LKJ: The Governor of Lagos @ 90

A course mate of mine, Bayo Fabiyi, had some celebration in his house a few months back and invited me to his house somewhere in Lagos. As I made my way to the place on the fateful day, I needed a little assistance for direction at some point.

I asked the driver to stop an Okada man to give us some guide, “Please direct us to LSDPC Estate around here”. The guy was lost for a minute and started scratching his head. As if shocked into some reality he asked me “Jakande Estate?”. As I answered in the affirmative, he directed us to the place in a jiffy.

My respect for Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande (LKJ) grew taller by a few inches that Sunday.

LKJ is a name that has refused to go away in Lagos 35 years after the Buhari coup of December 31, 1983 terminated his tenure as the first elected governor of Lagos State.

He worked for Lagos in his four-year tenure to the point the entire state became his praise assembly. He did not name anything after himself but an appreciative city has named all his good works after him as there is no area of Lagos you get to today that you will not hear Jakande this or that.

Generations not born when he served as governor have joined in the immortalisation of the name Jakande even when he does not have to engage in  the Lagos fad of today -throwing cash at people on the street. Does he have?

As the helmsman of Lagos, Jakande lived in his house in Ilupeju and his “official car “ was his Toyota. He still lives in the same house from where he performed all the wonders he is eulogised for till now. Cars that are not available in oil companies fleet adorn every car park in Alausa where Jakande used to drive his personal car to work.

As we sat on the table next to where he was seated with his friend and colleague-Governor in the Second Republic, Alhaji Mohammed Goni of Gongola State; with Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Alhaji Razak Okoya, Honourable Dipo Olaitan and Mr Fafa Dan-Princewill at his 90th birthday last Tuesday, Chief Jimilehin Obafemi regaled me and Fafa with the philosophical underpinning of LKJ success “Alhaji Jakande always said the problems of Nigeria are very easy to solve. That it is like if  you are in a dark room with a candle and a matches box,strike the match and lit the candle, darkness will disappear.”

That was what he did in Lagos. Before he came in, Lagos schools were crowded that shifts were the order of the day. Within months the shift system were abolished in all schools by constructing thousands of classrooms. Critics called the classrooms “sheds” but Jakande insisted all his appointees must enrol their children in the public schools to maintain standards.Products of those schools are holding their own globally today.

He realised the housing challenge of a big city like Lagos and embarked on construction of massive low cost houses in major areas of Lagos. Many of those who bought those houses would have remained homeless if a leader with foresight like him did not come up at the time.

In 2007, I had cause to be in the villages in Ibeju Lekki area of Lagos State and  tears welled my eyes as villagers showed us the various unserviceable agricultural and trade implements Jakande bought to assist them. He was the first and the last governor they saw.

Lagos today remains the only mega city around the world without an organised transport and the reason why the hours most inhabitants spend in traffic are more than in productivity.

Jakande was going to solve the problem permanently with a metro service. He embarked on the project before Buhari struck. The project was cancelled by the junta and the pay-off to the company handling the project would have completed it. The same General, now a civilian President, who cancelled the Metroline came to commission a bus stop in the same city 34 years after!

It is a big shame that Lagos golden era till date remains the Jakande era when there was little resources compared to today’s. In all the four years of his stewardship, Lagos never spent N1billion in any year. When he proposed the 1984 budget, the headline was “Lagos hits N1b. “He didn’t spend that budget because of the coup.

The budget of Lagos today is one eighth of the National Budget and the wonder is what the state could have done with the humongous finances with a prudent manager like LKJ who has a heart for the people.

Private capital and development cover the shame Lagos has become today in spite of its wealth which is more in action in the hands of greed and in private high-rises traceable to those who have handled public finances. I was told of an industrialist who had to take bailout from someone who has no industry but access to public till in the mega city some years back.

Drive around  town with a brand new car for six months in Lagos of 2019 and the shock absorbers would be dancing KWAM 1.

I was in Liberia after their civil war of the late 80’s and the worst road I saw there was better than the best road in Ikeja GRA in Lagos three days ago. Apart from Bourdillon, Kudirat Abiola, Igando Airport Roads and a few distances here and there, most of the roads in Lagos are unmotorable.

The last time I saw pipe-borne water in the city was in my former house where a human finger dropped into my bucket in 2004!

This is is why Jakande remains THE Governor of Lagos 35 years after he left office as the people have not seen anything good as him.

Before he joined progressive politics, Jakande had made his mark in journalism and contributed greatly to the success of the newspaper you are reading. He was the first President of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN).

The truth however is that the four most memorable years of his life are the ones he spent faithfully implementing the cardinal programmes of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN).

There was no commissioner who served in his cabinet at his birthday last Tuesday as they had all taken abode in heavenly estates. May the souls of all of them who assisted him to achieve the dream rest in peace.

Aspiring leaders who want everlasting legacy as against filthy rich that does not edify would have to adopt Jakande who worked  in the order of his Leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, as a model.

Happy birthday sir!

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