It was a historic moment and celebration of professional accomplishments in Ikeja, Lagos last week when friends, well wishers, private developers and other real estate industry stakeholders gathered to honour Alhaji (Dr) Lateef Kayode Jakande, a past Governor of Lagos State and former Minister of Works and Housing.

The event was the first Jakande Housing Lecture Series (JHLS) instituted by Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN) “to celebrate a man whose achievements in the housing sector remains unrivalled,” according to Rev. Ugochukwu Chime, REDAN President.

He said, Jakande as the pioneer President of the association, “gave his all – selflessly to ensure that the association remains alive.  He did not waiver.” A highlight of the occasion is the conferring on him a life patron status and honouring few of his partners, associates and contemporaries including the wife, Alhaja Abimbola Sikirat Jakande for her humble, selfless, unassuming, quiet, reassuring and yet very impactful support as well as Chief Guy Okechukwu, the first REDAN General Secretary.

The annual lecture series will serve as an avenue where critical matters in the housing sector will be analysed, discussed, practical solutions proffered and stakeholders to interface government at all levels on the formulation of policies.

Chime said: “Jakande is not just a man, but a man of vision, an icon personified. He is a legend. He is an epitome of perseverance, longsuffering and unwavering commitment to achieving the near impossible. As Governor of Lagos State during the second republic, he exemplified vision, sacrifice, honesty in the people-oriented programs and projects he executed.

“Many of the institutions and estates that dot the Lagos landscape are products of his imagination and leadership. As Minister for Works, he strived to replicate at the national level, through the public service, the wonderful feats he had brought into care for housing the downtrodden that he did in Lagos State. Alas many factors including bureaucracy amongst other factors hindered the project.

“His devotion to duty, exemplary lifestyle and uncommon capacity for devotion to duty and helping the masses resonated deeply with many of us and led us to decide to serve in like manner if and when given the opportunity. It is very safe to state that you have succeeded in raising successors, who are inspired, motivated and determined to carry on the task of being the voice of the voiceless in the Board room of decision making in Nigeria and beyond.”

For the President, Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), Mr. Kunle Awobodu, professionals should emulate Jakande by distinguishing themselves and been forthright in their chosen careers.

He also recounted that Jakande strides were achieved when he was in school. Awobodu hailed his achievements.

The keynote speaker, Prof. Osita Ogbu also called on Nigerian leaders to emulate the social housing legacy that has been created by Jakande. 

Prof. Ogbu, who was a Minister of National Planning, and former Chief Economic Advisor to the President of Nigeria, said that Jakande has left a mark in the Nigeria housing sector that is yet to be matched by anyone. This according to him was unfortunate. 

‘’My appeal is to the political and economic elites. When we speak about providing social housing for the low income, we don’t recognize that we are speaking about our community. We are actually talking about giving a stake to our brothers, sisters, and cousins. We are really speaking about helping ourselves. We are one community. It is this thinking of one community that can enable us as enlightened citizens to shore up our democracy. ”

The Chairman, Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Ikeja branch, Funmi Akingbagbohun pledged to work with REDAN to fashion out low-income housing for the populace.

‘’Think of a decent shelter as a home, a centre of life where the civilization of human beings begins. It matters because this is where our attitudes, sense of self-worth and identity are shaped and where curiosity and imagination can be nurtured. The overall psychological well-being of a person is tied to his or her environment and the home one grows up in. And this is important for the overall development of our society,’’ he said.

According to him, the absence of a permanent home causes residential instability which leads to psychological instability, community instability, denying the children education and the common bonds and support and creativity, and leads to anxiety and depression among parents. 

To ensure affordable housing for the majority poor, Ogbu advocates for a law that will tax the upper class who reside in high-value areas, out of which a proportion be devoted to providing affordable housing for the poor.

A law, which he recommends be named after Jakande, as a man that pioneered social housing in Nigeria. He said that Jakande was single-minded about pursuing equitable housing access for all.

“He knew that no one was born unhappy. Happiness knows no tribe nor ethnicity. It is the product of self, interacting with the socio-economic reality including housing, political, legal ecosystem one finds himself. The nature of this ecosystem depends on the state, her leadership and the elites. 

‘’So as we leave here today, let us promote public housing for the low-income groups in the society as Jakande did. Not simply because it is magnanimous but also because it is good for us collectively. 

‘’We need new philanthropy towards social housing and a group of activists devoted to this cause. From the government to politicians, billionaires, the church, real estate association, housing stakeholders, intellectuals and others, we can all join hands to address this major source of inequality in our society.

This is the change that must come to this nation, the change that enlightens the tribe for prosperity and the radius of trust. The real change that lasts. 

‘’Just remember that the strength of this nation or any nation lies in our pulling everybody up. It is not a sign of weakness to help the weak. We thank the man who has made this conversation possible. May we continue to tap from the wisdom of Jakande for many more years to come,’’ he said.

•The Guardian