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Dr. J. K. Randle and others, so easily forgotten

What has in our moment of confusion, despair and alarm over the Corona Virus gone global and viral (pun unintended!!) is the list of those who have each written cheques of one billion Naira and handed them over to Mr. Godwin Emefiele, Governor of The Central Bank of Nigeria towards the CBN Fund to fight the pandemic.

One billion naira used to be a hefty sum of money. To put matters in their proper perspective, it was in 1975 (forty-five years ago) that the budget for our entire nation exceeded one billion Naira for the first time ever. The then Military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon was sufficiently overwhelmed to have (allegedly) declared to the nation:

“Money is not our problem. It’s how to spend it”!!

Shortly thereafter, while on a visit to one of the Caribbean Islands (allegedly) Trinidad and Tobago, their civil servants threatened to go on strike on account of several months unpaid wages. Compassion immediately kicked in. Nigeria dropped a huge cheque in dollars to bail out the indigent hosts. That was a long, long time ago. Hopefully, we have since learnt our lesson. But maybe not.

Here we are, a century afterwards, the legacy of philanthropy and goodwill in the sphere of public health has been subverted and forgotten. Pope Francis is right to remind us: God always forgives; human beings sometimes forgive; but history never forgets

Anyway, another lesson we may have forgotten is that this not our first encounter with a deadly virus. One hundred years ago (1920) Lagos and other parts of Nigeria were thrown into pandemonium over what was thought to be a pestilence. Large number of people died after bouts of coughing, sneezing and fever /high temperature. It was more prevalent in the “Native” areas. The exclusive and opulent “GRA” (Government Reservation Area) where the expatriates (mostly colonial officers) lived was largely untouched. The indifference of the Colonial Government left Lagosians no choice but to resort to the invocation of the spirits of their ancestors. The King of Lagos summoned his chiefs and embarked on the appeasement of the deities who were allegedly angry at the defilement of ancient customs and the abasement of the tradition of uprightness, justice and trustworthiness.

The diagnosis of Dr. J. K. Randle was somewhat different. He was convinced that it was a virus, albeit waterborne. His appeal to the Colonial Government to build water toilets and 2 rubbish disposal houses (incinerators) fell on deaf ears even though he was a member of the Lagos Executive Council.

The good doctor would not let matters rest. With his own money he proceeded to build free water toilets and rubbish disposal houses (“Ile Idale Nu”) all over Lagos.

Here we are, a century afterwards, the legacy of philanthropy and goodwill in the sphere of public health has been subverted and forgotten. Pope Francis is right to remind us: “God always forgives; human beings sometimes forgive; but history never forgets”.

In spite of the unrelenting efforts of government to bulldoze history and erase legacy, some of The Dr. J. K. Randle Toilets and Rubbish Disposal Houses are still functioning at the following locations: Behind King’s College, Lagos (Igbosere Road); Adeniji Adele Road; Ajele Street (off Campos Square); Cow Lane; Ita Faji Market; Opposite Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina; Iddo Motor Park; Junction of Olusi Street and Tokunboh Street.

What is truly amazing is that politicians and Chairmen/Chairwomen of Local Government Councils have hijacked them and charging the public hefty fees!! They claim them as their personal fiefdom.

Anyway, it is not only Dr. J. K. Randle who is the victim of our collective amnesia in matters pertaining to Public Health. There is not enough time or space to add: Dr. Ladipo Oluwole, Professor Oladele Ajose, Dr. Gabi Williams and a long list of old boys of King’s College (Harman’s House).

I rest my case.

 

 

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