By Adebayo Adejare
In a world where incorruptibility in public office is an exception rather than the rule’ where Governors act with impunity because the Constitution vests them with immunity, where the evaluation and public perception of gubernatorial performance is based upon commissioned reports that are exerggerrated and false, Governors continue to operate foreign bank accounts Governor Lateef Kayode Jakande’s tenure in Lagos State remains a symbol of Nigeria’s hope for good governance and incorruptible leadership and governance in the interest of and for the benefit of the masses.
Lateef Jakande’s ascention to the governorship of Lagos State is a matter of providence/destiny. He had led a revolt by Committee of friends members from Chief S. A Onitiri resulting in the shifting of the Committee Meetings to his own house.The diagreement was so deep that Chief Onitiri left Committee of Friends/UPN and joined the NPN in 1979. Like S. A. Onitiri, Jakande had served term of imprisonment 1962-1966) along with Chief Awolowo for treason. He also had worked as Editor of Chief Awolowo’s Newspaper the Tribune. His wife used to be an aide to Chief Mrs Awolowo. But it must be remembered and it is on record that Alhaji jakande was a signatory to one of the several Petitions that successfully agitated for the creation of Lagos State.
Since the other Parties’ candidates were “jokers” including the NPN candidate Sultan Adeniji Adele, the contest was strictly between the UPN Candidate Lateef Jakande and the NPP Candidate Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya a man clearly of a higher standing, greater social and political stature experience and education. Alhaji Jakande had been a Newspaper Editor but Adeniran Ogunsanya had been a Lawyer, former member of the National Assembly former Education Commissioner and a reputed consumate administrator. Jakande got excess free publicity from his constituency – the Press. He won the Gubernatoral Election convincingly. (Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya got his needed break as he was appointed into the Presidential entourage at President Shehu Sagari’s first visit to the US in 1980. His daughter currently serves as Secretary to the State Government and Ade, his son (my classmate at St Gregory’s is a distinguished member of the Lagos Bar)
Alhaji Lateef Jakande pursued the Party’s Four Cardinal Programes with dedication and vigour and he excelled! The UPN’s Cardinal Programs were: Free and Compulsory Education at all levels, Free Health Services, Full Employment, Mass Housing, At Innauguration on October 1st 1979, Alhaji Jakande not only confirmed these policies but abolished afternoon schooling in the state “with immediate effect”. Some, seeing the magitude of the administrative problems encountered, were sckeptical. Will he errect classrooms overnight to contain the excess student population? But somehow, he did it.He had set up a Committee that worked on the implementation of the masterplan during the three months after the election prior to being sworn in on October 1, 1979. The Government also guaranteed admission to every child of school age FREE OF CHARGE! Education was free at all levels. He then embarked on massive construction of schools all over the state. Party members at Ward level were mobilised to scout for vacant land and suggest to the Education Ministry whatever kind of schools they desired. Teacher Training Colleges were established overnight while another Commitee worked simultaneously on the establishment of a University for the State.College of Education Ijaniki was established and the free Teacher Training “crash” program was popular among young people unable to secure admission to any of the then existing seven universities.
In the health sector, sckeptics especially members of the NPN opposion and some elite also antipated failure. What they failed to understand was that Jakande and a few Awolowo devotees had understudied the then Soviet Communist model and had over the years developed (at least in their minds) their own model of Socialism. Also, these were programs started in the fifties during Chief awolowo’s tenure as Premier of Western Region. Moreover, the Party had meticulously educated its mambers and the public at large on its famous “four cardinal programs” which had endeared it to the electotate. Therefore, the focus was there and all talk was about implementation. The Lagos General Hospital and the Island Maternity were already bulging at the seams with overload of patients and stressed personnel and facilities. General Hospitals were established in Zones all over the State. I remember the first time I visited Gbagada General Hospital around 1982. The hospital was actually build in a swamp with no access road! Workers and patients alike had to park along the main road and walk to the Hospital! But I was able to verify that the free health program was actually being implemented. Health Services was brought to the people at the grassroots. Unlike in the previous era nobody had to travel more thatn 10 Miles to access either a General Hospital or a Health Clinic. Massive recruitment of health personnel from all over the world especially Cuba and The philipines was being done at the same time.
In execution of the party’s Mass Housing Program high-rise buildings were being constructed all over the state for low income earners defined to be those earning less that the Civil Cervice Level 8. The Government offered land to those whose income exceeded the limit. The beauty of the program was the affordability and the availability without discrimination. The Lagos state Development and Property Corporation launched several property developments schemes but its focus was on commercial and High Income Properties although it also participated in the State Mass Housing program.
How did Government construct so many Houses, Schools and other public facilities in so short a time? The secret is the State Bulk purchase Corporation and the Works Management Board. The Government simply bought building and other materials in bulk and split contracts into pieces so that more contractors were engaged on projects (sometimes competitively) simultanously. The savings achieved was incredible, the speed of execution was mind bugling!
Existing Markets were being expanded and new ones built. My friend Alhaji Habeeb (Accountant – distinguished alumnus of Kings College Lagos) was Executive Chairman Market Authority. Alhaja Abibatu Mogaji, the acclaimed leader of Market Women in the State was a faithful and loyal member of the Party and a Jakande Devotee.
