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Life and times of Lateef Jakande

Encomiums have continued to pour in for the former governor of Lagos State, Lateef Jakande who died last Thursday at the age of 91.

Jakande was a political colossal, a gladiator and accomplished journalist. He set a legacy and pace with his style of leadership, a fine administrator whose name would continue to be remembered for generations unborn in Lagos State and across Nigeria.

Jakande was born in the Epetedo area of Lagos Island, Lagos State.

He studied at the Lagos public school at Enu-Owa, Lagos Island, then at Bunham Memorial Methodist School, Porth Harcourt 1934–43.

He also studied briefly at King College, Lagos in 1943, and then enrolled at Ilesha Grammar School in 1945, where he edited a literary paper called The Quarterly Mirror.

In 1949, Jakande began a career in journalism first with the Daily Service and then in 1953 joining the Nigerian Tribune. In 1956 he was appointed editor-in-chief of the Tribune by the owner Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

After leaving the Tribune in 1975, Jakande established John West Publications and began to publish The Lagos News. He served as the first President of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN).

Popularly as Baba Kekere, Jakande ran for election as governor of Lagos State in 1979, on the platform of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) defeating his opponents, such as; Adeniran Ogunsanya and Ladega Adeniji Adele and won.

Jakande ruled the state from 1979 to 1983, and later as Minister of Works under the Sani Abacha military regime from 1993-1998.

However, after the military take-over in 1983, Jakande alongside other politicians across the country was charged, prosecuted and convicted of treason, but was later pardoned

Though his decision to accept the invitation to serve under the authoritarian military regime of Sani Abacha attracted severe criticism, he had responded that he accepted the post under pressure from several progressive leaders in the country at that time.

Jakande ruled Lagos State with the five cardinal programmes of the UPN founded by a former Premier of the Western Region, Obafemi Awolowo.

Despite ruling for a few years, Jakande’s would be remembered for heading an administration that spearheaded monumental development strides in Lagos State.

His administration has been credited with the growth, planning and transformation of Lagos to a modern city, leading to the birth of infrastructures in all sectors of the state.

He introduced housing and educational programs targeting the poor, building new neighbourhood primary and secondary schools and providing free primary and secondary education.

He established the Lagos State University, and constructed over 30,000 housing units across the state among other landmark projects.

However, for several Lagosian, the legacies and imprint of Jakande would live forever and cannot be easily forgotten.

They say that in an era where poor governance is the order of the day in Nigeria, and public office holders’ are now synonymous with mediocrity, Jakande’s performance in office should be a lesson and a challenge to present and incoming governors of the state to work hard and replicate his success while in office.

However, the remains of the elder statesman was on Friday interred at the Vaults and Gardens private cemetery Ikoyi, Lagos.

The funeral service was conducted by Islamic scholars and clerics from different communities and mosques in Lagos State, who prayed for the repose of the deceased and family members he left behind.

Leading Lagos State Government delegation to the funeral was Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, accompanied by his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat, Head of Service, Hakeem Muri-Okunola and other members of the State Executive Council.

The remains of the late Jakande escorted by his wife, Abimbola, children, Deji and Seyi, among others, families, relatives, associates and eminent personalities, was brought into the Vaults and Gardens Ikoyi at 5:19pm.

The remains of the deceased conveyed by TOS Funeral Ambulance were brought into the vaults in a MIC Funeral Casket guarded by six pallbearers.

Sighting the ambulance from far, security agencies and sympathisers who were standing outside the compound of the cemetery sang the National Anthem and other renditions for several minutes.

The shout Jakande! Jakande!! Jakande, which was used to bid the former Lagos State governor farewell, also rented the air.

Some of the dignitaries that attended the funeral service were former governors of Ogun State, Olusegun Osoba and Senator Ibikunle Amosun, former deputy governor of Lagos State, Alhaja Sinatu Ojikutu, All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftains, politicians and journalists, among others.

Speaking earlier during a special fidau in honour of the former governor at the Ilupeju residence of the deceased, Governor Sanwo-Olu described late Jakande as an embodiment of all the positives.

Hamzat, who represented Governor Sanwo-Olu at the event, said the former governor was a great man who cared and served his people meritoriously when he had the opportunity to serve them.

“Baba Jakande was just an example of what all of us should aspire to be. A great man, humble, selfless, loyal, and dedicated. So, he is an embodiment of all the positives. A great man that served his people when he had the opportunity to serve. A man that cared for the people and a fantastic journalist,” he said.

Hamzat while paying tribute to the late Jakande, stressed the need for political leaders in the country to emulate the former governor by being humble and loyal to the country.

Recalling his personal encounter with the first civilian governor of Lagos State, Hamzat said Jakande showed up at his graduation at the University of Ibadan in 1986.

Signing the condolence register, the deputy governor wrote, “Baba was a great leader in the State of Lagos. The developmental strides he put in place is unprecedented and a greater leader in Nigeria. A thoroughbred Awoist and a man of the people.”

Similarly, in his tribute to Jakande, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said Jakande would be remembered as a fine journalist.

Obasanjo in his condolence letter to Jakande’s widow, Sikirat Abimbola, said he served this nation principally through journalism and through newspaper management before becoming an active politician.

“He would be remembered as a fine journalist and one that was greatly admired by the general public and his peers as a straight-forward and complete gentleman majorly,” Obasanjo said.

Also former vice president, Atiku Abubakar expressed pain over the death of the statesman, adding that he was happy that the late Jakande lived a remarkable life by his enigmatic stature as a journalist, an administrator and a politician.

“It is with a mixed feeling of soberness and joy that I join relatives and admirers to mourn the demise of the late first civilian governor of Lagos State, Lateef Jakande. I am sober because Alhaji Jakande until his passing today remained one of the last icons of our nationhood and in whose life are enormous examples that we can get inspiration from in the much-needed drive in rebuilding our psyche as a people.

“In the same breath, I am happy that the late Jakande lived a remarkable life by his enigmatic stature as a journalist, an administrator and a politician. His legacies in Lagos State, where he was the first civilian governor, remains emblematic of good governance and infrastructure development, not just in Lagos State but in the whole of the country”.

Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a former Lagos State governor, described Jakande as the last of the political titans. In a condolence statement he personally signed, stated that Jakande could appropriately be described as the last of the titans ranking with the likes of Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Adekunle Ajasin, Abraham Adesanya, Bola Ige, Olabiyi Onabanjo, Balarabe Musa and Aminu Kano, among others.

“The late Jakande was also a mature statesman never given to histrionics or fanning the embers of disunity,” Tinubu said.

In their tributes, the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, described its pioneer president’s death as shocking.

In a statement jointly signed by its President, Kabiru Yussuf; and General Secretary, Mohammed Idris, NPAN, said Jakande mid-wifed the association from infancy, stressing that NPAN would ever remain grateful for his effort in birthing the association.

In its statement, the Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, said Jakande exemplified selfless service. The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, said, urged all political office holders to learn from the exemplary life of the late elder statesman.

“He never lived in a government house or drove a government car throughout his service to the state. Jakande developed the Lekki area and never took a plot for himself. His life was all about service.”

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