Born in 1830 of a Nupe Prince of Tapa ancestry and an Awori lady of Isale Eko extraction, Alli-Balogun, a philanthropist reputed to be one of the wealthiest in his era, was a very religious and affluence man, whose opulence, business acumen and humanitarian gesture touched all and sundry.
With a name synonymous with Lagos popularity, in that, nearly a century after his exit from earth, he remained iconic, revered, remembered, and honoured by not only his descendants, and the Muslim community, his Tapa clans, and anyone whose history crossed path with him.
No surprise why his descendants held back nothing when it cames to remembering their great progenitor. Perhaps a sneak peek into a report from his dynasty would give a better view of how much he meant to humanity.
This only modestly summarises what Alli-Balogun represents, but a simple search of the name Alli-Balogun online would avail you a more in-depth and better knowledge of him as historically captured by his descendants, as this report only focuses on how he is still being revered by his descendants, with the latest way being the creation of a foundation to immortalise his values.
In his welcome address at the remembrance ceremony, the chairman, Alli-Balogun Descendants Union, Otunba Nurudeen Adeyinka Ojora-Adejiyan, describe Alli-Balogun as “our ever glowing mirror in the sun,” who died two years after registering his last will.
Similarly, another member of his descendant Dr. Olasupo Alli-Balogun who is based in Poland referred to him as “my greatest mentor and I built my entire life copying his lifelong achievements.
“His peripheral engagement in the provision of basic social amenities to the society, his fraternity with Lagos political bourgeois upper class and the taking up the then Oba of Lagos, in a matter which he believed he was right.
“Not to mention the meticulous distribution of his houses and the condition he gave his children for their disposal in his final will, is something to be emulated. I am proud and privileged to come from him.” Alas, other lessons abound for emulation.
The Foundation, A Replica Of Alli Balogun’s Value Speaking during a chat with journalists, the chairperson of the Foundation and Iya Adini of Alli-Oloko Wasinmi Mosque, Alhaja Lateefat Yoyinsola Makanjuola, noted that she feels elated to have come from such a noble family of Alli-Oloko.
“It is a noble family indeed because Papa is a legend nobody can replace. I feel elated and belonged. His name is ever living. He was one of the richest men in the history of Lagos. His monuments are still standing, particularly the mosque built in 1925. He can’t be forgotten.”
She said Alli-Balogun was a great philanthropist who was very accommodating; to the extent that some people, including some of his workers, adopted his name because he was so down-to-earth, and humble.
“There was an adage in those days that if you enter Papa’s house crying you will come out laughing. He lived till the age of 103 when medicine was not popular. So, he should be celebrated, and his legacies preserved.”
On the foundation, she said, “We decided to establish a Foundation to consolidate his legacies and his philanthropic gesture. He went about helping people. So the foundation is about the continuation of what he did during his lifetime. He was a religious man that didn’t compromise his faith as a Muslim. We pray that his name lives on.
The Three Lessons From Alli-Balogun
Speaking on three key lessons to learn from the life of Alli-Balogun during the remembrance, the guest lecturer, Prof. Siyan Oyeweso, said Nigerians must adopt Alli-Balogun’s knowledge of the holy Quran, love for education, independency on inheritance, and wisdom.
According to him, “The family of Alli Balogun is good. It’s a family that met history, knows history and is writing history. They have held on to the good name of Alli Balogun, Unity, and the care of the Mosque, which Baba left behind ‘Wasimi Mosque ‘, so it can remain everlasting.
“Look at how long Baba had died. On July 14, 1933, the newspaper editorial that came out that time read, ‘Alli Balogun is Dead, What Shall We Do?’
“That question was asked exactly 90 years ago. How many homes have their father died five years ago or 10 years ago and are still doing the remembrance of their father or grandparents? If there is no yesterday, there can never be today, and when we now have today, we must follow the words of the holy Quran which says, what we owe the dead is to always pray for the repose of their souls. This is the lesson from this memorial.
“Another lesson from the life of Alli Balogun is never to depend on inheritance. When Alli Balogun began his life sojourn, he never depended on his father’s wealth, though his father was wealthy. He started as a petty trader, and little by little, he grew the business to become very successful, especially in the period he was alive, which was harder than what we probably have seen today.
“We are talking about 1830, which captures the period of the Kosoko Civil War, the Gbomiro Civil War, and several other civil wars. These wars include the war at the central mosque, between the Apapa Land matters with Herbert Marcauly and Alli Balogun, which were just small gaps.
“Altogether, Baba knows how to share his wealth. To the extent that his family has remained united despite the massive wealth, he left behind. This is unlike some polygamous families of today or even nuclear families of today with several children.
“Go and check Baba’s will. He shared his properties very well. Aside from his family, he even willed some of his properties to neighbours, friends, and religious institutions, including Christians, while also building and supporting mosques and churches.”
