Lateef Kayode Jakande: The Passage of a Legend

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PLSCOPE BY Eddy Odivwri    Eddy.Odivwri@thisdaylive.com

By Eddy Odivwri

As a young reporter on Politics in The Guardian On Sunday Newspaper at the time, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande had, unknowingly, rescued me several times, from the hands of my no-nonsense editor, Kingsley Osadolor, (now a presenter of Good Morning Nigeria, NTA) before whom you must not appear without a story idea, at the weekly editorial meetings. Whenever the field was dry, and the threat of appearing before Osadolor “story-less” was imminent, I often rushed down to Ilupeju, where Jakande lived all his life and died last week; and one was sure to leave there with more than one story idea.

He never would turn a journalist away on account of being busy. All he would ask would be patience. And you really need to be patient. On more than three occasions, I had slept in his house because when it is my turn to see him, it would have been too far into the night that it would be foolhardy trying to cross Oshodi, on your way home, especially without a car, those days.

As a reliable news source, I became a regular face in his household. In those days, the simple one-storey building had the sitting room upstairs; it was a long, somewhat narrow space fitted with fabric-wrapped couches which were fully arranged from one end to the other. A few ordinary chairs were fitted in-between the couches, to sit more persons. The floor was just covered with a carpet, not a rug, let alone designer tiles.

On a typical evening, everywhere would all be so filled up. Jakande had his own specially built throne-like chair, where he sat, with a lower chair on his right hand. The chair beside was the one the visitor has to seat to (in a very low tone) present his/her case or request; and the issues were a legion.

He didn’t need to know you. Everybody was welcome and given a chance to see him. He knew no tribe nor religion. There were no fierce security men, just “ordinary” friendly aides who manned his gate.

Every day, Lagosians thronged his home, too soon wearing out the hairy fabrics on the settees.

On Sundays, people came as early as 5am, taking number, which will form the order of seeing Jakande. Whether he immediately gave you what you asked for or not, nobody left Jakande dissatisfied. He gave tips on what to do on issues outside his powers.

When he became a minister, an alternative space, like a small hall had to be built beside his house where he attended to people. He was such a patient listener.

SIMPLICITY

Perhaps, one of the things that struck me first was his simplicity. The ambience in his home was as simple as he was. The one-storey building was rather ordinary. There is nothing in or around the house that suggested the home of a ‘Big Man’, let alone a former governor. Everything appeared plain and almost rustic.

He was one politician who never or very rarely wore agbada. Jakande was always set to go with his Buba and Sokoto. He had explained to me, then, that it was a resolve he took when he was imprisoned along with late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He was perhaps too simple to a fault. Patently ascetic.

It is the simplicity that made him refuse to stay in Government House as a Governor of Lagos State. He shuttled between Ilupeju and Alausa, every day, as a governor. Even when he also became a minister, he refused to take up the official residence offered him. He remained in Ilupeju.

That simplicity almost got him into trouble. When he was appointed the Minister of Works by late Gen Sani Abacha, he, along with other ministerial appointees were requested to come over to Dodan Barracks for a meeting with the then Head of State, Gen Abacha.

Jakande had driven in his old milk-coloured Toyota Crown car, which had been refurbished many times. He had an official 504 wagon car with a few security operatives, functioning like an outrider, driving ahead of him.

When the two-vehicle convoy got to Dodan Barracks gate, the gate was opened for the 504 wagon and soon as they sighted the old Toyota Crown following, the security men slammed the gate, causing Jakande’s driver to almost hit it.

The car was taken for that of an interloper. Such gawky cars are hardly seen in government grounds. The security operatives in the 504 Wagon had to specially “clear“ Jakande to get into the Barracks. He drove that Toyota Crown for nearly 15 years before it was changed.

Action-Packed Leader

That he was full of zeal and energy to work is no longer news. He was 49 when he was elected as the first civilian governor of Lagos State. He was always raring to go, when the call was for development. He had literally started running even before hitting the ground. He was faithful and fanatical to his Blue Print on how to transform Lagos. There was no time for these obfuscating shenanigans we see among political leaders of today. In just four years, yes, four years, Jakande rose stoutly to the challenges facing the states, and he ticked all the boxes of a good and responsive government.

