
He was eventually pardoned and freed after which he became the Minister of Works under the late Gen. Sani Abacha’s military government. He said he was persuaded by the late winner of annulled June 12, 1993, presidential election, Chief M.K.O. Abiola. His achievements as Minister of Work are also legendary.
Though his two parents were from Omu-Aran in Kwara State, Jakande was born in the Epetedo area of Lagos Island, Lagos State. He studied at the Lagos public school at Enu-Owa, Lagos Island, the Bunham Memorial Methodist School, Port Harcourt (1934–43), and later King’s College, Lagos in 1943, before he left for Ilesha Grammar School in 1945.
There he was the editor of a literary paper, The Quarterly Mirror. But in 1949, Jakande started his journalism career with the Daily Service, and later in 1953, he joined the Nigerian Tribune. Three years later he rose to the position of Editor-in-Chief of the Tribune.
Awolowo, who was the publisher, urged him to contest the Lagos governorship election, which he won in 1979.
He was the first President of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and was also the first chairman of the Action Party of Nigeria (APN) formed in November 2006. He lived a quiet life until his demise last Thursday and was committed to mother earth on Friday.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was not left out of the commentaries that trailed Jakande’s death. The party’s Zonal Director, Media, and Publicity, Lere Olayinka, used the opportunity to take a swipe at President Buhari.
“It is our admonition to President Buhari and his APC not to shed crocodile tears over the death of Jakande. It is on record that Buhari canceled the Lagos Metroline network initiated by Jakande then and went ahead to pay compensation to the French company that handled it, costing Lagosians over $78 million.
“If not because of Buhari’s 1984 act of wickedness, transportation problems in Lagos would have been solved permanently. The metro line project would have made life easier and changed the face of transportation in Lagos,” the statement stated.
There’s no debating the fact that he was the best of his generation and even more instructively, remains a huge challenge to many generations afterwards, even in death. Jakande simplified leadership and lent credence to the saying that, there’s nothing esoteric about governance.
Indeed, he came prepared and this is evidenced by his stellar performance. He was a superhuman, both in leadership and governance.