Two Funerals And Grief For The Tinubu Family By Bashorun J.K Randle - Paul Ukpabio's Blog

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Thursday, 26 September 2019

Two Funerals And Grief For The Tinubu Family By Bashorun J.K Randle


It was a great shock to learn of the demise of Alhaji Karim Ayinla Babalola Olowu (aka “KAB”), OON a titan in our nation’s sporting history. He died on the 14th of August 2019 at the ripe old age of ninety-five years and he is survived by children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

He was a devout moslem and the “Olori Ebi” (the head) of the Tinubu family of Lagos. However, “KAB” was much more than that – an epitome of humility, contentment, trustworthiness, family values and generosity of spirit. I doubt whether anyone can recall him ever being angry or agitated. Ironically, he was a strict disciplinarian especially with himself!!

Alhaji K.A.B Olowu attended CMS Grammar school in Lagos before proceeding to study Physical Education at Loughborough College, Leicester, England on Federal Government Scholarship from 1952 to 1955.

As an athlete, he represented Nigeria in many international competitions which earned him a trove of trophies and laurels. He was both a sprinter and long jumper and he represented Nigeria at the British Empire Games in Auckland, New Zealand in 1950. Two years later (1952), he participated in the Summer Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland.
J  K Randle

According to CNN, he won silver medals in both the long jump and the 4 X 110 yards relay race at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. His performance was exceptional and he was rightly idolised as the first Nigerian athlete to win two medals at the Commonwealth Games. It was indeed a rare feat. Drug cheats were entirely unknown then!!

As the Games Master at King’s College, he was in charge of physical education and he never compromised the very high standards he set for himself and those who were under his care.

Beyond that, considering that this was during the colonial period when there were only a handful of Nigerians amongst the British tutors, he held his own – but in a very dignified way. He was widely respected by all and sundry in the school (teachers, parents, students, junior staff etc.) and beyond, in the larger community of Lagos (and indeed Nigeria).

Although, he was not an old boy of King’s College, he endeared himself to King’s College Old Boys (“KCOBs”) by his dedication and devotion to grooming athletes who did our nation proud by comporting themselves as true sportsmen – win or lose. He was eager to instil in them the lesson that character and sportsmanship were as important as sporting prowess as evidenced by speed, throwing ability, or jumping (be it height or distance) on the sports field.

As fate would have it, my father late Chief J.K. Randle (an old boy of King’s College) was the Chief-de-Mission of the Nigerian team to the Olympic Games held in Melbourne in 1956. Alhaji K.A.B Olowu was the Captain of the team which included A.K. Amu who was then a student at King’s College.

The 10 athletes on the trip were captain and 100m and long jump athlete, K.A.B. Olowu; R.A. Oluwo, a pole vault athlete; J.O. Chigbolu, V.O. Gabriel, E.A. Ajado, 100m and 4x100m relay; T.A. Erinle, T. Obi, A.K. Amu, P. Esiri and former Attorney-General of the Cameroons, P.B. Enigo. The Cameroon was part of Nigeria then.

The accompanying officials, all deceased, were Chief J.K. Randle, (Chef-De-Mission), Chief A.A. Ordia (coach), J.A. Enyeazu (assistant coach) and Arthur Cooper, Nigerian Attaché, Melbourne. Sadly, my father died on 17th December 1956 at the age of 47 shortly after he returned from Melbourne. Alhaji K.A.B Olowu kept a watchful eye on me while I was a student at King’s College and

he was an enthusiastic supporter of the annual Olympic Games Dinner which I hosted in honour of Olympians for several decades. He was also an ardent supporter of the Dr. J.K. Randle [1928] Annual Swimming Competition which I have been sponsoring for over five decades.

By the time he died, he was the last surviving 1956 Olympian. However, what was most remarkable is that at the time he captained the Nigerian team in 1956, he was over thirty-two-years-old – an age when most athletes would have given up active participation. Indeed, he soldiered on for several more years.

In 1966, he became the first Nigerian to officiate at the Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica. As the Chief Starter at the 1973 All-Africa Games held in Lagos, he carried a loaded pistol which he would fire with tremendous calm and dignity after loudly announcing to the athletes participating in sprints and long-distance running: “On your marks; get ready; Go!!”

The noise was deafening. This was followed in 1976 with his appointment as the Team Manager of the Nigerian team to the Summer Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada. He capped it in 1992 with the spectacle of him being shown on television all over the world as the first Nigerian Olympic torch-bearer.

After several years at King’s College, Alhaji K.A.B joined the Nigerian Prison Service and he was in charge of Kirikiri Prison, Apapa, Lagos. Subsequently, he was transferred to supretend Agodi Prison, Ibadan. Fate played a powerful role in the life of an old boy of King’s College, Major Juventus C. Ojukwu who was detained in Agodi Prison on account of his role in Nigeria’s first coup d’état on 15 January, 1966, while serving in Kaduna. It was Alhaji K.A.B Olowu who ensured the safety and reasonable comfort of Juventus Ojukwu who was my classmate at King’s College and course mate of now General Muhammadu Buhari, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. J.C. Ojukwu; Major-General Duro Ajayi; late Commodore Babatunde Odedina; Major Bankole Makanju; and late Major Babatunde Elegbede were recruited from King’s

College by the military in 1962. They were followed by Major-General Ishola Williams, late Commander Nnamdi Obi-Rapu and Major Olafimihan the following year.

