Thursday, 17 November 2016

Dad is first Yoruba man to get oil license in Nigeria—Omoba Sunmade Akin-Olugbade + Best kept secrets of the 1st Balogun of Owu

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Omo-Oba Sunmade Babajimi Akin-Olugbade, President/CEO, OBA Groups

Omo-Oba Babajimi Sunmade Akin-Olugbade is one of the very few Nigerians you will visit and you feel bad that you never saw the proverbial good old days of Nigeria. He is a compendium of knowledge of the good old days when Nigeria was still a nation on a part to glory. Growing under a father whose influence loomed large in the South Western Part of Nigeria first as a famous politician and a revered legal guru, Sunmade saw Nigeria at a very close range. He didn’t only saw a beautiful society colored with great prospects but he mingled with some of the golden men of that era. They were all Dad’s friends or political associates. He saw dad dined and wined with them and before he knew it, he was dragged into the hustle and bustles of managerial authority as he managed some of his father’s corporations as Chief Executive Officer.
His dad who discovered great lawyers like former Hague President and Nigeria’s minister of justice, Prince Bola Ajibola was a famous politician of the Owu, Egba origin. He was the first Balogun of Owu and Ekerin of Egba land. He was a member of the famous Action Group Party under the leadership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. However, the late parliamentarian, Chief Ohu Babatunde Akin-Olugbade was equally a big time oil merchant and that was the major source from where he launched himself into a profound life of philanthropy for his Owu kinsmen until his demise on November 4, 1987.

In this concluding part of his exclusive encounter with your Africa’s Number 1 Celebrity Encounter blog, Asabeafrika, the revered Omo-Oba Sunmade Babajimi Akin-Olugbade shared the story of  dad’s oil wealth and how  dad departed this world in the later hours of November 4, 1987. It is a classic interview you won’t find to read anywhere else. Take leisure with your best drink as you enjoy the read…
The Omo-Oba Sunmade Babajimi Akin-Olugbade welcomes the GDA to his Ilupeju, Lagos office
 You have maintained a very low key life style unlike your younger brother, Prince Bolu Akin-Olugbade. Can we say you are a conservative? 
I am not a conservative. My political views are definitely not conservative but I was away. I was away for some time, I was in the United States for about fourteen years and when I came back; don’t forget, nature hates a vacuum. So, while I was away, naturally, Bolu who is my younger brother was in charge of some of the activities of the family. And he has done very well for himself. So, I am very happy for him. Secondly I don’t go to parties that much, my brother loves to parties and have great time. He loves flashy cars and you know, I don’t think that is in me. If I go to a party, you must know that it is either a close friend or a family member. So, that is just me.
Maybe your western orientation played a fast one on you?    
I was born in Bamgbose here in Lagos; I am a real Naija man (laughter). People who grew up with me are still in Bamgbose, Ajanaku, Oke-popo area of Lagos. So, I have no reason to be holier than Pope. It just has to do with me. I am an Omo-Oba and it sticks through
The Omo-Oba Sunmade Akin-Olugbade to Asabeafrika....'I am not an introvert but i cherish my privacy, though'
The Omo-Oba Sunmade Akin-Olugbade in the heart of the encounter
The Omo-Oba Sunmade Akin-Olugbade to Asabeafrika...'Dad made fortune when Nigeria was okay'
The picture of you, dad with ex President Olusegun Obasanjo appeared in the book you wrote on your dad, how close is Chief Obasanjo to the family now?
Of course, the relationship is still very cordial. I knew him when he was a colonel in Ibadan. I have known him as far back as then. He was like a mentor and an inspiration not only to me but to every young man of the period because I was very fresh in the university when he was already a colonel. And when I served in the Youth Corps in 1973, he was like the big boss of the eastern command; I think he was based in Port Harcourt. So, he will come around to give lectures and things like that. I have had personal relationship with him and the relationship is there, but his children are much younger than me including the Senator. So, they are closer to Bolu and I think they have a very good relationship with Bolu, just like the governor in Ogun state now. He is closer to my younger brother than me, they were too young for me to relate with them personally. Like I told you, I was already in the University before Bolu went to King’s College to start his secondary school education. I am not talking of the age gap, I am just talking of the fact that it was a different era and things were a little different.
