Jakande: The Nigerian poor lost a formidable ethical voice, says Olurode
With the demise of Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande alias Baba Kekere, the Nigerian poor have lost a spokesman who thinks nothing but how to mitigate the devastating consequences of poverty including its sorrows, tears and blood.
Mr. Lai Olurode, a professor of Sociology, at the University of Lagos said this in his tributes to Jakande.
Olurode added that Jakande was a man of many parts, just like his mentor and leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo: a poet while at Ilesa Grammar School, journalist, businessman, politician, entrepreneur, farmer, publisher, author, and many more.
He said: “I met Jakande after his active years in Lagos State. It wasn’t a chance meeting and nobody introduced me to him. I was attracted to him by his selfless service to humanity as governor of Lagos State. I was then a very young academic. I deliberately cultivated his friendship.
“Over the years, we became close and share the same table on many occasions during iftar. Baba was always interested in anything that had to do with education. If there was one issue that Baba Kekere was full of lamentations about, it was that of stark and evident poverty of leadership in all facets of life in Nigeria.
“Pa Jakande, in one of our several conversations asked me, why do people make so much a mess of good governance? According to him, delivering social goods of democratisation should be as easy as ABC. Why? Jakande said as a governor of a state, for example, you could mobilise people at any level to achieve governance objectives.
You needn’t worry about anything.
The state will provide you with needed resources’.
“In many respects, Jakande was an exceptional public administrator, who throughout life, shunned ostentatious living. In and out of office, he avoided crass materialism and greed, which remain pastime of leaders at all levels of public life.”
Olurode noted that one area where Jakande was an exceptional leader was in documentation, stating he was a man of record.
“Let me mention three instances of this. When I was writing his biography about 2003/2004, there wasn’t any record that I needed from him that he didn’t make available over time, including a 1956 letter in which he requested Chief Obafemi Awolowo to grant him a loan to pursue further studies.
“Secondly, a perusal through The Trial of Obafemi Awolowo, which was written by LKJ and which was published in 1966 showed a very painstakingly and well-researched book on the popular treasonable felony trial. When it is recalled that in that trial, Jakande himself was the 13th accused, then we would realise his professionalism as a journalist of depth.
“Thirdly, one day, Oga, as he was popularly referred to by his admirers, called me to see him. When I got to him, he handed over to me a parcel containing newspapers clips on the death of Obafemi Awolowo. He tasked me to kindly author a manuscript on The Transition of Obafemi Awolowo from the materials. If Baba Kekere had any weakness, I can only remember he had no time for crass materialism and opulence.
“No rest, a workaholic from cradle to grave; he loved listening to small and big elite and indeed non-elite. He was most compassionate toward the weak and wretched of the earth. I could recall an incident, which best illustrated his being pro-poor. I had a secretarial assistant, who I used to send on an errand to Baba Kekere. This young girl invited Jakande to her wedding. She had asked me before doing so and I gave my nod. Though I couldn’t attend, Jakande made the event to the bewilderment of the girl’s parents. Relatives and friends couldn’t understand how Jakande could have attended the wedding of an unknown girl in the slum of Mushin. That was quintessential Baba Kekere for you.
“In the governance of Lagos State, I make bold to say that before him, no leader traversed that space as he did, and looking at his credentials, it is doubtful if anyone would be able to match Jakande’s action years. Jakande was governance personified.”