By Bashorun J.K. Randle
At the interview that preceded our admission to King’s College, Lagos, Sonny and I struck up a friendship that spilled over to 2nd January 1957 when we found ourselves in the same class at the age of thirteen years. Hence it was a privilege to witness firsthand his prodigious intellect which was consistently on display until we left in 1963. Ironically, he was eager to establish his credentials as a “rascal”. In this endeavour he found ready allies in late Robert Olabode Johnson (ROJ) and myself. Some of the escapades provided ample ammunition that would have earned us the severest punishment (not excluding suspension or expulsion). Fortunately, our guardian angel ensured that matters did not escalate beyond narrow escapes.
Sonny was in Hyde-Johnson House where he kept his fellow boarders on edge on account of his regular accumulation of “imposition” points (punishment by Prefects or Teachers for infractions / bad behaviour) which severely compromised any prospects of “Hyde-J” emerging as the best in the rankings amongst all four houses – Hyde-Johnson; Mackee-Wrights; Paynes; and Harman’s at the end of each term. Points were awarded for academic excellence, proficiency in sports and good conduct.
From King’s College, Sonny proceeded to University of Lagos where his haul of academic distinctions at the graduation ceremony from Medical School in 1973 is yet to be equalled.
As confirmation that this was not a fluke, his record at post-graduate courses in UK (Hammersmith, London) and United States of America (Chicago) bear testimony that his superlative achievements have deservedly earned him all the accolades showered on him for his enduring scholarship and energetic commitment to excellence.
I was a witness to the pleadings of his professor in Chicago that without a doubt, Sonny was firmly on the pathway and trajectory for the highest and rarest international awards in the medical profession.
Here we are in Ijebu-Ode to celebrate Ogbeni Oja in recognition of his pedigree and his dazzling accomplishments in numerous areas of human endeavour – business (banking and finance); “hospitality” (as in Eko Hospital PLC); education (University of Lagos; University of Benin) etc.
At the age of 80 he is now entitled to a reprieve, pardon or waiver that would wipe all those “impositions” which over the years have left us in awe and admiration. Be rest assured that the best is yet to come as he majestically glides into the next phase of his eventful life surrounded by his wife, children, and grandchildren.
Kalu Idika Kalu (KIK) who eventually became Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, was a huge restraining influence on Sonny at King’s College. Sonny was KIK’s fag and now that the eagle has landed, the least we can do is to recognize “KIK” as the “Baba Ogbeni Oja of Ijebu Land”. History is always impartial. Alas, whatever “K.I.K” did or failed to do cannot now be undone.
While celebrating Sonny, we must acknowledge the immense sacrifice, support and love showered on him as an only child of his late mother. She lost six pregnancies before he came along – hence, the name “Folorunsho” (which translates as “left in the care of God”) out of fear and apprehension that he too would go the way of the others.
He was fortunate to have two adoring uncles – late Architect Afolabi Kuku and Chief Bayo Kuku, the last Ogbeni Oja.
It was while we were in the Fourth Form at King’s College that (perhaps)due to a surge of testosterone, Sonny and I decided that the dances and picnics were too boring for us. We decided to launch a club – “TINNAZ” which would hold picnics at the pristine Ikoyi Park, Lagos (now known as Park View Estate, Ikoyi) and parties at the Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall, Onikan which was recently (wantonly) demolished by the Government, during the long vacation and at Easter as well as Christmas/New Year. We had no difficulty in recruiting the likes of Olusegun Osoba (from Methodist Boy’s High School); George Amu; Benjamin Ohaeri; Chris Okunriboye; Shobo Hughes; Vera-Cruz; Muyiwa Da-Silva and his brother (from St Gregory’s College) as well as Patrick Sebo and Sedewe Koshoni from St. Finbarr’s College). We had great fun. We were hot !! We had swagger and the girls from Queen’s College, Yaba, Methodist Girls School, Yaba; Holy Child College, Obalende etc.. Our classmates at King’s College – Tunde Cole-Onitiri; Kayode Adeniyi-Jones; Robert Olabode Johnson; Olufemi Robinson; and Bola Osinbowale would not stop bragging about being members of Tinnaz Club. It provoked the emergence of a rival – “The Shadows Club” led by Niran Adeniyi and Tolu Cameron Cole.
