Where Jakande Faltered, No Grass May Grow Again, By Dr. Muiz Banire – Complete News

First Civilian Governor of Lagos, Alhaji Lateef Jakande

When death comes calling, it leaves a sour taste of irredeemable loss. The whole world descends on the deceased in appreciation of his good deeds and forbids negative assessment. The bold ones would, however, come out of the taboo and break the shells of hypocrisy that tradition has mischievously woven into human mentality, particularly in Africa, where it is said that you do not speak ill of the dead. That is why the Sage says, “Live your life well and spare us the need to lie at your funeral.”

Today, I am X-raying the leadership qualities of our great departed soul, the first civilian governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande. May his soul rest in peace and may God reward him with paradise for all his good deeds and forgive him all his transgressions.

Lateef Kayode Jakande was one politician that spared us the need to lie at his funeral. That he came, saw and conquered is no news to those who witnessed his reign in Lagos State between October 1, 1979, and December 31, 1983. I sympathise with those who missed his regime and appeal that all his books be made available to fit the library of the young and redeem a huge number of defiant souls that do not understand the purpose of public governance.

We can never learn too much from Jakande through his actions then and, now, his writings. The late Governor of Lagos State was an epitome of humility, integrity and accountability. He was both a visionary and missionary that was dedicated during his administration to really serve the masses.

As a demonstration of his humility and the constant need to divorce public resources from personal pleasure while in office, Jakande did not live in any government house but in his personal house in Ilupeju, a suburb of Mushin Local Government Area, where he stayed during and after office. In fact, it is inside the same property that he died.

His was a satisfied and contented soul that craved nothing beyond what he earned legitimately and which he actually needed to survive as a human being and leader of men. Alhaji Lateef Jakande, as Governor of Lagos State, did not use any government vehicle much less a convoy. He used his personal vehicles throughout his tenure.

You only need to compare this lifestyle of the former governor with that of contemporary governors and spot the difference. Governors in recent times do not only use government houses and vehicles, they keep chains of properties as guest houses in addition to themselves.

Ordinary Speaker of a House of Assembly would have properties linked to his name beyond what his family would ever need. In some instances, they even appropriate and convert some of these items belonging to government to personal property after office.

This is in addition to a range of exquisite and flashy vehicles they move around in, the maintenance of which is sufficient to provide potable water for scores of communities. As if all these were not enough, contemporary governors insist on getting, as of right, properties worth billions of naira as entitlement after office, in addition to several vehicles and a retinue of aides to be maintained and replaced with public funds periodically.

What amazes one in this regard is the fact that these governors, as candidates before the elections, begged the people to serve them; how suddenly they now turn around to be a burden on the people and public resources remains a thing of shock. All these supposed perquisites of office were never sought after nor obtained by the late man of letters. He was contented with his legitimate earnings. This is what leadership in its true sense entails.

Beyond this, Alhaji Jakande was a man of the people, regardless of your creed, ethnic origins, political or religious tendencies. He envisioned the need for the children of the poor and the vulnerable to attend school and mix together with the children of the privileged, again without regard to religious inclination. This he achieved through government’s compulsory acquisition of all mission and private schools.

No matter the flaws associated with that policy, the truth remains that the policy did not only achieve its purpose but levelled all classes of pupils in Lagos State. Under him, education truly became a social leveller. All the pupils grew up as one entity with a common goal: the goal of acquiring the best education affordable by the government.

His policy of free and qualitative education further delivered several great men of today. Countless number of successful people today would probably have ended up as hushpuppies, woodberries or motor garage touts but for his intervention and dedication to free education for all. I am no exception to this programme. I attended a public school under the great man.

In the area of housing and rescuing Lagosians from the jaws of shylock landlords, Jakande worked tirelessly to deliver several affordable housing estates. The interesting thing is that the great man never named any of the estates after himself, as it is the tradition today, but the beneficiaries opted to refer to them as ‘Jakande Estates.’

It was the masses that chose to recognise and identify the estates with his name as a token of appreciation for his initiation and realisation of the projects. He did it when critics felt it was impossible considering the resources at the disposal of the government of Lagos State then and the impossibility that characterized governance in Lagos State under erstwhile military administrations.

