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Ogbeni Lanre Banjo: Celebrating a patriotic Nigerian, advocate of good governance at 66*  

By Kosamatu Raji

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy, says Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Ogbeni Lanre Banjo practicalises this on various issues that affect the masses in Nigeria regardless of the cost to him.  Lanre Banjo adopted the use of the appellation “Ogbeni” from a letter the late sage and Premier of the old Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo used in the salutation of a personal letter he sent to him shortly before his demise. He considered it to be unique, especially from the sage who upon his death, was described as the best President Nigeria never had, by the late Biafra warlord, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. It is on record that 27 years after his demise, Awolowo’s performance in terms of taking care of the masses has not been beaten.

Before his foray into the politics of Nigeria, Ogbeni Lanre Banjo, had worked in various positions in the United States of America where he served as Director of Policy and Procedures for the District of Columbia Government and as the Treasurer to the Mayor of Washington DC, the Honorable Marion Barry, Council member Sandy Allen and House of Representative, Honorable Charles Moreland. He served passionately in different offices without any blemish and to date he remains an incorruptible Nigerian.  
 
Ogbeni Lanre Banjo is a democrat and a firm believer in the rule of law and a society free from corruption, dictatorship and bad governance. He fought tirelessly in conjunction with other like minds to end military dictatorship in Nigeria. After the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, Ogbeni Lanre Banjo joined forces with late elder statesman, Pa Anthony Enahoro and other pro-democracy activists and leaders of Civil Society Groups for the actualisation of the mandate of the acclaimed winner of the June 12 presidential election, Chief M.K.O. Abiola (now late) and the restoration of democracy.  

The Nigerian Embassy on 16th Street Northwest Washington, DC was forcefully taken over in protest of the annulment of the June 12 elections under the chairmanship of Ogbeni Banjo with Ambassador Kazaure held hostage by the leaders of the organisation led by Shola Ogunbode, Kunle Badmus, Akib Abiola and Segun Ajibulu, among others, who were arrested by the United States Secret Services.  Those arrested in that protest were represented pro bono by Ogbeni Banjo’s friend, Attorney Shola Ayeni.  The struggle pitched him and those in the fight to make personal sacrifices and in some instances at the risk of their lives. He was upright throughout the struggle without corrupting himself with the ‘king’s meal.’  

When the military indicated plans to hand over to civil rule, Ogbeni Lanre Banjo, joined the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi-led National Conscience Party (NCP) as a foundation member and was very close to the late fierce human rights lawyer until he died. Based on his passion to change the political narrative in his State and Nigeria by extension, Ogbeni Lanre Banjo contested the 2003, 2007 and 2011 governorship elections in Ogun State on the ticket of the National Conscience Party (NCP). Although he lost the elections, his participation had enriched governance in the State. During the campaigns, he sensitised the electorates about what good governance is and the benefits that could be gains of democracy. He spoke eloquently about the brilliant programmes he planned to bring on board to governance with the experience he had garnered in the country revered as a bastion of democracy.

Ogbeni is an advocate of electoral reforms that will provide an open and equal-level playing field for contestants. He believes that for open and true democratic principles to be seen as being done, political parties should have a database of all their registered members who must be made to vote in direct primary elections to elect candidates to fly the flags of political parties in elections. The process he believes will prevent crises in the political parties which often lead to dissatisfaction when some candidates who lose at indirect primaries feel aggrieved and leave a party.

Ogbeni Lanre Banjo was chosen by his revered friend, former Governor Ibikunle Amosun as the first appointed Ogun State Representative on the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission and as Ogun State member on the Board of Glanvill Enthoven Insurance Brokers Ltd., a subsidiary of Odu’a Investment Company. He later became the Chairman of the Company and contributed significantly towards the efficient running of the Insurance brokerage and left the firm better than he met it.

Ogbeni is an astute politician who has zero tolerance for corruption. He stands firmly against waste and financial recklessness. His love for Nigeria is undying and he contributes by way of interviews through television, newspapers, magazines and online platforms for the good of the country.

He is friendly, sociable and jovial. He respects both the old and the young. Ogbeni is a good dresser who knows how to combine colours. He is a man of style with a unique round cap, which has automatically become his identity any time he steps out. One striking character trait of Ogbeni is his humility. He is not proud and I respect him so much for that. He is also a generous and compassionate man, who is loving and caring. He believes strongly in contributing to the growth and development of others and today a lot of people have benefited directly or indirectly from his generosity and empathy.

As Ogbeni Lanre Banjo celebrates his 66th birthday today, March 1, 2024, he deserves to be recognised and appreciated for the contributions he has made to the birth of the democracy we are enjoying today through his association with the late Pa Enahoro and others in the struggle for a return to civil rule and his contribution to the politics of Ogun State and Nigeria at large.

Let me end by wishing Ogbeni Lanre Banjo a happy birthday and a long life to continue to give his best to our country, Nigeria. I am confident that one day his contributions will be duly recognised and rewarded. His efforts and faith in Nigeria will not be in vain. May you live to be a hundred, Ogbeni Lanre Banjo.

_*Alhaji Kosamatu Raji writes from Abuja, in the Federal Capital Territory_

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