The Veteran Owu Chief and Philanthropist, Chief Ohu Babatunde Akin-Olugbade, Balogun Owu & Ekerin of Egba Land
From some of the songs done on your dad by Commander Ebenezer Obey and some documented evidence on him, I learnt your dad was so rich and famous. Was it law or politics that gave him so much fortune?
Gbenga, Let me tell you a story today, my father was one of the first people to be given oil blocks in Nigeria. There were four of them, himself, late Chief SL Edu, J.O.K Amakre, and late Henry Oloyede Fajemirokun, Dele’s father. Out of the four, he was the only one who performed. That was when he formed Niger Oils Resources. I became the Managing Director and I was working closely with him, even though I was still in the background. He brought in the Japanese and they started drilling oil; he was the first Nigerian to do it with the Japanese. But immediately Gowon was toppled, they killed that entire project. They killed it and it took a long time before Nigerians were invited back to participate again. Can you imagine what would have happened if since 1973 we were able to develop? But the kind of things they were getting from these foreigners, they could not get from somebody who was just …, I think they were doing less than thirty thousand barrels per day from the block they got because they were just starting, this was the first set of people to be given oil blocks; this was long before Summit Oil of (MKO) Abiola or any of these other people. I am talking of 1973. You see, we lost focus but hopefully, God himself will redeem us because now, the situation is so bad. It is worse than what you read in papers; maybe half of what we are producing. If it is true, that we are producing up to three million barrel or say two point five million barrel a day, then why are we borrowing money?
The Omo-Oba Sunmade Akin-Olugbade to Asabeafrika....'Nigeria is in deep crisis because the political class don't take the people to heart any longer
Why Nigeria is in crisis…
 “We have proliferation of universities; right now we have over eighty universities in Nigeria. Over eighty universities, you get to some of these universities and you can’t believe what you see. And then, there is no program to absorb these people. What are we doing? Then you see kidnapping, stealing, killing and terrorism because the leaders are not inspiring any longer. Maybe the panacea lies with the political parties, maybe they really have to reorganize themselves and find out their relevance to the society. It is not just power for its own sake. That is why I said they have distorted everything our founding fathers did. Whatever thing you may say about them, they were committed to this country; even those of them at the center we knew that they were committed and selfless. People like late Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, late Alhaji Ribadu and even the Ahmadu Bello himself; although, he was royalty. You see the problem was that Ahmadu Bello confused his traditional role with that of the government. So, he was still thinking as a feudal man while practicing the so called democracy. But his opponents fought him to accept that, this is a different ball game. Then he saw people like (Chief) Awolowo and Zik, because he was not used to liberal argument but that didn’t stop him from being a great statesman. Our political parties should go back to basics; they should concentrate on the rural areas and we should devote most of our annual budget to the rural areas; to the local government.
The Omo-Oba Sunmade Akin-Olugbade to Asabeafrika....'We need Government to come closer to the grass root and change things for the ordinary people in Nigeria
Then get the state government to take over all these other stuff that the federal government is doing like the health care system of the people and education. Those are assignments for states; the federal government has nothing to do with that. The role of the federal government is to interfere with the outside world and they should initiates domestic policies that both local and state governments can key into. You don’t need anybody from Abuja to be dictating to someone at the state level. What does a presidency needs six airplanes for? Tell me, to do what?
 Then, we keep following models from IMF and World Bank when the local insight and culture is totally different. This is the reason why we organized my father’s centenary celebration (Couple of years back) and book launch, it is for those of us who have been venting out our frustration to come out and say ‘listen, why don’t you listen to some different ideas to see maybe it will benefit you’. That is why we organized the launch not just for a show. And of course the book is to enable you take a glimpse into the past, then we may be able to forge a better future for the country. Because like I said, those people had plans. Why don’t you revisit those development plans and programs of political parties of yore; instead of this proliferation of parties, let us have something concrete and let the political parties be relevant to the people”.  
