Olawale Okunniyi, National Secretary of Project Nigeria Movement, a platform for leaders of thought and elder statesmen/women in Nigeria, has described the death of the first civilian governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, as a monumental loss to his family and the entire people of Nigeria.
Jakande died on Thursday at the age of 91 in his Lagos residence.
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The deceased was a journalist, an administrator and a politician who served as the governor of Lagos State between 1979 and 1983.
Okunniyi in a statement on Friday said Nigeria had lost one of its exemplary political leaders and administrators.
Okunniyi, a former member of the Presidential Committee on Constitution Reforms headed by former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, while bemoaning the exit of Jakande, said he was privileged to have worked with the late elder statesman.
“I was first privileged to work closely with Baba Kekere, (as Alhaji Lateef Jakande, the first civilian governor of Lagos State was fondly being hailed by his admirer, loyalists, and supporters) in the wake of our struggle against the one-party rule of the Peoples Democratic Party, following the flawed 2007 presidential election won by President Umaru Yar'Adua.
“It all started after I was instructed by our revered leader in PRONACO, Chief Anthony Enahoro, and Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Chairman of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, both now of blessed memory, to set up an exploratory meeting for selected leaders of opposition political parties and progressive politicians to work out an electoral alliance or merger of opposition political parties and allied political movements in the country to check the excesses of the PDP at that time.
“The first of the exploratory and substantive meetings, which was hosted by my humble self at the Lagos Airport Hotel, was chaired by Alhaji Lateef Jakande on the insistence of both Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Alhaji Balarabe Musa as Chief Tony Enahoro himself could not make the meeting. Ever since then, as the secretary of the movement, I became very close to Baba LKJ, who saw some potential in me and started mentoring me.
"To the extent that whenever I appeared at his Ilupeju residence, he would instantly dismiss any matter before him to see me immediately and most times privately, for us to talk politics and compare notes on the state of the nation. According to him 'politics is life and service to humanity, we must take it seriously'.
“LKJ was later to defend and support me stoutly during my political travail of that era, when some gladiators within the movement started scheming for control of the movement. He stood by me staunchly till the end, always nudging me not to be ruffled but to be steadfast and focused on the goal. According to him to 'Keep your eyes on the ball always on the political field'.
“He always made sure he honoured every invitation received from me, even at very short notice, not deterred by his advanced age and he was always inviting me for occasional private sessions to compare notes on the state of the nation. After some time, he drafted me into his Committee of Friends, his own inner political group, which used to meet every fortnight.
“The last assignment I carried out for him was in November 2020, when I was requested to go and receive a lifetime achievement award on his behalf from all past and present students of Jakande Schools in Lagos State, who were celebrating the 40th anniversary of the creation of their schools by LKJ. The event, which took place at Festac Town in Lagos, was facilitated by Comrade Joseph Eva, a foremost beneficiary of Jakande's free education in Lagos and since the event was held in Festac Town in Lagos, I insisted that my own mentee and 'aburo' (younger brother) who was a former Chairman of Amuwo, Comrade Ayodele Adewale, should lead our delegation to the event, which was highly successful.
“There are so many political experiences I have gained from relating with Alhaji Lateef Jakande, especially on how to conduct meetings calmly and meticulously and to draft a concise communiqué of a meeting. Baba during the final stages of our movement engagement, became the chair of our manifesto committee and he proved that he was truly a political general with the way he handled all the young Turks in the committee. He was a very inspiring workaholic.
“In rounding off, I wish to recall a major meeting of the movement chaired by Chief Enahoro in 2009 and Baba Jakande assisted a great deal in conducting the meeting. After the deliberations, Chief Enahoro invited the communiqué drafting team to read out their draft but what came out was not acceptable to the leaders of The Buhari Organisation, TBO, and other top leaders present at the parley. So, LKJ just suddenly took his pen and asked for a paper at 80 years of age and started drafting a fresh communiqué, which was later endorsed by the house. That was the kind of selfless and humble leader LKJ was in his lifetime. LKJ will be greatly missed by humanity.”
Saharareporters, New York