On housing, he built nine low-cost housing estates. They are littered all over Lagos and branded by Lagosians as Jakande estates. The estates are in Iponri, Alaka, Abesan, Iyana Ipaja, Lekki ( Maroko), Iba, Mile 2, Ojokoro and Meron.

On Education, he built over 200 primary schools, doubled the number of secondary schools and permanently terminated “afternoon school” in Lagos. It doesn’t matter if the opposition described many of the schools as “human poultry”. Teaching and learning took place in those classrooms!

He built the Lagos College of Education, built the Lagos State University, Ojo (which I hear is to be now named after him)

Jakande it was that also started the building of the Alausa secretariat, fitted with the Round House, as the office of the governor.

He was practically restless with a strong obsession to build and expand Lagos. All these were done at a time of less money. He was not a university graduate, but could very prudently manage the state’s resources for the overall good of the people of the state.

And when he won the second term, he had hardly been sworn in when he initiated the Lagos metro-line scheme, with a French company, Interinfra. That was in 1983. France, had itself just introduced the metro line three years earlier. Jakande was determined to make Lagos become like parts of Europe with the metro-line project. But the 1983 coup came and the scheme was canceled by the military government led by this same President Muhammadu Buhari. 38 years after, Lagos is yet struggling with how to return to the metro-line project!

It is no surprise that he was nicknamed ‘Action Governor’. It was for a good reason; far from the ‘Road Master’ tag some sitting governors of today wear “like a giant’s robe upon a dwarfish thief”.

He was full of developmental ideas. Nothing distracted him. Not even politics and its shallow considerations.

That, I am sure, was why the Gen Abacha junta chose him as the Works and Housing minister.

And as a minister, he made indelible marks. The now over-prized Banana island in Lagos was his project. The Lugbe and Gwarimpa estates in Abuja were his handiwork.

And in all of these, Jakande had no flat in Ikoyi, Banana Island, Victoria Island, or Abuja etc. He sure typified the phenomenon of a perfect servant leader. His selflessness was legendary.

His Politics

He was a successful politician. He is the last but one surviving 19-member class of 1979 governors. I think it is only Jim Nwobodo of the old Anambra State that is yet standing.

With a background in journalism, Jakande was society-conscious. There was never a scandal around or about him.

He was a progressive, an avowed Awoist. He aped the Awolowo philosophy like a devotee. Little wonder he was often referred to as Baba Kekere (small Awolowo). He was a member of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). He shone brightly as one of the five UPN governors between 1979 and 1983.

In 1993, he became a member of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and worked closely with the late Chief MKO Abiola leading to the victory of the latter at the famous June 12, 1993 presidential election. When the poll was annulled by the Gen Babangida junta,

Jakande kept faith with the progressives, as NADECO, until Abacha took over on November17,1993.

Jakande had joined the Abacha cabinet, allegedly after consulting with the SDP leaders, many of whom believed Abacha would handover power to Abiola, after the polity ‘stabilised’.

Sending core-progressives like Jakande, Ebenezar Babatope late Olu Onogoruwa, they argued, would be to ensure that the plan was neither aborted nor hijacked by a third force. They were all deceived, with even more dire consequences to their political image and career. Onogoruwa was not only sacked for daring to disown some Decrees with ouster clauses, his son got killed. He later had stroke and died rather miserably.

Many condemned Jakande et al for betraying the June 12 course, especially when he refused to resign when it got clear that they were merely being used by Abacha to gain public appeal. That, sadly, marked his last political adventure.

In all, Jakande’s image looms big and tall. His memory is flavoured with sweet smelling savour all over Lagos, nay Nigeria. He is what many politicians are not. May the soul of the respected journalist, developmental politician and self-respecting statesman rest in perfect peace.

Who will Call Gov Bala Mohammad to Order?

By Eddy Odivwri

I was, in a way, shocked that an elected governor could speak unabashedly the way Governor Bala Mohammad of Bauchi State did recently. The occasion was the closing ceremony of the NUJ press week in Bauchi State.