The Omo-Oba Sunmade Akin-Olugbade to Asabeafrika...'Politicians to today should look back and see how their fore-fathers in the 1st republic did things'
The Omo-Oba to Asabeafrika....'The Politics of today is one that sinks development
Omo-Oba Sunmade Akin-Olugbade to Asabeafrika....'Dad united every of his children while alive and in his will
The Akin-Olugbade family seems to be so united; I can see a family of bonded giants. What is the secret of that unity?
I think it is my father. Like I said, he never discriminated among his children even though some came from a different mother but we were one. We were all his kids and he kept everybody together. They came home, even when they were staying with their mothers, they all came to the house to get their school fees and had interactions with him and in his will, he treated his children equally.
The Omo-Oba at his book library
The Omo-Oba Sunmade Akin-Olugbade put a smile across to our camera inside his Lagos office
How do you start your day?
I start my day with meditation, I pray. I am a Christian.  And my I-pad is always close to my bed. So, I key in to get news on any of the news sources. After that, I am set for the day. I don’t take heavy breakfast, I take fruits or maybe oats or a cup of tea. If I don’t come to the office here, I use the office at home. And I take it day by day.
The Omo-Oba Sunmade Akin-Olugbade in a rare pose for Asabeafrika
The Omo-Oba showed Asabeafrika one of favorite economic literature inside his library 
Do you really have a philosophy?
My philosophy is to serve my God and in serving humanity, you are serving God. At least you do the little bits you can; I don’t worry too much about material things. You know why? Because my father himself never did, he was happy with his law, you see. But he got into oil (business) through his boss at the treasury; I told you he was one of the first Nigerians to be given an oil block. So, it was from the money he made there that he invested in other things so as to give employment to Nigerians. He set up scholarships and things like that, don’t forget he was the Chairman, Finance Corporation as far back as 1957; he had helped to set up many budding Nigerian companies and entrepreneurs. People like Alhaji S.O. Gbadamosi, late Shonibare and many, many others you can remember. That is why I said they should go back to the old times and see how the political parties operated. Not what they are doing now, giving contracts to their own companies. That wasn’t what they did, I think people got confused along the way and we need to refocus. We need to find our way back to the right path.
Omo-Oba Sunmade Akin-Olugbade to Asabeafrika...'Dad could be very aggressive with his arguments but i am the cool guy' 
Do you have a role model?
Well, I do like Nelson Mandela. I wouldn’t want to go to jail though (laughter) but I really like him; his leadership style and his interest in his people. And of course, dad proved to be a good role model; although I never wanted to be a lawyer really, because my father always loved to argue. And sometimes, he could be very aggressive in his argument, especially if he believes seriously in it; he would drive his points home. I am a very smooth operator, I like to discuss and win you over. I wouldn’t want to force my views on you; if you don’t see my point of view, we can agree to disagree. But you can’t do that in politics because at the end of the day, you need to win to get the votes. So, maybe I can be useful to somebody in power by giving them advice or heading a major government corporation or something like that where we can advise the government and do things for the country.
Prince Sunmade Akin-Olugbade to Asabeafrika...'I will love to serve in an advisory if father land calls me for service'
You seems to have enough ideas and political intelligence but why are not giving yourself up for a political service?
Because I have always been involved in running the family business right from a very early age
What of if government probably discovers call you over?, will you be willing to serve father land?
