I cannot remember the exact date now, but it must have been sometime in 1982 or 1983. His fame, like that of Obi Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, had spread wide like bush fire. It had certainly spread to the University of Ife, where he had come to deliver a lecture; just like other parts of the country without any form of media propagandist blitz that these days gulp billions witj little to show for it in concrete reality.
As it was when the likes of Abubakar Rimi, Professor Ayodele Awojobi, and others. came around, the Oduduwa Hall venue of the lecture was jam packed. Jakande spoke in simple and detailed terms about the focus of his party and administration. He gave details of what it entailed to build a nation emphasising that free education was crucial for the country’s present and future development. He spoke with facts and figures. The lecture over, a horde of students including me as a students’ union leader, followed him to his car – a Toyota Crown Saloon. It was not a jeep. It was not a customized Mercedes Benz. It was not bullet proofed. A leader who lives in the heart of the people needs no protective walls from same. On that day, we saw in him such a leader.
As the goodbye jostles were rounding off, a lady suddenly emerged to the excitement of Jakande’s aide who enthusiastically mobbed her while engaging in a friendly battle as to which or whose car she would ride in to Lagos. She responded with jocular, friendly and respectful jibes. Alas, she was Jakande’s daughter and a student of our university. But, many students like myself didn’t know because there was no air of notoriety about her. Although, a Governor’s daughter, there was no ‘notice-me-at-all-cost’ attitude about her. Like father, like father, you might say, for one of the admirable defining features of the Jakande governorship was simplicity of lifestyle and approach in governance and government. For example, throughout his governorship of Lagos State from October 1st 1979 to December 31st, 1983. Jakande lived in his Ilupeju, Lagos residence, without turning the place into an impregnable fortress. Jakande as Governor was just another neighbour as I attested many years later when I went to commiserate with and interview him on the death of one of his daughters, rather unfortunately.
Having stayed in Mushin (48 Iyalla Street)when I first visited Lagos in 1976, I was a first hand witness to Jakande’s commitment to rural transformation when I returned later around the same 82/83 period to attend an Uncle’s wedding. The road infrastructure that Jakande had initiated marked the beginning of the transformation of the then Mushin slum.
But elsewhere and as has been well documented, especially through the book by the Lagos State Council of NUJ, the achievements were in leaps and bounds – the establishment of Lagos State University, the establishment of Lagos Television as the first 24-hour transmission station in Nigeria through the Lagos Weekend Television, the building of the Alausa secretariat, etc. Unlike later day pretenders at being pro-people, Jakande built low cost housing estates all over Lagos, created layers of employment in the process, made civil servants productive by using direct Labour (also for road construction) and offered them on first come, first serve basis thus making thousands proud house owners. Schools sprang up as housing estates did and like African magic, the notorious three-tier morning, afternoon and evening school system for which Lagos was notorious, was abolished for ever. But for the coup d’etat that brought the military back to power in 1983, the mono train was already on track and work was already in progress on the first phase from Ojota to Yaba.
Again, you learn lessons of purposeful, non-vain glorious leadership in all this. None of the housing estates nor other projects were named after Jakande with the exception of one of the ferries (for he also invested in water transportation system) that was christened ‘Baba Kekere’, the nickname that translated into ‘young Awolowo’, given to him. And although Chief Obafemi Awolowo, as leader of the Unity Party of Nigeria was also on hand to commission some of the housing estates, none was also named after him. Yet, the masses in their own wisdom called the housing estates, Jakande.
In all, what Jakande proved through his vision and mission, is that what is called good governance is possible through people-centred state planning and democratic management. And that in the place of the corruption-ridden contractual system of governance, the use of direct labour can actually help solve infrastructural problems confronting the society and humanity in Nigeria. Thus, encouraged by the examples of the likes of Jakande, despite being a bourgeois politician, we socialists, especially as organised around the Democratic Socialist Movement and the Socialist Party of Nigeria, continue to make the case for state ownership and working class democratic control and management of the commanding heights of the Nigerian economy so that collectively produced wealth could be used for collective development in contradistinction to privatization and commercialization programmes that continue to enrich a few rich while public infrastructures, including the likes of electricity, portable water, etc, continue to collapse. The labour, working class and students movements must rededicate themselves to this task and work to enthrone a government that stands on such pro-people agenda to bail Nigeria out of social, economic and political doldrums.
Finally, Jakande wasn’t without flaws including serving in the Abacha regime, but one is proud of the fact that, like Chief Segun Osoba, he went into government as a journalist and did not return with the baggage of corruption. More important, as I get set to deliver a lecture on Fake News and Democracy being organised by Political Science Students Association of LASU today, one can say that fundamentally, Jakande was not and is not fake, while he ran a government that was not fake and from which no fake news emanated. And that is by way of saying that fake news is a by product of failed or fake governance. Here indeed is the sub-text of my lecture.
– Arogundade is a respected journalist