Author: Bashorun J.K. Randle
Foreword: ‘Femi Williams
I feel highly honoured to have been invited to write the foreword to this book that deals with dynamic changes and activities in the ship of state called Nigeria. The title of the book is not only unusual but the contents are humorous, entertaining and informative. Nigeria is complex but it is neither an experiment nor a project as frequently referred to by opinion writers on this “giant of black Africa”.
Aboard this fifty five-year old ship that has a history of evanescent democracy with selected and elected captains with an effective crew of “naval officers”, petty thieves and a few members of the light fingered gentry. Within this short span, some of the captains have died in office, some have been forcibly removed or toppled by coups, some have “stepped aside” voluntarily, some have been asked to resign, some have been self appointed while some have been democratically elected after being toppled.
Ballots and bullets have reigned until recently when scandals from the oil money have been shown to taint the ballots of the much touted democracy. The seminal force that glues the ethnic nationalities together to make sovereign Nigeria indivisible is the commonwealth purse that is derived from its monolithic oil revenue and other subterranean mineral resources. The fiscal strength of the nation fluctuates with the price of the commodity. The revenues in turn are tearing apart the peoples of this blessed nation because of disputes over resource control by the federating states.
Although the choice of the title ‘No Monkey Business’ is pertinent to an accounting issue that was settled out of court, there is only one chapter that made reference to the science or culture of primatology (sub-human primates/monkeys). Suffice it to say that the title subsumes the notion of integrity and professional decency in the accounting profession as in all other professions. It could be argued that in contrast to the four legged monkeys, some two legged human characters in some parts of this book may however be indicted for behaving like ephemeral primates.
The title of ‘No Monkey Business’ has an undertone of crudity with zero tolerance for shadiness or unscrupulous deals. There is some indirect relationship between the book title and other chapters that depicts a tapestry of corruption, impunity, immorality and depravity in the Nigerian society. The country is slipping from civilisation to chaos and from relative prosperity to unbridled, abject poverty. All these can be attributed to laziness, lack of initiative and empowerment, weak leadership/weak followership, and analog thinking in a digital age.
Ideas shape a nation and individuals- elected or selected to lead- are shaped by relevant ideas that can be transcribed and translated into positive action that will benefit humanity. The written words in books like this one are the traducers of good, bad or ugly ideas. Books written by digital thinkers are therefore extremely important in communicating ideas and shaping contemporary societies. Contemporary Nigeria is being structurally and morally shaped by corruption at all levels of government as conveyed in print and electronic media.
The political space in Nigeria, that lacks a common purpose and ambition, needs urgent fumigation but the spectrum of pesticides being applied and the personnel applying them are grossly ineffective. There is no political catheter that can be inserted into the hulls of ships or into civil societies of a nation that can expunge illegalities as corruption, impunity and wanton waste of innocent lives.
It is only a strong and fair judiciary that can act as a deterrent when the laws of the land are enforced. This raises the question addressed in this book as to whether “the State of the Union” in Nigeria is strong. Unfortunately, the verdict of the jury to this question is that the state of the union is in dire straits. There is starvation in the midst of plenty. There is no constitutional provision for Federal Character when it comes to thought processes and development in good governance.
Corruption continues to cohabit in perfect symbiosis with the governed as well as those governing. An elected official in any tier of government in Nigeria possesses an automatic ticket for a cruise to wealth while the electorate cruises to suffering and abject poverty. Hence the title of a lecture by the late Ukpabi Asika on ‘The Politics of Poverty Leads to the Poverty of Politics’.
There is a systemic failure to nurture and sustain a desirable degree of moral capacity that will guide the progress and prosperity of this great nation. Of all the non-fiction genres in print in and outside of Nigeria including lurid excerpts from newspapers on corruption, crime, depravity and ingress of plain evil deeds that are frequently quoted, the author has perfected the art of a “sandwich style” of writing. This style is characterised by the interposition of newspaper excerpts/articles in the midst of serious discourses.
The chapters in this book are not exceptions where his unique style, is amply demonstrated. These excerpts inserted in appropriate places can be described as a contrived device for holding the attention of the reader when a saturation point is either reached or almost reached or the attention span of a senile brain is near its expiration time. It is perhaps comparable to the use of “nature” as a dramatic device employed by Shakespeare in “King Lear”.
The author, fully armed with curiosity and facts on both contemporary and global issues, within and outside of sovereign Nigeria, embarks on a quest to either weave or unravel the elusive mysteries of human behaviour including the animal kingdom where some animals are more equal than others.
This book fills a niche for local stories dealing with local historical events and milestones. The author, J.K. Randle, is a well published writer with well known reputable works including the ‘Godfather never sleeps’ and ‘Who is fooling who’ among many others. This book is another veritable addition to a list of his works that have been widely read, reviewed and enjoyed during the past three decades. The author is a prolific writer with a high profile pedigree, a role model from Lagos Nigeria, who is by profession, a chartered accountant. Suffice it to say that there is an accountancy flavour in this eclectic collection but homeopathic doses are palpable in only three chapters. In these chapters, there is a natural passion and predilection for KPMG, a former employer.
This book is a collection of articles on eclectic subjects including speeches given on a variety of subjects on different occasions and to diverse audiences and targets. One common thread in the majority of these chapters is the anonymity of the seventy elders and pensioners that lends a mystique both to the narratives and to the outcomes of the discussions.
