LKJ: A Titan In Life, And In Death, By Senator Tokunbo Abiru

Nigeria’s cadre of selfless and patriotic leaders was again depleted on Thursday with the passage of Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, (1929-2021). He was a titan in his lifetime and he blazed into eternal glory as a hero. Pa LKJ was a rare being.

He lived an undisguised spartan lifestyle over obscene opulence. Pa LKJ modelled himself as a trustworthy leader who was sold out to the cause of the masses. He was a Classical Utilitarian in the mold of Jeremy Bentham and
John Stuart Mill who espoused the mantra of “greatest good to the greatest number of people”.

When he held the reins of power in Lagos between 1979-1983, he revolutionized the art of governance and deployed uncanny dexterity in the management of resources to the benefits of the people especially the multitude at the bottom of the pyramid.

Pa LKJ ignored short-sighted naysayers who mocked some of the initiatives of his government particularly the makeshift schools to drive massive enrolment. They scorned the schools as ‘poultry sheds’, but as a visionary leader, he fired on.

The government increased the numbers of primary schools in Lagos State from 605 to 812 with 533,001 pupils and secondary schools were increased from 105 to 223 with 167,629 students.

Senator Tokunbo (left) beside Jakande’s widow Alhaja Abimbola Sikirat Jakande

In the same vein, Pa LKJ Government 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.

Years later, posterity judged him fairly as many kids of the poor who wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get education got a lifeline. The former governor also enrolled his children in the public schools he built.

He built the first only Lagos state-owned university, Lagos State University, LASU among other great interventions in the education sector.

Pa LKJ’s achievements were legion. He built the massive Lagos State Secretariat, Alausa, where ministries and agencies of government are located including the Government House (Round House).

Taking a cue from his leader and mentor, Chief Obafemi Awolowo who built the first television station in Africa, Pa LKJ built Lagos Television, LTV and Radio Lagos FM.

Pa LKJ fought the housing deficit by dotting the entire landscape of Lagos with low and affordable housing estates. The buildings are still standing today sheltering hundreds of Lagosians. Within the same period, the water board came on stream to provide portable pipe-borne water to many households and businesses.

Waste board that later became LAWMA was also created by the former governor.

Others include, establishment of LASACO insurance, Lagos State Printing Corporation, electricity board, general hospitals, asphalt plant, provision of commercial boats for ferry services, construction of markets. The achievements are just too many to list.

Senator Tokunbo Abiru writes tribute in Condolence Register

Pa LKJ raised the bar of excellence and set high standards in governance and proved that a leader does not require eternity to make a lasting mark. He changed the cause of history in Lagos in four years.

He later served as a Minister for Works in the General Sani Abacha Government.

He was incorruptible all the way. Despite overseeing the construction of the biggest residential estate in West Africa, Gwarimpa Estate in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, Pa LKJ never allocated a plot of land to himself.

Pa LKJ lived for the people. He never amassed wealth while in office but he was preoccupied with bequeathing enduring legacies. No long motorcade blaring siren.

Pa LKJ was satisfied with his famous and personal Toyota Crown.

He rejected the allures of office and lived in the house he built in Ilupeju before he assumed office all through his tenure. The modest one-storey building located at 7 Bishop Street, Ilupeju was the same house he returned to after a successful stint as First Executive Governor of Lagos. He died in the same House on Thursday, February 11, 2021.

Pa LKJ was a bosom friend of my late father, Hon Justice MAO Abiru. My father was the Senator representing Ikorodu Division in 1979, the same period Pa LKJ was blazing the trail as Governor of Lagos State. They both upheld the highest
level of democratic ethos and served the people with forthrightness.

Pa LKJ stands tall in life and in death. Generation to come will always be grateful to him.