The achievements of Dr. Sonny Kuku flourished in an environment dominated by geniuses at King’s College. Many of them proceeded to reach amazing heights and perform exceptional feats in medicine; engineering law; judiciary; architecture; civil service; chartered accountancy; military; police; banking; clergy; security services; music; diplomacy; politics; journalism; academia; literature; and commerce and industry. Perhaps I should add Royalty / Traditional Rulers and Public Intellectual to the intimidating list.
Ironically, many of them were active “Rascals” before transforming into super-achievers. In any case, most of the impositions they incurred were for “breaking bounds” (sneaking out of the college without permission to watch a film show or visit some of the night spots that were all over Lagos – Ambassador Hotel; Kakadu; Cuban Bamboo; Maharani etc.).
Long before Sonny entered medical school, he had developed his own “bedside manner”. However, I am not at liberty to disclose further details. It is sufficient to share with you the data, statistics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) which have established beyond reasonable doubt that ladies have been wildly enthusiastic about securing his services for ailments – both real and imaginary in order to benefit from his legendary bedside manner, especially what he mischievously describes as “Intensive Care” (not Intensive Care Unit) and TLC (Tender Loving care). POKA!! (King’s College Slang)
My own experiences with him and his medical skills are somewhat different. When I visited him at Eko Hospital where he was the Chief Medical Officer, I complained that I had spondylosis which is a condition in which there is abnormal wear on the cartilage and bones of the neck.
He listened carefully and assured me that I was very lucky as he had just completed a course in the United States of America. A cure had been found for spondylosis. It would involve cutting off my neck and diligently repairing the damaged nerves and faulty valves. It was at that point that I informed him that I had left a very important document in my car, and I needed to retrieve it. I assured him that, I would be back shortly. That I am alive to tell the story is because as soon as I got into my car, I instructed my driver to drive as fast as he could out of the premises of Eko Hospital. I never went back.
I must not fail to place on record the unique achievements of Eko Hospital Plc which was founded by doctors Alex Eneli; Sonny Kuku and Amaechi Obiora. It was a trailblazer and the first hospital to be quoted on the Nigerian stock Exchange. Its success was phenomenal. Alas, both Dr Eneli and Professor Obiora have passed on – leaving Dr. Sonny Kuku a huge legacy of an institution that was the pearl in the delivery of healthcare in Nigeria and a world class medical training centre.
Time and space would not permit me to dwell on the challenges Sonny Kuku has faced on his path to greatness. However, I am obliged to recall the resistance he faced when he completed his post-graduate studies in the United States of America in record time. His Alma Mater, the College of Medicine did not want him. A case of jealousy combined with envy. It took the personal intervention of the Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed to clear the obstacles and resistance in order to accord him his rightful place. He has since bagged several PhDs and international awards which are too numerous to list here. You are free to Google: “J.K. Randle Extols Dr. Sunny Kuku”.
You may well discover that the only task at which Ogbeni Oja has failed is fluency in French Language. Alas, nobody is perfect. Also, regardless of his often repeated boast that he is a “Babalawo” (native doctor) and “Anjonu” (supernatural/ethereal being), he has never fathered twins. He now has plenty of time to make amends and graduate to “Baba Ibeji”.
I am sure, Olori Susan his charming wife is up to the task. As for golf, the game for “Holey” (holy) men, Sonny’s handicap is woeful (almost non-existent).
When next I visit King’s College, I must check out the special extra space in the wall surrounding the college. Amidst the columns and chessmen, that hole for those who wish to break bounds has been known only to the rascals from generation to generation. In order to go through, you must have the courage to go head first. It is a closely guarded secret. If it still exists, there is hope for Nigeria.
