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Redeveloping J.K. Randle centre for Yoruba culture and history

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Visual impression of the new J.K. Randle Centre

History is a continuum and the sum total of a people’s past and present. But the cavalier attitude of Nigerians to history is worrisome.

Perhaps, it is this nonchalant attitude that has prompted Lagos State Government to try a nd redress such historical and cultural neglect with the ‘Redevelopment of J K Randle Centre’ at Onikan, Lagos, as a place to facilitate the study aand preservation of Yoruba heritage.

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode flagged-off the redevelopment of the centre last week amidst fanfare. It had dignitaries from Lagos’ cultural, business and political life.

Ambode restated his administration’s resolve to execute “only programmes and projects that will be to the benefit of all our people. As a government, we based our policy thrust on a tripod of Security, Infrastructure and Job Creation. We identified some areas for special attention in our bid to accelerate growth and development.

One of the areas we have identified, which holds a lot of potential and opportunities for high growth and employment, is tourism. It is an area in which a little investment in infrastructure will generate a lot of economic activity leading to job creation.”

In order to energise tourism through the instrumentality of arts and culture, he said, “We have embarked on projects to regenerate, redesign and reactivate special cultural and tourist infrastructure in the state and convert them to centres of recreation, tourism and entertainment. One of such edifices is the J.K. Randle Centre, which was originally built in 1928.

“The original J. K. Randle Centre was conceptualised and built by friends of late J. K. Randle, who passed away at a relatively young age. The property was managed by the J. K. Randle Memorial Fund, which was set up in his memory by the original trustees, who have since passed on.”

The original J.K Randle Centre was pulled down a few years ago and it attracted hues and cries from a section of Lagos society, who criticised what they believed was disrespect to the memory of the great athlete. But the new edifice to be put in place of the demolished one would certainly warm the hearts of the Randle’s family, the children of the original trustees and all Lagosians.

Chief Femi Majekodunmi, heir to the chairman of the original J.K. Randle Trustees, in presenting his goodwill message and well wishes for the project, captured the epoch-making event thus, “I won’t hold you down for pulling down our building here. It is for a good cause. As an indigene of Lagos, I grew up here. Five friends signed a memorandum of understanding to commemorate the Randle legacy.”

The 89 years old building became decrepit and fell into disuse and became the abode of Lagos Island’s undesirable elements. Although children of the original trustees like Majekodunmi had plans to redevelop it, funding became a problem.

And as Majekodunmi admitted, “I couldn’t have thought of a better title for the centre. You have compensated us for the land. Every kobo given to us will be spent wisely. What you’re doing here is fantastic and I applaud you. I like the idea that the architects are even sensitive to nature and are preserving some of the original trees. Governor, please continue to be sensitive to nature, but also be sensitive to the people of Lagos!”

Deputy Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, also a native of Lagos Island, Hon. Wasiu Sanni, expressed excitement at the new edifice for J.K. Randle, when he said, “I’m so excited about what this place will become. I was so excited about the plans government has for this place. To now turn this place to a cultural centre befitting of Lagos is a great thing. Thank you, governor, for turning this place to a magnificent place.”

In a project brief, Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure Development, Hon. Ade Akinsanya, said the old centre originally had a swimming pool, a love garden and a tennis court that provide recreation for Lagosians and also had a hall added later on.

The new J.K. Randle Centre is part of an elaborate remodeling of the Onikan area. When completed, the new centre will have a five-storey, ultra modern car park, a 5,000-seater Onikan Stadium, the proposed new Eko Park, the State House will be turned to Centre for Leadership Development, with a 55-feet Eyo statue with neon lights.

Meanwhile, the J.K. Randle Centre will now have swimming pool, tennis court, an exhibition hall, multi-purpose hall, a library, orientation rooms and learning spaces, gift shops, and a lounge. The driving idea is to create attraction and cultural centre that communicates history and the culture of he Yoruba people in order to preserve and show such, to satisfy the long desire of Lagosians for a public space for relaxation and exploration and to execute the Eko regeneration park master plan.



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