BusinessDay

Pilgrimage to Tunwase Court, Ijebu Ode

While Ojude Oba, the annual cultural festival of Ijebu people of South West, Nigeria, draws tourists from all over Nigeria and outside the country to visit and excite in the colourful cultural outing, there is yet another event that also draws crowd to Ijebu Ode, the ancestral home of the Ijebus.

For many years now and still running, ‘Adura Odun’, the annual New Year prayer, has drawn many Christians, sons and daughters of Ijebu land, friends and associates to Tunwase Court, the sprawling country home of Olasubomi Michael Balogun, founder of First City Monument Bank, on a seeming pilgrimage.

The court, which is located in the Obalende area of Ijebu Ode, is palatial and a-must-see to say the least. Set on several acres of land including 30 acres of farmland behind, Tunwase Court offers tranquility that makes it the right venue for the annual thanksgiving and prayers.

Obviously, on a yearly basis, the number of pilgrims to Tunwase Court increases with spillover from the lawn tennis court to the sprawling country home environs.

At least over 2000 religious pilgrims, excluding the clergy, gather every January 3rd at Tunwase Court to join Olasubomi Michael Balogun in the annual thanksgiving and prayer service to God.

The reasons for besieging the venue abound. First, Olasubomi Balogun is the Asiwaju of Ijebu Christians, the head of the Christian community in Ijebu Ode; a town, which also has a large number of Muslims, hence the besiege by Christians.

Again, Subomi Balogun, an investment banker, lawyer and entrepreneur, doubles as the “Ile Olori Omoba” of Ijebu, (the leader of the princes of Ijebu land), hence his philanthropy knows no boundary among Ijebu people.

Moreover, at every call, his people will always answer the generous Otunba, even those from other faiths as everyone needs prayer.

So, these are top among the reasons Tunwase Court is always besieged by pilgrims every January 3, amid appreciating the magnificence of the palatial country home, whose background many visitors pose in pictures in.

This year, the annual thanksgiving and prayer was well-attended, especially as the first fully attended edition after the pandemic.

In line with the excitement of the return to normalcy, in his remarks at the event, Otunba Balogun, the Asiwaju of Ijebu Christians noted that anyone who survived the Covid-19 pandemic should be thankful to God that he or she is alive today.

“The pandemic was traumatic and it was only recently that I stopped wearing the mask. We must continue to thank God for saving us and giving us life.

“We Christian brothers and sisters are gathering today in my home and in my capacity as the Asiwaju of Ijebu Christians or President of the laity, to thank God because covid has disappeared,” he said.

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The Asiwaju of Ijebu Christians also had more reasons to thank God, noting that it was not easy to be alive and in good health at almost 90 years.

“There are vicissitudes that one would experience but I am forever grateful for what God has allowed me to do at almost 90. My ambition is to live much longer. I have friends, relations who have been so bestowed by the almighty and I am confident that God has something planned for me. I would reach a meteoric stage,” he enthused with confidence.

Recalling why he was made the Asiwaju of Christianity in Ijebu land, he said that there were a lot of people that were older than him then and ripe for the position.

“I was just 63 years old. I was nervous and I cried the day I was installed as the Asiwaju. The congregation was singing-Kosoro rara.

“God has been my guide and companion and I owe everything I have and I have been to him.

“Anywhere I go, I bring up what God has done for me. That helps me to modulate any possible arrogance.

“I imbibe the habit of always singing and praising God. I ascribe everything to the grace of God,” he said.

Speaking earlier on the essence of thanksgiving and prayer, he noted that the annual event allows him to gather many people to join in thanking God for what He has done for all of us in the immediate past year and asking him to continue to do more in the new year.

“I think that its significance is not just for Christians, but for all people. The Yoruba say if you give thanks for the favour done in the past, then you will receive more favours.

“So, the essence is that I have invited all Christians and friends. Some Muslims, too, joined me in thanking God for protecting us, providing us with everything, and giving us good health. We can now expect that the same Good Lord will continue to be with us for the New Year. So, it is not just a religious thing, it is something that has become habitual. When God has done something for us, we should go back and give thanks and that will encourage the Good Lord to continue to help us,” he explained.

Apart from God’s grace, the Otunba, who hopes to live beyond 90 years and up to 100 in good health, noted that he also indulge in routine fitness exercise and still swims at 89, takes routine walk exercise at the 30 acres, wears his suits, and most importantly, is mentally sound even at 89 years.

However, he thanked God specially for giving him a supportive mother, who ensured his education pursuit was a success, employees who believed in his vision and worked with him to achieve it and family that loves him.