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The last mile syndrome (10)

The last mile syndrome (10)

In 1908 Randle and Dr. Orisadipe Obasa founded the People’s Union, open to Lagos residents of all religious and ethnic backgrounds. Key members of the People’s Union other than Randle and Obasa included conservatives such as Sir Kitoye Ajasa, Dr Richard Akinwande Savage and Sir Adeyemo Alakija.

The Union fought the Water Rate Act, which they said would bring piped water only to Europeans. In 1911 People’s Union members toured Yorubaland to agitate against the proposal by Governor Frederick Lugard to declare all land to be the property of the government. Randle and Obasa may have gone to London to press their case.

The government dropped the proposal. Before World War I (1914–18) Randle was approached by Richard Akinwande Savage and Casely Hayford about holding a West African conference. He was enthusiastic about the idea, and was elected chairman of the Lagos committee for the conference in 1915. Nothing could be done during the war.

When the war began, Randle became superintendent of the Nigerian Overseas Comfort Fund, which tried to ensure that Nigerians serving abroad were recognized and that their material needs were supplied. In 1915 Lugard again tried to introduce the Water Rate in Lagos, and accused the People’s Union of sedition and of “threats of agitation.”

The Chief Imam (Lemomu) of Lagos supported the water rate, as did Alli Balogun, a wealthy Muslim who was associated with Randle. The People’s Union backed down and asked only for a “not exorbitant rate.” As a result of this capitulation the People’s Union lost support from the Lagos elite.

Like other West Africans, Randle supported the war, although some did not. He wrote of them, in recent years the administration of the government … has not given the people entire satisfaction. The people see the government as not carried on in their interest. But, however painfully true this is, let us not forget the wider principle that we are citizens of the British Empire.”

After the war Randle and Orisadipe Obasa founded the Reform Club, which took an interest in politics and education. This seems to have been a continuation of the People’s Union under another name. In 1920 Randle was appointed one of the vice-patrons of the Sierra Leonean Friendly Society of Lagos.

He built a chapel and two schools in his home town of Regent, and contributed funds to erect a science building at Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone and to support science teaching there. The Pan-African conference was held in Accra in 1920 and launched the National Council of British West Africa (NCBWA). By this time Randle and Savage had fallen out and Randle did not attend the conference.

Herbert Macaulay founded the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) in 1922 with the support of leading nationalists such as John Payne Jackson. Governor Sir Hugh Clifford instituted elections in Lagos in 1923. The People’s Union was revived under Randle’s leadership, and Obasa competed in the election but was not successful.

The People’s Union and its female equivalent, the Women’s Union led by Mrs. O. Obasa, opposed the NNDP. Although the People’s Union favoured gradual introduction of reforms while the NNDP was radical, both drew their membership from the Lagos elite.

Some professional men with progressive ideas became members of the People’s Union, such as the journalist Ernest Ikoli, who was its last secretary, but the People’s Union was never a real challenge to the NNDP. In 1927 the People’s Union, by now quickly losing members, did manage to block a government proposal for a poll tax and have it replaced by an income tax.

John Randle died on 27 February 1928 and was buried in the rear of the Ikoyi cemetery in Lagos. The People’s Union dissolved soon after. In 1940 Randle’s remains were moved to the front of the cemetery as a gesture to acknowledge his achievements. Randle was known for his personal austerity and discipline.

Even at the age of seventy he always rode a bicycle. He passionately encouraged many Africans to pursue extensive learning. He believed in African culture but had the tastes of a Victorian English gentleman, even ordering food from London. He was always true to his principles, and his generous will established his reputation as a philanthropist. He donated his medical and scientific books and journals to Fourah Bay College, and donated money for a professorship and medical scholarships. “


•J. Randle (1894). “The treatment of guinea worm”. Lancet.

•J. Randle (1910). “Cancer among the African Creoles”

(iii) Chief J,K. Randle M.B.E.; M.V.O.

“Chief Joseph Kosoniola Randle MVO MBE (28 July 1909 – December 1956) was a Nigerian businessman and socialite from Lagos. He was Chef de Mission of the Nigerian Olympic team to Melbourne and was connected to various public activities in Lagos. Randle was a social crusader and philanthropist who started the Nigerian arm of the Anti-Tuberculosis Society, a member of the Lagos Town Council (though his politics discouraged extreme nationalism) and was a sportsman who was a trustee of a proposed National Stadium.

Randle was born on 28 July 1909; his father was John Randle (physician), a medical doctor, and his mother came from the Aguda side of Lagos. He was educated at CMS Grammar School, Lagos and King’s College, Lagos. In college, he loved playing football cricket and was a member and first captain of Zik’s Athletic club. Born to a well to do father but when his father died, much of his estate was left elsewhere for philanthropic purposes.

At the time of his father’s death, Randle was in the senior year of King’s College and his dream of attending a university became financially infeasible. He worked for a brief period as a junior clerk with the treasury department, in the same office with Adeniji Adele who later reigned as the Oba of Lagos from 1949 to 1964.

Randle later moved to Ilesha to try his luck in gold mining. He was not successful in the mining business and returned to Lagos and engaged in trade, contract and business promotion where he earned some income. He held the chieftaincy title of the Lisa of Lagos. It was given to him by Oba Adeniji Adele.

Read also: The last mile syndrome (5)

He was also a founding member and later chairman of the Island club. A sports enthusiast, he was vice president of the Nigerian Olympic and British Empire and Commonwealth Games Association and a trustee of the proposed National Stadium. Randle was the Chef de Mission of the Nigerian Olympic team to the 1956 Summer Olympics. He was awarded the medal of the Victorian Order. He took ill on his flight from Melbourne, and later died at Lagos General Hospital in December 1956.

He was chairman of the Lagos Race Club in 1956.”

(iv)Bashorun J.K. Randle, FCA; OFR

“A one-time President of the Institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria, Bashorun J.K. Randle was exceptional in thoughts and actions. His life is an illustration of an indefatigable soul constantly in search of fulfilment, favour, and freedom. From the visionary and renowned dynasty of the Randles, he understands perfectly well the burden of carrying a family name. A foremost accountant in Nigeria, Randle exemplifies professionalism, humanity and the bridge between the past and the future. Funke Olaode writes that there is more about this Randle than one may already know.

What comes to mind when the name Randle is mentioned? Power, affluence, influence and extreme wealth? No doubt, the Randles have the pedigree that can make others green with envy. For more than a century, their names have been a dominant factor in the socio-political factor of Lagos.