Hon. Afeez Ipesa-Balogun is a former member of the Lagos State House of Assembly and a former Chairman of Oshodi-Isolo Local Government. A man of many parts, he is also a licensed aircraft engineer, humanist, and a progressive politician. He turned 60 today, February 10, 2024. A book was launched in his honour on February 6. It was also an occasion to inaugurate his scholarship scheme for 25 secondary school students to stimulate them to learn Nigeria’s contemporary political history. In this interview with Ademola Akinbola, he offers insights into various aspects of his achievement-laden life. Here are excerpts ..
Congratulations on your Platinum birthday. How do you feel about being 60?
I give praise to Allah for preserving my life till this point. I will keep on expressing my deep appreciation to Allah for preserving my life because I believe I am lucky to have reached this Diamond Jubilee age of 60. Very happy, although, I do not think of myself as 60, I think and I feel young, you know, but sometimes, when I push the envelope, my body tells me, eh, you are not as young, that is when I remember my age. I give praise to God for all the turbulent years, I am still around, Alhamdulillah.
How has the journey been? What has life taught you at 60?
Life has taught me patience. Be patient because life is full of ups and downs, and you must be able to manage it and continue to put in your best because that’s how life is; it will be up and sometimes, it will be down. Like Pa Awolowo said, it is the ability to rise each time you fall that makes you a man, because there would be turbulent periods. So, patience, be ready to pick yourself up for the next success. Everything that happens will not last forever, if you are up, it’s not going to be forever, if you are down, it’s not going to be forever, provided you work hard and keep trying.
Tell us about yourself, your birth, your parents, and your childhood.
I was born on February 10, 1964, to Alhaji Raimi Atanda Balogun and Alhaja Ramotalia (nee Akinboro Balogun) at Mushin Town Council Maternity Health Centre. It used to be part of Mushin Local Government. My dad, I am very proud of him, is a butcher, and he rose to the leadership of the Lagos State Butchers Association. He is even a trustee. He is very wealthy, and he invested in our education. Same as my mum. She is a textile seller in Lagos Island, also a successful trader. I am the third of my siblings. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to see my two elder brothers, they passed a long time ago. May Allah forgive them their sins and grant them Aljanna.
Please share your education and work experience with us
I started my education at Mushin Town Council Primary School, Orile-Oshodi. After that, I attended Holy Saviour’s College, Isolo and I furthered my education at the Ogun State Polytechnic, Abeokuta where I studied Electrical Electronics Engineering. Upon graduation, I proceeded to study Aircraft Engineering at the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology. I am a licensed Aircraft Engineer, who can and has practised in Nigeria and the United States of America.
Which words best describe you and your personality?
Well, I can best describe myself as very friendly, ready to make friends, and readily available to assist fellow human beings. I try to be happy, understanding that being happy enhances your health. I like to work with successful people so that they can teach me how they became successful. I like to learn from others who have done great things, I learn from them. My personality is that of friendship with everybody.
What is your experience as a progressive politician?
I started my political career as a student union leader. I was elected to represent the whole of the Electrical Electronics Engineering department in absentia. That is, I was not at school that day, my classmates appointed me to be their leader, to represent the department in the Technical committee. So, I have always had an interest in trying to serve. That was how I built my progressive tendencies.
When I was in the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, there wasn’t any Student Union, I served as a Rotary Club member. The service continued when I started working as an aircraft engineer. I was hired from school as the best graduating student, and Chief M.K.O Abiola wanted the best for his airline. I was lucky to get that job and I started planning to be part of the politics of Nigeria, because I believe in the service to my people, improving their lives, and making sure Nigeria is great. That makes me a progressive politician, and I have always modelled myself after great Nigerians like Pa Obafemi Awolowo. I was lucky, I had a direct link to the late Chief M.K.O Abiola, Chief Dapo Sarumi, and the present president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
There is a lot to be done in Nigeria, to make Nigerian citizens enjoy the dividends of democracy. Insha Allah that will happen in my lifetime, because there can’t be any other option than a government of the people, by the people, for the people.
What is your definition of success? What does success look like to you?
The definition of success to me is the ability to succeed in your chosen career. You want to be educated to make sure you follow through to graduation and you are able to get the job. Based on that, a typical example of a success is my dad and mum. My dad like I said was a butcher, and he made a success of it, he was able to raise a large family, educated all his children who were interested in studying, and encouraged those who wanted to be artisans to graduation also. He was very rich; he could afford anything. As my mum, she was a trader, she focused on it and she made a success of it. Both of them had houses before they departed. You know, the ability to keep and care for your family, educate your children, not lacking in material; the ability to raise your family, is what I have and describe as a successful man, you know. Like I said, life would be full of ups and downs, but the ability to rise after a fall will make you a successful person.
What are your plans for the future?
My plan at 60 is to continue to serve my immediate community, contribute to its development, and assist others with the little resources God has bestowed on me. Also, I would like to travel, I am going to set a target to see if I can be in every country in the world before I can no longer move around as much. So, I want to continue to be part of community members, seeking improvement in society and then travel.
Any advice for the young ones aspiring to be successful like you?
They should not relent in trying. In the face of disappointment, they should continue to try, no matter how long and how many times they have fallen, they should pick themselves up and keep trying. And of course, they should not at any point in time be banging on one door, they should step back when they have challenges, look at the next door if that is open, you know. Like my principal, Mr Oyeleye, during our valedictory service, there is a book that I launched on February 6 at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs. The book is an expose of my life and my person from birth till now.
I encourage people, particularly the youth to have a piece of that, it’s a lesson that they can copy and be able to succeed in whatever they are doing. They should not be deterred by the challenges on their way, they should rather find a way to surmount them. They should come up with plans; plan A, plan B, plan C, and even plan D, that’s how I have tried to navigate life. At any point in time, I have at least three plans, so if I target A and it doesn’t happen, I don’t feel bad, I jump to B, I pursue it, if that fails too, I’m ready with plan C, that’s how I keep life going and I don’t get depressed if I didn’t get my target, I know there will always be another time.
So, the advice is they should keep trying, to work hard. There are benefits for those who work hard and they should not be disappointed when they fail, they should be ready to try again with another strategy. Look around, if there is a door that is open when they have a door in front of them that is locked, Insha Allah, they would succeed, if they are relentless.
What is your assessment of the performance of the Tinubu administration?
I believe it’s not even one year yet, hence it is too early to have a sincere assessment of him. However, being the person that I know, I know he’s an achiever. I understand the complexity of the Nigerian state and I am sure over time, he would be able to make an impact that all Nigerians would be proud of. I know him, he’s an achiever, and he is going to work and try to make life better than he met it, regardless of the current challenges that are manifesting. I urge all Nigerians to be patient with him, by one year in office, we will be able to see the direction he’s headed. I want to assure you, we pray for him, Insha Allah, he will take Nigerians to greater heights.
What are your regrets in life?
I do not have any regrets in my life, because I won’t at this point be second-guessing myself. Whatever has happened to me has been by the grace and the direction of God, the way God wants it. I am contented and I feel fulfilled in life to be part of the community I have tried to make an impact and I will continue to do so, community service till my last breath.
I am not happy that I lost my wife, Monsurat Musimilia Balogun. I wish she was still around, which I constantly regret. It’s been more than 10 years since I lost my parents, I still see myself as a little boy who should be catered for by his parents. Because constantly I see their impact on my life, and the way they have supported me through the course of my life, I wish they were still around.
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