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Celebrating Chris Ogunbanjo At 86

By Olumuyiwa Runsewe
12 December 2009   |   10:00 pm
"K'olododo K'olodo pe, K'awon odale na o pe Atepe aiye, ile lo mo yen - Haruna Ishola in the 60s   IT is a great privilege for me to share with Nigerians some of the dividends of my relationship with Papa Chris Oladipo Ogunbanjo, OFR, CON, one of the most prominent, respected and revered elder statesmen in Nigeria today, and, who, thanks to the gift of long life, will be 86 years old tomorrow, Monday December 14, 2009. I have chosen Haruna Ishola's deep philosophical rendition as a medium through which to analyse and celebrate Papa's long and consistently successful and fulfilling life.

The simplest interpretation of that Apala music is this: “Let the righteous live long, let the wicked ones also live long, but only mother earth knows for how long each of us will inhabit the earth”. Let us even go a little further for yet a simpler and more functional explanation: “Good people pray to live long, wicked people also pray to live long but only the land upon which we walk has been divinely programmed to know for how long every human being will inhabit the Earth”. This beautiful rendition was plagiarised by Ebenezer Obey in the early 70s with ” Ore a pe, ika ape, ile ni o m’eni ti o teun pe”. Plagiarised? Yes and No. yes, because the evidence is clear enough, and No, because according to the late Tai Solarin, in an article published in the Daily Times in 1966, “to borrow and to better the borrowing is no plagiarism.”


Obey had a longer outreach and mileage. Let me testify that one of the prominent citizens of the world today that the Lord has endured with righteousness, comfort, peace of mind, fulfillment in every area of life and coupled all these with long life is Chief Chris Ogunbanjo. Righteousness must have a source. You don’t just wake up one day and declare yourself righteous or exhibit traits that make your neighbours and your community to declare you as righteous. If you believe in pre-destination, I am convinced you get your dosage of righteousness in the day of your “akunleyan”.

Being born into a good, respectable, prayerful and God-fearing family, who would bring you up in the ways of the Lord and in the fear of your Creator, righteousness becomes your trademark. You grow with it and manifest it throughout the journey of your life. In spite of the prominence of righteousness, it is only necessary, it is not sufficient. There are other virtues. Your father and mother and your siblings must empower your confidence with Love, and Honour must be the watchword in the day-to-day communications around you.

Such has been the exceptional luck and good fortune of Papa Chris Ogunbanjo. He was born in Erunwon-Ijebu into one of the most prominent families in that human settlement, the Ogunbanjo family. His father was a Headmaster, a Deacon and later became a very prominent Pastor and Canon around the Old Western Region. The mother, the late Madam Towobola, hailed from a neighbouring village, Ijebu-Imushin.

Let me confess at this junction that I am a distant relation to Papa, through my late mother, Madam Aduke Runsewe (Iye Muyiwa) who hailed from Erunwon. Through my mother, I got to know Papa’s sisters who were then resident at Ibadan – late “Mama Shop”, the mother of Professor Mrs. Ebun Clark, the late Mrs. Adetola and Mama, Mrs. Peters. Wherever they met, either in our house at Oke-Bola or in their various houses, they were always talking of one “Broda Lawyer” and the good deeds he had done to one family member or the other and the major strides he had attained in his legal profession. This was my observation from age 10. As I grew older, and until those women, (except Mrs. Peters) went to meet the Lord, there was never a time they, or any one in the family would badmouth Papa Chris Ogunbanjo. What is the lesson to be learnt in this area of Papa’s life? When a star is born to, or spotted within a family, let family members continue to celebrate him and pray for him, so that the plan of God for such a life and upon that family will be made manifest to maximum effect.

One major source of Papa Ogunbanjo’s consistently consistent successes in life is his great admiration, appreciation and unquestionable obedience to his late father and mother. He was once asked. “Papa, how come, you did not join politics, having worked under Chief H.O Davies, and was later a partner to Papa Chief S.L. Akintola, in addition to being a close friend to so many politicians?” “It was really very tempting, and I almost declared my intention to join the Action Group, but I wouldn’t take such a major decision without discussing with “Papa Ile-Ife”. A few days to my declaration, I drove all the way from Lagos to Ile-Ife. Papa said, “No, No, No, Ladipo, you cannot join politics. You were brought up to see white and call it white and see black and call it black. You cannot do that in politics. Please concentrate on developing your Legal Practice, and when you are well-grounded, politicians will always bring their quarrels for you to settle for them”.

