Lateef Kayode Jakande (1929 – 2021)
Glowing tributes that have trailed the passing of the first civilian governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, were fitting and ultimately deserving. In his illustrious career as a statesman, journalist, publisher, businessman, farmer, community leader and family man, Jakande lived a simple but fulfilled life of admirable serenity, and a public life of exemplary leadership and genuine service to humanity. His political career, for which he was fondly remembered, was characterized by focus, positive progress and consistency in governance. A practical utilitarian who made the grassroots his formidable constituency, Baba Kekere, as he was known in political circles, reduced the four cardinal policies of the manifesto of Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) of free education at all levels, free medical care, full employment and rural development to material success.
His prodigious resilience for progress and unwavering determination for development were witnessed in the dramatic transformation that his four years tenure as governor brought to Lagos State. His government was instrumental to the current Lagos State Secretariat, which houses all the state ministries and the Lagos State House of Assembly complex. The government built the Lagos State Television, Radio Lagos, and embarked on massive infrastructural development projects still standing today.
In furtherance of UPN’s free healthcare programme, his government established General Hospital in zones all over the state with assurance of free health care. One of the legacies that endeared him to the people of Lagos State was the massive construction of low cost houses in diverse places in Lagos such as Ijaiye, Dolphin, Oke-Afa, Ije, Abesan, Iponri, Ipaja, Abule Nla, Epe, Amuwo-Odofin, Anikantamo, Surulere, Iba, Ikorodu, Badagry, Isheri/Olowu, Orisigun, amongst others.
In education, his government established the Lagos State University, a Teachers’ Training College and the College of Education. Fulfilling the promise of free education, he instituted a singular school system that ensured genuine free education in Lagos State. It is claimed that he also raised the primary schools in Lagos State to 812 with 533,001 pupils (against 605 primary schools with 434,545 pupils he met in 1979) and secondary schools to 223 with 167,629 students (against 105 schools with 107,835 students in 1979). He also constructed 11, 729 classrooms with the maximum of 40 children per class between March and August 1980. By 1983, he had constructed over 22,000 classrooms.
Although reputed to be a veritable anointee of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Jakande’s creative administrative ingenuity cannot be divorced from his sterling qualities as a journalist. Before his total immersion into political waters, LKJ was a journalist with prodigious energy for fact and fairness. This was especially in the way he deployed in his pen-power to fight colonial oppression and underdevelopment. Having begun his career in 1949 at Daily Service, he joined Awolowo’s Nigerian Tribune, where he rose to be the editor. He later established John West Publications and began to publish The Lagos News. He was the first president of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN).
Born in Lagos on July 23, 1929, Jakande was educated in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Ilesha, before he took on a career in journalism that spanned nearly 30 years. After his tenure as governor of Lagos State from 1979 to 1983, he was appointed Minister of Works under the Sani Abacha military regime from 1993 to 1998. Lateef Jakande remained a moral voice for the lowly masses until he died on February 11, 2021 at age 91.
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