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    Home EDUCATION Baba Kekere the Great - The Nation News Nigeria

    Baba Kekere the Great – The Nation News Nigeria

    By Tunji Adegboyega

    Although I have always maintained my column even when on leave, I decided to break this tradition this time around because it is like one is only engaging in weekly monologue. Those for whom the messages may concern have continued to be unperturbed about what is written about them or their governments. As a matter of fact, the more people comment on worsening national affairs, the worse things become. But, as my people say, someone who closes his eyes just because he does not want to see a bad person, stands the risk of not knowing when a good person will pass by.

    If I won’t join in singing Alhaji Lateef Jakande’s praise simply because of a personal tradition that should not be cast in stone, who else would I eulogise? Only the mischievous will see an elephant and say it seems something just passed by. The passage of a distinguished journalist and administrative maestro of Alhaji Jakande’s stature should be an opportunity to celebrate his life and times. At least this would be a refreshing departure from celebrating the wrong persons and values, people who are not adding value to our lives but are, instead, increasing our woes.

    Jakande, the first civilian governor of Lagos State (1979-1983), died on February 11, aged 91. He was a man that many Lagosians would never forget in a hurry. His great deeds are still speaking, more than 38 years after he left the stage as governor. Whereas some governors are forgotten as soon as they left office, Alhaji Jakande’s memory would continue to linger in the minds of Lagosians years after his transition.

    Pardon me if I start his government’s achievements from the seemingly mundane. You will understand why as you read on. The Jakande administration played a significant part in the abolition of night soil men system in the state. The government made water closet toilets available to many homes, including my grandmother’s house at 16, Berkley Street in Ebute-Metta. My dad had made arrangement for the water system there before the Jakande government’s promise. He was not based in Lagos then. Indeed, he had ensured the ground was dug in preparation for the transformation. I remember how we all thought the Jakande government’s promise on water closet toilets was one of those never-intended-to-be fulfilled promises by politicians. But, before we could say Jack Robinson, labourers had swung into action, they brought blocks to complete the work in my grandmother’s house and also ensured that other houses were provided the facility from start to finish. There was no discrimination whether along political or any other line, despite the fact that the Jakande/Rafiu Jafojo ticket was a Muslim-Muslim one.

    Really, it was difficult to believe that a state government would honour such a promise. These days, many governors would tell you ‘I cannot afford to do that’; when they meant the state government lacked the resources to embark on such a gigantic project. To the credit of that administration, it started the project and, like dream, completed it in many homes, thus helping to number the days of the night soil men on the streets of cosmopolitan Lagos.

    Alhaji Jakande’s government built the current Lagos State Secretariat which houses all the state ministries as well as the Round House hitherto occupied by all subsequent governors of the state. The administration it was that built the Lagos State House of Assembly Complex, Lagos State Television, Radio Lagos, Lagos State University (LASU), General Hospital in zones all over the state, with assurance of free health care.

    His government also built low cost houses in Ijaye, Dolphin, Oke-Afa, Ije, Abesan, Iponri, Ipaja, Abule Nla, Epe, Amuwo-Odofin, Anikantamo, Surulere, Iba, Ikorodu, Badagry, Isheri/Olowu, Orisigun, etc.; established the water management board and waste disposal board in 1980. Jakande’s government constructed the Adiyan Water Works to increase water supply,

    modernised and expanded the Iju Water Works which was first commissioned in 1915. This increased daily capacity from 159 million to 204 million litres per day. The government constructed, rehabilitated and resurfaced Epe/Ijebu-Ode Road, Oba Akran Avenue, Toyin Street, Town Planning Way, Alimosho-Idimu-Egbe Road, Idimu-Iba-LASU Road, the new Secretariat Road and several others, including construction of Victoria Island/Epe Road, thereby creating an ‘oil rig’ for Lagos State. Even our dear Berkley Street was tarred almost to my grandmother’s verandah. Jakande’s government established asphalt plant for the Department of Public Works, Electricity Board for rural electrification, with provision of street lights; modernised, expanded and commissioned Onikan Stadium in 1982.

    His government established a singular school system by abolishing the afternoon session in schools, and ensured genuine free education in Lagos State. Many of the beneficiaries of this policy are in influential  positions today.

    It was to the Jakande administration’s credit that the number of primary schools increased to 812 with 533,001 pupils (against 605 primary schools with 434,545 pupils he met in 1979), and secondary schools to 223 with 167,629 students (against 105 schools with 107,835 students in 1979).

