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Diamond age that brings rain of tributes on Waheed Olagunju


Dr. Olagunju and wife, Mobolaji… cutting the birthday cake

He touched the lives of Nigerians, and by extension the nation’s economy profoundly, especially when he held forth as acting Managing Director of the Bank of Industry (BOI) in 2016/2017. Thus, when Dr. Waheed Olagunju clocked 60 on Sunday, April 7, 2019, corporate Nigeria, political bigwigs including royal institution gathered to celebrate him. 

But it was a double celebration as the birthday ceremony coincided with his retirement from the BOI after 28 years of meritorious service. So, an outpour of tributes became the major highlight of the birthday gig held at Harbour Point on Wilmot Point Road, off Ahmadu Bello Way, Victtoria Island, Lagos. President Muhammadu Buhari topped the list of dignitaries from all walks of life who eulogized the retired Executive Director, Small and Medium Enterprises of the bank.

In a statement issued by the Special Adviser to the President on Media & Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, President Buhari felicitated with Olagunju and congratulated him for always making himself available for service to the nation and humanity, which he said was centrally motivated by his fear of God and sense of patriotism.

Specifically, President Buhari commended Dr. Olagunju for playing a significant role in supporting the vision of diversifying the Nigerian economy through innovative and actionable ideas that translated into growth of more Small and Medium Enterprises across the country. Buhari’s prayer is for Almighty God to continue to grant him long life, good health and strength as Olagunju opens a fresh chapter in his life of service to the country even in retirement.  
The First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari who was represented at the prayer session and reception to mark the double celebration by a formidable group of eminent women led by Mrs Mary Paul, also congratulated Dr. Olagunju and commended him for supporting the nation’s development programmes.

Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, the Honourable Minister of Women Affairs who also doubles as Minister of State for Industry Trade and Investment, Mrs Aisha Abubakar, the Special Adviser to the President on Social investments, Mrs Mariam Uwaise and the Ooni of Ife were amongst the gaily dressed dignitaries from all walks of life who converged on the Harbour Point in Lagos last Sunday to celebrate the distinguished banker.

Also present were former Ministers of Industry Chief Kola Jamodu, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, retired Inspector General of Police MD Abubakar, Prof. Pat Utomi, former Central Bank Deputy Governors Mr. Ernest Ebi and Dr. (Mrs) Sarah Alade, current and former bank MDs, industry captains, leading development scholars, family and friends as well as Dr. Olagunju’s former colleagues from both BOI and the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). 

After the solemn prayers with thanksgiving to God for granting him a successful career that was led by Dr. Ismail Musa, the Chief Imam of the University of Lagos, which is Dr. Olagunju’s alma mata, the atmosphere was filled with merriment as musicians with saxophone and other musical instruments entertained and serenaded the audience some of whom swayed and danced to the music. There was enough for guests to eat and drink while listening to the background music, especially for those who did not take to the dancing floor. Tributes to Olagunju poured in and were chronicled in a 100-page photo book containing the biography of Olagunju, which was given to all guests. Governor Kayode Fayemi recalled that when he was appointed Minister of Solid Minerals Development, he worked with Olagunju who was then the Acting Managing Director of BOI in setting up a Fund for Artisanal and small scale miners and lauded Olagunju’s diligent service to Nigeria.

Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah thanked Olagunju for serving the nation, BOI and for his loyalty when they worked together. Enelamah prayed God to bless the celebrant even more in all his future endeavours.
In her tribute, the Minister of State for industry, Trade and Investment, Mrs Aisha Abubakar said as Dr Olagunju’s supervising Minister from 2015 to his retirement date, she was attesting to his exceptional and proactive character and abilities that clearly defined, most especially, the period that he acted as Managing Director of the bank as one of remarkable and outstanding achievements by the bank.

In the same vein, BOI’s Chairman, Alhaji Aliyu Abdulrahman Dikko said within the years that Olagunju was at the helm of affairs, he along with his management team, “moved the bank from a marginal institution to an internationally AA rated institution that is able to source for credit internationally. For this also his name will be written in gold.”   
On his part, Olukayode Pitan, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Bank of Industry, described Olagunju as a very versatile person, who came from broadcasting, where he was reporting sports, to build a good career in banking.

Pitan said, “He (Olagunju) has institutional memory. If there’s anything you wanted to know about BOI – before it was born, how it was growing as a baby, all you need to do was ask him.“And he has a way of keeping records. He will get the required documents even if it was from 12 years ago.”

Former Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga recalled that while he was supervising BOI, Olagunju worked with former Managing Director, Ms Oputu in propelling the bank to greater heights and had no reservations in approving his (Olagunju) appointment as the first career Executive Director of BOI in 2012 because he earned and very much deserved the promotion.    

President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina in a congratulatory message, expressed delight while thanking God for Olagunju’s landmark of turning 60 years. Adesina, who noted that God has been gracious to the celebrant, prayed that God should continue to grant him much joy, happiness, good health and length of days to fully enjoy the fruit of his labour.

The Director General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Mr. Oscar Onyema said in particular the exchange commended his acting leadership of BOI in 2016/2017 period during which the bank simultaneously achieved up to 50 per cent increase in loan disbursements to the MSME Sector and a significant reduction in non-performing loans. He noted that this also culminated in the upgrade of BOI’s ratings by both domestic and international rating agencies under Olagunju’s watch.   

From all indications, Olagunju has etched his footprints on the sands of time having successfully built careers in broadcasting and banking for close to four decades. He has a doctorate degree in Business Administration from the Paris School of Business; first and second degrees from the University of Lagos also obtained a professional certificate in Investment Appraisal and Risk Analysis from the Queens University, Canada and a certificate in Executive Development from Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, United States of America. His marriage to Mobolaji (nee Ajeigbe) 34 years ago is blessed with three children and three grandchildren.     

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