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Thursday, 31 December 2020


                                                           Bashorun JK Randle

On Sunday 27th December 2020 when everything that could possibly go wrong – COVID-19 pandemic; Lekki Tollgate fiasco; crumbling economy; mounting domestic and foreign debts and worst of all insecurity evidenced by banditry, kidnapping, farmers versus herdsmen etc. prompted the conclusion that 2020 was a failed year, the Almighty intervened mightily.  The  invitation  card  was  a  summons  to  witness  divine  grace  and  abundant blessings at the sacred throne of God and the altar of the holiest of the Holy:  “Chief Muraino Olujare & Alhaja Folakemi Yewande Obagun And Late Chief Solomon & Madam Bolanle Owolabi respectfully request the honour of your presence at the wedding of their children      Olayinka Zainab       And     Temitayo Olaolu       At 3 pm   At the Church of Nativity, Nativity Close,   Park View Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos     Dress Code:  Black Tie.  From ancient times wedding ceremonies have been epochal even in the most rustic  villages.    It  would  have  been  preceded  by  frantic  consultations  with astrologers, soothsayers, “Griots”, and rain doctors not excluding witches and wizards.

All the same, this was no ordinary wedding.  A devout Muslim family occupied the front row of the church ready and eager to hand over their beloved daughter to her husband – to love and to cherish in sickness and in health; for poorer or richer. The  presiding  Vicar  delivered  a  superlative  sermon  followed  by  a  musical interlude (classical and ethereal) which elevated not only the spirit but also the soul.  It was confirmation that at the hour and date of his choice, the Almighty has his own way of intervening without dislocating beauty, or disrupting love.  Indeed, he flavoured the solemn occasion with serenity and majestic ambiance.   The church took on the special after-glow of a palace that had been dipped in Christmas festivities but saved the best for the union of these two young people whose  turn  at  the  altar  had  emerged  at  a  time  when  our  nation  was  deeply troubled.  They were like a breath of fresh air – as a reminder that the old fears and trenchant anxieties must give way to hope and rejuvenation. The Almighty himself had marked out the escape hatch to a new dawn. The bride was stunning and the groom rose to the occasion with commendable self-assured confidence that the prize for his ardent wooing was worth wrestling with the challenge posed by COVID-19 and the attendant quarantine.  He passed the test with flying colours.  This was the moment it would dawn on him that: “A good wife is someone who knows everything about you and still loves you.” When it was time to proceed to the altar, there was no need to remind him that those steps he was climbing were symbolic – young passionate love would now commit (and mature) itself to adult partnership which would bear fruits to wit:  loving children, success and fulfilment.  The ecstasy would wax stronger with

each step along the journey of adventure, challenges, obstacles, conquests and glory.  The  rapid  succession  of  events  at  the  altar    the  homily;  the  sermon;  the thanksgiving;  the  blessings,  the  signing  of  the  register  and  the  finale (pronouncement  of  Mr  and  Mrs  Tayo  Owolabi  as  the  latest  couple  in  town) would not be sufficient to crowd out Roy T. Bennett who offered his counsel: “Don’t be pushed around by fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart.” In any case CNN has been repeating the dictum delivered by the Dalai Lama: “The purpose of our lives is to be happy.” The Vicar handled the entire ceremony with consummate professionalism.  It was magical but he gave nothing away – almost as if for him the Lord’s miracle was a weekly (if not daily) occurrence. For ordinary folks, it was time for photographs that would leave no room for doubt or denial.  The presence of the Almighty was overwhelming. According to the invitation card: “Reception to follow immediately at   The Obagun Residence” There was no frantic searching for the address.  We only needed to follow the Holy Spirit. At  the  gate  were  the  enforcers  of  strict  compliance  with  COVID-19  virus protocols.  The only exemption was the Holy Spirit.  Face masks, hand wash and sanitizers were available in generous quantities.   Ensconced in the  expansive courtyard was a state-of-the-art tent that one could not but marvel at.  Again,

