| Bashorun J.K. Randle, OFR, FCA |
IT is not in dispute that the J.K. Randle family got a raw deal from the government. In fact, this has been the case for several decades. Nevertheless, we persevered and kept hoping that the offence or transgressions of our ancestors would be revealed to us. To the best of our knowledge, our ancestors went the extra mile in order to leave behind a legacy of uprightness, goodwill, compassion, public spiritedness, selfless service and genuine philanthropy. However, they may have failed to factor into the equation the obligation to remind the government that power is transient while influence is ephemeral but goodwill is eternal.
When the bulldozers, caterpillars, diggers and dynamite devoured our beloved and much cherished flagship – the Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall – without any invitation, we were traumatised. It was somewhat akin to being hit by a hurricane with the inevitable tragic consequences – homeless, devastated, shocked and enraged.
Such drastic penalties are the due entitlements and just reward of drug pedlars, currency traffickers, kidnappers, and looters of the public treasury via abandoned projects and government largesse.
Regardless, we are entitled to invoke the spirits of our ancestors as our beloved nation is confronted with monumental challenges on virtually all fronts. President Muhammadu Buhari emphatically declared: “Nigeria Is Broke.” He could have added:
“Our nation has been broken spiritually and morally.”
When he was declared the winner of the Presidential election on April 1, 2015 we should have intervened by reminding him of the observation of our forefathers, namely: “Every election produces THREE winners. The first winner is the candidate who is officially declared as the winner. The second winner is the candidate who thoroughly analyses why he won. Alas, the third winner is the candidate who summons the strength to understand why he lost.”!!
From the archives, we have been able to retrieve the following invaluable insight regarding the grand sweep of our history and the patriotic vision of our forefathers:
“As far back as 1898 Dr. John Kehinde Randle; Dr. Akinwande Savage; and Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford (of the Gold Coast), the founders of the National Congress of British West Africa had begun to agitate for the Independence of Nigeria and the rest of West Africa. They even produced a blueprint whereby each village would be part of a long term project which would ensure that the government is committed to the delivery of health facilities; education and roads to every nook and corner.”
Perhaps we deserve the severe reprimand of the reckless commentator on social media who insisted that unlike our ancestors we did not summon the clan to battle when danger and transgression erupted. His sarcastic intervention was accompanied by a photograph of the lone Chinese protester when the military tanks rolled into Tinanmen Square, in Beijing on 4th June 1989.
Today marks the 25 anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre that saw China’s People’s Liberation Army gun down hundreds of civilians in a brutal crackdown on protests against government corruption, lack of transparency and freedom of speech.
The violent military response and the scale of bloodshed that ensued was followed by a further clampdown that saw the widespread arrests of protesters, the expulsion of foreign journalists and the censorship of media coverage of the event, including banning the image of a man who stood in front of a column of tanks, dressed in a white shirt and holding a shopping bag.
The image of Tank Man quickly became a powerful symbol of both the bloody events of 4 June 1989 and of non-violent resistance, but the identity of the ‘unknown rebel’ and his fate remains unknown. Many people in China are still unaware of his existence and only a handful of photographers were able to record the event without having to destroy their materials.
Below are some of the theories surrounding the mystery of the man captured in such an iconic picture.
The Sunday Express went on to identify him as 19-year-old student Wang Weilin and quoted his friends as saying they feared he had been put to death. However, then General Secretary Jiang Zemin denied having any knowledge of his arrest or even of the name.
Witnesses recall the man climbing up onto the first tank in the column and speaking to the person inside. Jan Wong, the former Toronto Globe and Mail Beijing correspondent, remembered seeing tanks repeatedly attempting to drive around him, before switching off their motors. The man then climbed into the tank.
She told Frontline: “After a while the young man jumps down and the tank turns on the motor and the young man blocks him again. […] I started to cry because I had seen so much shooting and so many people dying that I was sure this man would get crushed.
“But he didn’t. … I think it was two people from the sidelines who ran to him and grabbed him – not in a harsh way, almost in a protective way. I think that the people who took the Tank Man away were concerned people.”
But other accounts contradict this however, with many claiming he was pulled away by security agents and arrested.
American TV journalist Barbara Walters confronted Jiang a year after the crackdown with a photo of the Tank Man and the question: “Do you have any idea what happened to this young man?” A flustered Jiang reportedly stressed that the Tank Man had not been executed by the Government or run over. He highlighted the fact that the tanks in the picture were still and had not attempted to drive at him as indicative of his fate, and said: “The people in the tanks didn’t want to run over the people standing in the way.
“I think he was never killed”.
Others claim police were never able to locate the man after he was pulled away from the crowd and back into the tanks. One government official was quoted as saying, “We can’t find him. We got his name from journalists. We have checked through computers but can’t find him among the dead or among those in prison.”