Previous Military Administrations mere paid lip service to traditional/Alternative Medicine . Jakande established the Traditional Medicine Board headed by Late Chief J. O Lambo, who happened to also be his personal friend and confidant. (His “Babalawo”) More on Chief Dr J. O Lambo also my “Baba” later.
Lagos was already turning out to be a mega-city. With so much facilities provided foe citizens people poured in from North, East and South. There were also foreign Nationals from West and North Africa who had made the city their home apart from being an age-long international center of commerce. The Nation’s Administrative Capital had been moved to Abuja but only on paper as the congestion did not cease. Allsorts of vehicles were being dumped into the country from Europe and America ending up in Lagos.
The Military Government of General Olusegun Obasanjo had established the PARK AND RIDE System. President Obasanjo had personnally launched it with a Bus Ride himself from National Theatre Park to Lagos island. He had also insisted that National Assembly Members then quartered at Mile 2 Towers ride mini-Buses to Lagos. The ODD/EVEN Traffic System had been established with limited success. (Odd Numbered Vehicles plied the roads on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays while even Numbered Vehicles plied it on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Roads were free on weekends for all) Jakande administration attacked the problem headlong. It established the first State Traffic Management Authority (Road Marshals under the headship of my older friend Chief S. O Ige a distinguished Lagos Lawyer) Water Transportation was boosted by the establishment of the State Ferry Services corporation which immediately acquired its own fleet of boats. “ITA FAJI” was named after a famous Lagos Square while “BABA KEKERE” was a veiled refrence to Alhaji Lateef Jakande as the apparent heir to Chief Awolowo – a name that greatly provoked his enemies. Fed too renovated it Inland Waterways Ferry Services so that commuters from Mile 2 had option of using the State or Federal Ferry Services to Marina Lagos. (Both provided music on Board but the Fed provided the more “yuppy” music of Sunny Okosun and Fela anikulapo Kuti.) Private Tourism Companies hired these Boats for the Annual easter Boat Ride/ Picnic.Next, the Government contracted a famous French Consortium to Build a modern city Rail Transportation System – METROLINE PROJECT. The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Alhaji Shehu Sagari performed the official launch at Yaba Bus Stop which was to serve as the operational hub and land clearing already completed. The project was aborted by the Muhammadu Buhari Military Coup of December 31, 1983. (Sir Michael Otedola administration 1991 hired for a few months some trains from Nigerian Railway Corporation which like most of the programs of that administration just a caricature of what Lagos needed) It is a sad commentary on under Gov gbolahan Mudashiru’s Govt that succeeded Alhaji jakande’s the laudable Lagos Metroline project was cancelled without credible explanation or substitute and NO GOVERNOR to date has planned or proposed anything of that nature or magnitude. (Oba of Lagos, Oba Akiolu recently rightly blamed General Mohammadu Buhari for this act of wickedness on the part of his Government 1983-1985) Needless to say, the cancellation resulted in Court Case for breach of Contract and cost the State Billions of Naira. The 600 Million Naira Project would probably cost 600 Billion today and all hope had been lost until the Obasanjo Federal Government launched the still proposed Lagos Mega-City Project which hopefully would assist the present governor Governor Fashola to realise his dream of transforming Lagos into a commuters’ delight. Better late than never.
Governor Lateef Jakande had also establised a Parade Ground in Ikeja GRA which was used for a number of Independence Anniversary Parades but the Government of Sir Michael Otedola came, cancelled the project and allocated the land to individuals including his own son.
The small scale Industries Credit Scheme preceded the present Eko Bank. It was headed by Chief L.O. B Ekundayo, an Ikorodu man but Party Stalwart in Ebute Metta. “LOB” and I became close friends after contesting Party Primaries against each other in November 1982) More on him later. Although at the time an empty office, I realised the strategic nature of the functions of this parastatal and quickly secured its retainership for my Law Firm. I had secured the friendship of both the Managing Director as well as that of the Chief Accountant.
My good friend and neighbour (father of “Oloye”) Prince Oba Oke of Alagomeji-Yaba sumitted a proposal for the establishment of a State Insurance Corporation. Governor Jakande approved, established and made him the pioneer Chair of the Board of Directors. LASACO Insurance has been a flourishing business in the market. I was appointed Director of the corporation at an annual stipend of 4000 Naira which in todays currency would probably be no less than 80,000 Naira.
Despite so much power, Alhaji Jakande ran the administration with compassion. Those who had built houses without proper approvals were allowed to regularise by payment of a paltry 1000 Naira. Inland Revenue Offices were decentralised and the process for obtaining Tax Clearance streamlined. Moreover it was patent to all that taxpayers funds were being expended on visible projects. The focus of the governments’ program was “the masses” and it could be said that the nearest Nigerians ever came to experiencing a government run for the greatest good of the greatest number was that of Governor Lateef Jakande.
In the second and final Installment of this article I will address Jakande’s Party Leadership Style, his appointments and relations with other leaders and his political misjudgements and administratve errors and my personal relationship with him.