Since Second Republic Governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, LKJ, answered the call of mortals, it has been tributes galore. This is not surprising given his life of exemplary leadership that won him the reverence and goodwill of a vast majority of Lagos residents.
Babakekere, as he was fondly called, died on Thursday, February 11, 2021, at the ripe age of 91. So, while his death has been described as a great loss to the family and the nation, the rites of passage were also seen as celebration of a life that mirrored simplicity, integrity and outstanding achievements in journalism, politics and service.
Jakande touched and transformed many lives through his visionary leadership, selfless and spartan outlook to life.
As a journalist, he was a fearless and gifted writer. He rose to the position of Editor-in-Chief of the Nigerian Tribune and eventually became the first President of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN.
In politics and administration, Jakande modelled his leadership style after that of his political mentor, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Premier of the defunct Western Region between 1952 and 1959. He passionately pursued a people-oriented vision of leadership anchored on social welfare.
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For instance, as the Governor of Lagos State between October 1, 1979, and December 31, 1983, he had transformed the key sectors of housing, public transportation and education. In housing, LKJ promoted affordable accommodation for the masses by building low-cost estates across different locations in the state.
He also pursued Awolowo’s free education policy and built several new schools while upgrading old ones to absorb the army of new students in the state. No other regime has come close in the pursuit of the people’s welfare in the state since then.
For the transportation sector, LKJ initiated a mass federal transit revolution which included a potentially game-changing metro line project which was truncated following the termination of his administration by a military coup on December 31, 1983. Many years after, most Lagosians continue to rue the loss of that project.
Under his administration, Lagos State witnessed the kind of infrastructural development that remains unrivalled to date. His performance as governor became a reference point and benchmark for successive elected and appointed public office holders in the state, though some will argue that his foray into the late General Sani Abacha’s cabinet as Works and Housing Minister fell short of expectation.
As we join millions of Nigerians to mourn his passage, we remember the words of the eminent entrepreneur, academic and author, Prof. Pat Utomi, that the solid landmarks left behind by LKJ in his four-year foray assures that his name “has become a non-perishable item.”
We hope that a new era of people-oriented leaders will reopen in Nigeria soon.