Otunba Subomi Balogun is the Olori Omoba of Ijebuland (head of princes and princesses), the head Christain laities in Ijebuland and the founder of the First City Monument Bank (FCMB). He holds annual new year Christian prayers and thanksgiving in his Ijebu Ode mansion. He spoke with the OKORIE UGURU after this year’s event. Excerpts:
Why are you always in the habit of organising this annual programme?
God has His own way of answering prayers. It is not the way we mortals perceive it. We are a praying people. And I am convinced that the good Lord hears our prayers and grants all that we ask from Him. But it is not something that we show around but you feel it, spiritual blessings, which, for ; people like me, are very enriching. That grace of God which gives everything that human beings desire is always there. So, as I usually say, the blessings of God Almighty, and all the things we desire from Him, are always for us to see but you need to be gifted before you can appreciate the awesomeness of the Almighty God. I for one will admit at any time that I am in God’s hands, and the Omnipotent, the Omnipresent is always around me, guiding me, His light showing through me. I take the good Lord as a spiritual awesome being. He is present everywhere with us. It takes the knowledgeable to appreciate Him. Every step we take in life is propelled by God.
In Ijebuland, you are very active in the tradition and culture; you are equally active in the Ijebu Christian community. Some believe the two don’t go hand in hand. How do you reconcile the two?
Very interesting, and I am happy you asked me this question. Quite a lot of the roles I play are either hereditary or bestowed on me by the current people of Ijebuland. Originally, I am part of Ijebu royalty. I am the Otunba Tunwase of Ijebu. Oba Tunwase was the Ijebu Oba that signed a treaty with the British government in 1892, for the British to have entry into Ijebuland after the Imagbon war. Secondly, he was the one who allowed Christianity to be preached. Thirdly, he was the one who allowed free practice of religion. He gave the land on which the first church was built in Ijebu Ode. He also gave the land on which the Central Mosque of the Ijebus was built. He held a cardinal position in the history of Ijebuland and I happened to be one of his distinguished descendants. My mother happened to be a great grandchild of that Oba, Oba Tunwase. My mother also happens to come from the Olisa chieftaincy. Olisa Odubanjo happens to be my mother’s direct ancestor on the father’s side.
More than this, I have a very strong lineage to most of the important chieftaincies in Ijebu. My grand father happened to be a descendant of Borogun family. Borogun family includes members of the Kuku family and also the Balogun Odunuga. Up and above this, the Ijebu people, having created the position of an Asiwaju, call it the president of the laity, Asiwaju of the Ijebu Christians. They only had one before me, the Venerable Chief Adeola Odutola. About 27, 28 years ago, I was elected immediately after the demise of that grand legend of Ijebu and by sheer coincidence, he became the Asiwaju at the age of 63, and I succeeded him at the age of 63. The Ijebu Christians hold in high esteem the Asiwaju. The normal annual prayers, once the event is held in the Awujale’s palace, the next person is the Asiwaju of Ijebu Christians. I have thrown it open, it is not only the Christians; all my Muslim brothers are always invited.
The Ijebu society is very unique. All of us are intertwined. There is no one who is a Christian and does not have a Moslem relation, and there is no one who is a Moslem and does not have a Christian relation. When my late mother was alive, she was the Iya Sunna for the Moslems, the most senior woman among the Moslems and simultaneously, I was made the Asiwaju of Christians. So, in the Ijebu society, we don’t know any difference, we are all together and there is hardly any Ijebu family that you will trace and you wouldn’t have relations of Moslems and Christians. I am proud to be one of them.
Why I get so much involved is not only because I am the Asiwaju, president of the laity, but I also come from the most illustrious houses. I happened to be the head of the princes and princesses (Olori Omoba). I also happened to be the Olori Ebi of one of what we call Arojojoye ruling house. If they have not heard of it, thinking has been going on, we have now decided not to name any house after an individual. You will name it from a cognomen, Oriki, that belongs to all of us. Within that family, you have the Tunwase, you have the Adiara who are my cousins, and so many. So, because of this pre-eminent position, I get dragged in or I voluntarily offer myself to participate.
Thanking God annually is very personal because when I look back and see what the good Lord has done for me among the myriads oI Ijebu children and descendants, I can hold up my palms and thank God because the good Lord has done so much to me. I’m opportune and I have to show appreciation. That is why I am very much involved in the annual prayers.
One song that is echoing any time you are involved in the thanksgiving is “Through the Love of God Our Saviour…” Is the song tied to a particular experience you’ve heard?
No, it is not based on any experience. It is the measure of my appreciation of the ever-present, omnipotent, all seeing and all doing God, the enormous Almighty. I believe that if you put yourself in the hands of God, nothing can shake you. Whatever it is that is bothering you or affecting you, once you accept that God loves you as His own child, nothing can happen to you. What I am expressing there is not just the awesomeness that the good Lord is ever present, He is the looming person over everything about you. And once somebody is seeing success all around his life, much of which he didn’t even anticipate, I relate this to the ever present God.
So, how did I come by it? Once I have God, I don’t worry about anything. A friend once told me that before I speak two three words, I will mention God, it is because I appreciate the awesomeness of God. I am convinced that my God loves me, so whatever success, opulence, it is through the love of God our saviour. So, if you think very well and put everything in the hands of God, you will be convinced that whatever might have bothered you, that there is God and He will take care of you. In essence, what I am saying is that I have put my cares, desires, aspirations in God and accepted His guidance and direction for my life.
You are in semi-retirement from business, what are the things you miss most?
First of all, I am not in any retirement. Through the grace of God, I still have my faculties. Not many people at 85 years still sit down like me. Not many people at 85 could walk around without a walking stick. Apart from the royal beaded walking stick, which to me is a fashion, all of you will see is that I am agile. You are talking of what I miss, except for the constraints of God that when you are aging, you should appreciate it, I am not retired; though I don’t go to office again, but whenever I am opportune, I would just pop in to see what they are doing. Talking about what I miss, there is nothing. The only thing I am looking for is the grace of God and I am not being metaphorical. I believe in it.
There are certain things I do which make many people wonder. Up till now, I am still able to memorise some verses (of the Bible). Up till now, I still remember things that happened to me about 70 years ago in details. I think I am a child of God that has been given the fullness of His grace. I live a life of much younger generation than myself. I still write long thesis; I still prepare speeches. I have that rare gift, I don’t have to be jotting out something before I talk. I am not missing anything, except that I am giving myself what you would call restraints. Just like you are on a horse back, you have to master the way you will restrain your activities. I am also conscious of the fact that I am not the young man that has seen everywhere. I have my limitations at 85. Sometimes in the week days, I wear my suit and I still remember that I was once a bank official. I still remember that I started my career as a lawyer. I still remember that I was a secondary school teacher to most of the distinguished Ijebus that you see. And I ascribe everything to the grace of God. Most of things I do, it is not me, it is God. Look round Ijebu Ode, most of my age mates, there are a few still of them still alive, but cerebrally, there is nothing you people can discuss. In fact, if you see me in suit on a week day, I don’t behave any how. I like the beautiful things of life, even in my old age and I will continue. There is nothing I miss. You won’t believe that if I go to the gym, I want to get to the bicycle and ride around any stretch, I want to do it. Even though I have elevators, I prefer walking. I enjoy going round. I have about 20 acres here (in his Ijebu Ode house). My farm is about 12 acres, I still go round on my own picking fruits, picking what to eat. My wife and I have a poultry giving us 2,000 eggs per day and that interests me. I get involved in so many things some of my contemporaries can’t do.
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