Speaking on the objectives of the foundation, The vice chairman of the Foundation, Dr. Gbolahan Taiwo Alli-Balogun said, the board came up with the objectives of the foundation by looking at the lifestyle of Alhaji-Alli Balogun and held on to his principles.
According to him, “In his lifetime, he supported education, not only by sending all his children to school, but likewise by sending all the children of his neighbours to school, and also children of some other members of the community.
“Also, when he died and his ‘Will was read, he stated in his will that for all his children, grandchildren, and future generations who would like to study Law, Engineering, and Medicine overseas, he set aside some amount of money which he called ‘Alli Balogun Residuary Trust fund’ for them to school overseas.
“Then, he supported the Central Mosque and several mosques within Lagos State. This made us realise that he loves knowledge and is a true Muslim.”
He said Alli-Balogun also built mosques in the community and handed them over to community members, while also instituting the structure for anyone who wanted to become an Imam in the Mosque to become one. As God will have it, 98 years after, a seed of Alli Balogun has now eventually become an Imam of the Mosque for the first time.
“Thirdly, when you check his will, you will see that he had some friends who were not Muslims like him, but they lived in peace and harmony. Among such friends were Obanikoro, who was a traditional worshiper before he converted to Islam.”
“These three things, namely, Education, Community Service, and Inter-Religious Relationship, form the objectives of this foundation. So, the intervention that the foundation would be carrying out will be focused on education, community services, and interreligious relationships.
“We will kick-start the foundation activities with the Inter-Religious Relationship, which would take the form of an Alli Balogun Memorial Lecture every year. While the education and community interventions will be carried out and determined by members of the board of the foundation.”
Also speaking, a Member Board of Trustees of Alli-Balogun Foundation, and Pro-Chancellor, of Summit University, Offa, Kwara State, Alhaji Rafiu Adisa Ebiti, said, Alli Balogun was everything that one should aspire to be in life.
“He was a cleric, a philanthropist, and actively involved in the social and political activities of Lagos State, then. He died 90 years ago and remains very well-known because he was generally a very good man.
“The foundation is in his memory, and it’s supposed to function in the area of recognising the importance of education to society, with religious content, and propagating everything necessary for the good of humanity.
“He was educated, a philanthropist of great repute, and an astute businessman who never compromised his principles. In one of the instances, he was instrumental to the then Lagos Central Mosque becoming what it became today, especially through his interventions.
“So, he is somebody to be celebrated by his great-grandchildren, generations left behind and by the whole of Lagosians, because he has impacted meaningfully. He has so many things in favour; he contributed towards the construction of a part of the Glover Hall, for instance, and many other instances.
“I cherish his values, and I hold on to them. For the good of society, we must work and be educated. The key is education. You can see the dividend of educating his children, great-grandchildren, etc.
“This is the essence of the foundation. It is aimed at projecting his values into the future, which is what we should all strive for, for the good of humanity.”
Nicknamed Alli-Oloko (Alli the Canoe Driver), essentially because of his fleet of trading canoes, some of which he had inherited from his illustrious father; and built upon, he was also referred to as Baba L’oke, Kinihun Onibudo, Alli Dodondawa and Makanjuola but it was his chieftaincy title that stuck to his name; hence he became most popular as Alli Balogun.
Neatly carved on the white marble tombstone, underneath where he was buried on Victoria Street (now Nnamdi Azikiwe Street) Lagos were the words Alli Balogun 1830-1933 (103 Years); and in the Yoruba language ‘A Lo Ma Ni Gbagbe’ (Unforgettable).
One of the high points of the event was the cultural display and musical performance by the Nupe Musical Troupe of the Tapa Clan, which is the fatherland of the late Alli-Balogun. The troupe serenade guests and well-wishers at the event with their beautiful dance steps, acrobatics, and musical prowess, and left everyone basking in the euphoria of undiluted cultural and traditional representation, even as some of Alli Balogun’s descendants present at the occasion joined the troupe in dancing, joy and happiness, a lovely sight to behold.
Another high point of the occasion was the official launch and inauguration of board members of the ‘Alli-Balogun Memorial Foundation’. The board is chaired by one of the great grand-daughter of Alli-Balogun, Alhaja Lateefat Yoyinsola Makanjuola, also the Iya Adini of the Alli-Oloko Wasinmi Mosque which was built by Alli-Balogun over 98 years ago. She is to be deputised by her brother, Dr Gbolahan Taiwo Alli-Balogun.
Other members of the board include Banker and former Lagos State chief of Staff, Mr MOA Babalola, Hon. Justice Sumbo Goodluck, Pro-Chancellor, Summit University, Alhaji Rafiu Adisa Ebiti, Renowned Chartered Accountant, Alhaji Razak Adekunle Etiko, Alhaja Lola Ogunbambi, Hon. Jamiu Tolani Alli-Balogun, and Otunba Nurudeen Ojora-Adejiyan. For Alli-Balogun, his legacies live on