A second question: “Papa, why did you settle in Lagos , rather than Ibadan , which was the major centre of economic activities in the 50s? “Oooh Yes! There is another emotional story behind that one too. “I was actually lured by the vast opportunities in the Western Region, coupled with the fact that many of my professional colleagues were already settled and doing well at Ibadan . But I confided my plans in my late mother and she said, ‘Ladipo let us pray’. We knelt down and prayed together for a long time, and at the end of the prayers, Mama said, ‘Ladipo, please stay in Lagos , my spirit is telling me if you stay in Lagos , the Lord will bless the works of your hands mightily”. This is an opportunity to advise young children of today, to please learn through these two great testimonies of Papa Ogunbanjo and resolve to listen, love and respect the feelings of their parents.

Like the popular singer of the 90s, Mike Okri, sang, “Hear your Papa, hear your Mama, Life go better for you.” Papa Ogunbanjo listened to his Papa and his Mama, and this has yielded him dividends of outstanding success, a highly respected and well beloved man internationally, and above all, a man who has lived in peace with himself and his children throughout his sojourn on earth, and up till the present day.

Papa Ogunbanjo has employed his profession, law, as a veritable instrument of change in the Nigerian Legal, Corporate, Industrial and Management Practice. It was no mean feat, that within a few years of specialising in Corporate Law, he was spotted and appointed “Retainer-Solicitor” to the NIDB Project by the Federal Government and International Finance Corporation. It is sensible to argue that that opportunity was the divine key that the Lord provided for him, to open his eyes to the vast entrepreneurial talents inside of him, an opportunity which he has so well utilised and has brought him so much success and fulfillment in every major sphere of the Nigerian economy.

While not attempting to give the public a glimpse into his autobiography, we cannot fully celebrate Papa Chris Ogunbanjo without mentioning his extensive philanthropy. He is always happy when he is contributing to the building of any Anglican Church all over Nigeria . The Anglican Cathedral ( Epiphany Church ) at his native Erunwon, is a glaring testimony to this. To enhance safety and security in his community, he built a Police Post beside the church and handed it over to the Nigerian Police. He has single-handedly been maintaining those structures in the last 25 years. I should know, because my company, Singafrique Engineering Limited has been engaged by him in the last one year to carry out extensive renovations, not only on those structures but also at the popular Ogunbanjo Centre for Conflict Resolution, also in Erunwon.

Having celebrated Papa’s very successful and very fulfilling life, let us go back to the question we started with. Is there a connection between your attitude and rating as a good and righteous man with the number of years you will spend on mother-earth? It is very tempting to declare an outright No. Jesus Christ, the most celebrated “human being” in the whole universe today, lived for only 33 years. Prophet Mohammed did not live up to a hundred years too. Is there a divine connection between the number of years we are each destined to spend on earth, on the land upon which we walk daily?

We cannot ask Haruna Ishola. His covenant with mother-earth came to an end since 1983. We cannot even ask from his son, Musiliu, because, from his recording outings so far “if e no be Panadol, e no fit be Panadol”. But we can ask Evangelist Obey Fabiyi what he meant by “ore a pe, ika a pe, ile ni o m’eni ti o teun pe”. Please, when you see the new Obey be careful O. Just go straight to the point. Don’t, for instance, ask him to explain what he meant by “Baby mi jowo o, je ka jo ma gbadun”. Don’t worsen the whole dilemma by asking him to explain “Mori sisi kan to un lo loke rere”. If you push your luck too far, the new man in him might invoke, “Holy Ghost Fire Consume them!” on you.

Let us however assume, for the purpose of this contribution, that there could be a linkage that has been divinely programmed by God the Creator, for the land (Mother-Earth) to monitor our growing up, our attitudes and behaviours, and above all, to know exactly how many years each of us would spend on earth. If this assumption is taken as given, it is my conclusion that God Almighty, the Creator, has chosen for Papa Chris Oladipo Ogunbanjo, through the marks on his two palms, and his movements on earth, to be a special success package that was programmed to unfold over the years, from the beginning of his life and throughout his long years on earth. He never agrees with you when he does you a favour and you pray” “May you continue to live long sir”.

He would tell you, “No, that is God’s discretion. Once your assignment is completed in this world, you take your bow and go” When, however, you adjust your prayers as follows”, Papa, may the Lord continue to strengthen your bones for a long, long time to come”. He agrees with you, with a smile. Papa, may you continue to keep on smiling, with strong bones in every area of your life for a long, long time to come sir. Happy Birthday Sir.

*Runsewe lives in Lagos .