Dr. J.K. Randle was constantly at loggerheads with the British Colonial Government mostly on account of racial discrimination. It was one rule for the whites and a different rule for the natives. In Lagos, there was a “European Hospital” exclusively for white people; and an “African Hospital” (now known as General Hospital on Broad Street, Lagos) for the “natives.”
At any rate, after resigning from the government Civil Service, Dr. Randle set up his own medical practice. It flourished sufficiently for him to acquire a sprawling mansion at 31 Marina, in the most exclusive street in Lagos. He was the only black person in that part of the city. Indeed, he lived on the same street as the Governor-General and the topmost rank of the colonial government.
He was also an astute business man with investments in banking – Bank of British West Africa (now known as First Bank of Nigeria Plc); shipping (West Africa Holland Line); and property development. He lived in great style in the Victorian Era and was clearly a force to be reckoned with. The colonial government was in awe of him !! In 1908 he founded Nigeria’s first political party – the Peoples Union.
From the Archives:
“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.”
Dr. J.K. Randle’s name is conspicuously missing from the list of:
“AFRO-BRAZILLIANS IN LAGOS”
Antonio Macolino Jose, Sawyer of Tinubu Square
Aruno Jose Martin, Bricklayer of Oil Mill Street
Anjos Antonia M. dos, Carpenter of Igbosere Street
Alcantra Julio, Clerk of Tokunboh Street
Baptista Joaquim Francisco, Trader of Kakawa Street
Campos Joan Angelo, Trader of Campos Square
Cruz Marcus Vera, Goldsmith of Bamgbose Street
Cabreira Toribio B, Bricklayer of Faji
Coimbra Alexander S, Bricklayer of Epetedo
Costa, Felisberto George da, Carpenter of Igbosere Street
Costa George Salako Antonio da, Photographer of Broad Street
Cardoso Lourenzo Antonio, Trader of Bamgbose Street
Cruz Cyrillo M, da, Cabinet-maker of Taiwo Street
Carvalho Militao Borges da, Carpenter of Tokunboh Street
Delphonso S. E. Tailor of Ebute Alakoro
Gansalo Caesario Jose, Carpenter of Igbosere Street
Gomes Quirino Felix F. Clerk of Bamgbose Street
Gregorio Jose, Shoemaker of Salvador Street
Larceda Domingo, Carpenter of Bamgbose Street
Lino Caesar A, Tailor of Massey Street
Louis Alexandre Onofre, Fisherman of Oke Popo
Machado Vita, Cabinet-maker of Bamgbose Street
Mendes Augustinho F, Trader of Massey Street
Moreira Manoel Bonifacio, Barber of Broad Street
Nogeira Manoel, Carpenter of Bamgbose Street
Nobre Francisco Tito, Bricklayer of Oke Popo
Pacheco Miguel, Carpenter of Oke Popo
Pereira Thomas Benedicto, Bricklayer of Campbell Street
Pomphilio Thomas, Butcher of Odunlami Street
Pedro D. Salino, Baker of Massey Lane
Ramos Louis F, Clerk of Campbell Street
Ramos Joao F, Carpenter of Campbell Street
Reis Manoel Joachim dos, Trader of Bamgbose Street
Reis B. J, Cabinet-maker of Tinubu Square
Rocha Candido J. da, Trader of Kakawa Street
Sagrone Pedro, Cabinet-maker of Bamgbose Street
Sant Anna Pedro M, Clerk of Tolo
Santos Verissimmo J. dos, Carpenter of Massey Square
Santo Tito Agustinho, Bricklayer of Balogun Street
Semao Victorino E, Tailor of Oshodi Street
Siffre Walter Paulo, Trader of Bamgbose Street
Silva Lrrhacco Daniel da, Tinker of Massey Lane
Silva Lazaro Borges da, Trader of Tokunboh Street
Silva Luciano Crispino de, Bricklayer of Massey Street.
