The first elected governor of Lagos State, Lateef Jakande, joined the government of the late military dictator, Sani Abacha, against his principles, his son told journalists on Monday.
Seyi Jakande delved into his father’s private life during the maiden edition of the Lateef Jakande Annual Memorial Lecture at Sheraton Hotel and Towers in Ikeja, Lagos, organised by the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE).
Born in 1929, the late Mr Jakande served as civilian governor of Lagos from 1979 to 1983 and later as a federal minister of works and housing under the Sani Abacha military regime.
He died on 11 February 2021 at 91.
The programme was themed “Lateef Jakande: The Man, His Journalism, His Politics.”
The lecture series was established to honour the memory of the founding president of the guild, who played a crucial role in the formation and development of the professional body for editors.
Speaking more on his father’s private life, the younger Jakande said that in 1993, after the presidential election was annulled, the deceased was approached by the late Moshood Abiola, the presumed winner of the poll.
“The late Chief MKO Abiola of blessed memory appealed to Alhaji Jakande to come and serve under the late head of state Sani Abacha,” he said.
“Alhaji Jakande was reluctant at first because this was against his policies, against his principles, but Chief MKO Abiola was adamant and insisted…you must accept.
“He took it to his committee of friends. As always he always put things through the democratic process, and they put a vote to it.
“…I think about 99.9% said he must join the cabinet.”
Speaking about his father’s achievement during his time as a federal minister, Mr Jakande said that although he constructed about 120,000 housing units while governor in Lagos, he met a challenge — limited funds.
“He went back to his thinking box. He said, “What can we do?” And they came up with the idea of Banana Island.
He said his father sand-filled it and “sold it to the rich, generated money from there and subsidised the housing scheme.”
Speaking further, he said the late Jakande never allocated any portion of the land to himself or a family member.
He said his mother deserved to be celebrated for allowing the deceased to be selfless.
“She has allowed the Alhaji story to be what we have heard today. I want to thank her because she deserves a whole…
He further said that during the deceased’s administration as a governor, he “never allocated or gave anything to any member of his family. She (Mrs Jakande) stayed and lived with him at his Ilupeju residence,” even as the first lady.
He said that when the former governor built public schools, “he moved us away from the air-conditioned private school.”
“He believed that what is good for the goose is good for the gander.”
The young Jakande appealed to the state government to rename the Lagos State University (LASU) as Lateef Jakande University in his memory.
Segun Osoba, a former governor of Ogun State, described the late Mr Jakande as a father of journalism whose influence cut across the country.
He said as a public officer, Mr Jakande created a “political clinic, a consulting room” where he met with ordinary citizens.
“He lived in his own house, drove his own car, a whole governor,” he said. “He will sit down in his conference room (at his residence) and listen to everybody before he goes to bed.
“I don’t think I have seen any governor that is as grass rooted as Alhaji Jakande.”
In his welcome speech, the NGE president, Eze Anaba, characterised the former governor as “an incredible talent” who lived an impactful life with a footprint everywhere.
His life amplified the values of honesty, integrity, equality and fairness, he said.
“He told the stories of the powerless and held the powerful to account. He demonstrated commitment to journalistic freedom.”
The Lagos State governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu was represented at the event by his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat, who attested to the exemplary life the deceased lived.
He said that his father was the commissioner for transport during the deceased’s tenure as the governor of Lagos.
Mr Hamzat also spoke concerning the aftermath of the 2023 elections and the use of BVAS by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He said that public commentators are not prioritising issues that ought to be prioritised. He added that they were discussing an election that had been won already.
He said they were not telling the truth” about the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).
Mr Hamzat noted that voting was not done on the BVAS machine but on ballot papers, adding that the controversy around the use of BVAS to transmit election results was not needed.
Present at the event were the younger Mr Jakande’s wife, Sikirat, and former presidential spokesperson Garba Shehu, among others.
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