    His government constructed 11, 729 classrooms with the maximum of 40 children per class between March and August 1980. By 1983, he had constructed over 22,000 classrooms.

    The government inaugurated two commercial passenger boats christened “Baba Kekere” and “Itafaji” to run the Mile 2 – Marina (CMS) route via the lagoon in July 1983 to mark the official launch of the Lagos State Ferry Services. His government established the first Traffic Management Authority (Road Marshals), small scale Industries credit scheme which preceded the EKO Bank, LASACO Insurance, expanded existing markets and built new ones, as well as established Traditional Medicine Board. As Fela Anikulapo-Kuti would ask: “wetin remain self”! That is, what else is there to achieve?

    But for the then Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari’s opposition to the metro line that Alhaji Jakande’s government wanted to establish in Lagos, the former federal capital would have gone far ahead of the primitive ‘okada’ mentality that now rules the state, because there was nothing like ‘okada’ in the Jakande era. Lagos would thus have been saved the menace that ‘okada’ riders now constitute to the city, due largely to the ineptitude and corruption that define governance in many states that majority of the ’okada’ riders hail from. In a more discerning country, this would have been a serious political liability for the retired general.

    Considering that Lagos State under Jakande was also simultaneously embarking on free education, a cardinal programme of his then Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), founded by the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolwo of blessed memory, these programmes and projects initiated by the Jakande administration were enough to last a lifetime.

    If we realise that Lagos State internally generated revenue even as at the time of the Bola Ahmed Tinubu era in 1999 was about N600m monthly 15 years later, we would better appreciate the sacrifice, honesty of purpose and rigorous thinking that went into public administration in the Jakande era. So little resources begetting incredibly gigantic programmes and projects. Most governors today would naked their states to deliver even run-of-the-mill results.

    Interestingly, Alhaji Jakande did not ask for any fabulous retirement package despite the magnificent ways his government touched the lives of millions of Lagosians. It is people who are not adding value to the lives of Nigerians or those of them that are subtracting from the people that are hankering after greedy retirement packages. It just shows how fast debased our value system has been. Obviously there is a dearth of selfless leaders in the country.

    Rather than milk the people dry to be comfortable, whether in or out of office, as many governors are won’t to do today, Alhaji Jakande’s Spartan lifestyle is something to emulate. I remember his visit to my church, The African Church Cathedral Salem, Ebute-Metta, Lagos, some years ago. The man still came in his usual outmoded Toyota Crown, several years after leaving office. I do not know how not having cars replaced at tax-payers’ expense every four years demeaned his stature. A case of empty vessels making the most noise.

    Alhaji Jakande was a consummate journalist who proved that there is nothing fetish or mystical about governance. He showed that he could not only talk or write about good governance; he could also deliver it. Many people in leadership positions today have turned governance into something akin to bean cake that the aged masticate with a lot of efforts, as if battling with a tough meat or bone. There were no airs around him as governor. Indeed, he demystified the office. When we chronicle what Jakande did in four years and three months, and with little resources, then we would realise that many governors are only deceiving us today by being all excuses when they should be brandishing their achievements. The more resources they have, the more excuses they give for non-performance, corruption or incompetence. The more time they have to deliver, the more they keep asking for more time. Alhaji Jakande left indelible marks in Lagos within a short period of four years and three months. He never had the opportunity of a full second term (which many governors have but still had little or nothing to show for) because of the December 31, 1983 coup which threw away the baby with the bath water. The coup not only removed the inept and corrupt Alhaji Shehu Shagari administration but also swept away the performing Jakande administration. Alhaji Jakande’s achievements are sufficient justification for a maximum single term of five years for election seekers that some people are championing. It is enough proof that there is nothing any serious governor wants to do that cannot be done in four or maximum of five years to six years.

    Although some of his projects, like housing estates and schools were dismissed as too cheap and unbefitting, the fact is that the schools were designed largely to take care of the exigencies of the moment, to be improved upon later. It is yet to be seen how the afternoon school sessions that he abolished could have worked without such temporary arrangement. Again, in spite of the criticisms, many of his housing projects are still on ground and they took care of the housing needs of many people at the time. Indeed, none of the criticisms, including Alhaji Jakande’s decision to serve as minister under the Abacha regime, a costly political miscalculation, no doubt, (and which almost ruined him politically), could obliterate the good works that Jakande did as governor. Succeeding generations of public officers have a lot to emulate from Baba Kekere.



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