That was the Lagos fledgling elite !!
According to Chief Olaniwun Ajayi S.A.N. in his book:
“This House of Oduduwa Must Not Fall”. Dr. J.K. Randle’s father was named Thomas. He was from Oyo (Alapini family of Agbole Arundi) and had taken his fate into his own hands by venturing on the harzadous journey from Oyo to Lagos (regardless of the raging internecine tribal wars and slave merchants/kidnappers) to seek his fortune. He started off at Onikepo Street, near Faji market in Lagos. He imported paint (“oda”) from Portugal and was known as “Baba Oloda”. He also became a haberdasher. It was the profits from his business venture that enabled him to send his children to Regent/Freetown Sierra Leone which at that time provided the best education in West Africa. “Omo oni Ikoyi” and “Odo Sokori” which are in Owu Kingdom, Ogun State feature in Dr. Randle’s cognomen. This suggests that his maternal ancestral root was in that part of Nigeria.
It was the Peoples’ Union under the leadership of Dr. J.K. Randle which vigorously resisted the imposition of “Water Tax” on natives for water which the white people were enjoying for free.
From his house which overlooked the Lagoon, Dr. Randle witnessed the almost daily casualties from drowning. Those were the days of raging storms and mysterious squalls that would regularly topple canoes filled with traders plying the Lagos to Badagry (then known as “Abadaigi”) route. Sadly, most of the victims were women and children. It was to no avail that he pleaded with the Colonial Government to build a swimming pool so that the “natives” could learn to swim and hopefully (drastically) reduce the cases of drowning. The response from the government was that there was no provision for a public swimming pool in the budget.
That was what prompted a very angry Dr. J.K. Randle to build and donate the Dr. J.K. Randle Swimming Pool, Onikan right next to the “Love Garden” to teach children how to swim free of charge. He also provided funds for the maintenance of the pool after his death on 27th February, 1928.
It was also in 1928 that the Dr. J.K. Randle Swimming Competition (Nigeria’s oldest sporting competition) was launched.
There is not enough time and space to permit us to dwell on the public toilets along with refuse disposal “houses” (“Ile Idalenu”) which the good doctor built all over Lagos and donated to the public. Over a hundred years later, some of them are still intact at Igbosere Road (behind King’s College); Ajele Street; Marina (opposite the Cathedral Church); Olusi Street/Tokunbo Street; Faji Street (opposite the market); Iddo Motor Park etc. despite the fraudulent attempts by corrupt and greedy politicians to convert them into their own private enterprise. The excuse of the Colonial government was that there was no provision in the budget for public toilets and refuse disposal houses.
What brings us full circle back to the Dr. J.K. Randle Swimming Pool, at Onikan Lagos is that the government officials having successfully diverted (and pocketed) the funds bequeathed by my grandfather for its maintenance deliberately and vindictively inflicted massive neglect on the swimming pool. All my appeals to them fell on deaf ears. I had to resort to my personal funds to keep the swimming pool going (as well as the Dr. J.K. Randle Swimming Competition).
For strange reasons, the government was determined to ruin it entirely by running it down. It was eventually closed down and used as a dumping ground from seized motor-cycles and tricycles – and later as a depot for Fire Brigade Trucks. Wicked.
Little did we suspect that the government officials were fixated with the prime location of the swimming pool for their own private designs and looting spree.
It was on 24th September, 2016 that the Governor of Lagos launched a terrorist attack on the Swimming Pool alongside the Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall (named after my father) which was adjacent. There was no prior notice or public acquisition order – in utter disregard of the provisions of the Land Use Act of 1978. It was totally beyond belief that what the military would not contemplate was precisely what the civilian tyrants would embark on with sadistic glee and effrontery.
