By Adekunle Adekoya, Deputy Editor
FONDLY called Baba Kekere, he was the governor of Lagos State elected in the “Class of 79” Governors of the Second Republic, under the platform of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, founded by late sage and nationalist, Chief Jeremiah Oyeniyi Obafemi Awolowo.
Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, also called LKJ was, as governor, contemporary of the likes of Alhaji Balarabe Musa of Kaduna State, Jim Nwobodo of Anambra State, Sam Mbakwe of Imo State, and back home in the South-west, he had late Olabisi Onabanjo of Ogun State, Ambrose Alli of the defunct Bendel State, Bola Ige of old Oyo State and Adekunle Ajasin of old Ondo State as political actors and state governors.
With Jakande’s transition yesterday, and Alhaji Balarabe Musa’s death on November 11, 2020, only Chief Jim Nwobodo, of old Anambra State is left as the lone survivor of the Class 79 of governors.
Originally a journalist, LKJ joined the Daily Service in 1949, and later in 1953, moved to the Nigerian Tribune, earlier established in 1949 by Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He became the paper’s editor-in-chief in 1956, and left its services in 1975, after which he set up his own publishing outfit, John West Publications.
On September 21, 1978, the military government of General Olusegun Obasanjo lifted the ban on partisan politics and announced a transition to civil rule, which was to be concluded October 1, 1979 with the inauguration of a civilian president. Day after, on September 22, 1978, Chief Obafemi Awolowo at a press conference announced the birthing of the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, and as politicking unfolded, Alhaji Lateef Jakande emerged the governorship candidate of the UPN in Lagos State.
Running against Adeniran Ogunsanya of Nigerian Peoples Party, NPP and Sultan Ladega Adeniji-Adele of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, he went on to win the election, and was sworn-in on October 1, 1979. After swearing-in, Jakande literally hit the ground running, and the first areas where he made tremendous impact were in the areas of education, housing, health, and rural development, which were also the cardinal programmes of the defunct UPN.
Before Jakande became governor, classrooms were in such shortage in Lagos schools that children went to school in shifts — morning and afternoon. It was a regular sight before 1980 to see children just resuming school at 2.00 p.m. and closing by 6.00p.m., while their luckier peers had forgotten about the day’s schooling in other states.
To tackle the problem, Jakande, within five months, built 11,729 classrooms and abolished the shift system of school attendance. By the time he left office in 1983, he had built more than 22,000 classrooms and ensured that no more than 40 students were in a class, all the while raising overall enrolment. Added to that was the establishment of the Lagos State University, LASU, to address admission denials to indigenes of Lagos State.
Perhaps the area in which Jakande impacted most on the lives of Lagosians was in housing. Jakande developed what he called Low-Cost Housing Estates in various parts of the state like Ikorodu, Badagry, Iba, Surulere, Epe, Abesan in Ipaja, Iponri, Ijaiye, Dolphin, Amuwo-Odofin, and Oke-Afa in Isolo. The Oke-Afa, isolo estate is said to be the largest of such estates.
In all, he built more than 30,000 of such housing units, and almost overnight transformed the outliers of Lagos city into fully-developed urban dwellings. It is on record that many proud home-owners of today were beneficiaries of the Jakande housing “revolution”, a feat that remains unparalled by succeeding administrations in the state.
Jakande also left indelible footprints in the transportation sector of Lagos State, with the establishment of the Lagos State Transport Corporation, LSTC. In particular, he introduced a “SCHOLARS” programme, by which the corporation moved schoolchildren from their streets to their schools and back.
Perhaps what would have been his major achievement of all time was the conception and execution of the Lagos Metroline Project, whose foundation was laid in 1983 by then President Shehu Shagari. The project, whose first phase would have been completed in 1984 at a cost of N510 million was truncated on the orders of the military government led by Major-General Muhammadu Buhari that aborted the 2nd Republic. The state is still struggling, 36 years later, to develop a metro system.
He also paid attention to water transportation by acquiring two ferries which he christened MV Baba Kekere and MV Ita Faji. Both ferries plied the Mile 2 to CMS route via the lagoon. Jakande was the governor that had canals dug all over Lagos to de-flood the city, which lies below sea level
That is not all. Jako, as he was also fondly called, was a workaholic that arrived his office at 7.00a.m, and worked till midnight everyday, arriving home at 1.00a.m, only to get back to his office again by 7.00a.m. He worked so hard that he was able to achieve so much within four years and three months, from October 1979 to December 31, 1983. He is on record as the governor that established LTV, Lagos Television, Radio Lagos, and moved the state secretariat to its present site at Alausa from the old one at Oba Akinjobi Road in the GRA.
In the health sector, Jako built general hospitals all over the state and provided free health care in line with the programmes of the UPN.
Other little-known achievements of Jakande as governor of Lagos State include the construction and expansion of the Adiyan and Iju Water Works to provide potable water to Lagosians, and perhaps very important, the establishment of a scrap yard with the purchase of car-crushing equipment which could dispose of 45 derelict vehicles daily then. Today, derelict vehicles litter the entire state.
Even traditional medical practitioners will not forget Jakande as he established the Traditional Medicine Board, while those in the rural areas will remember him for setting up the Rural Electrification Board.
Born on 29 July 1929, Lateef Kayode Jakande attended the Enu-Owa primary School in Lagos Island, after which he attended the Bunham Memorial Methodist School, in Port Harcourt from 1934 to 1943. After a brief stop at King’s College, Lagos, also in 1943, he moved on to Ilesha Grammar School in 1945. It was at Ilesha that his journalistic endeavour began to take shape as he edited a paper called The Quarterly Mirror there.
Since 1975 when he left Tribune and established John West Publications, Jakande oscillated between public life as governor of Lagos State, and later as federal Minister of works & Housing from November 1993 to August 1998 under the military administration of General Sani Abacha, and as a private citizen, remained an active politician who was associated with many political organizations like All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), and the Action Party of Nigeria (APN).
Aremo Olusegun Osoba, a former governor of Ogun State who is also a journalist said that Jakande “single-handedly founded both the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria and the Nigerian Institute of Journalism. He was the first black African chairman of the International Press Institute, made up of publishers and editors all over the world. He was a foundation member of the Nigerian Union of Journalists and the Guild of Editors.”