access was severely restricted and was preceded by cleansing and fumigation to get rid of germs, infections or whatever.  This was followed by photographic/X-ray examination before you could proceed into the main arena which was heavily disinfected.  It was like being in a sanitized bubble. The sanctification which was evident in the church had been extended to the venue of the wedding party. Now it was time for socialising having fulfilled all righteousness at the Church.  All the same, proceedings commenced with prayers.  This time it was moslem prayers and supplication to the same God we all worship:  “May God the creator of all things bright and beautiful continue to smile on Olayinka Zainab and her heartthrob as well as soulmate Temitayo Olaolu.” The amen was unanimous and heartfelt. Straightaway, you could feel that the spirit of the Lord was present. When the party commenced in earnest the bride and groom made their grand entrance to the tune of pulsating music which was obviously well known to the bridesmaids and groomsmen (they wore red ties instead of the prescribed black bow tie!!). We were treated to terrific speeches by the Chief bridesmaid and the best man (who revealed that he introduced Tayo to Olayinka in Britain while they were studying economics/accountancy). As the Chairman of the glorious occasion, my role was limited to giving brief opening  remarks  and  acknowledging the  presence of  Aare (Alhaji) Dr.  Razak Okoya who was wrongly identified by the Master of Ceremony as Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas  (now  late);  and  Prince  (Dr.)  Samuel  Adedoyin  as  well  as  the Royal Fathers.

There was just enough time to permit me to pay tribute to Chief Obagun and his bosom  friend, late Chief  Hamzat  Adebowale  who had  both  played  exemplary roles  in  setting  up  industries  in  Nigeria  instead  if  relying  on  importation  of foreign  goods.  Regardless  of  the  turbulence  they  went  through  following  the introduction  of  the  Structural  Adjustment  Programme  in  1986,  they  never compromised their integrity and reputation. Also, both Chief Obagun and Chief Adebowale ensured that all their children (both male and female) were given the best of education in any part of the world they chose. Something else that is remarkable about Chief Obagun, Aare Razak Okoya; and Prince  (Dr.)  Adedoyin  is  that  they  do  not  depend  on  government  patronage. They stay well clear of politics. Indeed, it did not go  unnoticed  that there was not even a single politician or government functionary at the wedding party. When it was time to cut the wedding cake, the proceedings were deftly handled by Chief (Dr.) Michael Olawale-Cole, CON who as the son-in-law of late Chief Adebowale  duly  acknowledged  the  long-standing  bond  and  biblical  cord between the Obagun and Adebowale families. Then  the  Master  of  Ceremonies  dropped  a  clanger!!  He  announced  that  the youngsters were anxious to get going with the real party that would commence after the departure of old folks. Perhaps William Shakespeare was right: “Youth is wasted on the young.” Anyway, when I got married in 1979 for my N487 (four hundred and eighty-seven  naira)  I  received  U.S.  $1,000  (one  thousand  dollars  from  the  bank). Hence, paying for my honeymoon was a cake walk, dead easy.

Now, the same N487 would fetch the brand-new groom Temitayo only one U.S. dollar!! I must place on record the care lavished on all guests by the ever radiant Alhaja Folakemi Obagun, the mother of the bride. It was a day that reminded me of how much different weddings were in Lagos of yesteryears. Then, the “Igbo” (notice) was a prerequisite. The bride and groom would visit all the leading families to receive their blessings and the groom was required to produce his “Savings Book” (money saved in the bank) as evidence that he had the wherewithal to provide for his wife. The invitation cards would state boldly: “Come one; come all. Bar inexhaustible” The wedding would be held right in the middle of the road with “Atibaba” (Raffia canopy) to block off traffic. Everyone was welcome to join the party. Several  decades  ago,  young  dashing  Barrister  Femi  Okunnu  from  Isale  Eko sought  the  hand  of  one  of  the  jewels  of  Okepopo  in  Lagos.  He  had  dared  to embark on a poaching expedition which did not go down well with the elders of Okepopo. He pleaded with the uncle (Chief I.S. Adewale) of the apple of his eye (Lateefat Oyekan) to champion his cause as the “Alarena” – pathfinder. On the appointed day, the elders assembled at the residence of the father of the bride (Mr. Lamina Oyekan) who listened patiently to Chief Adewale: “I am delighted to extol the outstanding credentials of the young man who is not only a lawyer and devout moslem from a very illustrious family but also  a  cricketer  and  hockey  player  in  addition  to  being  a  graduate  of University of London.”  For  the  next  forty-five  minutes,  Chief  Adewale  was  still  going  on  about  the credentials of his candidate. Finally, he concluded by declaring: 