I remember clearly (flashback) that it was on a Saturday morning while we were ironically meant to be observing the monthly “Environmental Sanitation Day” to clean up the environment that armed soldiers and policemen (from the dreaded “SARS”) turned up in the company of government officials who claimed that they were acting on orders from the Governor and proceeded to launch their bulldozers in a frenzied attack on two iconic buildings – the Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall and the Dr. J.K. Randle Swimming Pool.
Regardless of the protests of on-lookers and in broad daylight as well as the proximity of the Zone 2 Police Headquarters, Onikan which was just across the road our Crown Jewels were reduced to a rubble. It was like being in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq or Ukraine. Madness had overtaken power-drunkenness.
The Governor was conveniently away in New York, United States of America as part of the entourage of President Muhammadu Buhari. The wilful destruction of both priceless properties by monsters and tyrants compels us to remind ourselves that the Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall was located on land that was designated as Crown Land and covered by a ninety-nine years lease granted by the Colonial Government/Federal Government to the Trustees of the Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall.
The original trustees were: Chief (Dr.) Moses Majekodunmi; Chief (Dr.) Flavius Akerele; Alhaji (Chief) I. S. Adewale; Mr. John Stewart and Chief Kweku Binney; who were subsequently replaced by Chief Femi Majekodunmi; Chief Femi Adeniyi-Williams and Bashorun J.K. Randle. Amongst the original Trustees, late Chief (Dr.) M.A. Majekodunmi was the last surviving Trustee. He died on 11th April 2012.
It fell on him to choose the successors. He invited his eldest son, Femi and me to a meeting in his bedroom. The choice of who would be the new Chairman created a problem for him and his first question was:
“Which of you is older ?”
That was how Femi became the Chairman. Since we needed one more person to meet the legal requirement of at least three Trustees, Femi Majekodunmi proposed Femi Adeniyi-Williams. That would have been almost fifteen years ago. In spite of the existence of minutes of numerous meetings which we held and bank records regarding the signatories to the bank accounts of the Trust, Femi Majekodunmi now claims that Femi Adeniyi-Williams and I were never Trustees !! He is adamant that he is the sole Trustee. This makes no sense whatever unless he has ulterior motives. We shall come to that later.
For now, let us focus our attention on the unlawful destruction of the Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall and the adjacent property — Dr. J.K. Randle Swimming Pool by the government. This was a case of recklessness and tyranny of the highest order. The government had unleashed terrorism as its weapon of first choice.
Perhaps I should add that I had previously applied to the government for approval to rebuild the Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall with my own funds and replace it with a befitting edifice which would accommodate the spirit and intent of the original building as a community centre and culture/arts theatre. The Governor visited me in my office and I briefed him fully about the project. I had no reason to suspect that he would turn round to stab me in the back. It was a brazen case of treachery, betrayal and bad faith. Perhaps I should add that having demolished the two buildings, the Governor wasted no time in carting off the rubble in a frantic endeavour to destroy any evidence of the carnage and gangsterism.
As Trustees, Femi Majekodunmi; Femi Adeniyi-Williams and I held several meetings to discuss how to tackle the trespass and demolition of the one and only property of the Trust. We engaged the services of lawyers to fight our cause. I was also fortunate to have the advice of very senior lawyers who were thoroughly outraged by what they considered to be high-handed and irresponsible conduct by the Governor.
It was a complete surprise to me when Femi Majekodunmi subsequently revealed that the government had paid some money as compensation into the bank account of the Trust. This was a very strange development. For a start, how did the government obtain the bank account of the Trust and who carried out the valuation ?
As Trustees, our fiduciary duty was to faithfully protect and defend the property of Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall Trust.
At no time did I ever give consent to the acceptance of compensation from the government. To make matters worse, government sold a dummy to Femi Majekodunmi with a promise to provide an alternative site for the memorial hall. That was complete nonsense. Where would the government find an alternative plot to replace the priceless edifice in a uniquely prime location right in the centre of Lagos ?
