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Saturday, 26 January 2019

WHY WE MUST BUILD A WALL AROUND LAGOS

- (AND NIGERIA MUST PAY FOR IT)


- By Bashorun J.K. Randle

In celebration of my 75th Birthday on 13th January 2019, I was hosted to a sumptuous dinner at The St. Regis Hotel, Houston, Texas by Lagosians living in the diaspora. Many of them have been living in the United States of America for several decades and were entirely sold on the American dream – if you can dream it, you can achieve it through sheer grit. The American branded slogan: “The land of the free and the home of the brave” as well as the exhortation on the Statue of Liberty:

“...Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
were apparently borrowed from Lagos two hundred and fifty years ago and now it is payback time.

For me, the most agonising part of what was otherwise a truly excellent celebration was the showing of the epic documentary film: “A TASTE OF 1930’s MIDDLE-CLASS LAGOS” (Lagos Has Always Been At The Cusp Of Urbanisation)
It captured Lagos in all its glory and splendour – providing ample evidence that it was a city that firmly connected with civilization.

The streets were clean and everyone appeared to be at peace with each other.

Bashorun JK Randle
The camera dwelt nostalgically on the leading men and women as well as institutions of that era.
Sir Adeyemo Alakija
Ayo Lijadu (1933)
Samuel Akinsanya
Ade Doherty (1936)
Abimbola Awoliyi (1932)
Nyong Essien (1938)
Dr. Curtis Adeniyi-Jones (1931)
B. O. Amobi (1937)
S. A. Fashola (1938)
J. C. Ulasi (1936)
E. A. Mould (1938)
Asifo Egbe (1939)
Saka Tinubu (1935)
Eric Moore (1931)
Stella Jane Thomas (1939)
Rita Akeje-Macaulay
Udo-Udoma (1939)
Dr. J.K. Randle Swimming Pool (Onikan) 1930
Included in the array of superlative and captivating catalogue of legends of that time was a snapshot of Chief H.O. Davies; Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Egbunna. The camera was even granted the indulgence of straying beyond Lagos to Yaba which was its immediate suburb – displaying neat row upon row of houses, each with its own pristine garden.

It was as if Yaba was eager to compete with Lagos for beauty and elegance. It even had its own rallying song:
        “Ayaba Ayaba Yaba is a city
Yaba so so lovely
Yaba boku na dey...”
Back to Lagos, the camera zoomed on Lagosians enjoying their well-earned leisure and recreation as well as sports at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club.
Everything went well until the exotic wines and champagne chose to play havoc. From a corner of the vast hall there was mischievous applause when some one started protesting loudly. Then he delivered his bombshell demand:

“We want a wall around our beloved Lagos and Nigeria must pay for it!!” What had started as a mild applause suddenly acquired fresh momentum and traction.
Thereafter, matters went haywire as the demand for the wall became a crescendo.

It took the intervention of an elderly gentleman who introduced himself as Professor Yusuf Olatunji to calm matters. According to him, he was born in Isale Eko area of Lagos. He was one of the first set of babies to be delivered at Massey Street Hospital and he had found fame and fortune in the United States of America as an authority on authentic African drumming and choreography. Over the years, he had lectured at several leading American universities – Harvard; Princeton; Yale; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Stanford; University of Chicago etc.
Professor Olatunji literally turned the table on us when he proceeded to show a short film of his recent visit to Lagos to spend Christmas and the New Year. It was a litany of anguish and woes – rubbish heaps everywhere; traffic gridlock; the uncompleted (abandoned) monorail; restless youths/miscreants wandering all over the city; armed robbery; ritual murders; kidnapping; “419” (Advance Fee Fraud) kingpins; Joblessness, homelessness, hopelessness galore; road rage; suicide with the Third Mainland Bridge as their favourite jumping off pad; the stinking toilets at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport plus leaking roofs and no lights; people sleeping under bridges etc.

To cap it all were the trailers ad tankers that had taken over the roads and bridges causing total chaos in Apapa (which used to be part of an expansive serene and tranquil “GRA” Government Reservation Area) with obvious threats of danger that may trigger the collapse of Carter Bridge as well as the roads linking Apapa, Western Avenue (Funsho Williams Avenue), Abebe Village (no connection with Dr. John Abebe!!) and Ojuelegba Road.

Then the camera shifted to the front page of “RollingStone” magazine of October 24, 2017 which featured a little boy in a basin/bowl swimming in the flood waters that had overwhelmed the slum dwellers of Makoko on the shores of Lagos. It was also featured on the front page of “The Punch” newspaper.

