Otunba Subomi Balogun, the founder of First City Monument Bank, Asiwaju Onigbagbo of Ijebu Christians and Oloori Omooba of Ijebuland held his annual new year thanksgiving at his country home in Ijebu, every year he starts the year with thanksgiving inviting friends, family and business associates to the early hour praise and prayers, this year Popular gospel singer Funmi Aragbaye was there for some deep worship songs. After the prayer and breakfast the head Oloori Omooba took time out to talk about the yearly thanksgiving, how his father inspired and lead him to what he is today, BUNMI MUSTAPHA was at the event.
Being the Asiwaju of Ijebu Christian, what is the significance of today’s event?
The event was created by the first Asiwaju of Ijebu Christian, the late Chief Adeola Odutola and it is meant to bring believers together to thank God for past mercies and to pray for future activities or endeavors. For me, it gives me an opportunity of bringing folks together to join me in thanking God for what the good Lord has done for me and my entire family, entire environment and to ask for His beneficence as well as to guide me the way I should spend the new year because I am expecting greater mercies. I use it as an opportunity as the Asiwaju of the Ijebu Christians to bring together not just Christians but both Christians and Moslems. Just to give them a reason to thank God for what He has done all of them by bringing them safely to see a New Year and to ask for His mercies and guardianship in the New Year. This is something I do a lot in my private moment as well as gatherings like this where Christians are all gathered but because of Ijebu nation, I try to bring everybody along and even if you are an atheist, you are welcome. So Christians, Muslims in fact I cannot do without inviting Muslims because my late father was a Muslim. And I thank God that I have joined the league of many outstanding Ijebus, many outstanding Christians came from Muslim homes. But we are proud of them. The first bishop from Ijebu was a Muslim. Another bishop, his father was a Chief Imam. The most outstanding Ijebus so far Chief Adeola Oduotula came from a Muslim home. Many prominent people and humble me came from a Muslim home. And I got myself converted at the age of thirteen while at Igbobi College. So in my own annual thanksgiving, I always like to invite not the Christians alone but the Muslims as well as other people whether they worship God or not and I can encourage them to think of the almighty God the omnipotent and omniscient, the one we Fall back on for everything in our lives when some Yoruba song in praise of God asks for the good Lord to be ahead of them and also go with them so that’s why I am looking for the Grace of God. Thank you.
In the next couple of days, it will be fifty years since the passing to glory of your father, looking back how would you see between those period that your father passed on to glory and now, the second question is you’ve been the leader of the Ijebu Christian for so many years, what is that thing that you’ve lead the Ijebu Christians to achieve?
You have touched a raw part of me. I loved my late father. If you knew my father or you’ve seen his picture. I am 100% production of him physically, visually. I was very close to my late dad, I do not want to upset my siblings but everybody in Ijebu knows that I am a copy of what the legendary old man was and I love him, he inspired me, lead me, he taught me from the early stage of my life and many things that I do particularly in serving my God in the Christian way, I got from him. Being a Christian or Muslim is by choice. In Ijebu, we do not have any differences. My late father was my mentor, he inspired me and encouraged me, he was the person who showed me the way with God’s Grace to become what I am today. I think he had laid down a pedestal for me that will show me the right way worshiping God. My mother was the Iya Sunna of Ijebu in their own way till the very last they were all calling on their God in the Muslim way. a friend of mine once said I could hardly speak two or three sentences without calling God That is me and I got that from my father. My appearance both in English and Nigerian attire is typically my dad, I am a very proud son of an illustrious and proud father. Many people who are looking for the reincarnation of my father looked at me and I thank God that he has led me to continue on his traits. My father was a philanthropist. He had a touch of everything good and his kindness goes beyond relations. Anyone who crossed his path, he did some good and I believe wherever he is, he is keeping a watch on us and also praying for us. May the good Lord bless his soul. I love my father a lot and you will see evidence of it very soon.
You spoke eloquently about the transformation of Reverend Okunowo that he used to wear Agbada just like you are wearing now and he is now a pastor and that you wish you could also get closer to God, does this mean that you would also be wearing suits and collars soon?
No you got me wrong. Not all of us are so inclined but I am actually praising him for his courage. He told me about it before he came today. He said ‘brother, I am now a priest and I will be coming to the event of today’. Seeing him in suit with the cleric collar was strange to me because in the last forty to fifty years, he was in a flowing agbada or in smart buba. But God has his own way of making use of people. Some of us don’t have the cleric collar but we try to serve our God in the best way he provides for us. I would definitely continue to serve my God, appreciate him, love and do something good to my neighbors but I won’t go as far as turning my collar round. Everybody knows me that I am a friend of a cleric. Those who lead us in serving God. And I thank God for what He has done for me. For this total submission of my life to serve my God, to adore him and to continue to give thanks. And I am not talking of material thing but I have one contentment,peace of mind and confidence that through the love of God our savior, all will always be well. That’s a catch statement of mine, many people know. And that is the popular Yoruba saying that ‘Nipa ife Olugbala ki yo si nkan’.