In terms of infrastructure, the late governor was an all-time champion till death. Several durable roads still exist today that were constructed during his era. When you see the quality of some bridges constructed during his time on the outskirts of the state, where one would have thought there won’t be any form of development at all, you can’t but marvel at the quality of work that keeps such structures strong and functioning. 

How many roads recently built can boast of such quality? The sewage network constructed during his tenure did not only remain the only one so far but, in actuality, has regressed due to lack of maintenance much less sustenance.

In the area of traffic, even prior to the setting up of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida’s administration at the federal level, Jakande had pioneered the introduction of road safety corps, then popularly known in local parlance as “maja, maja”. To his credit and glory, I patterned the current Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), during my time as the commissioner for transportation, after his efforts in this regard.

Ferry services were growing extensively during his tenure, recognising that two-thirds of Lagos State can be accessed by waterways. At the time of his departure, no fewer than 10 boats, including Baba Kekere and Ita Faji, were in existence and effectively plying our waterways and rendering quick transportation services to the people. This excluded ambulance boats used to access riverine areas for treatment and evacuation of ailing people and accident victims.

His decision to serve under the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, can never be a blot on his otherwise impeccable life of service and record of excellence. It was a decision taken upon a direct instruction from Chief MKO Abiola and many Yoruba leaders who genuinely believed that Abacha would still recognize the June 12, 1993, election result and allow Abiola to have his mandate. And nothing is wrong in serving in a military regime anyway.

The immortal Awo taught us a lesson we will never forget in the glory of public service with his acceptance to serve under General Yakubu Gowon. It was Awolowo’s service in that government that spared us a continuous horror of a civil war in which the nation did not borrow a single kobo as the economy was still excellently managed notwithstanding the booming mortars at the battlefield. The housing estates Jakande built as the Minister of Works under Abacha uphold impressive emblems of selfless service to the people.

I have only taken these few areas to illustrate the great man’s contributions to the greatness of Lagos State and good governance in Nigeria. Alhaji Jakande was a firm and courageous leader who believed in equal opportunities for all. I salute not only his vision in this regard but his courage. Such a great man must not go uncelebrated continuously. In fact, I look up to a Jakande school of governance and public service. His life is not so much different from those of Angela Merkel of Germany, Balarabe Musa of Kaduna State and the late Sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo of Nigeria.

These are people who brought Spartan discipline into public service. It is a virtue for a man to conquer his greed. Today’s leaders do not see any virtue in such selflessness as epitomized by Jakande. They would rather steal the public purse dry, create poverty unprecedented to purloin the consciousness of the people and pauperize their thinking faculty.

This, they believe, would put them in a position to determine the fate of the masses forever. They have forgotten that the excess they stole was meant for creating moderate comfort for the masses. When they stash this money abroad, it oils and develops foreign economies at the detriment of our own people.

Money that would have educated thousands of people at home would be stolen by one demented politician only to train his own child at expensive schools abroad. But nature is never to be cheated without any repercussion. Such children trained in satanic luxury abroad turn out to be albatross deranged by a life of drugs and become horrible representations of their ancestry.

The father must reap the sour fruits of his evil labour. Eda t’o ba n yo papa Eledumare de, eran abamo ni iru won maa n pa ni’gbehin. (He who stealthily hunts in God’s forbidden forests, must end up with games of regrets).

You cannot impoverish the people to create untold luxury for yourself and expect to be sung at your demise. You cannot, at the same time, expect history to be kind to you. You must expect to bear your reward with ignominy as much as you inflicted on the people.

Karma is not partial. Eni t’o ba di ikuuku lasan fun orisa, ti oun naa ba gbe omolangidi jo ko leewo. (He who hands bare fists to the oracle in sacrifice, should have no one to blame if he is blessed with an effigy as a child). We can only sing you to high heavens as we are doing to Jakande where you merit it. Remember to live your life well so that we do not have to lie at your funeral. Jakande deserves all being said about him.

He was the symbol of a life well lived to the glory of God and the betterment of man. May Allah grant him al Jannah firdau. Adieu, Papa! Let me recognize specially my colleague, Kunle Adegoke, SAN for his continuous supply of Yoruba proverbs from his repository.