Jakande at 90, living legend of Awolowo politics
Jakande at 90, living legend of Awolowo politics
By Ayodele Fagbohun
After the ocean-liner has sailed the high seas and ploughed the lagoon, it must report at the harbor to the harbor master’, thus runs a Yoruba proverb. Since January 16, 1980, I have navigated the high seas of Oyo, Bendel, Ondo and Ogun States. I have crossed the Lagoon to Apapa, and back to Ikeja to report to the harbour master of Nigeria’s premier port, Alhaji L.K Jakande, former Governor of Lagos State.” – Excerpt from the full text of an address by Chief Obafemi Awolowo to Lagos State House of Assembly, Ikeja on the 25th anniversary of the introduction of Free Universal Primary Education in the Old Western Region on Tuesday January 22, 1980.
The above pithy description of the first elected governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, a renowned journalist as the “harbour master” of Nigeria’s premier harbour by no less than Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the political inner sanctum was allegorical and full of profundity.
Quintessentially, it reflected and still resonates Jakande as the legendary and personification of the intrinsic values and essence of Awolowo politics anchored on ideals of good governance, and in this circumstance the deployment of scarce resources to achieve optimum service in the welfare and material well-being of the people.
Papa Awolowo obviously overwhelmed and in full ecstasies over the stupendous feat with which Jakande led Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) administration in Lagos State within a short spell of record time 1979/1980 executed the four cardinal programmes and policies of the ruling party. With particular reference to the remarkable zeal he carried out the free education scheme with a difference knowing full well the peculiar circumstances of Lagos State to the Old Western Region that earlier had head start in the laudable scheme.
Doubtless, the accolades and the encomiums showered on Alhaji Jakande popularly called LKJ by the leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo unwittingly sowed the insidious seeds of ill-will and envy; and indeed prepared the fertile ground for future contentious leadership and power struggle of who amongst Awolowo’s followers known as Awoists would succeed the leader after his departure or at best who would be named by Awo in his lifetime.
Papa Awolowo either deliberately or otherwise rubbed salt into festering injury and fuelled the simmering conflagration when he jocularly at a public function, referred to Governor Jakande as “Baba Kekere” which in English translation means “young father” on highly impressed whilst commissioning Lagos low cost building projects otherwise known as “Jakande Estates” that still stand solid if not for poor maintenance culture, the bane of our infrastructural development.
On the other hand, the inability of the late sage to name a particular person as successor could be deliberate as the great master philosopher king trained his followers indeed every Nigerian who cared to learn and ip so facto drink from his fountain of knowledge without any form of discrimination, nepotism or ethnic and tribal prejudice.
As a vivid illustration, Papa Awolowo valued the discipleship or rather the followership of Bala Ige, LK Jakande, Bisi Onabajo, M.A. Ajasin; and automatically nodded approval for the governorship aspiration in their respective states in the 1979 general elections. Whilst Ayo Adebanjo who hailed from Ijebu Remo ethnic stock to which Awolowo belonged was not either given any elective office or known strategic position in the scheme of things whilst Awo lived. I stand to be corrected anyway.
Again, James and John, close disciples and kinsmen of Jesus Christ appealed to him through their mother that Jesus should consider them for topmost offices in the kingdom. Jesus cautioned James and John thus: “Whoever is aspiring for leadership must cultivate the essence of unalloyed service to others.”
As the political rigmarole and vendetta in Afenifere, pan Yoruba socio-political and cultural organisation raged on unabated, tearing the organisation asunder with the infiltration of fake or neo Awoists. It is to the credit of Lateef Jakande, “Baba Kekere” on account of his age and serene nature he did not join the affray and steers clear of the rancorous political intrigues and acrimony that bedevils Yoruba nation.
The unfortunate scenario is a follow up to the attendant security challenges ravaging the country which hit hard and took devastating tolls on the otherwise formidable and invincible South West.
Our fortress as a Yoruba nation has been overrun and broken down irretrievably by corrupt, weak, docile and complacent political leadership in the corridor of power laying waste on our vast territories unprotected and trampled upon by interlopers and intruders of our self determination.