“He is also an old boy of King’s College, Lagos.” It  was  at  this  point  that  my  father,  Chief  J.K.  Randle  (an  old  boy  of  King’s College) admonished Chief Adewale: “Why have you been wasting our time. That is what you should have said first – that he is an old boy of King’s College and that would have settled the matter straightaway. Lamina was my classmate and you are also an old boy of King’s College.” Perhaps he should have added that three brothers of the bride – Rasheed; Jubril and Hasheem would follow their father’s footsteps at King’s College. The bride was  also  a  star  student  at  Queen’s  College,  Yaba  before  proceeding  to  the University of Ibadan. For this wedding, the invitation card delivered a warning: “Strictly by invitation.” To God Almighty be the glory. My closing remarks (as Chairman) were directed at the bride: “I hope Tayo is a Chelsea (football club) supporter. The least you can do is to become a Chelsea fan yourself or let him watch the match on television without any interruption. Also, never stop laughing at his jokes no matter how often he repeats the same stories.” I got back home just in time for the CNN news. The main item was Bill Gates wondering  how  come  the  COVID-19  casualties  in  Africa,  particularly  Nigeria were so low. It is not rocket science. We are the people of God and we love to party. Young or old makes no difference.

As for social media, it is ablaze and agog with conspiracy theories ranging from the government’s distribution of free sleeping tablets as part of the palliative for the  COVID-19  pandemic  in  order  to  ensure  that  while  we  are  asleep  the government can just carry one without discriminating between enemy or foe (or friend for that matter) while the economy is spilt between those in the dreadful camps  for  IDPs  (Internally  Displaced  Persons)  and  the  IDFs  (Internally Dispossessed Families) whose properties e.g. Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall; Dr. J.K. Randle Swimming Pool; Dr. J.K. Randle Love Garden etc. at Onikan, Lagos  have been  “kidnapped”  by  the Government  and for  which  the  families must now pay ransom. Help is on the way, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Mr. Antonio Guterres is sending Bill Gates as his Special Envoy to Nigeria to plead with the government to refrain from  further grudge  tactics against those  families who have  served  Nigeria  meritoriously  for  over  one  hundred  and  fifty  years  – including the founding of Nigeria’s first political party, The People’s Union by Dr. J.K. Randle in 1908. Here  we  are,  the  entire  country  is  littered  with  abandoned  projects. Simultaneously, our domestic and foreign debts are piling up. Is it the young people who are just getting married and commencing their journey that would pay? Thank  goodness,  Bill  Gates  is  on his  way  to deliver the message: “Vaccine Is Different From Vaccination.” Indeed, no two marriages are the same. Nigeria is heading for a divorce. I  am  most  grateful  to  Dr.  Augustine  Ani  (an  old  boy  of  King’s  College)  for reminding me that KNOWLEDGE IS POWER and that the best wedding gift for Tayo and Olayinka is a snippet of knowledge and history:

“Major Miller started the Civil Service in Nigeria in 1945. He was a British civil servant who enlisted in the army at the beginning of the WWII and Rose  to  the  rank  of  a  Major  and  Chief  of  Intelligence  Staff  of  the  West African Frontier Force. He returned to the Civil Service at the end of the war and was immediately posted to Nigeria by the then Colonial Secretary to build up the Nigeria Civil Service. The first intakes (with the exception of Chief Adebo an old boy of King’s College, Lagos who had a degree in Economics) were mainly Cambridge School  Certificate  holders  who  were  recommended  by  the  Provincial administrators (Residents). The first entrants (1945), twenty in number, include Semeon Adebo, Michael Ani, Stanley Wey, Bishop Aboyade Cole, C O  Lawson,  Oladipo  Bateye,  I  O  Dina,  K  Odumosu,  Ambrose  Obiyan, Imokhuede, Wier Ikpeme, Jerome Udoji, Aliyu Akilu, Francis Nwokedi, S Biobaku......  They  were  all  given  positions  of  Assistant  Labour  Officer-in-  training while  Chief  Adebo  was  given  an  administrative  post  in  the  Financial Secretary's  Office.  Most  of  them  later  when  on  study  leave  later  to conclude  University  degrees  or  some  postgraduate  diploma  such  as Diploma in Public Administration (LSE), etc. They addressed each other as 'Miller boys' and pulled their weight together 'in the spirit of Miller.” History is like marriage. What you put into it is what you get out of it. Good luck and happy married life to Olayinka and Temitayo.

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