Shakespeare for breakfast and forever


W HILE the rest of Britain was agonising over whether to remain in the loveless and forlorn marriage with the European Union or exit after 43 years (Brexit), the retired partners of KPMG who are still awaiting their gratuity and pension voluntarily made their way to Stratford-on-Avon in order to refresh their joyous and elevating love affair with William Shakespeare who is undisputedly the greatest playwright, actor and poet of all time – not just in England but in the entire universe, not excluding outer space.

We were in this picturesque part of England to the celebrate 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.  He was born on April 26, 1564 and died on April 23 1616.  Hard to believe that considering his prolific writing and the vastness of his knowledge, he lived for only fifty-two years exactly.  It was Shakespeare who coined the phrase “Forever and a day” which according to one of our erudite colleagues, Professor John Godwin means indefinitely. “Of course, for ever and a day is a dramatic construct with no literal meaning.  For ever is (mathematically) forever.  You cannot add or subtract a day from it.”

Anyway, we had a sumptuous breakfast at the exquisite Stratford Hotel which is located close to Union Square.  It has been in existence since 1907.  Hence, it has survived two World Wars (1914 to 1918; and 1939 to 1945). Our hostess Mrs. Jane Butterfield presented us with a huge plaque with the following inscription: “There is a tide in the affairs of men which, when taken at the flood, lead son to fortune/ Omitted, all the voyage of their life/Is bound in shallows and miseries/On such a full sea are we afloat/And we must take the current when it serves/Or lose our ventures.”-Brutus.

After a hearty, full English breakfast, we were treated to a most fascinating  and spellbinding reading of a selection of Shakespeare’s plays and poems accompanied by superlative professional actors and actresses who succeeded brilliantly in transporting us back to the era of the great playwright and poet. Ironically, the more valiantly they strove to capture the essence of Shakespeare and his mastery of imagery as well as conquest of the mismatch between fanciful imagination and harsh reality of history, the more they conjured strobes of heroism, wars, greed, romance, and adventure.  It was a seamless catalogue of the triumph of virtue as exemplified by courage and determination over corrosive vice – betrayal, treachery and mendacity.

The sage remained a beguiling enigma and volatile mystery for both believers and non-believers.  The recurring decimal remains unresolved – how could so much knowledge be bestowed to one single mind and brain?   Where are we to draw the line between the court jester and the magician (or fortune teller)?  We were captivated and lured into a trance.  As we exited the Globe Theatre, we had a common resolve – to reconnect with William Shakespeare and the delightful memory of days gone by when we savoured our first acquaintance with the genius. Our hosts surpassed our expectations by presenting each one of us with a copy of The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare – book; tablets; CD and digital. They even offered to provide us with the Braille version of the products of a great mind and pen which four hundred years have neither diminished nor corrupted.  Timeless bliss and eternal gratitude were the main dishes on the menu.

Our next stop was lunch in Leamington Spa, just a short distance away,  where our hosts Professor Cedric Henderson and his charming wife Ellen had invited some of their friends to join us.  What turned out to be a huge surprise was that at such a short notice our hosts had been able to summon ladies and gentlemen who in one way or the other had connection with KPMG and Nigeria – going back almost 50 years.  Mostly, their parents had served in the colonial civil service at a time when the government relied almost entirely on the accountancy firms to deliver excellent professional services at a reasonable fee without ever compromising their integrity, diligence or independence.  In addition, the accountancy firms provided financial advice regarding the budget and the monitoring thereof.

They provided a formidable barrier against reckless government expenditure, fraud, treasury looting and brigandage.  Hence, it was inevitable that auditors would be highly respected for their commitment to ensuring that prudent management of resources of the nation in the interest of the public prevailed over gangsterism and ruthlessness in the pursuit of personal interest.  Back then what eventually became KPMG was known as Cassleton Elliott which started off in 1923 in Jos before moving to Marina House, 63, Marina Lagos in 1928.  By sheer happenstance, their landlord was late Dr. J.K. Randle!!

According to our hosts and the other guests, sleaze and corruption were almost unheard of, probably non-existent.  Even the mere hint of unscrupulousness or crookedness earned the culprit severe reprimand.  For the expatriate offender the penalty was instant deportation on the first available ship – M.T. Aureol; M.T. Liverpool; etc, or by air on British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) back to Whitehall to face the full weight of the law – either an administrative enquiry or investigation by Scotland Yard followed by arraignment at the Old Bailey. What our hosts learnt from their parents (as well as first hand experience) was that under the right leadership , Nigerians were as honest, trustworthy and brilliant as their counterparts anywhere in the world – in medicine, engineering, architecture, accountancy and indeed the civil service.  We were the pride of the black race and legitimate inheritors of an illustrious heritage.