Gov Mohammed had defended the Fulani herdsmen who carry AK-47, saying they are doing so for self defence, having had their cattle rustled many times in the past.

The reckless statement had generated more than vexatious reactions across the country. I listened to the speech, so the question of being quoted out of context, does not arise.

Thankfully, his SSA Media, Mukhtar Gidado, who issued a tepid statement days after the outburst seeking to explain away the statement, failed to redeem his principal. To boot, the Bauchi State Chairman of Miyetti Allah, Sadiq Ibrahim Ahmad has commended Gov Mohammed for speaking in their favour.

So, Gov Mohammed argues, like Sheikh Gumi, an Islamic scholar, that herders took up arms after they were brutalized. They failed to say who brutalized them. Why did they not report to the police? Were the herders brutalized in Ondo forests or Delta highways as to justify the havoc they (herders) are committing all over the place?

He went further to declare that nobody owns the forest in any part of Nigeria. Quoting certain sections of the Nigerian constitution, the Bauchi governor maintained that the governors of the South West who are asking criminal Fulani herdsmen to leave their forests, are wrong; adding that “the man most wrong is Governor Ortom of Benue State”.

With people like Gov Mohammed in leadership position, Nigeria will never be united nor be governed by justice. How many people have the herders killed in Benue State without any punishment to the killers? How many communities have been burnt down by the herders? How many persons have now been displaced in Benue? He expects Ortom to never condemn it?

It is perhaps even more painful knowing that this same governor was a senator and a former minister (of FCT). What kind of laws did he help in making?

So Mr Mohammed, because the Fulani herdsmen have suffered cattle rustling they are entitled to carry arms?

Ok, who gave them the AK 47 they are bearing?

Are they licensed to bear arms?

How did they source them? Does this confirm the allegation that the AK 47 these herders carry around actually came from the Nigerian army and the Nigeria Police?

Mr Bauchi Governor, is Nigeria no longer governed by law? Should every victim of one crime or the other now resort to taking the laws into their hands by carrying arms for self defence? Pray, what do we have the Police and other security agencies for?

The AK 47 borne by bandits and kidnappers are also for self defence?

Was this governor not part of the Northern Governors’ Forum that condemned open grazing and criminality among the herders?

How come all these while, he had never spoken against all the crimes being perpetrated by Bandits in the north and kidnappers, rapists and killers in the south? What Gov Mohammed has done is to further lionize the criminals masquerading as Fulani herdsmen by his unguarded blurt. Does he not know that many of these so-called criminal Fulanis are not even Nigerians as they can only speak Fulfude and pidgin French?

It is a shame that there is such a public office holder in the name of Bala Mohammed. As a father, he will never blame his erring child even in the face of obvious faults and infractions.

Is he not aware that some Fulani herdsmen have been terrorizing the south and parts of the north? Did the same bandits not just abduct 42 persons in Government Science Secondary School, in Kangara, Niger State, carry the same AK 47 rifles? Does he not listen to news? Is he not aware how they have seized the forests and people can’t go to farms anymore, drawing from the power of the AK 47 meant for ‘self defence’? Has he not seen videos of savage killings and rape of abducted people who could not pay ransom? Is he just blinded by ethnic smoke or is he callously wicked and insensitive and irresponsible?

How dare he say, “Nobody owns any forest”? Which law is he quoting from?

I suspect he is deliberately confusing the issues to escalate tension so as to deepen and thicken the nation’s fault lines.

For the records, not all Fulani herdsmen are criminals. Nobody has said so. But there are criminals among them. It is those criminals among them that are targets of the offensives down south. Nobody is asking northerners to quit the south or vice versa. But nobody will tolerate bands of criminals in the name of ethnic protection! If there are Yoruba or Ibibio criminals in Bauchi State, Mohammed should smoke them out. Crime has no tribal mark. Gov Mohammed should join hands in condemning evil, not deoderising it with ethnic freshners.

Nigerians deserve unreserved apology from this carrier of a people’s mandate. Phew!