Lateef Jakande : The Man That Desired The Best For Journalists And Journalism - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE

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Friday, February 12, 2021

Lateef Jakande : The Man That Desired The Best For Journalists And Journalism

                             •Jakande


By Dele Omojuyigbe

His second name was journalism. While savvy writers in the Daily Service and Daily Times in the 50’s immersed themselves in their ornate but punchy columns, Alhaji Lateef Jakande concentrated on churning out incisive editorials in the Nigerian Tribune which he joined after leaving the Daily Service as a reporter. He had joined the Daily Service in 1949 but left in 1953 for the Nigerian Tribune.

Appointed editor of the Ibadan-based Nigerian Tribune in 1956, and later editor-in-chief, Jakande could not be swayed by the column-adventures of his contemporaries in the Lagos media houses. The piercing opinions, though laced with humour, of Bisi Onabanjo with the pseudonym, “Ayekooto”, in the Daily Service, couldn’t compel him to change his devotion to hard-hitting editorial writing. The spiky Ebenezer Williams’ column, written regularly by Abiodun Aloba, then editor, Sunday Times, didn’t move him either. 

There were other powerful columnists then. Dapo Fatogun, wrote as Don Nugotaf in the Sunday Express; Peter Osugo wrote under the pen-name, “Pecos” while Gab Idigo, MCK Ajuluchukwu and many others wrote with their real names. “Gentleman with a duster” also shook the high and mighty as a column before maverick Peter Enahoro came with his dazzling “Peter Pan”. He was a much younger columnist and editor, Sunday Times, then, in 1958. Ayekooto, in one of his fiery columns, challenged Ebenezer Williams (Aloba) for ceding his influential column to younger Peter Pan, barely 23 years’ old. But Aloba had employed Peter in 1955 in the Daily Times and knew what he wanted to make of him. Jakande at that time had adopted John West as his pen name, although readers knew him more as editor of Nigerian Tribune whose editorials ranked among the best in the country.

Jakande enjoyed editorial independence as boss in the Nigerian Tribune, notwithstanding that he was very much influenced by the philosophy of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, founder of the newspaper. He imbibed passion for work and selflessness which impelled him to desire the best for journalists and journalism, always. With him as president of the International Press Institute, IPI, based in Zurich, Switzerland, the first African to occupy the post, Jakande ensured that journalists from Nigeria benefitted tremendously from the Institute’s programmes until the idea of founding a similar training institute in Nigeria struck him. So he became instrumental in the establishment of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, NIJ, in 1971 with its campus in Victoria Island, Lagos. When he became governor of Lagos State in 1979, he gave the institution the present location in Ogba Lagos. 

Everything about NIJ excites him. Even in his old age, he came on invitation to NIJ functions regularly until lately when his legs had become too weak to go far. He was never in a hurry to leave NIJ functions. He would wait until closing. He discussed freely with whoever sat near him. A lovable man! I remember one time we went to pay him a courtesy visit at his Ilupeju Lagos, residence; I think the time was close to NIJ convocation. Baba Jakande remembered everything vividly and asked questions. He wanted to know how the students were faring; their population; NIJ programmes; the IPI connection and lots more. He made suggestions to the Provost, Dr Lizzy Ikem then, as his eyes glowed in satisfaction with the feedbacks he got, and possibly, for the fact that his baby, NIJ, was much alive and well. 

Jakande established Radio Lagos and Lagos Television. After he left office as governor, he founded John West publications which published Lagos News. This Baba, who at a time was NPAN president, did so much for the media and we are grateful! Thank you Baba, and bye-bye!

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