Chief Babajide Olatunde-Agbeja
In the words of Henry David Thoreau “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavours to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours”. With this wise saying the life and odysseys of one of the most inspiring Insurance Professionals in Nigeria, Chief Babajide Olatunde-Agbeja could aptly be captured, especially as he turns 60.
Marking three scores on the earth definitely calls for celebration and provides a robust avenue to extol the virtues of a man whose life made significant impact on several other lives within and outside the shores of Nigeria, albeit secretly. Baba, as some of his age long friends call him, rose meteorically in the professions and life in such a way that his position and contributions could not be easily ignored. A man that is not only generous in physical built, but richly endowed with unimpeachable intellect, integrity and charisma, Baba does not suffer fools gladly, and these virtues have given him a special space amongst the progressive minds in the society and the professions.
Having set out deliberately to make a mark in the nation’s economy and society at a tender age, Baba set his mind on studying Economics at the prestigious University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo, where he came out with flying colours. At a time when many of his ilks were still at sea about what to do with their lives, Baba, partly fascinated by the suave and cosmopolitan mien and carriage of Late Insurance icon, Femi Johnson, began a professional journey in the then unenviable profession of Insurance with Femi Johnson Insurance Brokers Ltd, Ibadan, where he cut his professional teeth with the Associateship of the Chartered Insurance Institute of London (ACII) and rose meteorically before he voluntarily retired. He pioneered Boff at the tender age of 33 after working for 10 years and 20 days in Femi Johnson & Co. Definitely, Boff is now 27 years in existence. Baba had intuitively realized that the age of 40 should be for him the age of independence and exploits. Even against all odds, Baba navigated his way like the Master Marina through the tempest to give Boff & Co a name in the comity of Insurance institutions in Nigeria and internationally today. The company is not only above waters in ethical adherence and professionalism, it has also trained and groomed legion of professionals who are doing quite well in their chosen lines today, to the extent that one would not be wrong to refer to Boff as an academy of some sort, in view of the bonding that exists between the former staff, the company and Baba himself, even after many years had rolled by. A man who dared to thread where others feared as attested to by billionaire business mogul Otunba Oba Otudeko recently when Boff & Co. marked its 25 years grand anniversary in Lagos. Otudeko who was narrating the teething period of the company said even where his own vision and sagacity failed him, Baba had taken the company beyond and exceeded his expectations. This could only be possible through hard work, tenacity of purpose and integrity.
As an Insurance Broker of excellence, Baba loved the Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB) with unquenchable passion and has contributed significantly to its growth and development. No wonder his name has been permanently etched on the rolls of honour of the Council as a distinguished Past President. At a quite tender age, Baba got interested in the affairs of the Council at Ibadan where he was domiciled and rose to become the youngest Chairman of the Western Area Committee of the Council from where he made an impressionable in-roads into the leadership of the Council at the national level as a Board Member. He rose steadily to become the 13th President of the Council, being one of the youngest in the institution at the age of 47. It was while serving as President that his way and that of this writer who then served as the Public Relations Manager of the Council crossed. Chief Olatunde-Agbeja came across as a stickler for excellence, a savvy professional and one who is given to uncommon details. I recalled that in one of the interviews conducted for him at the end of his tenure, a reporter asked him what he could summarize as his achievements in office. Looking straight into the reporter’s eyes, Chief Agbeja said “I rather prefer you ask me what I could not achieve or what my failures in office were”! The reporter was rattled at this uncommon perspective to such question. After this, he started to talk about those things he couldn’t achieve to the admiration of the reporters. Though his tenure had long lapsed, Chief Babajide Agbeja had made himself available to serve in several capacities as Chairman of the Election Screening Committee; Chairman of Finance and General Purpose Committee, among others.
Aside from the professions, Chief Olatunde-Agbeja is passionately committed to the Junior Chambers International (JCI) where he has held enviable positions as JCI Senator at the local level and currently occupies the position of an Advisor to JCI World President on Africa. These positions have made him a consort and mentor to youths and upwardly mobile professionals all over the world.
Believing in the ageless adage that the greatest life is that lived for humanity, Chief Olatunde -Agbeja is committing the remaining part of his life significantly to giving back to the society through the David & Marian Agbeja Foundation set up in memory of his father who died at the age of 54. Narrating the nudge for this new vision, Chief Olatunde-Agbeja said a “few years ago, the idea to send indigent children to school was planted in my mind and I started to look out for students in need of financial assistance. This was done on adhoc basis paying school fees of students in Secondary, Nursing Schools, Polytechnics and Universities”. This did not satisfy Baba who desired a more holistic and coherent arrangement to fulfil the aspirations. He later latched in on the expertise and core values of JCI to assist his lofty vision. The organisation has progressed quite well by setting up networks permeating the hinterlands to seek for serious minded indigent students and present them as beneficiaries of the new philanthropic project. By the third year, Baba was thrilled at the growing number as five students were added annually. The idea is to sponsor five students annually from JSS 1 through SS3 so by year 6, there would be 30 students. His target is for no fewer than 100 students to benefit from the Foundation per annum in the next few years. According to Baba, this vision is fueled by the fact that a nation that doesn’t educate her youth is mortgaging her future.
It is therefore not quite amazing that on a day like this, when Baba should be reveling in the joyous mood of his glorious birthday as many wont to do, he has decided to use the occasion and day to celebrate the have-nots through the Foundation. He has through letters sent to his numerous friends, professional colleagues and well-wishers made passionate entreaties to them to refrain from any form of self- adulatory advertisements, gifts and presents, rather they should commute such to cash and give to the needy through the David & Marian Agbeja Foundation with GTB Account Number 0266001383.
As Baba turns 60 today, it is sure that his life odyssey fits squarely into the narrative of Robins Shamar in his epic book “The Monk who Sold His Ferrari”. According to Shamar, the secret of happiness is to find out what you truly love to do and then direct all your energy towards doing it. If you study the happiest healthiest, and most satisfied people of the world, you will see that each and every one of them has found their passion in life, and then spent their days pursuing it. Our prayer is that as Baba is concentrating his material resources, mental power and energy on pursuit that he loves, abundance flows into his life and his desires are fulfilled with ease and grace, throughout the remaining years of his life. Happy birthday and congratulations.
By Tope Adaramola
Assistant Executive Secretary