We are entitled to be intrigued by the insistence of the Kuku family that by their own unique tradition they are not at liberty to disclose the number of their wives, children or their wealth. Hence, their family song is: “Owo melo lo’ni ti o fi omo Kuku sere ?” It is an oblique reference to the vastness of the children, wives acquired and wealth of their progenitor, Balogun Kuku who was both a merchant and warrior.
Regardless, we must accord special homage to the mother of the new Ogbeni Oja. She was a primary school teacher par excellence. Apart from Sonny, many generations of students benefited from her devotion to duty and the special interest she took in their progress – with patience and extra tuition. It is indeed a great pity that Nigeria, unlike Norway and other Nordic/Scandinavian countries has been delinquent in rewarding teachers appropriately and acknowledging the crucial role they play in moulding the character and learning with regard to children who are the future of the nation. Norway makes no apologies for ensuring that teachers and lecturers are in the first rank amongst professionals.
It was shortly after we entered King’s College that we discovered that Sonny had somehow managed to dodge classes for almost a year at his primary school (Salvation Army School, Yaba).
In my own case, I became a “KC” (King’s College) boy under a haze. I was still in shock after the sudden death of my father, Chief J.K. Randle two weeks earlier on 17th December 1956. He was only 47 years old. The funeral was at Christ Church Cathedral, Marina, Lagos. Among the pall bearers as the coffin made its exit from the church was Olusola Oyemade who is now a very distinguished medical practitioner in California, United States of America. He is here with us today and is seated righjt next to me. I have long ago exculpated him from any allegation that he had anything to do with the demise of my beloved Dad.
Lagos, indeed Nigeria, was thrown into deep mourning on account of the fact that Chief J.K. Randle was the Lisa of Lagos (Prime Minister); Chairman of Island Club; Chairman of Lagos Race Club (Horse Racing) – in addition to being a successful businessman, politician, philanthropist and sportsman. He had just returned from Melbourne, Australia where he was the Chef-De-Mission of the Nigerian team to the Olympics. It was only recently that I learnt from Dr. Helen Ekwueme who may have stumbled on his death certificate that the cause of death was DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) on account of the long flight from Melbourne to Lagos which took three days. The outpouring of grief was amazing and still subsists till today after sixty-seven years.
What was most remarkable about my Dad was that he did not believe in inherited privileges and was most disdainful of acquiring and and accumulating wealth in order to hand it over to ones children. He bequeathed his vast legacy to sports and education and the beneficiaries were two Christian Schools:
(i) C.M.S. Grammar School, Lagos
(ii) Holy Cross Primary School, Lagos
and two Moslem Schools:
(i) Ansaru-deen College, Isolo, Lagos
(ii) Ahmadiyya College, Agege, Lagos.
Actually, he was only following the footsteps of his own illustrious father Dr. J.K. Randle who bequeathed his huge fortune to charities. Among his legacies are the Love Garden, Onikan, Lagos (now known as MUSON Centre) and the Dr. J.K. Randle Swimming Pool, Onikan, Lagos.
Ironically, for several decades the government has been on the warpath with the J.K. Randle family for no explicable reason. The most recent assault was the brutal demolition of Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall, Onikan, Lagos (named after my father) along with the adjacent Dr. J.K. Randle Swimming Pool. The iconic edifies were meant for “the peaceful enjoyment of the people of Lagos.” Specifically, the custodian of the swimming pool and “Love Garden” was Lagos Town Council which was succeeded by Lagos Municipal Council and eventually Lagos City Council. Alas, the intention of my Dad and grandfather was anchored on goodwill and generosity of spirit in the belief that every child should be given equal opportunity to thrive, flourish, excel and fulfill its destiny without hindrance. No room for the idle rich. In their own way, my ancestors were stoutly radical. The government has been relentlessly stiching up the J.K. Randle family. It has become a rampage. No respite.