The scale of human degradation and abject poverty was beyond belief. It took one back to the middle ages.
Even more amazing was the huge surprise – former President of the United States of America Barack Obama gate crashed the party!! There he was in T-Shirt and jeans accompanied by his delectable wife, Michelle whose book: “Becoming” is already a blockbuster.
She was the first to speak:
“When they go low we go high.”
The rest of her speech was drowned in the spontaneous standing ovation which erupted.

Barack ever so gently persuaded his wife to surrender the microphone. Thereafter, he held us spellbound when he launched into his inimitable brand of oratory:
“I listened to Professor Olatunji and watched the film. Things are never as good as we think, when they are going well, and never as bad as we think when they aren’t. Let me tell you what I believe. I believe in a vision of equality and justice and freedom and multiracial democracy, built on the premise that all people are created equal, and they are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. And I believe that a world governed by such principles is possible and that it can achieve more peace and more cooperation in pursuit of a common good. That’s what I believe.” He was rewarded with wild applause that went on for over ten minutes.
He was not done yet.

“Too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. We see the utter loss of shame among political leaders where they are caught in a lie and they just double down and they lie some more. When you look at American (Lagos!!) history, there’s always been a push and pull – between those (like J.K. Randle) who promote the politics of hope and those who exploit the politics of fear.”

The audience went into rapture.
That was the juncture at which the Pulitzer prize winning American Journalist, Thomas Friedman, interrupted proceedings and insisted that rather than adopt the United States of America’s model which (arguably)
has become obsolete and is crumbling under President Donald Trump, Africa would be better served by buying into the political culture of China which is anchored on the concept of “one game at a time” reinforced by “the political tradition of selecting able and capable people and governing the country with the support of the people.”

Ironically, it was Alhaji Sani Sanda whose family roots are in Kano (which he had never visited) but he along with his father and grandfather were born in Lagos, who insisted on chipping in what he described as a word or two. He then proceeded to enthral the audience with his voyage into nostalgia – how he grew up in Isalegangan area of Lagos (Agarawu Street) speaking Yoruba as his first language. It was much later that he learnt to speak Hausa, the language of his ancestors.

He could not recall any harassment, tension or conflict in Lagos until the military took over. Since then, whatever fault lines may have existed have been recklessly exploited and cynically exacerbated.
Not to be left out was an Ibo, Obi Ezenwa who was my classmate at Lagos Government School (a primary school). His father was a policeman who had two wives and six children. All of them lived in one room in the police barracks. Regardless, everything in the barracks was spick and span. How the father was able to juggle his challenging domestic arrangements must have been in the realms of the superhuman.

Anyway, Obi went on to St. Gregory’s College and thereafter gained admission to Howard University to study architecture. According to him, he runs a flourishing practice in Philadelphia and he has expanded into the hospitality business where he has reaped a huge fortune. His message was direct and poignant: he owes his success to Lagos. It was Lagos (not America) that made him what he is. His wife, Ancora is American and they have two sons who are engineers and a daughter who is a doctor (with paediatrics as her specialty).

Obi literally brought the roof down when he revealed what had hitherto been a closely guarded secret – he and I used to follow masquerades “Bamgbose”; “Ajolojo”; “Salumogi”; “Oya”; “Lapampa”; “Bajulaiye Ineso”; “Ulasi”; “Alapasonpa”; “Iga Olowe Salaye” etc all over Lagos. This was in addition to vigorously practising acrobatic stilts dancing when we were kids.

Perhaps, it was inevitable that Professor Sheila Maclain would interject with her distinctly AfroAmerican combative dissertation:
“We owe it to posterity to tell our story the way it is from our own black perspective. This is a serious moment of history (and for history). All over America, the image of Nigeria and Nigerians revolves around Advance Fee Fraud (“419”). Even more worrying are the tales being peddled around about the inferiority of black people compared with white people. I quote Professor James D. Watson:

"All our social policies are based on the fact that their (Black people) intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really".

