At 90, Jakande’s political, administrative genius continues to shine
• Ojikutu, Oseni, Afenifere shower encomiums
The first elected governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, joins the elite group of nonagenarian as he turns 90 today. The staunch follower of the founder of Action Group (AG) and Premier of the old Western Region, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, can proudly say he has seen it all in Nigerian politics, particularly Lagos politics.
He was elected on the platform of defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) with a total of 559,070 votes to 126,805 of his major opponent, Sultan Ladega Adeniji-Adele of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the gubernatorial election held on Saturday July 28, 1979 and took oath of office on October 1, 1979.
Alhaji Jakande took over from Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (rtd), who was then Military Administrator of Lagos. He was also re-elected in 1983 before the military struck and truncated the Second Republic.
He was a contemporary governor of the likes of Balarabe Musa of old Kaduna State, Jim Nwobodo of Anambra State, Sam Mbakwe of Imo State, the late Olabisi Onabanjo of Ogun State, Ambrose Alli of the defunct Bendel State, Bola Ige of old Oyo State and Adekunle Ajasin of old Ondo State.
Jakande is among the few professional journalists in Nigeria who ventured into politics and made a landmark. Just like Chief Segun Osoba, a former governor of Ogun State, who recently marked his 80th birthday, Baba Kekere, as he is fondly called, joined the Daily Service in 1949 and later moved to the Nigerian Tribune where he perhaps encountered the publisher, Chief Awolowo. He became the Editor-in-Chief of the paper in 1956 and left its services in 1975 to set up his publishing outfit, John West Publications.
No sooner had the Military Government of General Olusegun Obasanjo lifted ban on partisan politics in 1978 after the 1966 military incursion into governance that truncated the First Republic, than Jakande joined UPN, founded by Awolowo. He later emerged the governorship candidate of the party in Lagos State. He contested against Adeniran Ogunsanya of Nigerian People’s Party (NPP) and Adeniji-Adele of NPN.
Having imbibed the progressives philosophy of Awolowo’s politics, which drives and also stands the old Western Region out in terms of development in Nigeria during the aborted First Republic, Jakande’s achievements are still a reference point in today’s Lagos’ landscape. He was widely regarded as the younger version of Awolowo, hence the reference Baba Kekere or Junior Awolowo.
His achievements in government (1979-1983)
IN the history of democratic governance in Lagos, the administration of the nonagenarian stands out in term of achievements, prudence and commitment to the well-being of the electorate, which his successors like Bola Ahmed Tinubu (1999-2007), Babatunde Fashola (2007-2015), Akinwunmi Ambode (2015-2019) and the incumbent, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu have and are still struggling to match.
For instance, Jakande’s government introduced affordable housing and educational programmes targeting the poor. He built new neighbourhood primary, secondary schools and also provided non-discriminatory free education.
As some admirers note, “The government of Jakande did not care whether you were Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa or whatever part of the world you came from as long as you resided in Lagos, you were entitled to free basic education. Majority of Nigerians aged 50 today who spent their teenage years in Lagos could testify to the fact that they benefited from Baba Kekere’s free education without any condition attached.”
As a mater of fact, his government raised the number of primary schools 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). No administration in the state has ever met this achievement since he exited power after the 1983 military coup led by Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.
His government constructed 11,729 classrooms with a maximum of 40 children per class between March and August 1980, and by 1983 he had constructed over 22,000 classrooms. He also established Lagos State University (LASU).
He built the Lagos State Secretariat (Alausa), which currently houses all the state ministries as well as the popular Roundhouse, once occupied by subsequent governors until Fashola built another governor’s office. The Roundhouse currently serves as the state’s office of the deputy governor. His administration built the Lagos State House of Assembly complex, which has also been rebuilt; he also established Lagos State Television (LTV), Lagos Radio, Lagos State University, General Hospitals, Teacher Training College, College of Education, Waste Disposal Board, Water Management Board and constructed the Adiyan Water Works (to increase water supply in the state to 18.16 million litres per day.
Jakande modernized and expanded the Iju Water Works, which was first commissioned in 1915. This increased daily capacity from 159 million to 204 million litres per day just as he was the first to establish the Electricity Board for Rural Electrification with the provision of streetlights. His government took over the ownership and financing of Lagos State Printing Corporation in July 1980.
His government established the first State Traffic Management Authority (Road Marshals), Small Scale Industries Credit Scheme, which preceded the EKO bank and LASACO Insurance while the existing markets were expanded and rebuilt under his watch. His government established Traditional Medicine Board.
Some of the low-cost house estates he built include Ijaiye, Dolphin, Oke-Afa, Ije, Abesan, Iponri, Ipaja, Abule Nla, Epe, Amuwo-Odofin, Anikantamo, Surulere, Iba, Ikorodu, Badagry, Isheri/Olowu, and Orisigun. He also completed the construction of the General Hospital in Gbagada and Ikorodu and built about 20 health centres within the state. He established 23 local government councils, which were later disbanded by the military administration after the 1983 coup.