When I passed the Common Entrance examination to King’s College, my parents were over the moon. My Dad was an old boy of the college and he was looking forward to both of us wearing the college tie, which was his favourite tie. Alas, it was not to be. Anyway, his record at King’s College was awesome. He was the School Captain and had been the captain of athletics; football; cricket etc. As a schoolboy, he represented Nigeria at the international level (Nigeria versus Ghana). His father died in his final year at King’s College. The rest is history.
Perhaps I should explain why Sonny was an enthusiastic member of the “Tinnaz Club”. What had happened was that at King’s College, the college dances were under the strict supervision of the Principal (Headmaster) and Housemasters. Girls were invited from Queen’s College, Yaba; Holy Child College, Obalende; Methodist Girls’ High School, Yaba; Reagan Memorial School, Yaba; and other leading girls schools. You could dance with the girls but there was no “smooching” !! That was the ammunition and spur for founding our own club – away from prying eyes and busy bodies.
Incidentally, several girls – Lande Williams, late Sitira Okunnu; late Ronke Coker; and late Funlayo Akande joined as members in their own right.
As we speak the fate of our nation hangs in the balance. Our situation – financially, economically and politically is precarious. For several decades, we have been on a roller-coaster ride. We are in danger of STUMBLING into a toxic cocktail of financial /economic crisis and political rigidities as well as security disaster on account of grotesque corruption, multiple misunderstandings and subversive miscalculations. History and ethics are no longer taught in our schools. We have jettisoned patriotism. King’s College did not bargain for this. We had our “Thinkers Club” (philosophy) of which some of the leading lights were late Claude Ake, University of Columbia; Stanley Macebuh, University of Columbia; late Alex Egom, Cambridge University; Adele Jinadu, Oxford University etc. They are the public intellectuals who insist on reminding us that our multiple misunderstandings are rooted in false interpretation of the Holy Books as justification for mayhem, intolerance, fantacism, and opportunism. Subversive miscalculations reflect policies (and beliefs) which failed in the past but are repackaged for the benefit of the “usual suspects”.
We have embarked on a journey of shooting one prisoner at a time.
Every week delivers a fresh crisis over the exchange rate of the naira quickly supplanted by brutal slaughter, kidnapping, money ritual, looting of the treasury, banditry, armed robbery compounded by ethno-religious conflagration. The perverse and chilling clarion call triggered by overlapping rage and injustice is Reprisal; Reprisal and more Reprisal. It has become an unrelenting orgy of violence with no respite in sight.
Regardless, we must remain cautiously optimistic. We are here to welcome a new dawn of glorious hope and shared prosperity. We have fallen many times before and risen again. The tide will turn. We are entitled to bask in the warm glow and elevating grace of the Almighty as we celebrate the grand installation of the brand new Ogbeni Oja Dr. Sonny Folorunsho Kuku.
The Constitution is very explicit: Only One Ogbeni Oja at a time !!
We are at the junction where medicine has converged with tradition and faith as we cannot but recognize that we are at the edge of a cliff.
According to the Archbishop who will deliver a powerful Thanksgiving tomorrow, our salvation lies in demonstrating the quality of faith which Sonny’s mother exemplified when she named her son Folorunsho. It was a prayer for divine intervention. The Almighty did not let her down.
For the same reason our nation deserves our prayers for divine intervention – “Folorunsho”. Our supplication is that what the Almighty has done for the Ogbeni Oja should be extended to cover our entire nation.
At the Metropolican Club (Table 4), Victoria Island, Lagos, the KCOB’s (King’s College Old Boys) reminded Sonny that since he had bragged that he is invested with the power to communicate with elemental beings (“Anjonu”), his first task as Ogbeni Oja is to ensure that Nigeria wins the AFCON (African Cup of Nations) continental football championship which is currently going on in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire.