Then came the distress call by Professor Lateef Akindele of Georgetown University:
“Another angle to it is the notion that we just need to peel off our skin and what erupts is primitiveness. I don’t want to spoil the party but someone needs to explain to me why the government of Nigeria would appear to have done nothing to counter the terrible damage done to the image of the country by the eye-witness report of Nima Elbirgir on CNN of Nigerians (perhaps some of them Lagosians!!) being auctioned as slaves in Libya.”
The climax of the evening were the three riveting videos/podcasts which were attributed to CBS. The first one had already gone viral as it caught an immigration officer red handed demanding bribe in dollars from an American visitor. The second one was on the police which according to Rotimi Fasan’s auditors’ report performed poorly:

“Our uniformed personnel are poorly paid, kitted and housed, yet they are assigned weapons albeit decrepit and obsolete, with which they can at least do a lot of damage to their superiors in uniform and unfortunate ‘bloody civilians”.
What was probably a pirate edition of another CBS bombshell captured two young men who were arrested in Surulere, Lagos for undisclosed reasons. In the commotion that ensued, it was the Chief Imam of Surulere who intervened vigorously and protested that the two young men were regular attendants at his mosque. In fact, they had just finished praying together. Hence, if they were to be arrested, he must accompany them to the police station. All three were bundled into the van and driven off at top speed to the nearest police station. From there, they were driven to the SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) station where they spent the night sleeping in the open air as the cells were already full.

Mosquitoes had a feast (or banquet) all night. In the morning, they were moved to Kirikiri Prison which rejected them as there was no more room.
Next stop was Badagry Prison where they were dumped pending trial. The Chief Imam was immensely distressed at the number of inmates, some of them teenagers as young as fourteen years who were awaiting trial. The Chief Imam managed to get access to a mobile which enabled him to raise the alarm. Apparently, the matter spilled over into social media and it took the intervention of the Chief Judge of Lagos State before all those who had been wrongly arrested for minor infractions were released. Regardless, the Chief Imam was incandescent with rage and kept protesting that if someone of his status could be treated so diabolically, what would the police do to mere mortals?

Before we could hear the police side of the tragic event, the scene shifted to cultism in Lagos.
The brilliant son (a medical student) of a Chartered Accountant, Chief Patrick Ebere somehow got involved in cultism at the University of Lagos. During a violent clash between his gang and another gang the son of a powerful Lagos Chief ended up dead. The police swiftly arrested all the culprits. The rest of the story is somewhat hazy but putting “two and two together” suggested that the bereaved father insisted that his son’s death must be avenged. Perhaps, it was pure co-incidence that Chief Ebere’s son died in police custody and a heartbroken Chief Ebere died shortly afterwards.
CBS will have to offer the police the right to reply. Anyway, the camera zoomed off to the shocking scene of a lady who stripped bare on Bourdillon Street in broad daylight and was gleefully dancing the “Shaku Shaku” dance. Again, on the Marina, just before the exit that leads to the Cathedral Church a man had stripped completely naked while passing cars tried to avoid hitting him. It was chaotic.

Something else that the camera captured were the piles of rubbish everywhere along with giant potholes as well as epileptic electricity supply and totally inadequate water supply even in the most exclusive parts of Lagos – Ikoyi; Victoria Island; Banana Island; Lekki etc.
Even more riveting were the photographs of a mobile community “of tankers and trucks” that had been blocking the access route between Apapa Ports and the rest of Lagos. Some of them had been parked on Eko Bridge for several weeks perhaps months. Somehow, the drivers had devised their own unique survival strategies that extended to having their prayers, meals, baths, haircuts, pedicure etc in their trucks and their environs.

Perhaps, the camera lingered too long on the activities of sex workers/ladies of the night who availed the truck drivers of their services after nightfall.  However, the government appears to have paid skant attention to the toilet needs and waste disposal of the truck/tank drivers who have resorted to the most primitive means of both body and waste disposal.
Before we could proceed to the last video/podcast, Professor (Mrs.) Ajoke Subair who graduated from Princeton University announced that she is “a Lagosian to the core” but she is unable to fathom what is going on in the city she loves so much. According to her, Lagosians have lost their identity. All the old values are gone and real Lagosians have no influence – indeed, nobody seems to take them seriously. They are the only ones who take themselves seriously. All they do is hold all night parties even in the United States of America or wherever they find themselves. In the meantime, Lagos is crumbling.

She was rewarded with another standing ovation which climaxed with everyone yelling:
“We must build the wall and Nigeria must pay for it.”
Once the ladies took over proceedings, there was no stopping them. It was Anike Bashua who is from a royal family in Lagos that insisted on raising the issue of the raw deal which the government has been doling out to the J.K. Randle family over their property at Alausa, Ikeja (where the Government has built its Secretariat without paying any compensation); Eagle Club,
Surulere; Nigerian Ports Authority Sports Ground, Surulere; acquisition of “Love Garden” (now known as MUSON Centre); demolition of Dr. J.K. Randle Swimming Pool; bulldozing of Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall etc. Also, we are yet to unravel the whereabouts of the hundreds of millions bequeathed by Late Chief J.K. Randle to Ahmadiyya College, Agege and Ansar-Ud-Deen College, Isolo.

