SIR: When my article on the late Great US Senator, Comrade Elijah Cummings was published in The Guardian, November 3, 2019, I had no idea that I would write a similar eulogy on Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, LKJ-the Awoist, Baba Kekere (popularly called for his closeness to Awo), the political apostle of the late leader Obafemi Awolowo. Baba Kekere was the right-hand man of the late sage leader Obafemi Awolowo during their Political Odyssey in Nigeria.
Baba Kekere was a former Governor of Lagos State and Federal Minister of Public Works and Housing in Nigeria. Alhaji Lateef Jakande was an Awoist par excellence, a man of the people; and the unrivaled philanthropist of Lagos State and Nigeria. Unlike the commercialism of some of the current vultures who called themselves school owners in Nigeria, Baba’s free and well-managed education for all Lagosians was the key to the life he gave to free all disadvantaged citizens from Lagos State.
The only political mistake Alhaji Jakande made was his acceptance to serve under the cruel administration of Abacha. Baba believed he could work in Abacha’s lair and change the “Hitlerite” and despotic military ruler. Baba Kekere’s political pedigree was tainted, but his vintage, philanthropic, and quintessential virtue remained intact throughout his twilight years. The good and the bad that we all experience live after us. But easy-going Baba has remained one of the best administrators in Lagos State and Nigeria.
The foundations and infrastructure of Lagos State under the leadership of the late Alhaji Jakande have been a model for so many governments in Africa. He transformed Lagos State into a modern city. The mismanagement of Baba’s structural heritage by the people as noticed in the dilapidated FESTAC is regrettable. The town of Festac, initially conceived as “Festival Town” or “FESTAC Village”, is a residential area built as a residential area for the participants of the second World Festival of Black Arts and Culture of 1977, labeled “Festac77” . Lagos State’s neglected school structures and other iconic Jakande imprints are some of the sad tales of a nation in crisis of self-inflicted puzzles.
In the long run, Jakande became a pioneer for his contemporary successors in Lagos State and Nigeria in general. He modeled how democracy should work in a civilized society. Ultimately, the distinguished figures and hallmark of Jakande’s works in Lagos State will surpass his human errors when Nigeria’s history is well written. Baba Kekere would undoubtedly be one of the best to come to Lagos State and Nigeria.
May Baba Kekere’s gentle soul rest in the hands of Allah (SWT).
Yahaya Balogun wrote this brief eulogy from Arizona, United States of America