PORTRAIT OF AN EMINENT DIASPORAN – CHIEF BIMBO ROBERTS-FOLAYAN

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I had no doubt in my mind whom my first feature was going to be about when I got this assignment. Chief Abimbola Roberts-Folayan or Chief Bimbo as I fondly call him, is a prime example of certain folks in the UK Diaspora, working tirelessly to clean up the image of Nigerians abroad and fostering unity and togetherness in the community.

My meeting with Chief Bimbo took place in a quiet corner of the lounge of Holiday Inn Hotel Bexley-heath – a place where he had set up temporary office for his numerous meetings and surgeries for conflicts resolution of the day. Such is the level of his commitment towards the Nigerian Community in the UK whom he fondly calls “My Constituent”.

A truly selfless and energetic leader, Chief Bimbo is the current Chairman of CANUK (The Central Association of Nigerians in the UK). CANUK is the umbrella organization of the hundreds of Nigerian Professionals, Cultural, States, Welfare based and Social organizations in the UK.

CANUK was set up in 2005 during the tenure of Dr Christopher Kolade, the then High Commissioner to the UK – in an attempt to form a central body that will present a common channel through which the High commission can communicate with the vast number of Nigerians in the UK. At the incept, the number of member associations registered with CANUK were 50 – today under the Chairmanship of Chief Bimbo, the number has risen to 250.

Chief Bimbo’s relentless commitment to CANUK means that to many he is the face of CANUK and many even refer to him as “Bimbo Canuk”.

After graduation from University, he worked with the Guardian Newspapers and was a publisher of a UK based tabloid called ‘The Main Issue’. Bimbo is an African with a rare social conscience who has initiated, participated in and executed various activities and ventures with others with the aim of promoting democracy, good governance and the development of the Diaspora community.

He has also garnered a tremendous amount of experience in private and public sectors both in Nigeria and in the United Kingdom.

Before leaving Nigeria, he was a pioneer staff of the ‘People’s Bank of Nigeria’ and worked closely with its Chairman and Managing Director Pa Tai Solarin and Mrs. Maria Sokenu in the 1990s. As the Programme Manager of the Bank, Bimbo was responsible for setting up of bank branches, centers and the disbursement of micro business credit for local communities. He later worked as a Financier and midwifed the creation of Treasury and Finance Company/Mortgage bank after the liberalization of the banking sector in 1992.

Chief Bimbo came to the UK in 1994. he was the Chairman of the June 12 movement that was set up following the annulment by the military of Chief MKO Abiola’s election.

He left the country as he got tired of being chased all over Lagos by police. He escaped with a new pregnant wife and joined NADECO in UK to campaign against the annulment

A graduate of the University of Ife, he later participated in a M.Sc. Conversion programme at Greenwich University (UK) in Information Systems and Computing. Bimbo holds the British Computer Society (MBCS) Chartered IT Professional (CITP) status amongst several other qualifications.

His IT consultancy in the UK has seen him participate in several bank and telecommunication merger projects across the UK and parts of Europe. Bimbo’s clientele include, IBM, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer’s, Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest Bank, Halifax Bank and Bank of England amongst several others. He was part of the team that completed the harmonization and re-branding of NTL, Telewest, and Virgin Telecoms (Virgin Media) He is the senior partner of ABN Limited based in the UK.

He is an idea generator and was the Chairman of the Ekiti Economic and Investment Forum (EEIF), an Economic and Development think tank; President of the Association of Nigerian IT Professionals in the UK (ANITP); member of the National Think Tank in Nigeria, Diaspora UK nominee to the Nigeria Vision 202020 board; the Chairman of the Main Events Task Force of the Nigeria @ 50 celebrations in London and a Committee Member of the Nigerian centenary Awards UK in 2014. In 2014, he was made a Fellow ofthe Institute of Information Management Africa.

Bimbo is the Executive Director of J Williamz Limited, promoters of the Nigerian Diaspora Direct Investment Summit (NDDIS), which mobilizes Nigerians in the Diaspora to return to invest in the Nigerian economy. Since its inception, the NDDIS has help connect many Nigerians in the Diaspora with businesses and organizations back home that have assisted in establishing investments and entrepreneurial opportunities.

In 2014, Chief Bimbo commissioned the publication of a series of books called “Eminent Nigerians”. The objective of these series is to portray the good qualities inherent in us as a people and showcase public personalities and leaders who have demonstrated these qualities. The first in the series portrays the high Commissioner Dr Tafida “A Strict disciplinarian”

Asked what his proudest achievements as CANUK Chairman is, Chief Bimbo listed, the success of bringing the High Commission closer to the people. The current High Commissioner, Dr Dalhatu Tafida is the First in the post to pay regional visits to Nigerians outside of London and all over the UK. Organised in close collaboration with CANUK, the High Commissioner holds town hall meetings with Nigerians in the regions to hear and listen to their grievances and concerns about the work and involvement of the High commission . Last year, these visits took the High commissioner accompanied by CANUK Members and delegates from the community to Dublin, Glasgow and Manchester. There are more trips being planned. The improved customer services that many have recently experienced in the Visa section of the Consulate is as a result of recommendations and suggestions by CANUK.

Asked also if we might see Chief Bimbo Roberts-Folayan in Politics at some date in the future, his answer was an emphatic no – but never say never. He however stated that a call to serve in the public sector will be highly considered.

Chief Bimbo is married with 3 kids.

He holds 2 traditional chieftaincy titles: Serikin Yakin (King of War) of Kagara Town, Niger State Garkin Kowan Pada (Member of Emirs Palace) of Kotangora town, Niger State.

He is also a member of one of the royal families in Ijero Ekiti which would make him a Royal Prince.

 London Digest by BaronessJ

City People Magazine

Feb 2015

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