Jakande at 90
Philosophers make human race to understand that three occasions are significant in every man’s life- the day of birth, marriage and of death. On July 23, 2019, first civilian Governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef ‘Kayode Jakande, struck the milestone of 90 years for celebration.
For a man to attain this enviable age is by God’s Grace. It is never by one’s efforts. To borrow Alhaji Alade (Allah De) Odunewi’s expression when he attained 80 years, he said: “To attain this age, God needs me for His services”. He lived longer. The same expression can be applied to Jakande. This writer knows him to be a man endowed with many parts – journalism profession, politics, and business.
His birth might have been predicted, as his great grandfather was a Chief Ifa priest to Oba Kosoko of Lagos. LKJ is a product of the three religious faiths, – Christianity, Islam and traditional. I have the strong sense that the often abbreviated ‘Kayode is prefixed with traditional faith origin. Ditto with this writer. There is nothing to be bashful about. Whenever this writer visited, LKJ would be singing or humming Christian songs, reminiscent of his school days and of origin. His uncle, Mr. T.A Akintan owned Lagos Public School, Lagos.
LKJ is a true Nigerian. The ancestor came from Omu-Aran, Kwara State. Born in Lagos, and schooled in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where he passed entrance examination to the King’s College, Lagos, and stayed briefly. The allegation of his dishonesty at the KC was false as it could not be substantiated, for lack of investigation. Besides, if the allegation was true, it could have manifested in his subsequent administrations as Editor and Governor of Lagos State. But he was transparent at all times. Thereafter, he attended Ilesha Grammar School, Osun State. He ended up by passing the London Matriculation Examinations.
In effect what KC lost, Ilesha Grammar School gained. LKJ’s formal journalism began in the Daily Service as a Reporter and rose to the Editorial chair. It was a nationalist newspaper. He became the Editor of The Tribune in 1953. LKJ’s contribution to journalism was huge, but most vivid and outstanding was his establishment of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism where this writer cut his teeth in professional writing under the Australian veteran journalist, Sydney Keith Harris.
In appreciation of my outstanding performance, he urged me to work for the Nigerian Tribune. I met him along Bankole/Broad Streets, on his usual trek towards Tinubu Square. I turned down the offer for personal reasons that I did not disclose. Thereafter, with subdued indignation, he opened up: “Why is it that you Lagos–based journalists detest working in Ibadan where accommodation and food stuffs like yams, garri and others are cheaper than in Lagos?” My working relationship under him was destined for the future as his Books Editor in John West Publications Ltd, Ogba, Ikeja. Professor Lai Olurode, Dean of Social Science, University of Lagos, a humble gentleman, was a Director.
My earlier relationship with LKJ was my membership of the Action Group Youths Association, Ward H5, Lagos Island, under one Olorunkoya of Bamgbose Street, Lagos. LKJ was then the President of the Youths Association. He was patently and manifestly honest, disciplined and hardworking. He was often saying with relish: “Hard work does not kill man. What kills man is indolence”. Whenever a worker gave rainfall as an excuse for lateness, LKJ would reprove: “Rainfall is on its duty. You must attend to your own duty”.
As I mentioned earlier, he is endowed with three callings – journalism, politics and business. One schoolmate of mine, however, argued that LKJ was not a real politician. I am sure this is because LKJ is too honest, to play hide and seek games, like the present generations business men and politicians who celebrate birthdays without any achievement. LKJ is not attracted by the glamour of politics or the wealth derivable therefrom. He once said “I have one car. I love my car and my car loves me”. He does not change cars with the regularity by which the fairer sex change their hair styles. His political father, said of him during the Treasonable Felony Trial of 1962, under cross – examination: “Jakande is a man of his own conviction”, meaning that he cannot be tele guided to do what is unseemly. He rose and suffered with Chief Obafemi Awolowo when he had seven years jail term, whilst his political father had ten years imprisonment. How many politicians can afford this, without absconding abroad? The roads and drainages that were constructed in four years of Jakande’s administration are ill- maintained today by successive Governors, who had two terms. LKJ’S birthday celebration must teach them to be men of actions, not of words. Like LKJ, they must possess integrity to merit statesmanship.
In a narrative of this nature, it is fair to strike a balance. To avoid being accused of panegyric, LKJ is not a good business man. He is a complete failure in business. I was under him as the Books Editor who worked on Doctor Tai Solarin’s autobiography. LKJ is still owing me four months salary. I had to stop my lawyer, Barrister Kunle Muniru, from a court action. This was because, our paths might cross in future. However, it was not his fault, because according to him: “Many customers are owing me, as well”. The rest is history.
My fervent prayer for LKJ is that the Almighty spares his life to celebrate Life more abundantly, which was the Action Group’s motto.
Oshisada, veteran journalist, wrote from Ikorodu, Lagos.
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