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LKJ: Still the measuring rod

LKJ: Still the measuring rod

By Yinka Odumakin

WHEN Chief Samuel Ayodele Adebanjo marked his 90th birthday in Isanya Ogbo last Tuesday, it was exactly a graphic demonstration of the saying that Oyingbo market is oblivious of who did not come.


The sleepy town after Ijebu-Ode had never witnessed such a convergence of who-is-who in Nigeria.From the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo who represented the Federal Government, Host Governor Ibikunle Amosun, the Governors of Oyo and Osun states,powerful delegations from the South-South led by Pa E.K Clark,the South East under Chief John Nnia Nwodo and the Middlle-Belt under Dr. Bala Takaya.

There were powerful monarchs, former Governors, serving Senators, captains of industry and movers and shakers of society .In spite of being a star-studded occasion,I noticed the absence of one man: Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande,the first elected Governor of Lagos state .

When I visited Pa Adebanjo in Ogbo four days later ,I asked him if Chief Jakande was invited to the event and he said he insisted an invitation must be sent to him and he mentioned the person he detailed.

I placed a call to Alhaji who was not available but was able to get his wife and she told me they did not get the invitation. I handed the phone to the celebrant who in spite of his visible anger that the card was not delivered said to Alhaja “I was not happy that I did not see LKJ and you his wife whom we handed over to him. Please help me give my apology to your darling husband.I am so sorry for this dereliction.”He then mentioned to her that he was planning a thanksgiving service for the following Sunday .

Alhaja Jakande called me on Saturday evening to ask for the Church address which I promptly sent to her. And it was a great delight on Sunday seeing Alhaji Jakande and the wife graciously present among the worshipers.

Graciousness has never been in short supply for the Action Governor. I remember the story of one Mr. Agboola Sani who used to be a Staff of Tribune Newspapers when Alhaji Jakande was the Managing Director of the oldest surviving private  newspaper  in Nigeria.

Sani’s wife just had a baby and a day to the  naming ceremony he had no money to fund the event and Salary had been delayed .He barged into the MD’s office and spoke rudely to him that he wanted his salary and was tired of working and his salary not paid on time.

Jakande did not react to his anger but chose to attend to his need.He gently told him to go and call the Accountant. When the Accountant  came,he asked him for the cash he had at hand which he instructed should be paid to Sani and brought out his personal check to complete the payment .

Sani collected his pay and left but concluded that with the rudeness he displayed to Jakande that was his last day in the organization. After his party ,he chose not to return to Tribune and went to seek another job at The Punch.When his boss at Tribune saw his by-line,he sent for him.He returned to Imalefalafia not sure if it was going to be a peaceful encounter.

To his consternation,Jakande brought out the edition of The Punch where his story appeared and said “What is this ?Go back to your desk my friend .”

Sani was shell-shocked.He didn’t believe the grace shown and doubted if he could have shown such to another person.He always gave the testimony .

The officiating priest in Ogbo was to bring home the quintessential Jakande when he acknowledged his presence “I want to acknowledge the presence of our father without whose faithful implementation of the UPN free education programme somebody like me would not have gone to school.”As Alhaji Jakande rose on his feet, the whole congregation stood up cheering one of the brightest men of his era who brilliantly defined what public service should be.

As the celebration of Jakande went on, there was heaviness in my heart as I remembered the all -night pained I was sentenced to a few days earlier when a colleague at Ife who is now a Principal of a school in Ondo state shared on our set platform that his school was not presenting any candidate for NECO this year because no parent of any of his students could afford to pay the N17,000 fees for the exams. Unfortunately,he brought up the issue when it was late for any intervention. I stood in that church wondering what testimony such pupils would give about their leaders years down the line. There stood a leader whose impact was being recalled 34 years after leaving office!

And Alhaji Jakande is a phenomenon we shouldn’t gloss over. Before he became Governor in Lagos in 1979,Lagos ran shifts in its schools.Within few months in office, he constructed thousands of classrooms to make that history.The schools he built were criticised for not being state-of -the art but they produced thousands upon thousands who are holding their own around the world now.I met a Professor of Neurology in America some years back who proudly told me he attended Jakande School.

Go all over Lagos today, there is hardly any community you reach without still feeling the impact of LKJ. He didn’t build any monument for himself in the four years that he served. His works however registered him in the minds of people as they have named all the estates and schools he built after him without signboards. There are communities that did not see government before and after Jakande.

The popular Lekki area of Lagos was sand-filled by Jakande without allocating a plot to himself. In any case , as Governor of the state he lived in his private residence in Ilupeju.We waded through water to enter the house last year when he celebrated his 88tth birthday . I shuddered to see the environment in which the man who till date made the profoundest intervention in the life of Lagos lives.

