Lateef Kayode Jakande was a Nigerian journalist who grew to become the legendary governor of Lagos State. He was born on 23rd July 1929 in the Epetedo area of Lagos Island, Lagos State to parents who are both from Omu-Aran, Kwara State.
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Alhaji Lateef Jakande, also widely known in political circles in the South West of Nigeria as Baba Kekere, was the first civilian governor of Lagos state from October 1979 to December 1983. Preceded by Military governor, Ebitu Ukiwe and succeeded by Gbolahan Mudasiru after the coup led by Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) in late 1983.
In his early years, Lateef Kayode Jakande attended Lagos public school at Enu-Owa, Lagos Island, then went on to Bunham Memorial Methodist School, Port Harcourt between 1934 and 1943. He attended King’s College, Lagos briefly afterwards, and then he headed to Ilesha Grammar School in 1945, where he edited a literary paper called The Quarterly Mirror.
In 1949, Jakande began a career in journalism first with the Daily Service and then in 1953 joined Nigeria’s oldest surviving newspaper, The Nigerian Tribune. By sheer force of Jakande’s will and hard work, he was appointed editor-in-chief of the Tribune by the owner/publisher, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in 1956. Jakande was blessed with the gift of the pen as his editorials remained factual and forthright with the realities of the period. His journalistic contributions during the pre-colonial period helped to set the stage for the independence agenda in the press/media.
After leaving The Nigerian Tribune in 1975, Jakande established John West Publications and began to publish The Lagos News. It was after founding his own newspaper company that he initiated and served as the first President of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN).
Lateef Jakande got into mainstream politics with the prodding he got from former Premier of the Old Western Region, Obafemi Awolowo. He ran for election as the executive governor of Lagos State in 1979, on the platform of the Unity Party of Nigeria. Defeating even more prominent opponent politicians such as Adeniran Ogunsanya of (NPP) and Sultan Ladega Adeniji Adele of (NPN), he was subsequently sworn in as governor the same year.
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Jakande ran an open and effective government where he implemented the cardinal policies of his party. He introduced housing, empowerment and educational programs targeting the poor. He built new neighbourhood primary and secondary schools and provided free primary and secondary education to all who could not afford it.
Jakande’s government constructed over 30,000 housing units some of which includes low-cost housing units/estates in Amuwo-Odofin, Ijaiye, Dolphin, Oke-Afa, Ije, Abesan, Iponri, Ipaja, Abule Nla, Epe, Anikantamo, Surulere, Iba, Ikorodu, Badagry. He also completed the construction of the General Hospital in Gbagada and Ikorodu and built about 20 other health centres within the state.
As governor, he established 23 more local government councils which were later disbanded by the military. The local councils would later be re-introduced by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Jakande also started a metro line project to facilitate mass transit but the project was halted abruptly once the regime of Muhammadu Buhari took over power on 31st December 1983.
Like a few other civilian governors of the UPN, Jakande himself did not escape the vindictive military regime that just seized power. Jakande was charged, prosecuted and convicted of treason by a haphazardly constituted military tribunal.
After being freed from prison, Jakande accepted the position of Minister of Works under the Gen. Sani Abacha junta while other politicians of his ilk were sworn enemies of the regime opposing the government under such banners as NADECO, CLO, CD and others. He claimed that he had accepted the post under pressure from and other progressive leaders.
Although Jakande himself claimed he had no regrets working under Abacha, especially as he was said to have given in to pressure from M.K.O. Abiola and other progressive leaders as a form of compromise. This decision greatly marred his reputation and standing with other politicians who were not privy to his decision. Some quarters believed that his association with Abacha handicapped the latter end of his political trajectory after the restoration of democracy in 1999.
Unlike his old group from the Awolowo political school, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande did not join in with the founders of Alliance for Democracy (AD). As he avoided most of the drama his political forbears faced with the machinations within AD, he instead became a senior member of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) when the UNPP and APP merged. Jakande was also the first chairman of the Action Party of Nigeria (APN) when it was formed in November 2006.
Jakande died in Lagos on 11th February 2021 even as encomiums mixed with reverence poured in the eulogy of his illustrious life.
In his condolence note, the Lagos state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu said Jakande’s record of service as a journalist of repute and a leader of remarkable achievements as governor of Lagos State will remain indelible for generations to come.
Featured Image Source: The News NG
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