I think they know I am here. General Obasanjo knows I am back in the country. All my fathers’ friends didn’t know for a long time but now, they know I am back. Like I said in my welcome address (during his father’s centenary celebration and book launch), I forged personal relationship with all my father’s friends. I have been doing this thing for a long time (Administration), when all my brothers were still in school, Bolu was still in school when I became the Group Managing Director of dad’s firm. This is what I have been doing virtually all my life and my father wanted it that way. Because I remember after my MBA, late (Chief) Asabia wanted to recruit me to the First Bank and my father resisted because he wanted me to run his corporation. He was involved in the Owu development scheme; I was the one doing the day-to-day running of the company. In fact, we had several projects across the country; so I was travelling around the country. My father didn’t even know some of the jobs we were doing in the north. We built the Bauchi, Gombe, Yola roads. We built the Yola Airport. I mentioned the Emir of Gombe in my welcome speech; he was very helpful to me; we had a base in Gombe there. And can you imagine what it was like during the Maitatsine period? But because they knew I was a friend of the emir, they treated me with respect. I had so many engineers that have worked with me; some of them are big men in their own right today. Some of them have gone into politics; some are commissioners and some are doing great in other fields. I have been doing this job for a long time. When I was managing a corporation, most of my colleagues were just starting at the entry level of their education. We thank God for his mercy.
Omo-Oba Sunmade Akin-Olugbade to Asabeafrika 'I started singing Baptist Hymn when my dad passed out of his body'
Dad passed away on the 4th of November, 1987.  According to legends, he was with a stick of cigarette and a glass of beer before he had his last breath.  How was that moment with your dad?
He didn’t invite me over or call me into his room. Don’t forget he has been ill for some time. I wasn’t living there but each time I was there, I will go and see him. He was being well attended to and everything was okay. So, in one of our discussions, you know as a son, you will like to ask him some questions… and he will always brush aside the thought of death. He never accepted that he was going to die, I am telling you. Because I remember he was still talking of how he was trying to get electrification for Orile-Owu; because by that time they didn’t have light. He was always thinking about others, and he was always thinking that he will beat this thing, because he always believed that he could overcome any obstacle. And he saw that (illness) just as another obstacle that he will still beat. I think the kids came around to see him for something and he just said casually “Awon omo e niyen”. They were very young. By the time, I had already started having children myself. He just said “look, make sure all the children are educated”. In fact, all the children, including our own children, now, I understand what they mean by saying ‘smoke your last cigarette’. But at the time it didn’t occur to me, don’t forget, we didn’t know he was going to die, I was just by him. He requested for beer and we brought him Heineken. And his Benson and Hedges was by his bed side. So, he took a stick and lighted a cigarette and he died a happy man. He didn’t finish his drink, he didn’t finish the (Cigarette), and he left it by the bed side. I was still with him, all of a sudden, he gasped and he just went off peacefully. It is like when you are running a long race, and you off, that was it.
Prince Sunmade Akin-Olugbade to Asabeafrika 'I braced up immediately i saw dad pass out'
And what happened to you at that very moment?
I started singing “Lai Foya Lapa Jesu” (He sang the hymn) I remember the song and I started singing as people came into the room “Lai foya lapa Jeesu, lai foya laya ree; Labe Ojiji Ife ree, ni Okan mi yi o sin mi”. It is a Baptist Hymn.
You mentioned in your book that (Now late) Billionaire Diplomat Deinde Fernandez was the first man to give you a hundred dollars bill gift. Tell us the full story?
A Portrait of the Omo-Oba Sunmade Babajimi Akin-Olugbade
The GDA meets the Omo-Oba Sunmade Babajimi Akin-Olugbade
Yes, we were in Ibadan then. The guy had come in from the states; I don’t know what he wanted from the government of the west or something. And he came to see my old man in the house and they discussed at length. So, when he was going, he saw me, he shook my hands and that was the first time I was seeing a dollar bill. Later on in life, l met his daughter and other members of his family. There were others then, so many of them that came to my father. I was very young then, so these things created a lasting impression on me and it also affected the way I relate to people. I never looked down on anybody, I know that we are all in the same boat and we need to do better for our country.
The Omo-Oba Sunmade Babajimi Akin-Olugbade, Dawodu of the Akin Olugbade family of Egba Land

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