Alhaji Lateef Jakande

By Tayo Ogunbiyi

The concept of leadership has always been of tremendous interest to classical thinkers as well as contemporary political and management scholars as our world continues on the path of progressive evolution. On the other hand, visionary leadership theory rose to prominence in 1980-90s, and can be traced back to the political sociology writings of Max Weber and James Macgregor Burns. Visionary leadership molds have a twin focal point on who a leader is as well as what a leader does, merging both the trait and behavioral theories of leadership.

Visionary leaders are exceptional because they possess a deep sense of personal purpose coupled with an unshakable self-confidence in the ability to realize this purpose. They also have a willingness to take personal risks and make sacrifices in order to realize their vision. They anticipate change and are proactive, rather than reactive to events. They focus on opportunities, not on problems. They have a winning mentality and will never rationalize failure. A real visionary leader accomplishes great feats by drawing on innate inner strength and as such is not often moved by external obstacles.

In Nigeria, Lagos State is commonly regarded as the nation’s ‘Center of Excellence’. Truly, in terms of its socio-economic uniqueness, Lagos remains a trendsetter in Nigeria. It accounts for over 60% of Nigeria’s industrial and commercial activities; 70% of national maritime cargo freight, over 80% of international aviation traffic and over 50% of Nigeria’s energy consumption. The two seaports in Lagos account for 70 percent of the sea trade in the country.

However, in as much as Lagos’ socio-economic indices are plausibly mind-blowing, it is actually the quality of its political leadership that has really defined the ‘State of Aquatic Splendour’. Since its creation in 1967, Lagos State has been blessed with visionary leaders whose vision and thoughts have molded the State to the path of sustained greatness. One of such leaders is Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, popularly referred to as LKJ, the State’s first democratically elected governor.

One of the golden eras in the socio-political evolution of Lagos State was, without a doubt, between October 1, 1979 and December 31, 1983 when LKJ held sway as governor. From the outset, he had clearly promised to give Lagos a purposeful leadership. Upon inauguration, LKJ pledged to model his government after that of the defunct Western Region of Nigeria, from 1952 to 1959, headed by Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He said: “That Government was the most efficient, the most dynamic, and the most responsive of all the Governments of the federation. That Government was the country’s pacesetter- the first to do all good things that others later copied. There has never been a government like it in Africa before or since.”

True to his words, LKJ assiduously went to work to realize his vision. There is hardly any sector that the magical hands of this visionary leader did not transform. LKJ simply took governance to an un-imaginable height in Lagos State. Till date, many of his populist policies and programmes, especially in the housing, public transportation and education sectors, still endear him to all and sundry.

His passion for the development of Lagos State knows no bound. The ambitious Lagos metro line project, which, if it had seen the light of the day, would have revolutionized public transportation in the state, was conceived by his administration. Till date, some of the Housing Estates he established across various locations such as Iba, Isolo, Iponri, Ejigbo etc, are still serving the housing needs of Lagosians.

It was under his administration that movement into State’s current Secretariat at Alausa, Ikeja, began. LKJ reportedly attached so much urgency to the construction of the present government secretariat that he was so bent on the relocation plan that he virtually caught everyone unawares when it finally happened. According to him, if it was not done when it took place, there would be no appropriate time to do so. So, the State holds the present secretariat’s vision to him.

Being a consummate journalist, and following the trend of his political mentor, Chief Obafemi Awolowo who established the first television station in Africa, the defunct Western Nigeria Television Station (now Nigeria Television Authority), LKJ also established Lagos Television, LTV, which happens to be the first State owned Television in the country. Aside this, LKJ also established the Lagos State University in 1983 for the advancement of learning and establishment of academic excellence in Lagos State. His administration also constructed water works at Shasha, Agege, Somolu, Apapa, Badagry, Aguda etc to improve water supply and avoid outbreak of water borne epidemics.

A workaholic and tireless leader, LKJ worked round the clock in his bid to fast track the development of Lagos State. Reports had it that on December 31st, 1983, when the Sheu Shagari civilian administration was toppled, in a military coup d’état, soldiers who came to arrest LKJ met him at his office working deep in the night, on a New Year eve. Such was his legendary dedication to duty and passion for hard work.

It is, therefore, not surprising that LKJ became a star among the 19 governors of the Second Republic. He soon became popular and given several appellations in the media such as ‘Baba Kekere’ (junior Awolowo), ‘Friend of the Masses’, ‘Action Governor’ etc. Out of the lots, the one that really became most prominent is ‘Action Governor’. Sure, during the Second Republic, there was only one ‘Action Governor’ in Nigeria –LKJ.

It was LKJ that begun the transformation of the State’s transport sector. On November 29, 1979, 59 new buses belonging to the Lagos State Transport Corporation were inaugurated with a view to enhancing public transportation in the State. On January 28, 1980, the parking meters began to function in some busy streets in central Lagos. It was the first of such to be introduced in Nigeria.

In the area of opening up public education to accommodate more pupils and students, the Jakande administration did a whole lot. After only one year in office, additional schools were constructed by the administration. For instance, the number of public primary schools in Ikeja Local Government alone increased from 54 to 86. This implies that 32 new primary schools were built. The number of public secondary schools in the area also increased from 13 to 42, which means 29 new secondary schools were built. All within just a year!

Throughout his public service career, LKJ was on the side of justice and fair play. In a society where leaders go to unbelievable length to acquire ill-gotten wealth, LKJ opted to be different. It is hoped that leaders in the current political dispensation would take a cue from this visionary patriot by being selfless and patriotic in all their ways. They also need to pay heed to former American President, Quincy Adams, words that “if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

Happy 89th birthday to LKJ, a quintessential leader!

Ogunbiyi is of the Lagos State Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja