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At new year prayer, Subonmi Balogun reiterates commitment to Ijebu culture

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(middle) Otunba Subomi Balogun

As the Olori Omoba of Ijebuland (head of princes and princesses), as well as the Asiwaju of Ijebu Christians (head Christian laities in Ijebuland), the founder of the First City Monument Bank (FCMB) Otunba Subomi Balogun is one man, who has perfectly combined his life as a Christian with his love for the culture and tradition of the Ijebus.

A very activate participant at the yearly Ojude Oba Festival, which he support through FCMB, every January, Balogun’s palatial home in Ijebu Ode plays host to dignitaries from both within and outside Ijebu for his yearly New Year prayer session.

Though initially conceived as a Christian event, the event these days attract both non-Christians, who join in the thanksgiving session.

Speaking with journalists after this year’s edition, Otunba Balogun explained that the event was conceived as a platform to pray and thank God for his mercies.

“Thanking God yearly is very personal because when I look back and see what the good Lord has done for me among the myriads of 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.”

He continued: “God has His own way of answering prayers. It is not the way we mortals perceive it. We are a praying people. And I’m convinced that the good Lord hears our prayers and grants all that we ask from Him. 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.”

On his active involvement in the promotion of the tradition and culture of Ijebuland, as well as his leadership of the Christian community, he explained, “Quite a lot of the roles I play are either hereditary or bestowed on me by the current people of Ijebuland. Originally, I’m part of Ijebu royalty. I’m 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,” he said.

He continued: “About 27, 28 years ago, I was elected Asiwaju of Ijebu Christians 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.”

Meanwhile, at 85, Otunba is not thinking of retirement.

“I’m 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. Talking about what I miss, there is nothing. The only thing I’m looking for is the grace of God and I’m not being metaphorical. I believe in it,” he said.


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