Eminent Nigerians honour Jakande at 75
The event was a public presentation of a book Legacies of leadership: Learning from the Action Years of Lateef Kayode Jakande to commemorate Jakande's 75th birthday. He was born on July 23, 1929.
Billed for the Oyo Hall, the massive turnout of dignitaries forced the organisers to extend the event to the adjacent Ogun Hall.
For a man whose modest contributions to the enthronement of an egalitarian society had been underplayed in recent times because of his participation in the military administration of the late Gen. Sani Abacha, the encomiums showered on him were like a rainfall after a long period of drought.
Prominent among those who extolled Jakande's leadership virtues were governors of Lagos, Sokoto, Imo, Kaduna and Osun states who sent representatives.
Chaired by Chief Babatunde Fanimokun, the roll call included Lagos Deputy Governor Femi Pedro, Brig.-Gen. Mobolaji Johnson (rtd), Chief Rauf Jafojo, Brig.-Gen. Raji Rasaki (rtd), Vice Admiral Mike Akhigbe (rtd), Alhaja Sinatu Ojikutu, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Prince Ademola Adeniji-Adele and Senator Kofoworola Louisa Bucknor-Akerele.
At the ceremony also were Chief Cornelius Adebayo (Minister of Communications), Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwanu Akiolu, Mrs. Mobolaji Osomo (Minister of Housing), Pa Emmanuel Alayande, Chief Alex Akindele, Justice Yolapo Akinsanya, Mr. Musiliu Smith (former Inspector-General of Police) and Alhaji Shehu Musa, among others.
Prince Tony Momoh (former Information Minister), Prof. Akin Mabogunje, Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi, Alhaji Babs Alade Animashaun, Chief Rasaq Okoya-Thomas, Prince Abiodun Ogunleye, Mr. Tunji Bello, Mr. Smart Adeyemi and Mr. Idowu Shobowale, among others, were also in attendance.
Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Lagos said Jakande was worth celebrating because "the defining essence of the 75 years of Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande is a life of consistent commitment to public service. It is a life dedicated to adding value to society through the pursuit of the public good."
Recalling the achievements of Jakande as the governor of Lagos, Tinubu who was represented by Pedro lamented that the military scuttled his plans to take the state to the zenith.
Said Tinubu: "He left indelible foot marks in education, health and the housing sectors among others. It is a tragedy that the military not only eroded Jakande's welfarist legacies in Lagos State, the metroline project he initiated was aborted to the detriment of the state.
"Today, we have commenced the actualisation of a light rail mass transit scheme, which will be fully functional before this administration leaves office. However, if the metroline scheme conceived by the Jakande administration had been followed through earlier by succeeding administrations, it would have been at much lesser cost to the state".
The governor also recalled Jakande's journalism years, his fight for independence and role in the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) led by the late sage and former premier of the Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
According to him, Jakande utilised journalism as a vehicle for progressive advocacy of the public interest and wielded his pen as a weapon in the struggle for Nigeria's independence. "He was a shining example of the journalist as the voice of the voiceless and the defender of the defenceless".
Tinubu, who canvassed a return to true federalism, said there was no way the history of progressive politics in Nigeria could be written without acknowledging the immense contributions of Jakande.
"He was one of the major actors in the defunct Action Group (AG), which still ranks easily as on of the most efficient and best organised political parties ever in the history of Nigeria. Alhaji Jakande was one of the most effective publicists of the ideas of welfarism, federalism and constitutionalism, which the party symbolised. He was part and parcel of the path-breaking achievements of Awo's AG in the Western Region in the First Republic.
"And when the AG ran into stormy waters, under intense bombardment from the forces of conservation, Alhaji Jakande demonstrated uncommon strength of character. He stood steadfastly by his leader through thick and thin," Tinubu remarked.
Also speaking, Imo State Governor Achike Udenwa who was represented by his Commissioner for Rural Development and Utilities, said Jakande's life, times and legacies epitomised "resilience, positive audacity, bravery and bravado, and a knack for excellence."
"I recollect with nostalgia and a good sense of humour how Alhaji operated from his personal residence and was driven in his personal Toyota Crown vehicle all through the period he was an Executive Governor. What mattered to Jakande were service delivery and a conscious effort to civilise the policy through a deliberate policy of socialisation and provision of infrastructural facilities. These efforts opened the eyes of the discerning members of the society to the merits inherent in the practice of democracy," he said.
On his part, Babatope challenged those who had the penchant for criticising Jakande's participation in the Abacha government to prove if he flouted any of the principles laid down by Awolowo.
His words: "When Alhaji Lateef Jakande was appointed the Federal Minister of Works in the first cabinet of the late Gen. Sani Abacha administration, he immediately became the cynosure of all eyes in that government.
He headed the finance and economic committee of the government that in five months balanced the budget of the government, a situation that had nearly economically crippled Nigeria in previous administrations. I saw a member of that cabinet and felt proud to have one of my leaders carry into government the training and principles of our political father, mentor and hero, Papa Obafemi Awolowo.
"Let me say it here in all humility that we of the Awo political family, led by Alhaji Jakande, left that government without infringing on Awo teachings of what a politician must do while serving the people.
The principles, according to Babatope, include: do not enjoy in government what you cannot provide for yourself in your private life, never seek gratification and do not desecrate public office by colluding with civil servants to defraud government.
For Timilehin, Jakande is a serious, committed and disciplined person who does not compromise his principles.
He said it was a matter of lamentation that Jakande was misunderstood unjustly without facts.
Contributing, Adeniji-Adele said Jakande's leadership quality should be taken as a benchmark for any serious politician.
Adebayo described the former minister as a great leader with a lot of foresight, dedication, discipline and focus.
Akhigbe spoke in the same vein and urged politicians to learn from Jakande's leadership qualities and principles