Rush Limbaugh wasn’t a politician but dabbled in political commentary. The only “relationship” between him and Lateef Jakande is the contrasting manner in which news of their recent deaths was received. Alhaji Lateef Jakande was a renowned journalist and first civilian governor of Lagos State who led a very successful administration which earned him a good name and reputation. He implemented housing and education programmes targeting the poor; constructed over 30,000 housing units, built over 20 health centres, and completed the General Hospital in Gbagada.
In addition, his administration constructed Adiyan Water Works, expanded others, and was responsible for building the Lagos State House of Assembly Complex, Lagos State Television, and Lagos Radio. These in themselves do not really constitute “achievements” by a politician. To applaud state governors for building schools, hospitals or roads using public money is the same as congratulating an ATM machine for giving you your money! It’s the purpose of their existence. Unlike today’s governors, Jakande matched his multitude of achievements and policies geared towards uplifting the poor, with good moral values and discipline. He did not revel in an ostentatious lifestyle and as governor barely travelled outside of his state let alone out of the country.
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Believing that his work as “His Excellency” didn’t mean he had to live off the resources of the State, he declined to move into the luxurious complex of the Governor’s Official Residence and remained in his modest residence an embodiment of humility, intellectualism, dedication, hard work and community spirit. In complete contrast with the Nigerian political office holder of today, Jakande was not interested in accumulating personal wealth and was ever willing to give up his time and resources for the greater good of the state. He is widely regarded as the last of a now extinct breed of Nigerian politician. Although not highly qualified academically, he was well educated. “Education” in a political sense isn’t the name of the Degree or Certificate a political office holder has, but rather it’s reflected in the person’s attitudes, actions, language and behaviour towards others.
The current Lagos State Governor Sanwo-Olu said Jakande’s legacy in public service will remain “a reference point in the annals of governance in the country”, and furthermore that his name will always be synonymous with selflessness in leadership and service. While it’s true that Nigeria could do with more political office holders like Jakande, it’s also true that nobody lives forever and that the graveyards are full of the bodies of indispensable men. One of the biggest unanswered questions in Nigeria is how to ensure a continuous supply of the likes of Jakande in governance? How do we stop repetitive maladministration if we continue to accord undue respect to political office holders while in office and decline to speak ill of them when they are dead, no matter their transgressions?.
The end result is that whenever the history of Nigeria is written it will be difficult to separate the successful humane political leaders from the abysmal total failures who comprise the majority of political office holders. It is weird to say artificially nice things about people after they die, there is no logic behind it. How can we expect good from political office holders if we do not say the truth about those that were bad? Things are very different in the USA and perhaps Nigerians should learn to copy them. Rush Limbaugh was a racist bigoted conservative US radio host whose death was openly celebrated by many Americans. His epitaph was that he was “a terrible person while he was alive who made a living by attacking the powerless, and death doesn’t change or redeem that in any way”. Scores of tweets caused “Rest in P#ss”’, “Good Riddance”’ and “Rot in Hell” to trend on Twitter! Many opinion writers said they were “genuinely sorry”’ that Limbaugh wasn’t able to live one more day so he could have seen all the tweets mocking his passing.
Actress Amber Tamblyn said he should ‘rot in purgatory’ because he wasted his life spewing hate and lies.” Limbaugh encouraged anti-poor policies and ethnic tension, blurred the lines between what is right and ethical and what is hateful and damaging and like many Nigerian political leaders was a stain on humanity who never contributed a single positive thing to the community at large. Author Chris Kluwe said it was good that Limbaugh’s death was being mocked, writing: “let the celebration about Limbaugh’s death be a reminder to the rest of the racists and bigots that we’ll happily dance on your graves too”. Only once in the history of Nigeria has there been such general insults and jubilation over the death of a public figure. The former Military Head of State’s name is firmly associated with kleptomania, lack of respect for human rights, and murderously clinging on to power.
His children despite their stupendous ill-gotten wealth will continue to bear the shame of their family name for the rest of their lives. Nigerians must learn from the legendary Octavia Butler who said “choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. To be led by a coward is to be controlled by everything that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious possessions to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery. She went on to say that there are only two ways to be fooled. The first is to believe what is not true and the second is to refuse to accept what is true.
This is the case with present day leadership in Nigeria. The question many are asking is how can upcoming generations of Nigerians be convinced that the key to success in politics is principled behaviour and not the accumulation of wealth when the nation is replete with fantastically rich scoundrels and poor principled people? To avoid being castigated in death and bringing the nation to ruin, today’s political office holders should strive to emulate Jakande while remembering the words of Pope Francis who said “rivers do not drink their own water; trees do not eat their own fruit; the sun does not shine on itself; flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves. Living for others is a rule of nature. We are all born to help each other. No matter how difficult it is. Life is good when you are happy; but much better when others are happy because of you”.