Knowing that two major events are taking place this year which the first one is your friend’s celebration of sixty years on the throne as Awujale and Nigeria celebrating 60 years of independence, as somebody that has seen it all at least in the past 60years what can you offer to usher in those two milestone events?
I would say we should all turn our faces and mind towards the almighty God, the giver of all good things. Thanking the good Lord for bringing both the Awujale and the Nigerian nation thus far.as you mentioned, everybody knows that’s the Awujale and I are very close and we were born the same year and we touched the life of each other. If you ever read the Autobiography of both the Awujale and I, you would see that we devoted some pages to talk about each other. Now I’m a person who gives thanks every now and then. I want to thank God for him. I want to ask God to continue to show His smiling face and Grace for him. By the time he clock 60 in April 2nd this year, it would have been a record in the annals of traditional leadership and many of us who are close to him are happy for him. There had been illustrious Obas in Ijebu and not many of them have been so gifted. Whenever the time comes he would be remembered for the indelible footprints he’s left on the annals of Ijebu but I am praying that it will not come until we are both hundred. We both have the will power and by the grace of God we shall make it. Amen. About Nigeria, make God gave us the grace to Nigeria our country great. Like any growing institution, we have our problems but why we have not disappeared from the face of earth is because of the Grace of God. Nigeria and Nigerians are not infallible, we’ve made our mistakes but the grace of God has been with us so I would ask you to pray for this nation that the good lord will continue to guide us and we will build a nation about which all of us will be proud. A nation that would put God first, a nation that would go from spiritual edification, a nation that will think of holistic growth not just physical growth. A nation that will serve and obey the Almighty God. A nation that would put God first. Sixty years is not small time. I have a friend; a lot of people know him. We have been friends for over sixty years. We started from London school of economics. Today, we are both in out middle eighties but if you see both of us coming out for events or just walking within our compound, you will join us in thanking God for what he has done for us. So I am wishing both my friend as well as my country, the Grace of the Almighty God. The good Lord will bless both of them. I still continue to be very close to bishop omoyajuowo even though he lives in Akure I think we get in touch almost every month. Just before I came for the festival, we exchanged greetings. So he is a friend. I could almost call him another twin brother. We were born in the same year. Although he was born much later than myself. He is somebody I respect, somebody I share faith with, somebody I have reasons to be continuously grateful to. I call him my special priest
What is your new year message to the people of Ijebuland and Nigeria as a whole?
My New Year message is that everybody should put God first. Make God the foundation of whatever you do. It is only that wise that you have salvation and the blessing of Almighty God.
And your contribution to Ijebu?
well I want to recount but many Ijebu people know that menial things like the road on which we drive, I have silently contributed my own even when the government of the state did not do anything. I can still recall that the Tuwase drive as well as Wolipa at some time I actually spent some money to see that they look well. then I am also interested in the well-being of many Ijebus, I have I think about two or three establishment for health care here personally built and owned by me expecting that when I turn eighty conscious of the fact that I don’t have the expertise, I gave the national pediatric center to the University of Ibadan and I am always on their neck to see that all is going well. I still do have some personal interventions. Annually I will send people to repaint, even to cut grass and I’m always talking to people. Generally, I thank God I have the humane touch. I am not a Pharisee, I do not want to be talking about what I do but I serve my God by being good to my neighbors.
Any regrets so far?
No. in fact I am praying to God that he should continue to enable me to be doing good to any person whose part crosses mine. I am by nature a very appreciative person. When I look round I have reasons to thank my God and I believe that the only thing I can do to please my God is to show interest in the welfare and happiness of my neighbor. Particularly the closest ones, the Ijebus in Ijebu ode. But I am a Nigerian; I have a cosmopolitan relationship with many people. I think at over the middle eighties I want to spend the rest of my life doing good. I am not looking for anything again in life except whatever pleases the Almighty God to give me. All I want to do is to serve my God.
Once I have the satisfaction of serving my God, I can always sing hallelujah. When you get to my stage in life you will be willing to live a good name. You will be kind to everyone. In my own modest way, I think I aspire and I am doing something like that. I want to continue doing good in my life. I want to serve mankind in a way that will congenial with my religious environment or inclination. I think the rest of my life I want to spend thanking God. I’ve had contemporaries who were born in my year, contemporaries who came after me, contemporaries who were born in Ijebu before me but when I look round I keep on thanking my God and I wonder why he has done all this for me. But that Grace of the Almighty God which perfects everything that the good Lord has endowed human being with I will always appreciate and continue to thank and serve my God.
I will always seek the face of my God to send me on errands. To use me in making life a better place for my fellow human being. I do that not in a pharisaical way. God has endowed me with some disposition. I am always smiling, I am always calling this one aburo or egbon or my good friend, that is my nature and God has required me so I want to continue to do good till the last minute of my life but not immediately.