A report cited a professor in Hong Kong who claimed that the Tank Man was an archaeologist and he was with his friend. They had come from Changsha to Beijing to join the protests. The professor claimed he escaped to Taiwan and was employed by the National Palace Museum but the museum allegedly denied this report.
The Yonhap news agency in South Korea also reported that he had escaped the massacre by fleeing to Taiwan.
Bruce Herschensohn, a former deputy special assistant to former US President Richard Nixon, told the President Club in 1999 that the Tank Man was executed 14 days later.
Others claim he was later put to death by a firing squad a few months after the protests. Many, however, remain hopeful that the Tank Man is still alive, and may have no idea of the intrigue his picture has created thanks to China’s strict censorship of the image.
We can assure him that the message is not lost on us!!
What is far more sensible and practicable is to confine ourselves strictly to the dictates of the law of the land. Hence, we cannot but be guided by the opinion of local and international counsel who have advised us to separate Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall which is vested in Trustees from the Swimming Pool and “Love Garden” [now known as MUSON CENTRE]. Hence, the Trustees of Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall are at liberty to seek legal redress to protect their property and obtain compensation for its illegal demolition by the government.
As for the Swimming Pool and Garden, it is the responsibility and sacred duty of the family to recite the circumstances and terms under which the two properties were consigned (or entrusted) to the defunct “Lagos Town Council” about ninety years ago by late Dr. J.K. Randle as a profound gesture of philanthropy – for public purpose. Therefore, it is up to the family to demand the return of the property if the purpose and intent of the gifts have been compromised.
The issues at stake have acquired an international dimension largely through social media – Twitter; Instagram; Facebook; Whatsapp; Snapchat etc.
Another dimension has been provided by the retired partners of KPMG who are still awaiting their gratuity and pension who recall that in 1998 when the firm was celebrating its 75th Anniversary in Nigeria, Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall and the Dr. J.K. Randle Swimming Pool as well as Love Garden featured prominently in the itinerary for accompanying spouses. At the insistence of the spouses, the retired partners have bombarded me with anxious enquiries and declaration of support. Sample:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. — Edmund Burke.
Far more intriguing is the intervention of Professor Jenkins Mandaville -Cavendish who while at Cambridge University conceived the theory of “The Political Magnetic Field” which recognises that in every community, state or nation those who own property are by extension the repositories and custodians of power and influence. However, if they lose their property or alienate it there may be no compensation whatever. Consequently, they would forfeit both power and influence. Hence, they become vulnerable as endangered species to be consumed or crushed at will by emerging concentration of power and influence who would be vigorously pursuing acquisition of property or ruthlessly displacing those who may have inherited property.
Also, the government should be reminded that under its own law it is obliged to protect listed historic properties. Consequently, the demolition of public or private property is highly sensitive. It is subject to stringent conditions and processes.
Besides, Professor Melman Writh-Samuels of Oxford University recently delivered judgement on our ancestry and our ancestors:
“Throughout the history of mankind, our ancestors have strenuously striven to ensure that they are not forgotten. Why else would they build pyramids, temples, cathedrals, mosques, palaces and other monuments?”
For me, the “WORO” festival which the friends and well-wishers of the Randle family convened thirty days after the demolition of the memorial hall and swimming pool was a salutary experience.
By tradition, “WORO” is held to herald the installation of a new king or the passing away of a beloved monarch or community leader. Occasionally, it is held to mark the survival of the clan or tribe following a hurricane, earthquake or other tragedies. In 1952, the “WORO” rites were performed when Lagos was battered with rain for a whole week. The whole of Lagos was flooded and the entire city was under threat of being submerged. Shortly afterwards a huge shark “Eja Mayor” (a huge fish named after the Mayor of Lagos, Dr. Ibiyinka Olorun-Nimbe) was washed ashore.
The justification for the “WORO” was that in moments of danger, our ancestors would come to our rescue even if it meant reprimanding us for our waywardness or reckless dereliction of our sacred duties / performance of traditional rites.
It was the British government who sent in a team of engineers and experts in climatology. They duly reported that Lagos Island was eighteen feet below sea level. Their recommendation was that residents of the island should be moved across to the mainland to be designated “New Lagos” (now known as Surulere) while the island would be reclaimed through “The Lagos Slum Clearance Scheme”. Apparently, similar schemes had been executed in Singapore and Malaysia successfully.
Anyway, Lagos survived and till today there are many who insist that it was the “WORO” that did the magic!!
This time around, the powerful message from the WORO is that the J.K. Randle family must remain firmly united and must never deviate from the lofty ideals of their ancestors.
- Bashorun J.K. Randle is a former President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and former Chairman of KPMG Nigeria and Africa Region. He is currently the Chairman, JK Randle Professional Services. Email: email@example.com
— Oct 31, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT