By now, you would probably have heard that Mr Lateef Jakande is dead but chances are that you may or may never have heard of the man before. If you have, it is probably because you were around when he was relevant or you are a bit more informed than most. In that case, good for you. Many know of him but not enough of how impactful a leader Lateef Jakande was for Lagos State.
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Looking back is both nostalgic and saddening for those who knew enough about 1979-1983. But here goes a little expose’ on what his time in Alausa meant for Lagos and Lagosian.
Lateef Jakande, by the time he was elected Lagos’ first civilian governor, had been a top Nigerian journalist for almost thirty years. The Epetedo-born politician had been an editor for Obafemi Awolowo’s Nigerian Tribune from 1953.
Before then he was with the Daily Times and afterwards went to float his own publication, the Lagos Weekly, under his publishing company, John West Publication. By the time Baba Kekere, decided to try his hands in politics under the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), the man was really more of a novice in politics.
He, however, managed to pip more prominent players as Adeniran Ogunsanya of the NDP and Ladega Adeniji Adele of NPN to become the first civilian governor. As governor, he was part of a class of governors of what was 19 states at the time that many Nigerians look back as some of the best Nigerians ever saw. The standards have never been as high since.
Lateef Jakande rode into power on the back of proposed socialist reforms along the same lines as other major candidates but he took it further by actually showing up for the people when he became governor. Many of the projects he undertook actually transformed the city-scape of Lagos. He built the old Lagos-Epe expressway, opening up the Lekki peninsula to urbanization.
Unlike the administrations of the fourth republic, Jakande catered to the poor instead of hiding them. In all of the 23 local councils of Lagos (his creation), his administration built public schools and housing estates. Those facilities birthed a new generation of middle-class Lagosians that are now in their prime. Jakande oversaw the building of the Alausa Secretariat that houses the seat of power in Lagos.
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The man was essentially a master builder as most of his achievements were tangible. One is tempted to think his biggest achievement was, in fact, the Lagos master plan that was drawn up in the run-up to the 1983 elections. The master-plan had Lagos divided into 32 districts each sufficient with commercial and residential arrangements.
Jakande made the Lagos State government the biggest it has ever been as he believed that it was practical for the time. The state government was involved in almost every conceivable sector it could possibly be in. understandably, his socialist leanings led him to tax the rich more than they ever were. Property tax on properties in rich neighbourhoods in Ikoyi and Victoria Island went up thus hiking property prices.
Like I said before, the standards he set have never been beaten since and it is not that those that have followed him have bothered to match his achievements. Lagos has fallen into an era of faux prosperity where the government is more concerned with looking like a modern city-state in the mould of more accomplished urban centres of the world rather than fixing problems that face its population.
Where Jakande sought to add value, today’s administrations seek to only take from its own without giving back. Where he built, they now tear down to build up fancy buildings that would be empty for years. The funny thing is that many who champion this counter-productive style of governance were beneficiaries of his education and housing schemes.
For context, Jakande planned and finished the Lagos-Epe expressway up to Ijebu-Ode in under four years but the same Lagos state government cannot even move past phase one of its so-called “metro” train project after fourteen years and three administrations. It leaves us a lot to ponder, chief among them is this: are we progressing or retrogressing?
Featured Image Source: This Day Live
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