HE encountered a life-changing experience several years ago, when he walked into the children’s ward of the University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan. Prior to that singular experience, 77-year-old Otunba Michael Olasubomi Balogun, foremost banker, lawyer and philanthropist, had no inkling just how challenging the nation’s child survival statistics were.
But he made a vow to make a positive difference to the survival and welfare of Nigerian children. He has not looked back since then and to date has committed to the tune of N3 billion towards founding and funding the Otunba Tunwase National Paediatric Centre, OTNPC, in Ijebu Ode.
In this interview with SOLA OGUNDIPE, Otunba Balogun tells of his motivation and aspirations for child survival. Excerpts.
I STUMBLED into childcare about two decades ago when the Federal government invited Nigerians to look at the dilapidated wards at the University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan, and to do something.
I walked into the children’s ward and while, a drip stand was being passed from one bed to the other and before it could get to the other bed, the child who was to receive the drip died. Tears rolled down my eyes and from that day I decide to devote a substantial part of my endowment to child care and child survival and welfare.
True to my vow, I adopted, endowed and refurbished the child emergency ward at the UCH which has been named Otunba Tunwase Children’s Emergency Ward. To date, it is about the best maintained ward at the UCH.
News went round that I was into childcare and I was asked to do the same in Ijebu land, so I built a 40-bed children’s hospital named it Iye Subomi Child Care Centre after my mother. My interest in children went beyond the children into the study and research about childhood diseases and their treatment. That was how the Otunba Tunwase National Paediatric Center came about.
When I began, I thought I would spend about N50 million but then the Naira crashed, as it was devalued, it took me 10 years to build the edifice and by the time I was 70, I had spent close to N1.5 billion on the structure. I’m a detailed person who always wants the best.
I wanted the best equipment and I set up one of the best neonatal units with the highest number of incubators for the specialist care of premature babies. They way premature babies are nursed into survival fascinated me and I wanted the best in terms of infrastructure, and paediatric surgery.
I built two state-of-the art theatres and also set up on of the best laboratories for blood and pathological tests, I went round till I got to hear we had over shot N2 billion, and then had to be maintaining it on monthly basis through subsidy.
But all that was devoted to just treatment. I wanted more in terms of research and training, so I set up buildings for post graduate students and consultants then the laboratories. To be sincere, the urge for the best drained my resources.
When I found out I was the only one doing this, I tried to invite others. I tried to invite people to be friends of the National Paediatric Centre. I had a book launch and spent nearly N10 million to feed people but we did not raise more than N14 million. First I reconciled myself that this was what I wanted to do for God and my community. But I felt I was over flogging myself. I’m not getting younger.
I approached the University of Ibadan which is the first and the best. Being the one who brought me into child care, I offered the University of Ibadan opportunity to come and take over the Centre. And that is what has happened.
I’m particularly pleased the way it has been received. There could not have been better enthusiasm, It is the Lord’s doing.