To shed light on the foregoing, once again, the Biblical story of him and King Agag of Amalek was symbolic and salutary. Samuel, the great prophet and rulers in Israel instead of allying with the sinners that is Agag and host of Amalekites as booty to be destroyed in a holy war declared by Yahweh, God of Israel. Saul captured Agag as a war booty against the directive of Samuel who anointed Saul as king of Israel.
Agag met Samuel in boisterous mood and tried to welcome him saying the bitterness of the past was over. But in annoyance against Saul, the king, Samuel murdered Agag in cold blood at Gilgal. Unfortunately, some of our leaders of Yoruba extraction after the exit of Chief Obafemi Awolowo have compromised and sold our birthright on the mess of pottage. That is the root cause of our present travails.
The career of Alhaji Jakande will not be complete if not linked with journalism, his cherished profession that eventually threw him into political limelight and social eminence.
A product of famous Ilesha Grammar School, 1945-1949, young Jakande at 20 years old took a career in journalism as reporter, and proof reader in the defunct Daily Service. He rose through the rank to become Editor, Nigerian Tribune, African Press Limited, 1953-1954 amongst other newspapers now rested.
LK Jakande later became the long surviving and long serving Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, African newspapers of Nigeria PLC. Jakande revolutionized the company; publishers of Nigerian Tribune, founded by Chief Obafemi Awolowo in 1949, promoted the newspaper to high political pedestal as organ of the Action Group also founded by Awolowo in 1951 arguably the best organised political party in Africa, South of the Sahara.
Nigerian Tribune also served as credible mouth piece to the down trodden until recently hijacked by the vicissitudinous partisan politics and reactionary elements who the late founder and sage had devoted lifetime struggle to fight and uproot as weeds amidst the wheats in Nigeria’s political terrain.
As Editor-in-Chief and Chief Executive of the ANNPL, Alhaji Jakande kick-stated the employment of university degree holders as reporters-in-training, first of its kind and an innovation into the company. Tribune thus became the training ground for those graduates seeking journalism as a career.
Messers Olu Adegboro, and Ebenezer Babatope, fire brand students’ activists were given automatic employment straight from their respective universities as reporters-in-training and subsequently promoted news editors of City Editors in Lagos. The duo of Olu Adegboro and Ebenezer Babatope, aka Ebino topsy among several others, who had a stint with journalism through Alhaji Jakande, are well known political activists and reputable publishers and politicians in their right in Nigeria.
I recall with pride, Price Olu Adegboro, one of the leading lights of progressive politics in Nigeria and current member of Odua conglomerate said in reminiscence on his day’s in the Tribune as reporter-in-training with LKJU as his boss.
Prince Adegboro said Alhaji Jakande would resume at about 7:30 am and would not leave his desk until 4:30 pm, then official closing time. This was to underscore the type of fable discipline and frugality Alhaji Jakande is; someone addicted to work and committed to veritable excellence in all its ramification.
As a foremost and versatile Nigerian newspaper man, LK Jakande was Joint General manager, Amalgamated Press of Nigeria, 1956; Chairman, Chief Executive John West Publications and correspondent Inter Co Press of New York, 1975-1979.
Alhaji Jakande was also Chairman, International Press Institute, Zurich, Switzerland, Co founder and patron Nigerian Union of Journalists, founder and president Nigerian Guild of Editor. His efforts led to the founding of Nigerian Institute of Journalists, a private institution for the training of journalists.
Alhaji Jakande who marred at the age of 39 to Mrs Alhaja Abimbola Jakade, is a consummate politician. He was there with Obafemi Awolowo Esq; the barrister at law during the inaugural meeting of Action Group at Owo Conference in Apil 28 -29, 1951. Ever since Jakande never deviated and stood like the rock of Gibraltar behind Awolowo’s political programmes to terminate poverty, ignorance and superstition across the country.
Jakande’s administration as first elected Governor in Lagos State 1979-1973 was tagged: “Action Year” amongst other laudable and populist projects witnessed functional classrooms that eliminated three shifts in primary and secondary schools within six months and a system that allocated 10 percent of total state government revenue to local governments as provided by the constitution.
These are some of the beneficial reference points to guide any government that walks the pious talk to succeed and write his name in the hall of fame.