LADY MAIDEN IBRU’S 70TH BIRTHDAY AND MY LUCKY (NARROW) ESCAPE (PART 1) - Paul Ukpabio's Blog

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Wednesday, 27 November 2019

LADY MAIDEN IBRU’S 70TH BIRTHDAY AND MY LUCKY (NARROW) ESCAPE (PART 1)


By Bashorun J.K. Randle


With the benefit of hindsight, I should have smelled a rat. Ahead of Lady Maiden Ibru’s 70th Birthday on 20th November 2019, a powerful delegation (names withheld) of old boys (and girls) of St. Gregory’s College, Lagos turned up in my office to inform me that regardless of my being a “KCOB” (King’s College Old Boy), they had finally succumbed to popular demand by old boys of their school, especially those in the diaspora, that my election as the President of the Old Boys Association of St. Gregory’s College would be announced on the front page of “The Guardian” newspaper of which Lady Maiden is the publisher on her birthday.

In addition, I had been nominated to inform the birthday girl that the old boys (and girls) of St. Gregory’s College had unanimously selected her as the “Guardian Angel”/ “Angel From The Guardian”. No problem, I assured them. My special role at the birthday party would be to decorate her with the insignia of “Guardian Angel”. No problem, I again assured them. As confirmation that they were on a mission of peace and reconciliation, the delegation (Names still withheld) presented me with two plaques. The first one read: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.” and the second one read as follows: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” - Sir Winston Churchill.

In exchange, I gave them a plaque which contained the following quotation from Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi II, Emir of Kano (and an old boy of King’s College). “They hail you “Rankadede” now. In a couple of years, they will throw stones at you.” However, matters started getting interesting just before the birthday party with anonymous telephone callers (names withheld) demanding my assurance that I would attend the birthday party on Saturday 23rd November 2019 and abide strictly with the dress code: “Black Tie”. The invitation card duly arrived. The party would be preceded by a Thanksgiving Service at St. Saviour’s Church, Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos. It used to be known as the Colonial Church (exclusively for Europeans and old boys of King’s College, Lagos!!). That is where successive Governors and Governor-Generals of Nigeria worshipped and it was right bang in the middle of the route equidistant between the GovernorGeneral’s residence and King’s College. For several decades, the vicar was a Briton. It was during the tenure of The Revd. Canon J. J. Payne who was installed as Chaplin of the Church in 1962 by the Bishop of Lagos, Rt. Revd. Adelakun Howells that a significant rise in the attendance of indigenous Nigerians was observed. 