According to our hosts whenever their parents were back in the United Kingdom on leave, they would go out of their way to cultivate Nigerian students who were studying there.  They found a willing ally in the British Council whose representatives would quickly link them up with Nigerian students at nearby colleges and universities.  Hence, it was not uncommon to find on the students’ notice board messages that read as follows:

“English couple living in Esher, Surrey would welcome Nigerian students for tea on Sunday in their home.  Please telephone Fred Marks on Esher 5357 to arrange pick up at the train station.” Another variant was: “The Methodist Church invites Nigerian students to tea and dance at the Methodist Hostel, Inverness Terrace, Bayswater, London at 4 p.m. on Saturday.” The complex puzzle was whether we were confronted with a case of reverse amnesia, selective memory or false recollection.  At any rate what would have been an otherwise perfect day in  the English countryside was ruined by “BREAKING NEWS” on BBC: It was relayed directly to us in the Dining Room:

Front page headline:  ThisDay newspaper of July 6, 2016: “Nigerian student stabbed to death in London. Fola Orebiyi was reportedly stabbed to death on Sunday in Notting Hill, London, by a gang of youths. According to the UK-based Evening Standard, Orebiyi was stabbed in a street clash close to Westbourne Grove just yards from the Portobello Arts Club. The 17-year-old was reportedly involved in a fight on a nearby estate with a gang of youths, who chased him into the busy road.

An anonymous teenager was quoted to have told the police: “I know what happened, he was protecting a friend over a silly beef which turned violent.” A teenager, who also pleaded anonymity, said Orebiyi was stabbed in the neck in front of shocked passersby and tourists. An eyewitness, Mark Gettleson said: “People saw him fall down and try to get to his feet again. Police and paramedics tried to resuscitate him for a long time.  They did everything they could.” “It’s absolutely tragic another young man has died on our streets,” Gettleson added. Another witness, a mother of one, said she stood by and watched as the police tried to save the bleeding boy. She added that the ambulance wasted time in arriving at the scene.

She said: “It was traumatising. It took half an hour for the ambulance to arrive even though there are hospitals all around. I spoke to the person who called the police and he said it took them so long to get here. The police were all over him trying to resuscitate him.  All I could see were his feet and lots of blood. I’m a mum, for me this is so sad. That’s someone’s child. That’s someone’s baby.”

This was followed by another breaking news on Independent Television (ITV) accompanied by the theme song:  “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” by Neil Sedaka. Front page headline: The Nation newspaper June 26, 2016. “Nigeria’s break-up would be worse than syrian crisis – Us Ex-Rep. After a recent trip to Nigeria where he met with government officials and victims of the Boko Haram terror, Wolf said Nigeria had the largest increase of terrorist (caused) deaths than any other country in the world. “There’s 180 million people in Nigeria. There’s 3 million in Syria. If Nigeria unravels, imagine the impact on Europe and the world. It would be unbelievable,” Wolf, who is now a senior fellow at the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, said this during his first public address following the group’s June 9 release of the official report of their trip at an event sponsored by the Ronald Reagan Lecture Series. The Institute is asking the Obama administration to appoint a special envoy for Nigeria and neighbouring countries under assault from the terror group.

“According to the 2015 Global Terror Index, more than 51 percent of all global deaths attributed to terrorists were committed by Boko Haram,” Wolf said. Boko Haram, as you may very well know, has signed an agreement and pledged its allegiance to ISIS,” Wolf said. “Nigeria has had the largest increase of terrorist (caused) deaths than any other country in the world. Nine of the top 20 of the most fatal attacks in 2014 occurred in Nigeria. Of the deadliest terror organisations in the world, number one is Boko Haram. Number two is ISIS.

Keep in mind they’ve pledged their allegiance to ISIS and there’s a connection there with ISIS. Number three is al-Shabaab, which is in Somalia, and number four is a group that I’d only heard a little bit about and that’s the Fulani militant herdsmen. In essence, they’re the fourth most dangerous terrorist group in the world. So Nigeria, a country of 180 million has the first which has pledged allegiance to the second and they have the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world,” Wolf pointed out. In April 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped over 200 teenaged girls from The Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State and “married” them off to the group’s jihadis. Despite worldwide media coverage of the kidnapping, only two of the kidnapped girls have been found.”

On the train journey back to London, we could not but reflect on Shakespeare’s sublime turn of phrase and majesty of language. At Euston Station, London, we were met by a top official from Number 10 Downing Street (The Prime Minister’s office / residence) who jolted us with the news: “Your President is here in London. We have warned him that when he returns to Nigeria, he will face a revolt and possibly impeachment by the Senate.  It is going to be a drama of Shakespearean dimension.  It is not so much As You Like It but more of As We Want It.”

Then he added with a mischievous wink: “Our Prime Minister David Cameron (an Oxford graduate) is on his way out.  He will be replaced by another Oxford graduate – Theresa May supported by yet another Oxford graduate, Boris Johnson as Foreign Minister. Indeed, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer (Minister of Finance), Philip Hammond studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at University College, Oxford.  Oxford graduates are all over the place including the chap over there wearing the uniform of a porter!!”

As we went past the porter, he tipped his cap and with an unmistakable Oxford accent accosted us: “Sir, if you gentlemen would like to have Shakespeare for dinner, your table has been booked at the Savoy Hotel and paid for by KPMG”!!

Randle is a former  president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and former chairman of KPMG Nigeria and Africa.

Region.  He is currently the Chairman, JK Randle Professional Services.

Email:   [email protected]