That was probably what prompted evangelist Pastor Professor (Mrs.) Olabanke FabunmiBeckley who was visiting from Canada to invoke the spirit of Ifa deities for the protection of the J.K. Randle family as well as long life in good health for the celebrant. It was Dr. (Mrs.) Olukemi Akerode who is a top banker with Goldman Sachs in Houston who sent the audience wild with jubilation when she announced that she had just learnt that J.K. Randle had been appointed by Zenith Bank as its Receiver Manager to recover a debt of about U.S. $100,000,000 (one hundred million dollars) from ERIN Petroleum Nigeria Limited which also operates from Houston.

According to her, it was most gratifying that for the first time Zenith Bank would be reciprocating the goodwill of Lagos by giving the job to a Lagosian and demonstrating its confidence in the integrity and professionalism of the Past President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and former Chairman of KPMG Africa. Over to you Jim Ovia!! In the meantime, J.K. Randle International is about to launch its office at J.W. Marriott Towers, the Galleria, Houston. To God be the glory.
When it was time to say the closing prayers, Professor (Mrs.) Yinka Akeju who bagged a Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale did not confine herself to thanking the Almighty for his faithfulness, steadfastness and abundant blessings. Instead, she seized the opportunity to pay a special tribute to her friend and colleague Professor Sophie Oluwole who had just died after firmly establishing herself as a pioneer of African philosophy in her seminal works:

“Witchcraft, Reincarnation, and the God-head” (1992); and “Philosophy and Oral Tradition” (1997) set out to correct the assumptions that Africans (particularly Lagosians) cannot think – that they that are not thinkers and that are primitive. Professor Akeju deposed that thanks to Professor Oluwole’s research of Yoruba Ifa oral tradition (Ifa is the West African religion and system of divination which has been adopted by Ewe, Igbo and Yoruba peoples) there is ample evidence that Lagos is more than ten thousand years old and its history predates the Awori settlers and the invaders from Benin. Professor Akeju’s doctorial thesis was that what we call Lagos is actually a piece of Paradise/Garden of Eden which got broken off at the dawn of creation. Hence, the Island is God’s gift to mankind for the exclusive enjoyment of those who are humble, generous and God-fearing.

Professor (Mrs.) Olatilewa Ajenifuja-Adebo from Oxford University and a Consultant with the World Bank prevailed on us to listen to a riveting extract from a recent World Bank report on the total control which the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) exercises over the alternative modes of transportation in Lagos – motorcycles; tricycles (“Keke Marwa”); minibuses (“Danfo”) whose operators are compelled to pay dues on a daily basis to the union. The amounts involved are truly staggering and are fuelled directly into what is virtually a parallel government!!

Ironically, the World Bank has concluded that if the citizens of Lagos could enjoy comfortable conventional transportation at affordable prices, the poverty level would drop by almost twenty percent – to the detriment of NURTW which has a powerful vested interest in keeping motorcycles, tricycles, dilapidated buses and other “oppressors” on the road thereby causing chaos and anarchy in direct competition with cars and other vehicles (especially “BRT” buses).
Right until the early hours of the morning, the guests remained glued to their seats. Thankfully, before dawn CNN carried as “Breaking News” confirmation that both the President of Nigeria, General Muhammadu Buhari of APC (All Progressive Congress) and his challenger in the forthcoming election, former Vice-President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) had agreed that:
“We must build a wall around Lagos and Nigeria must pay for it.”

Indeed, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was on his way to the U.S. to personally deliver the message to President Donald Trump. No Lagosian is entitled to a better birthday present.
Donald Trump’s swift response was: “It is Mexico which must pay for it.”
Indeed on “Saturday Night Live” (broadcast on NBC) it has become the catechism.

As for Trevor Noah, (the comedian on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah”) he has hooked on to the front page of “Sunday Vanguard” newspaper and its bold headline:
“HOW WE SNEAK INTO FEMALE HOSTELS TO STEAL PANTS FOR MONEY RITUALS.”
Sadly, Richard Quest of CNN has latched on to it as the main item for the World Economic Forum in Davos. The Quest verdict is firm and direct.
“Its cheaper for Nigeria to build the wall than clean up the stench from this bizarre stealing of female pants.”

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: jkrandleintuk@gmail.com


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