JK Randle
He led the church for 24 years before his departure in 1986. The church service was indeed a spiritual feast and a genuine demonstration of humility by the congregation (including moslems and atheists) who had assembled to supplicate for the divine mercies, favour and protection of the Almighty for Maiden and her entire family. It did not go unnoticed that her late husband Alex died on 20 November 2011. He was a victim of General Sani Abacha’s dreaded murder squad led by Sergeant Barnabas Jabila Mshiela aka "Sergeant Rogers" who waylaid him on Falomo Bridge, Ikoyi. They left him for dead. "Sergeant Rogers" later confessed to the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission of Nigeria (Oputa Panel) that he was acting on the orders of Major Hamza Al Mustapha. 3 Alex was rushed to St. Nicholas Hospital, which is almost on the same street as King’s College. Miraculously, he survived. He was never the same again. The physical, emotional and psychological damage was colossal – even after extensive medical care in Britain for three years and subsequently in the United States of America. May his soul rest in peace. Maiden became the champion of the legacy and vision which together they had crafted. The flagship of the vast business empire which encompassed property, hotels, printing/publishing etc. was (and remains) “The Guardian” newspaper and its cryptic motto: “Conscience nurtured by truth.” For almost two and a half hours, the church which was packed full provided an oasis of shared bliss and sublime purposefulness from the wreckage of a nation at war with itself – rage versus vengeance in a vicious cycle of impunity, injustice and oppression in competition with kidnapping, drug trafficking, embezzlement and banditry. The Bishop (name withheld for legal reasons) who conducted the service with superlative dexterity and divine inspiration left no room for those who have ever doubted the supreme majesty of the Almighty. The sermon which he delivered is a collector’s item – vintage stuff. It was a brilliant exhortation for reflection and introspection – why are we here and are we prepared for heaven? He challenged the congregation to unite in demanding that the Government should address the real problems facing the country – security, education, health facilities, power supply; poverty; ethnic/religious rivalry etc. facing the country. He threw up his arms and demanded: “Why should Nigerians lose their lives during elections or be sold as slaves in Libya? To our shame, young people (including doctors and chartered accountants) are leaving the country in droves. Some have even resorted to crossing the Sahara Desert or swimming across rivers/seas in a desperate pursuit of better lives in Europe.
As for the womenfolk, many of them are pounding the streets of France and Italy as prostitutes and drug traffickers. Christ is our peace. He has reconciled us to God; in one body by the cross. We meet in His name and share His peace. The peace of the Lord be always with you.” Even the non-believers (names withheld) in the congregation were severely jolted. Only time will tell if they would mend their ways and repent. If they do, then they owe their salvation to the preacher and their redemption to Lady Maiden Ibru.
What followed were fulsome encomiums and bountiful accolades which were showered on the birthday girl for her fierce determination to preserve the memory of her beloved husband having become a window and single parent at the age of sixtytwo years with young adults to look after – Tivi, Toke, Anita, Uvie and Ose. The Bishop described Maiden as a magnet who has drawn together a wide circle of friends to whom she is exceptionally devoted and uncommonly loyal.
Furthermore, under her leadership, “The Guardian” newspaper was the only national paper (print or electronic media) which was not tainted by the sleaze and corruption of ‘Dasukigate” – with billions being doled out to media organisations by the National Security Adviser under the last government. While directing his gaze at the birthday girl, the Bishop declared: “The Lord has been faithful and steadfast. Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee. My God, how wonderful thou art. Thy majesty how bright.” As for the “Alleluia Chorus”, it was heavenly. Before matters were concluded, the Bishop acknowledged the presence of “KCOBs” (King’s College Old Boys). This was in addition to thanking the following dignitaries: Lieutenant-General T.Y. Danjuma GCON and his wife Senator Daisy Danjuma for their generous support to the Anglican Church and welfare of the clergy in addition to massive donations to universities, provision of health facilities, potable water and huge contributions to the poor and internally displaced people (IDPs) especially in the North-East – through the Danjuma Foundation. Awesome. The General did not mince words when he felt compelled to warn his kith and kin in Taraba State that they were in imminent danger of being wiped out.
At the head of the fairly long list were The Governor of Edo State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa; The Governor of Delta State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki; Senator (Mrs.) Oluremi Tinubu (former first Lady of Lagos State); Aremo Olusegun Osoba (former Governor of Ogun State) and his wife Erelu Derin. The Thanksgiving Service was clearly a masterpiece. It was evident that the congregation were in no hurry to exit – even after the recessional hymn. What followed were photographs with the birthday girl basking in the after glow of communicating with the Almighty. What was now on offer was Maiden the fashionista, giving the paparazzi every shot or angle they asked for. Finally, she waded through the crowd of admirers and well wishers into the ample embrace of a vintage Rolls Royce with her nephew-in-law Olorogun Oscar Ibru ready to accompany her to the shindig at the Federal Palace Hotel which belonged to her late husband Alex.
Before I could exit, Most Reverend Dr. Yinka Omololu (name withheld), previously a surgeon in the Nigerian Navy (with the rank of Commodore) and an avid squash player reminded me that having retired from the clergy he was at the Church service incognito but he wanted me to know that he is fully in support of building a wall around Lagos – to be paid for by Donald Trump, President of the United States of America.
Once the wall is built, all the J.K. Randle property which the government had demolished or seized – Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall; Dr. J.K. Randle Swimming Pool; The Love Garden (now known as The MUSON Centre) etc. would be returned to the family.
Meanwhile, His Royal Majesty Oba Rilwan Akiolu has issued a proclamation on that day to be conveyed to all Lagosians via Town Criers in accordance with the traditions of Lagos when turbulence is brewing: • As the year 2019 draws to a close, the level of poverty is worrisome. • There is virtue in contentment. • History has taught us that when the King’s horse is missing, among the search party are those who are genuinely hoping that the horse would be found while there may be others who would be hoping that the horse would never be found (lost forever). In between are those who are praying that wherever the horse is, it should be in comfortable surroundings and not lack for food. • Integrity is far more valuable than money • All Lagosians must shun insincerity, greed and other social vices. • In view of the deteriorating security situation in the country, Lagosians should make it a point of duty to be in their homes no later than 9pm (“Isede”). Although Kabiyesi (a devout moslem) was not in church, he sent word – quoting from the Bible: “What shall it profit a man (or woman) to own the world and lose his (or her) soul.” Let the party begin.
When the old boys of St. Gregory’s College (names withheld) lurking around the forecourt of the church offered me a ride to the after-church reception, I beat a retreat into the church and exited through the back door. It seemed rather odd that all of them wore dark glasses even though it was getting dark.
                                  
- 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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