Fortunately, J.C. Ojukwu later became a politician and member of the House of Representatives. He is still alive and is better placed to provide testimony regarding the assistance rendered to him by the inimitable Alhaji K.A.B Olowu who set up the sports complex at the Nigerian Prison, Kirikiri as well as the Prisons Athletics Club which produced many outstanding athletics for our nation.

While the Tinubu family was still grieving and mourning the loss of their patriarch, Alhaji Rafiu Babatunde Tinubu died on September 4, 2019 twenty-one days after the demise of his uncle. He was aged 75 years. While K.A.B Olowu was the first grandson of Madam Tinubu and Saka Tinubu, Rafiu was their great grandson (and nephew of KAB). Rafiu was popularly known as RAB.

Rafiu attended St. Peters School, Faji while I attended Lagos Government School Okesuna. However, in 1956, he along with Peju Smith (the older brother of Alhaji Musliu Smith, the former Inspector-General of Police) and I attended special lessons at Campbell Street, Lagos conducted by Alhaji Muhammad Bisiriyu Olatunji Onisarotu (an old boy of King’s College) in preparation for the entrance examination to King’s College.

Rafiu proceeded to Ahmaddiya College, Agege while Peju Attended CMS Grammar School. I was admitted into King’s College in 1957, two weeks after my father died. Peju retired as a dentist several years ago and Rafiu joined the Lagos State Civil Service from where he retired as the Head of Service.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that Alhaji Onisarotu was a middle level officer at the Ministry of Finance. He was responsible for paying all the expenses in connection with the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II accompanied by her husband the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip to Nigeria in 1956. It was a huge sum but “being a good King’s College Boy”, three weeks after the end of the royal visit, Alhaji Onisarotu accounted for every penny of the money voted for the visit and returned the balance to the Treasury.

What was also remarkable was that Alhaji Onisarotu, a devout moslem, had no qualms whatever living as a tenant in the house of Mr. & Mrs. Fernandez (who were staunch Catholics) at Campbell Street, Lagos. They were the parents of the business mogul Ambassador Deinde Fernandez. Incidentally, their daughter married a moslem, Alhaji Alade Odunewu.

Perhaps I should add that our respective families’ association (J.K. Randle, Smith and Tinubu) go back over a hundred years as we lived in the same part of Lagos. I vividly recall that when my father was campaigning for political office in 1951 (under the aegis of the Action Group), he was warmly welcomed by the Tinubu family of Kakawa Street which was part of “H Ward”. They assured him that there was no need for him to campaign as they were fully behind him.

They were as good as their word. Actually, the Tinubu compound is on two sides of Kakawa Street. Some members live on one side while the others live directly opposite!!

Another section of the Tinubu family lived at 21 Ricca Street, just a stone throw from us. Alhaji K.O. Tinubu lived there with his uncle Mr. Disu “Baba Loco” (he worked in the locomotive section of the Railways) while he was a student at Methodist Boys High School, Broad Street, Lagos before joining the police and subsequently rose to the rank of Commissioner as well as bagging a Law degree from University of London. He served as the Commissioner (Minister) of Health under General Murtala Mohammed and General Olusegun Obasanjo. He had a sister (Abiola) who died two years ago. She was the mother of Dr. Jide Idris who attended King’s College Lagos before proceeding to Yale University in America to study Public Health.

The Ashimi family lived next door to the Tinubus. Further down the street were Odojukan; Alagangan; Beckley; Oshode; Etti etc. and if you swung left into Omidundun Street, the Sikuade family were on one side of the street while Sanwo-Olu (the grandfather of the current Governor of Lagos State) was on the other side of the street.

Some of Alhaji Kafaru Tinubu’s classmates at Methodist Boys High School, Broad Street, Lagos were Alhaji Musliu O Anibaba, FCA; late Chief Sabitu Folami and late Chief (Dr.) Muniru Balogun. They were devout moslems and remained moslems without hinderance although they attended Christian schools. Other contemporaries of K.O. Tinubu were Chief Jide Oki and late Governor of Lagos State, Commodore Adekunle Lawal who all attended Methodist Boys’ High School, Lagos.

Late Architect (Chief) Ishola Bankole lived directly opposite K.O. Tinubu but he attended St. Gregory’s College, Obalende. Another contemporary was Professor J.T. Duncan who lived just around the corner on Tokunbo Street. He was at King’s College, Lagos.

May the souls of Alhaji K.A.B Olowu and Alhaji Rafiu Tinubu rest in peace in the bosom of the Almighty.

- 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, J.K. Randle Professional Services. Email:jkrandleintuk@gmail.com

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