After passing that test, he will be tasked with ensuring the following:
(i) Merger/convergence of the official exchange rate of naira with the parallel market in order to ensure that the naira is at par with the American dollar. Otherwise, we shall have to adopt “Owo Ijebu” as our national currency.
(ii) Day off all Nigerian debts before the end of this year.
(iii) Command the cessation of oil theft.
(iv) Ensure that the price of petroleum (PMS) is reduced to N100 per litre and no more queues.
(v) Reduce the cost of food not only in the Club, but all over the country.
(vi) Provide electricity all over our country. This is the age of light. Not darkness. It is wicked to talk about light at the end of the tunnel. We must now put the light at the entrance.
(vii) Impose death penalty (by remote control) on treasury looters, bandits, kidnappers and armed robbers.
(viii) Prohibit the old boys of St. Gregory’s College who are Governor / Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria from changing the colour of the naira to their school colours – Green and Purple.
(ix) Declare emergency on Nigeria’s healthcare sector and mobilise resources for its rescue.
(x) Vigorously pursue the restoration of King’s College, Lagos to its former glory by persuading the government to release its stranglehold on the college. The college would be run by the old boys in partnership with the parents of students by adopting the Public Private Partnership [PPP] model.
(xi) Similarly, the salvage operation to rescue our country’s educational system – primary; secondary; and tertiary would commence in earnest.
(xii) We are entitled to believe that without prompting, he would embark on massive water and sanitation projects throughout our country.
As is customary with Table 4 of the Metropolitan Club whenever any member is elevated, each member is entitled to submit his list of requests. That is what happened when late Chief Wole Adeosun was appointed as the Chief Executive of First Bank of Nigeria Plc on ……………….; and also when Chief Joseph Sanusi was appointed as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria on ………….. On both occasions, we submitted applications for massive loans which would be promptly written off – without any obligation on our part to pay. Hilarious !! Great fun.
In my own case, the first task of the Ogbeni Oja is the recovery of my unpaid gratuity and pension from KPMG where my professional career as a Chartered Accountant was for thirty-four years. I retired as the Chairman and Chief Executive of KPMG Nigeria and Chairman of KPMG Africa in 2004.
The age of Aquarius is long over. We are now in the realm of stupefying fear and sublime defiance. Even so, we must make one more attempt to persuade the government to cease the war of attrition against the J.K. Randle family and the unrelenting assault on the family’s iconic properties as well as priceless heritage.
The founding fathers of The Metropolitan Club were firmly committed to establishing a formidable institution: “A Club For Gentlemen”. For several decades Nigerian members were matched by expatriates in equal numbers. Even if the ratio has altered somewhat in recent times, the ethos and ethics remain firmly in peace.
Additionally, we enjoy a very discreet process of dispute resolution amongst members. I need to remind the Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc that he appointed me to carry out a professional assignment four years ago only to turn round and begin to sing a different tune.
Rather than go to court, I shall rely on the Ogbeni Oja and his powerful charms and amulets to intervene. Indeed, trust is earned, respect is given and loyalty is demonstrated.
We were at the Club to celebrate the 80th birthday of Sonny and myself but the ample supply of wine and champagne did not prevent us from acknowledging that almost seventy years after (as pilgrims) we embarked on a pilgrimage that commenced at King’s College, Lagos we have discovered a hidden treasure at the Metropolitan Club. It is the bridge between the past and future of our beloved nation. Going forward we have to redefine our priorities – as we contend with the realities of a new landscape. Together we can get somewhere if we are ready to sacrifice and leave everything aside. Our nation is in the cusp of history.
We are destined for greatness.
We are all deeply saddened by the news that His Majesty King Charles has been diagnosed with Cancer. Fortunately, the credentials of Ogbeni Oja, Dr. Sonny Folorunsho Kuku in the medical profession qualify him to join the team of Doctors entrusted with caring for his Majesty. Besides, Ogbeni Oja’s son harrow-educated son, Folarin used to serve in the Royal brigade of guides located at Burkingham Palace.
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