It was to no avail that I urged Femi Majekodunmi to immediately refund the money paid to the Trust and make it very clear that the property was not for sale. Equally disgusting was the revelation that Femi and unilaterally paid the sum of N15,000,000 (fifteen million naira) out of the money to a lawyer !! Truly amazing.
It was the governor himself who told me that he had been “eyeing the property for a long time”. Is it the business of government to covet other people’s property ? It was a pure and straightforward land grab for entirely selfish purposes — namely to award juicy contracts to his cronies. Incidentally, if his intentions were genuine he could have availed himself of the vast Governor-General’s / Presidential Guest House on the Marina which President Muhammadu Buhari had “gifted” to Lagos State. Other alternatives were the former Falomo Shopping Complex or the Ikoyi Plaza on Awolowo Road, South-West Ikoyi which belong to Lagos State. Indeed, just across the road from Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall was the “Jan Grover” playground which had fallen into decay and had been abandoned for several decades. It has now been turned into a car park by the usual suspects.
We are entitled to conclude that behind the smokescreen of the compulsory acquisition and reckless demolition of iconic/heritage buildings, the true intention of the government is to pulverize and pauperize the Randle family. With so much energy and resources at its disposal, how come the same government cannot organise the simple matter of meters for taxis in Lagos ? This is common practice in virtually every major city in the world. Instead what we witness on a daily basis are suffering and death.
It has not gone unnoticed that the date and timing of the demolition were deliberately scheduled to co-incide with an environmental/sanitation day when there was prohibition of traffic on the road and we as loyal law-abiding citizens were compelled to stay at home. That was just as well. Subsequently, we learnt that the contingent of policemen and soldiers who accompanied the demolition squad were carrying live ammunition and were ready to deal ruthlessly with any protesters.
What has been a huge nightmare for the Randle family are the subversive antics of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall. In spite of our trenchant protests and solemn remonstrations combined with appeals for a united front to checkmate the transgressor and trespasser, the chicanery is unabated.
We have gone to great lengths to enquire about the motive for his intransigence, treachery, betrayal and malice. This has led to speculation that it may be due to resentment and grudge over my relationship with late Chief (Dr.) Moses Adekoyejo Majekodunmi. My late father adored him and he reciprocated in equal measure. When my father died at the age of only 47 years Dr. Majekodunmi was one of the moving spirits behind the Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall. The then Prime Minister of Nigeria, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa personally obtained the prime land for the building. He also attended the launching of the Appeal Fund.
It was while I was Chairman and Chief Executive of KPMG Nigeria (and Chairman of KPMG Africa) that Chief (Dr.) Majekodunmi made me his confidant. In effect, he had magnanimously transferred his friendship with my father to me regardless of the huge gap in our respective age. I never betrayed his trust and confidence. He was not the only one. Perhaps I should add late Ambassador Ade Martins; late Prince M. A. Ogun; late Eng. A.O. Karunwi; Otunba T.O.S. Benson, Chief E.O. Okunowo, Madam Adenike Da Rocha-Afodu and Alhaja Esther Mohammed to the list. With all of them I scrupulously disqualified and excluded myself from anything to do with personally benefitting from their Wills and Trusts as well as residual properties and legacies.
I went to great lengths to plead with the errant Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Chief J.K. Randle to reflect on his conduct at several meetings in his office; at the Lagos Motor Boat Club and even in Vomperberg, Austria in 2017. It was all to no avail.
We were there to celebrate the 70th birthday of Mrs. Feyi George who was the Chief Bridesmaid when Femi Majekodunmi married Victoria Mafe fifty years ago.
From the sublime serenity and awesomeness of nature at its most beautiful as well as the purity of the mountain circumcised by civilization, matters deteriorated into darkness largely fuelled by the intransigence of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall. He has effectively consigned us into a dark corner.
Regardless, we would be doing ourselves a great disservice if we choose to ignore the counsel of Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr (1929 to 1968).
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate;
Only love can do that.”