Otunba Michael Olasubomi Balogun, CON, the Otunba Tunwase, the Olori Omooba Akile Ijebu, the Asiwaju of Ijebu Christians and the Oloori Ebi of the Fusangbuwa Ruling House of Ijebu needs no further introduction. He is a distinguished son of Ijebu and in the last 20 years played active roles in the annual Ojude Oba Festival.
This year (2016) is not different. Aside his own role in making the Ojude Oba Festival a success, his company First City Monument Bank (FCMB), was also co-sponsor of the colourful event.
The whole Ojude Oba Pavilion was decorated with FCMB posters and the staff of the foremost indigenous bank wore a printed Ankara, specifically made for the occasion.
Also, Otunba Subomi Balogun led the staff of the bank to pay homage to the Awujale, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona. After the event, ENCOMIUM Weekly joined other journalists to interview him on Ojude Oba and other issues.
You seem to be very much involved in Ojude Oba Festival, why sir?
First, I am a loyal distinguished son of our monarchy, the Awujale. I happen to be the Olori Omoba (the head of Princes and Princesses). Providence has placed me in a position in which everybody will expect me to be close to Awujale and be supportive of whatever he does by way of culture and tradition.
Second, people know me as a very senior member of royalty in Ijebuland. Apart from being the Olori Omoba, I am also the Olori Ebi (the head of the family) of one of the largest ruling houses in Ijebu.
Third, you may have heard or noticed that I come from one of the prominent Balogun families – Odunuga. One is getting a bit old now. Normally, when they come in (to pay homage to Kabiyesi during Ojude Oba) like that, I dance with them so, definitely, I will be interested in the Ojude Oba Festival as it highlights quite a lot of the Ijebu ethos and traditions.
With all the paraphernalia of position which I hold in the bank and in the country, it will be unpatriotic of me not to be supportive of whatever our royal father is doing.
Last, every Ijebu person looks forward to the annual Ojude Oba event.
Ojude Oba means the front of Awujale domain or palace. The origin of it was about 1892, when my own ancestor, Oba Adesumpo Tunwase, who actually signed the treaty of the relationship with the British government gave land to the muslims to build their central mosque. He also gave the Christians land on which the first church in Ijebuland was built. That is Saint Saviour Italupe, Ijebu Ode.
When Ojude Oba started, it was the muslims who used it as an occasion to pay homage and show appreciation to the reigning monarch for all he has the given to them.
For someone who is from the Balogun family, was there a time you participated in horse-riding?
When I was young, I used to be on a horse. When my father was alive, I was one of those heralding my grandfather by singing and dancing. You see my young cousin, Sonny Kuku, he was not on horseback. He was dancing and added colour. He is from the Balogun Kuku family. Incidentally, Balogun Kuku and Balogun Odunuga are cousins.
The Ojude Oba started with the muslims as you told us but today, it seems both muslims and Christians are involved.
Yes, it started with muslims but the entire Ijebu now look upon it as an occasion to pay homage to the reigning monarch.
Now, we have an affectionate monarch, who is totally committed to the upliftment of our tradition and culture. He has actually widened the scope of the whole thing. We now have Regberegbe (age group). It involves both muslims and Christians.
You are aware that FCMB played a role in the Ojude Oba Festival. I am a Christian and I am very much involved. It is no longer a muslim festival anymore.
In what ways is FCMB involved in Ojude Oba Festival?
In 20 years, we (FCMB) had been prominent in helping to promote Ojude Oba Festival. People know me as a very patriotic citizen of Ijebu. Apart from my achievements and what the good Lord has granted me, I use it as an occasion to come back home and let my own people benefit from what the good Lord has blessed me with.
But more than that, it is the first fully owned Nigerian bank set up wholly by a Nigerian. People did not believe that it was possible for a single Nigerian to own a bank. In those days, you are asked to look for a foreign technical partner. The good Lord used me as a trail blazer for Nigerians that it is possible.
Can you give us the conservative estimate of what FCMB spend in co-sponsoring Ojude Oba?
I don’t think we spent much. It is not how much we spent participating in Ojude Oba that matters but to project ourselves. It is only the Head of Corporate Affairs that can give you the amount. As I said, we are projecting ourselves. We are using the occasion as a platform to project the institution.
You are no longer fully involved in running FCMB. So, sir what do you do to keep yourself busy these days?
I think I am one of the people who can beat their chests that the good Lord has been very kind to me. So, in return for that, I have given my life to the service of the community, my fellow human beings and to the service of my God. So, I spend most of my time relaxing, resting and doing the work of God.
You don’t need to be a cleric or wear round collar before you can do the work of God. I use every opportunity I have to be an evangelist. I am very committed to that.
I am the Asiwaju of Ijebu Christians. I spend my time a lot doing charity, philanthropy as you called it, having concern for my fellow human beings.
My main focus is healthcare. The good Lord has enabled me to build children’s hospital, one of the largest in Africa, which I have now given to University of Ibadan. It has been converted to a medical college, affiliated to the Collage of Medicine, at University of Ibadan.
I don’t talk much about what I have done. I only pray to God that from time to time, I should be willing to share whatever the good Lord has endowed me with my fellow human beings. I should try and be my brother’s keeper.
- TOLANI ABATTI