Recurring references to global accounting practices of which KPMG and its ex-partners and perhaps other unpaid pensioners reduce the level of anonymity. It is a great blessing in disguise that these well travelled pensioners have so far not been paid their overdue entitlements. Their continued deprivation has forced them to be ubiquitous in spite of their lack of compensation. These pensioners travel to exotic destinations with surprising regularity and dine in the finest restaurants with or without celebrities.
A few exotic places where they have visited include the Vatican in Rome, French Riviera, Willard Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Potomac in Maryland, Belgravia and Chelsea in London, Davos in Switzerland. The finest restaurants in these cities where they dine as unpaid pensioners include Clyde Towers in Parkway Preserve in Potomac, Harry’s bar in Savoy Hotel in London, Ritz Hotel for high tea also in London, among others. Furthermore the benefits derived from the peripatetic existence of these seniors without Alzheimer’s disease (none of them has lost their bearings and can still recognize their better halves) more than compensate for their perennial complaints.
I shudder to think about what will happen to literary productivity as exemplified by this book and other books once they receive their pensions and gratuities. Other chapters provide reports of both comic and tragic events in contemporary societies. Some of the stories in these excerpts are hilarious because they illustrate inappropriateness of situations while others convey a willing suspension of disbelief. However the heterogeneity of the articles provides adequate diversity to readers with diverse interests in different subjects ranging from epochs of civilisation to chaos.
One can make a case for a thread of thought in some chapters put together where the author is seized with discussing examples of social justice and greatest good for greatest numbers of Nigerians. A question that lingers on is whether monkeys actually do business and if they do what are the outcomes using bananas as quantifiable deliverables.
The six chapters on politics and the Nigerian political class are diverse and interesting in many ways. The first two of these chapters are anecdotal as they deal with the centenary celebration of the late Chief Adelabu, Ibadan politics and the origin of “Penkelemess” (Peculiar mess). The late charismatic Adelabu who used the phrase peculiar mess in one of his speeches was an ebullient but enigmatic figure within the milieu of vibrant Ibadan politics. The phrase was corrupted by the semi-iterate and illiterate indigenes to “Penkelemess” for which he became well known and was referred to with affection.
A chapter celebrated the posthumous centenary of this noteworthy heavyweight, brilliant and well educated but colorful Ibadan politician fondly referred to as “Penkelemess”. The other chapter discussed the role of Ibadan in Nigerian politics. Ibadan was one of the military theatres of operation for the first military coup on 15th January 1966 and this was followed by the deaths of Ironsi and Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi on July 29, 1966 in Ibadan. The latter incident brought me personally close for a few hours to the military personnel when some army officers invaded the University College Hospital in frantic search for the body of the slain Military Governor Fajuyi.
The following two chapters were devoted to the first and second coming of the current President Muhammadu Buhari with a 30 year interval in between. These two chapters and a few others testify to the fact that Nigeria has been traumatized several times and the nation is currently suffering from “post traumatic stress disorder” (PTSD).
The author’s grandfather was not only one of the early pioneers of Scottish trained physicians in Nigeria he was also one of the greatest benefactors to Lagos and particularly to the oldest secondary school, (CMS Grammar School, Lagos, founded 1859) in the country. To date the school still enjoys his largesse/endowment 147 years after he had passed. This school, which is my alma mater, has produced the two doyens of accountancy and telecommunications in the country, Akintola Williams and late Victor Haffner (both over 90 years old) as discussed in the chapter titled “Who needs Auditors (or doctors and lawyers for that matter)”.
Although the science of prediction is far from perfect, I hasten to predict with confidence that if the author had attended the Grammar School he would have followed in his grandfather’s footsteps as a physician. However he opted for a much younger high school, called Kings College, founded in 1909. Space will not allow me to discuss how this happened. In that chapter however I quote “When death knocks at the door the doctor is looked upon as God. When he accepts the challenge, he is looked upon as an Angel.
When he cures the patient he is looked upon as a common person. When he asks for his fees he becomes a devil.” When he gets paid for his services he will still need accountants for his tax returns. A chapter is devoted, partly in defence of auditors, accused of being either wayfarers, trouble makers, cowboys or money doublers. The chapter on “we never got it wrong but we never got it right either” is apt when related to the power sector. Although this chapter deals with the relics of colonial governance when there was sufficient power generation and Nigeria, was a force to be reckoned with. The question that arises is “How can we make Nigeria great again or How can we make Nigeria greater than ever before” a la Trump.
To cross the bridge to a better future, another chapter in this book, will remain an illusion until the hard work is done to bridge the huge achievement gaps between Nigeria and countries of the developed world. In summary, the virulent agitation in the country can be likened to the Titanic that is sinking and the passengers are jostling for seats on the Captain’s table. In the absence of a common purpose, excluding looting of the treasury, the increased cacophony of voices to dismember the nation continues unabated without putting in place an insurance for dismemberment or sudden death.
One can only hope and pray that the unbearable stench of corruption and allied malignant atrocities that are inimical to progress and development will be eradicated or significantly attenuated by good governance in this great and blessed nation, Nigeria. I strongly commend the reader to enjoy the contents of this interesting and informative book where humor and facts are cleverly intertwined in an inimitable style.
Williams, is a former Provost, College of Medicine, University of Calabar, Calabar Nigeria; Former Executive Secretary, Science Technical and Research Commission (STRC) of African Union; Former Scholar-in-Residence National Institutes of Health Bethesda Maryland USA; Former, Expert Medical Reviewer, FDA/CDER/D HSS of US government; Founder and Director African Cancer Center, Lagos Nigeria