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Lateef Jakande: A Glorious Exit of a Patriot

By Adeleke Adefioye

I woke up this morning to the news of Lateef Kayode Jakande’s exit. A man who came, saw, conquered and finally hung his boots on a golden rack and literally breathed I-have-tried-my-best afterwards.

A last breath from an erudite Journalist whose editorials became nightmare series for the colonial powers when he was the editor-in-chief of The Tribune – a position he was appointed to by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the owner of the newspaper and a sage by all standards if good judgement, intelligence, resilience, ideology, wisdom and being articulate are the right criteria to go by.

Awolowo was twenty years older than Jakande. He must have observed the obvious sterling qualities in Jakande from 1956 to 1975 when he was the editor-in-chief of The Tribune. Fate brought them together, satisfactory conduct on Jakande’s part sealed their relationship, loyalty and similar ideologies brought Jakande under the political tutelage of Awolowo and eventually, a passion for service to humanity won Jakande the gubernatorial seat of Lagos State having defeated Ladega Adeniji Adele of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, and Adeniran Ogunsanya of the Nigerian Peoples Party, NPP.

As soon as he became the governor of Lagos State, he rolled up his sleeves immediately and went to work. His commitment and dedication to the advancement of the course of humanity produced an indelible footprint in the anal of history as Lagos State would eventually become the center of excellence in Nigeria. Since he left office, none of the successive governors of the state has ever come close to his performance and achievements let alone surpassing them.

He combined his political dexterity with a superlative leadership style that produced an inexhaustible list of infrastructures and a quality standard of living for the people. From the building of housing estates all over the nooks and crannies of the state to the establishment of Asphalt Plant for the Department of Public Works. From the establishment of Small Scale Industries Credit Scheme which later became Eko Bank to the establishment of LASACO Insurance. From the modernization and expansion of Iju Water Works to establishing various educational programs that targeted the poor people as beneficiaries. Jakande implemented virtually all the cardinal policies of his party – The Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN.

Astonishingly, he achieved all of these within a 4-year term before the military forcefully seized power in 1983 thereby truncating Jakande’s nascent metro line project which was expected to fine-tune mass transit within the Lagos metropolis. Ironically, the leader of the forceful seizure of power in 1983, General Muhammadu Buhari, who should have been prosecuted and awarded an apartment in the nation’s maximum prison facility for the rest of his life for truncating a legitimate government and throwing a clog in the wheel of progress of the will of the people, happens to be the current President of the country. Annoyingly, his only blueprint is a determined bid to push ethnic agenda.

As soon as I heard about the death of Lateef Jakande this morning, the first statement I muttered to myself was ‘how are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!’ The last man standing just took a glorious exit. He was the last of the men who built all the infrastructures. He was the last of the men who built character. He was the last of the men who understood the fact that governance is all about the governed. The last of the men who understood the fact that a good name is more valuable than ill-gotten wealth through a free-for-oneself treasury looting.

The next best thing that happened to Nigeria after regional government was the 12-state era which became 19 states following the creation of seven more states in 1976. A healthy rivalry amongst progressive governors led to unbelievable developments that, unfortunately, became unsustainable when men who didn't care about character emerged at the political scene and Nigeria subsequently ceased to be Nigeria. Then, the nation's light that shone brightly on the mountain top suddenly went off.

When Nigeria was Nigeria, it was the indefatigable Lateef Kayode Jakande of Lagos, the erudite James Bola Ige of the old Oyo State, the delectable Victor Bisi Onabanjo of Ogun State, the impeccable Michael Adekunle Ajasin of the old Ondo State and the intellectual Ambrose Folorunsho Alli of the old Bendel State.

When UPN was a Political Party of ideology and men who joined politics and ran for public office were propelled by genuine passion for humanity. Would the electorate ever look inwards to discern between political jobbers and visionaries again? Would Nigeria ever see the likes of these men again?

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