No more grief
Sixty years ago Chief J.K. Randle died just before my thirteenth birthday. It was a huge shock. The whole of Lagos was in palpable grief and deep mourning. Even now it seems like it was only yesterday. Now is the time to grieve no more. Rather, we should rejoice and thank the Almighty for the enduring legacy of goodwill, unblemished family name and untarnished reputation. He touched so many lives and the beneficiaries have remained firmly loyal, far beyond the call of duty or any other obligation.
Regardless, we must sort out a number of house-keeping matters. Even before that we should pause and acknowledge the sagacity and robust vision of that vintage generation that produced Chief J.K. Randle and many of his ilk. They were totally committed to building a virile nation that future generations would be proud of. The reason our nation is now in trouble with chaos looming on the horizon is that the generation that succeeded them opted to do the exact opposite and the consequences are there for all to see. The road map that was bequeathed had rightly identified the danger zones of religious conflict further compounded by “Elite Capture” to the detriment of the poor and under-privileged. Before, what we had were the under-privileged. They have been supplanted by the no-privilege-at-all! Their lives have become a zero-sum game. Consequently, the lower class has morphed into the underclass.
This was precisely what the previous generation of leaders strove valiantly to forestall. Their noble and gallant exertions went beyond their journey on earth. They were determined to share wealth and prosperity. Hence, they made generous bequests in the belief that the glue that would hold our nation together and galvanize it to prosperity was education re-inforced by sports (and sportsmanship). These would be circumscribed by demonstrable uprightness and transparent trustworthiness by those entrusted with the custody of public funds. Perhaps that is what prompted late Chief J.K. Randle to bequeath substantial sums to:
Two moslems schools –Ahmadiyya College, Agege and Ansarudeen College, Isolo as well as a Catholic school – Holy Cross Primary School, Lagos, for their sports development programmes in the firm pursuit of the dictum: a sound mind in a healthy body.
Perhaps it is an over simplification to assume (or presume) that once you have taken care of the body and mind, the soul would be automatically cleansed (and purged of evil spirits). Anyway, that is a subject for another day. What is puzzling is to reconcile the figures between what exited the benefactor’s estate i.e. N100,000,000.00 (one hundred million naira); may be even one million dollars based on the prevailing exchange rate) to each beneficiary through the Office Of The Administrator-General and what eventually reached destination. The riddle to be resolved is how much was lost in-transit?
At the time Chief J.K. Randle made his gifts, you could entrust funds to public servants and go to sleep or even to your grave. Alas, both private and public funds are destined for the same treatment when corruption competes with mendacity.
It is rather strange that all these years, none of the beneficiaries from the estate of Chief J.K. Randle have publicly (or privately) acknowledged the generous gifts bequeathed to them as charity without any solicitation on their part. I have no recollection of any sporting events being held at (or by) Ahmadiyya College; Ansarudeen College or Holy Cross Primary School in memory of their benefactor.
It is more or less the same story with regard to the beneficiaries of my grandfather’s estate from which the lawyers have done very well for themselves – to the tune of almost N300,000,000.00 (three hundred million naira) and still counting! One of them pocketed a hefty one million naira for himself.
As for the chartered accountant who abandoned the ethics of our beloved profession and squandered funds in his custody while pretending to be serving the interest of the Estate, his conduct and misconduct are the subject of numerous petitions. For sure, that is a huge scandal brewing and simmering.
Back to the Administrator-General, this is the right time to tackle the government regarding the dismal failure to protect property entrusted to it. A case in point is the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Sports Complex in Surulere. Going by the lease granted to NPA in 1955, it was only a tenant. Nigerian Ports Authority now claims it is the owner of the property! How come? Apparently the Government seized the property and proceeded to hand it over to NPA. The conspiracy theory is indeed writ large.
The best options available are to endeavour to seek legal redress alongside moral persuasion. It is incredible that the legacies of both Dr. J.K. Randle and Chief J.K. Randle would be devastated and obliterated within three generations.