While his government is credited with the opening up of the Lekki, Ajah and Epe axis, he also constructed, rehabilitated and resurfaced Epe/Ijebu-Ode Road, Oba Akran Avenue, Toyin Street, Ikeja, Town Planning Way, Alimosho-Idimu-Egbe Road, Idimu-Iba-LASU Road, Victoria Island/Epe Road, and New Secretariat road among others. He purchased the giant car crusher equipment, which was designed specifically to crush derelict vehicles in Lagos with the capacity to crush 45 vehicles per day.
In July 1983, two commercial passenger boats christened Baba Kekere and Itafaji to ply the Mile 2 – Marina (CMS) route via the lagoon were inaugurated by his government to mark the official launch of the Lagos State Ferry Services. Jakande first conceived the idea of a metro-line system for Lagos State, which became necessary with the exploding population of the state, and the need for a more effective urban mass transit system. Buhari, however, cancelled the project after he seized power in 1983.
In today’s politics, public office like that of the governor is one of the easiest means of becoming a multi-billionaire in Nigeria. This could be seen from the lifestyles of incumbent governors and former ones, especially those who served in the current Fourth Republic. After most of them leave office, they end up in the National Assembly. But the lifestyle of Jakande, while in government and since he left power in 1983, is complete opposite. Only an insignificant few, if at all, could be identified to have lived like him. As governor, he refused to move into the opulent comforts of the governor’s official residence. As a state governor, he lived in his private residence in Ilupeju, his modest home in the midst of the masses and surrounded by other homes just as he commuted to work in his private Toyota sedan. His achievements within those four years are considered as unrivalled by any administration after him.
Jakande and the short-lived Third Republic
When former Military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, lifted ban on politics in the early 1990s, Jakande’s efforts to gather the progressives under one umbrella like Awolowo did in 1978 did not succeed. One of the reasons was that money power and quest for personal aggrandizement had crept deeply into Nigerian politics under military regime. This, among other reasons, prompted some of the younger followers of Jakande, including the acclaimed godfather of Lagos politics, to revolt against his leadership style during the aborted Third Republic. The slogan, No more baba so pe (No more ‘what leader says is final’) aptly captured the beginning of a new but wayward political era that has subsisted till date. And at the end, the maker of modern Lagos could not achieve much.
After the military take-over in 1983, Jakande was charged, prosecuted, although later he was pardoned. He accepted the position of Minister of Works under the late military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha. This decision nearly smeared his reputation. But he had always claimed he accepted the post under pressure from the acclaimed winner of the 1992 Presidential Election, late Chief MKO Abiola and other progressive leaders. At the recent launch of Osoba’s book in Lagos, the former governor of Ogun State restated that it was the progressives that encouraged the nonagenarian to serve under the late military dictator and not by self-volition.
His attempt to make impact in the ongoing Fourth Republic was not successful like it did in the Second Republic. He became a senior member of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) when the UNPP and APP merged. In June 2002, he had issues in ANPP. He was the first chairman of Action Party of Nigeria (APN) when it was formed in November 2006.
Encomiums on his virtues
For attaining 90, prominent personalities have been showering encomiums on Jakande, with some describing him as a politician who has left an unrivalled legacy in the annals of Nigeria’s murky political history.
In his tribute, Organising Secretary of UPN, Alhaji Kola Oseni, said on Sunday that Jakande’s administration actually laid the foundation for the development of new Lagos, which the likes of Tinubu, Fashola, Ambode and Sanwo-Olu are building on.
According to Oseni, “At 90, Alhaji Lateef Jakande is worth celebrating for his immense contributions to the development of Lagos and Southwest politics, a legacy he imbibed from Chief Awolowo. While his style of governance is unparalleled, his successors have no choice but to build on what he did. And this has stood Lagos out among the other 36 states in the country.”
Oseni said there is no dispute about the fact that Jakande replicated Awolowo’s progressive politics and developmental style in Lagos as the first executive governor throughout Nigeria to net a budget of N1 billion during his tenure.
In another tribute, first elected female deputy governor in Nigeria, Alhaja Sinatu Aderoju Ojikutu, describes Jakande as one of the political icons, who have demonstrated exemplary leadership and genuine commitment to the welfare of the people within and outside his immediate constituency. She said despite having left office about 36 years ago, Alhaji Jakande’s housing and other projects are still everywhere, adding that she (Ojikutu) is proud to be part of the success team of Jakande’s most achieving administration along with many notable others like chief R.B. Fanimokun.
Ojikutu, who describes Jakande’s political model as worthy of emulation, urged the young and aspiring politicians across the country to emulate him, saying, “He has left an indelible record of what public service devoid of corruption should be. Alhaji Jakande is a pacesetter yet to be beaten or surpassed in his contribution to Lagos State.”
Also, Spokesman of Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said the group is happy with Jakande for attaining 90, adding, “We wish him well. The legacy Jakande left in Lagos government is what made people of the state to name many estate and projects after him even though the former governor refused to live ostentatiously.”
In a similar vein, Fouad Oki, a member of ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), said, “You know my love for Baba Kekere, the quintessential democrat, who shattered all records of progressive politics with his pro-poor policies. His social policies and programmes are precursor to what is now known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and lately the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He is a textbook for all aspiring political gladiators to study. He is a quintessential Omo Eko. Our father, our pride!”