• Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

The progressive group (1)

The progressive group

I am highly honoured by the invitation extended to me by the leader of the Progressive Group.

Femi Akinboye (and the Grand Patron of the group, Prince Ademola Dada) to be the Father of the Day on the auspicious occasion of the Grand Hosting of our Newly Promoted Mentees in recognition of their sterling qualities and elevation in their respective professional careers.

With all sense of humility I must confess that the Island Club which was founded in 1943 and I are about the same age. What I am however obliged to highlight is that the Island Club right from inception was a progressive club.

If anyone is in doubt about the club’s credentials in this regard, a quick reference to what has become known as the Bristol Hotel Affair will suffice. Also, when in 1944 students of King’s College rioted, it was the leading members of the Island Club that quickly marshalled resources and engaged the services of Mr Eric Moore who was a very prominent lawyer to rescue the students.

The grouse of the students was that the Boarding House of the college had been taken over by soldiers (the West African Frontier Force) and the students were moved to “Babina House”, at Kakawa Street, Lagos. Hence, every morning the students would march (to much jeering by Queen’s College girls) from Kakawa Street to the Race Course, where their school was located.

The Colonial Government was furious. The Governor was instructed to impose the harshest punishment on the rioting students. Various accounts name late Tony Enahoro and Emeka Ojukwu as being involved. At the end of the day, thirteen students were conscripted into the army and sent off to Burma, where one of them died. Among the survivors were late Yondkolo; Victor Ologundudu; Aderemi.

I would also like to share with you the magnificent role played by members of the Island Club in the turbulent years that preceded Nigeria’s Independence on 1st October 1960. The club was the incubator of vigorous debates, arguments and counter arguments that would shape the destiny of our nation. What the club did with commendable zeal was to provide a vibrant forum and conducive environment where members regardless of their political association expressed their views freely without rancour or recrimination.

However, there was a nasty jolt when in 1951, late Justice Dadi Onyeama delivered a powerful judgment, not in court, but at the bar of the Island Club.

Ibo domination of Nigeria is only a matter of time.

All hell was let loose.

In my capacity as the Father of The Day, it behoves me to remind you that it is a sacred duty which comes with heavy responsibilities. I hope you would all agree that every child needs a father. Indeed, parenting/fatherhood is the most challenging task the Almighty has given to man.

Hence, without labouredly the point we must admit that whatever has become of our nation for better or worse, is largely the outcome of poor parenting or the abdication of duty by fathers to properly guide the next generation so that they could become worthy successors who would adopt the lofty ideal.

“Let us aspire to inspire before we expire“. According to Johann Schiller (…..) “it is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons.”

Our harshest critics have delivered a pungent verdict – our nation has lost its way, it has lost the plot. This is truly a cruel turn of events and sad commentary on the vision of the founding fathers of the Island Club.

I suspect that the reason I was invited to be the “Father of the Day” may not be unconnected with a report on the front page of the “Daily Times” (the foremost newspaper in Nigeria at the time) of December 19, 1956 (exactly sixty – five years ago).

Headline: “Chief J. K Randle to be buried tomorrow”

“In all that “JK” did, he was motivated by his over – riding ideal: inter – racial amity. He used his position as Chairman of many clubs and committees and directed all his energies towards the furtherance of this objective, as exemplified by the (horse) race meeting parties he held in the Governor – General’s stand, where representatives of all races living in Nigeria met on common social ground.

He directed his affection for children with profound wisdom for he felt that by bringing youngsters of mixed (different) races together, as he so often did, they would grow to maturing with no consciousness of racial differences.

Many of his cherished ambitions will never come to fruition, but as long as the Island Club, with its fully inter – racial membership stands, it will serve as a memorial to J. K Randle, its Founder and latterly its Chairman. – Dr, M. A. Majekodunni.

As we speak, I doubt whether Island Club can boast of many active inter – racial members – British; French; American; Chinese; Italian; German; Japanese; Dutch; Korean; Russian e.t.c.

John Burrow was absolutely right when he declared:

“History is a single grand narrative with the present as its terminus.”

Here we are, rage has engulfed our entire nation. Trust is at its lowest ebb within the context of our various ethnicities not to talk of religions. Inter – racial relationship is a very tall order when we cannot even muster peaceful co – existence amongst our various ethnic groups or religions – when Christianity and Islam are locked in the battle for supremacy. North versus South; East versus West are active contenders in the recurring duels and conflagration.

As confirmation that our nation is truly in darkness, today’s edition of “The Nation” newspaper declared on its front page that this year there would be no nominee as “Man of The Year”.

To worsen matters, the newspaper declared “The Bandit” as the Runner – up! It cannot get any more depressing. Furthermore, the selection Board of the “Daily Trust” newspaper, African of the Year Award, selection committee chaired by His Excellency, Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana decided that no award would be announced this year. All the candidates failed woefully.

Just like the Island Club, under our fathers our nation was at peace, resilient and vibrant. The prevailing ethos made it compelling to turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones to greatness. By the same token, the rich and powerful readily delivered (and demonstrated) compassion not contempt for the poor. Indeed, when Chief Obafemi Awolowo visited the Island Club in 1955 as my father’s guest and advocated: “Life More Abundant” as the guiding principle of his political party, the Action Group, he found an enthusiastic audience among the members. Not long afterwards, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe took the Island Club by storm to propound the beguiling concept of “Economic and Social Determism”. It also resonated with the members. As for Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduana of Sokoto, when he came calling on behalf of the Northern Peoples Congress, he waved the Northern flag with supreme confidence. He was received with commendable dignity and accorded tremendous respect.

Rather than despair, we should draw inspiration from the Dalai Lama who has enjoined us:

“The goal is not to be better than the other man but your previous self.”

Text of an address delivered at the Island Club on 19th December 2021