The dying final month of Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande,first civilian governor of Lagos State, introduced again reminiscences of the late Nineteen Seventies and early Eighties when, as a younger man, I used to be enrapturedby politics, with out being a politician. Aristotlefamously mentioned that man is, by nature, a “political animal”. Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his prodigious disciple, Alhaji Jakande, popularly referred to as Baba Kekere, made me such a gregarious political junkie.
Wanting again now, at 60, I am amazed concerning the two leaders’ affect on me. But,the rationale was easy: I used to be completely captivated by their lives and politics: their grass-to-grace tales; their disciplined and purposeful lives; their ardour for training; their dedication to people-oriented politics; their exploits in journalism, their achievements in authorities, and many others.
In 1979, Chief Awolowo, then chief of Unity Occasion of Nigeria, UPN, got here to Ondo, my hometown, to marketing campaign for that 12 months’s presidential election.
The city was agog to welcome him, and I noticed an intellectually-deep visionary chief who may run any nation and remodel it by concepts, competence and motion. By the point I went to Lagos in 1980, after my secondary training, I used to be fully fixated on Awolowo.
However, arriving in Lagos, I started to listen to about Alhaji Jakande, also called LKJ, who was, by then, the governor. I started to learn that he was Awolowo’s “carbon copy”, therefore the sobriquet Baba Kekere.That he, too, was a self-made man, who did nice exploits in journalism, changing into editor-in-chief of Awolowo’s newspaper, Tribune, and the primary black African chairman of the Worldwide Press Institute.
Being a pupil journalist, I liked studying about Jakande’s journalistic feats. Then, one thing occurred. My “Letter to the Editor” was printed in Jakande’s Lagos Information. That was the primary time my identify appeared in a newspaper. The foray into mainstream journalism elevated my admiration for LKJ. Each time he was talking on the Nigerian Institute of Journalism,I’d go there to take heed to him!
As governor, Jakande’s status as Baba Kekere was indeniable; he replicatedthe results-oriented zeal that Awolowo confirmed as premier. There isn’t any area to rehash LKJ’s monumental achievements as governor. However suffice it to say that he wasn’tcalled The Motion Governor for nothing.From training to well being, from housing to move, Jakande reworked Lagos State. Like Awolowo, LKJ achieved many “firsts”, and I used to be enthralled by each of them!
In these days, Chief Awolowowent overseas yearly for medical check-ups. Governor Jakande was at all times on the airport to welcome him again dwelling, and Papa Awo would go straight to Jakande’s home in Ilupeju. I, too, was at all times on the airport to welcome Awo, and would comply with the motorcade from Ikeja to Ilupeju. They’d enter and spend a while inside, and I’d wait patiently exterior till all of them got here out! Do not chortle! The prospect of seeing Baba and Baba Kekere collectively was mesmerising!
However what at all times amazed me was Jakande’s nondescript home, as governor, which was the identical home he lived in earlier than he grew to become governor. There was a police station reverse the home, however it was there earlier than he grew to become governor. Jakande additionally drove, as governor, the identical Toyota automobile he drove earlier than changing into governor. Put merely, as governor, Jakande by no means lived in authorities home or drove authorities automobile!
He jogged my memory of Nehemiah, governor of Judah for 12 years, who, in contrast to his predecessors, didn’t eat “the bread of the governor”. As he put it in Nehemiah 5:18: “But, I refused to say the governor’s meals allowances as a result of the individuals already carried a heavy burden.” Right this moment, regardless of widespread poverty, state governors should not solely claiming large remunerations and allowances, however they’re additionally looting state treasuries.
Nicely, let’s return to the reminiscing as a result of my fixation with Awolowo and Jakande solely acquired extra thrilling. In 1983, the UPN was holding its nationwide conference on the Nationwide Theatre, Iganmu. The environment was charged. Chief Awolowo most popular the governors to hunt re-election unopposed, however their rivals wished state primaries. The conference could be fascinating! So, I went to the Nationwide Theatre to witness the occasion.
However there was a snag. I wasn’t a card-carrying member of UPN, and, thus, not a delegate to the conference. I stood exterior the Nationwide Theatre because the politicians arrived with talking-drummers and praise-singers. It was an actual carnival environment!
I wished to enter the corridor, however, sadly, had no go. All of the sudden, there was a go on the ground; it had dropped off from somebody. The safety guard took it, checked out me, and mentioned: “I can see you are determined to enter, take this card!” It was as if I had gained a jackpot. Contained in the corridor, I used to be rubbing shoulders with the governors and different outstanding UPN politicians.
Then, the assembly began. Chief Awolowo launched the difficulty of the primaries, and intense debate adopted. All through, Awolowo mentioned nothing. After everybody had spoken, he summed up and mentioned the bulk wished state primaries and, so, state primaries there could be. Awolowo was a democrat by means of and thru; he wasn’t a godfather. Right this moment, the governorship candidate could be handpicked and anointed within the chief’s home!
One thing else occurred. Because the assembly progressed, there was a giant bang, like an explosion. These on the excessive desk ran for canopy, caps and strolling sticks flung in numerous instructions! However Awolowo and Jakande sat nonetheless, exhibiting completely no panic. Nice leaders with interior reserves and braveness!
Reality is: Nigeria is in a large number, partially, as a result of leaders like Awolowo and Jakande should not in cost; in the present day’s ‘leaders’ lack their imaginative and prescient, competence and dynamism.
Chief Awolowo, who would have been 112 this month, on March 6, and Alhaji Jakande, who died on February 11, aged 91, vastly influenced my youth. When Awolowo died in 1987, aged 78, I devoted a difficulty of the campus journal I edited to his reminiscence. I’d have executed the identical for Jakande. Might his soul relaxation in peace!