It must have been around 1954, when my father patiently explained to me that all I should expect to inherit from him was a first-class education and a first class reputation/family name. Considering I was only ten years old at the time, the full impact and implications of what he had in mind did not immediately register. He tried to clarify matters somewhat by explaining that those who would take over power in Lagos in particular (and Nigeria in general) are likely to emerge from an entirely different background.
According to him, it is only through education that they too would be exposed to opportunities in order to enable them to excel. Anything short of that would be recipe for resentment, envy and vindictiveness. His perception has turned out to be acutely accurate. The balance of forces has certainly shifted – for worse. Largely on account of the mismanagement of resources as well as poor strategic thinking, our education system – schools, colleges and universities and technical institutes are on the verge of collapse. There is no conscious effort to align what is being taught with the acquisition of skills and the building of self-confidence which would ignite the spirit of entrepreneurship that is so vital for economic development. We are just going round and round in circles; and the circle is getting more and more vicious and suffocating.
We cannot afford to default on HOPE. It is the least we owe the next generation. Without hope all is lost. Hope is the greatest lubricant for social cohesion and the pursuit of a common purpose as well as shared destiny (and indeed destination). However, there is a critical irony with which we must contend – our future is hanging in the balance. It is actually on a knife edge. There is total disconnect between our past and our present; and by extension our future. Our ancestors made huge sacrifices because they believed in the future. Now, what prevails is a scandalous scramble for the remnants. Everyone wants a bigger slice of the shrinking national cake. We have pressed the “delete” button. The recipe for baking the cake is all but lost. As for the “Master Bakers”, they have been consigned to the sidelines. Very soon, they too will be forced to press the “delete” button rather than languish further in anguish while they watch half-baked apprentices dorn the garb of Master Bakers or Super Chefs.
The Discovery Channel last week gave us a glimpse of what life in Lagos was sixty years ago – blissful, peaceful and serene. There was a clip which showed the marriage of Chief I.A.S. Adewale in 1953 at Idita, Lagos to his bride Miss Fanimokun. At the reception which followed, the Governor-General of Nigeria Sir John MacPherson was the Master of Ceremonies. The chairman was Chief J.K. Randle who had been the first to hail Chief Adewale as “The Boy Is Good” – for breaking all the athletic records of Chief J.K. Randle at King’s College, Lagos.
An entire segment was devoted to the construction of the Lagos Central Mosque. It turned out that the architect/engineer was a Christian named Agbebi. Unfortunately, he died accidentally while on an inspection tour of the project. Apparently, he slipped and fell from the roof of the mosque.
In those days, it was not uncommon to find Christians and Moslems within the same family; and they lived together happily without any obvious tensions. Moslems sometimes attended Churches and similarly Christians joined their Moslem brothers and sisters in mosques as well as the celebration of Sallah and other Moslem festivals – Eid al-Fitr; Eid El-Maulud, etc. At Christmas and Easter the Moslems reciprocated with equal gusto. Indeed, Christians donated generously towards the building of mosques and Moslem schools (particularly with the encouragement of Henry Carr, the eminent civil servant/administrator); and vice-versa Moslems donated significant funds towards the building of the Cathedral Church, Marina, Lagos.
As for the Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall and Dr. J.K. Randle Swimming Pool which were bulldozed by the government two months ago, the jury is still out regarding the numerous reports of miracles which are doing the rounds on social media. If they turn out to be genuine, all well and good. At least something good would have come out of the monumental tragedy.
Regardless, I can categorically confirm what was reported on CNN; SKY News; BBC; and Al Jazeera to the effect that in almost one hundred years of its existence, there was never a single incident of drowning in the pool. The man (Dr. J.K. Randle) who built it made sure the ground on which it was built was sanctified – by prayers to the Almighty. Now it is being guarded by Angels who are there on special duty.
J.K. Randle, OFR, FCA
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