You cannot find any skyscraper in the city that belongs to him and he is not paid any extravagant pension for the quality service he rendered to the aquatic state.But he must be a fulfilled man listening to the adoration that comes his way now and then.

It must be said that for leaders like Jakande,the most important thing was public need against private greed.When one looks at the trillions Lagos has spent in recent years with little investment in human development ,you are bound to venerate Jakande .The year that Lagos budget in the Jakande years hit one billion was in 1984.I recall the headline then “Lagos Hits N1b.”Jakande did not implement that budget as the Buhari coup of December 31,1983 ended that Republic.That military junta terminated the Metro Line project conceived by that great administrator and paid in compensation to the contractors what would have completed that project . Thirty four years after ,the Leader who cancelled that project that would have resolved the transportation chaos in the city returned to commission a bus park!

In people like Jakande comes a valid point by those who argue that there  are possibilities even in the current structures of Nigeria if you have leaders who are committed to the welfare of the people.We saw the impact purposeful governance can make in the life of a people under Baba Kekere.

The flip side however is that a Jakande would always be a happenstance in a badly structured polity with what should be the norm an accident. But even a restructured polity cannot be left in the hands of thieving rulers. A restructured polity with the Jakandes as managers holds limitless possibilities .

Thanks LKJ for being a measuring rod in public service in the order of your Leader, Oloye Obafemi Awolowo.

…Balarabe Musa’s satanic verses

FORMER  Governor of Kaduna State in the Second Republic ,Alhaji Balarabe Musa in his interview with SUN Newspaper on Sunday expressed dangerous thoughts that could harm the polity and we should not allow him to get away with it.

Musa castigated TY Danjuma for calling on the people to defend themselves against killer herdsmen “It is a reckless statement. As a leader he shouldn’t make negative statements. I know he was pained about insecurity in the country, but as a leader we should not make things worse by our comments. We contribute to make things better in spite of the bitter position of our hearts. So what he has said, I think, it was inconsistent with a responsible leader.”

The “responsible” Musa  shortly after excoriating Danjuma for making a call to self-defense recognised by the constitution delved into treasonable forecast as he apparently fears the hegemony he truly represents risks losing power :

“There is every reason for the army to come back. People, who are saying that army will not come back are only being apolitical, stupid and deceiving people. There is one element, if we are not careful, that can bring back the army. When the situation gets to the worst, and I think it is as bad as it is now, the army will soon realise that they are paying more than the civilians, more soldiers die in the process of bringing about stability. The level of unity and consciousness within the Armed Forces is greater than that of civilians. The army may come out and say, ‘Look, we cannot pay greater prize for the unity and stability of the nation because of the actions or inactions of irresponsible civilians, let’s us take over power and clear the road, we cannot rely on the parliament, we cannot rely on governments as far as we are concerned, we are powerless, let’s take over power so that we can bring about normalcy. Is that not what happened in 1966? For anybody to say the army cannot come back is ignoring the level of irresponsibility by civilians.”

He thereafter began to speak in some tongues that made no sense to rational minds putting responsible organisations asking that Nigeria be run as a proper country in the same league with terror group and armed robbers  “The  unfortunate thing is that we are moving towards anarchy; be it Niger Delta and the ethnic separatists, whether you call them ACF, Ohanaeze, Afenifere; add to that list armed robbers, kidnappers and Boko Haram. Looking at the case of separatists, I agree that they have not been identified with criminal activities, but you know their actions could lead to that. So even though they have not been grouped as criminals like armed robbers, the actions of the ethnic separatists could have the same effect. If President Buhari does not watch Afenifere, Ohanaeze, ACF and IPOB, very carefully, they will bring about a worse situation than Boko Haram. If we don’t know this, let’s remember what led to the 1966 coup. So these separatist groups should be watched even though they are not involved in criminality. But they are engaged in what could lead to criminal activities”. This was what led to operation “wetie” in the South West and ‘Araba’ in the North, which led to the 1966 coup. All these are the activities of separatist organisations like ACF, Afenifere, Ohanaeze and so on who are not into criminality per se, but they should be watched as much as armed robbers, insurgents and other political criminals like Niger Delta militia.”

Does the above makes sense, Alhaji Musa?Is everything ok?

And what is your position on the Fulani herdsmen  killing people on daily basis in our country as I found none in your interview? What comes to me is a quote often attributed to Mark Twain and Abraham Lincon :

“Sometimes it is better to keep quiet and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubts ”

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