Yesterday, 11 February 2021, Papa Jakande passed away, aged 91.
Papa Jakande was the first civilian governor of Lagos State, Nigeria between October 1979 and December 1983. His quiet, diminutive and kindly demeanor belied his steely determination, charisma and vision.
In July 1982, aged 10, I wrote to the governor, bemoaning the state of the roads in Lagos and the rubbish that littered the streets. I suggested ways in which his administration could tackle the issue as I was sure he hadn’t thought about the solutions I proffered.
My mother, Chief Mrs Tinuade Gbadamosi, was working with his administration as a member of one of the Schools Management Boards that he set up and she delivered my letter to him at one of their meetings.
Two months later, the governor wrote me back! His reply was generous and not at all patronising. He took his time over two pages of typed text to give detailed answers to every issue I raised. He concluded the letter with an invitation to pay him a visit. I remember my dad’s surprise and the excitement we all felt about not just his reply but also the invitation to visit. During the visit, the governor presented me with a wine coloured hand bag which I can still see in my mind’s eye today.
The bag eventually wore out and was discarded but I have never forgotten my encounter with him.
I celebrate Papa Jakande because of his commitment to providing free education to the children of Lagos State. He built hundreds of schools in the state during his four year tenure, making it possible for millions of children to get an education. He also took over many private schools, so that the State would cover the cost of education and children could be educated fee-free. I was one of those children.
Many of the Jakande schools have since fallen into disrepair and several returned to private sector operators. However, the impact of his reforms live on in those who because of his vision and passion, were able to access jobs, build careers and impact their communities in ways that would otherwise not have been open to them.
Papa, your sons and daughters salute you. Rest in peace. 🙏🏾