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Otunba Subomi Balogun: Accomplished Entrepreneur, Selfless Philanthropist

By Eric Elezuo

“Until I have excelled and achieved the best, I would not be satisfied”

Integrity, excellence, determination, focus are some of the qualities that trail the gentleman at the helm of affairs of one of Nigeria’s prolific banks, First City Monument Bank (FCMB), High Chief Michael Olasubomi Balogun.

Balogun, a colossus in the Nigerian money market, trailblazer and pioneer extraordinaire in the sector, has proved that one can be what he wants to be provided he set all his attention to it.

Originally trained as a lawyer before delving into the world of finance and capital, Balogun was born on March 9, 1934 at Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State to prolific parents of Fasengbuwa Ruling House of Ijebu Ode, who understood the essence of giving a child the education legacy.

A proud alumnus of the prestigious Igbobi College, Lagos, where he graduated with a Grade 1 certificate, Balogun left for England in 1956 to pursue a course in Law. As a hardworking person he had grown to be, he promptly graduated with an LLB Honours in 1959 from the London School of Economics, and was called to the English Bar in the same year.

In 1962, Otunba Balogun took up the first major challenge of his prosperous life when he was appointed the first Nigerian Assistant Parliamentary Counsel, a post he held till 1966 when he was elevated to the position of First Principal Counsel and Company Secretary to the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank. His efforts and productivity left no one in doubt that a Nigerian whiz kid has been born. He held sway till 1975. It was while with NIDB that he developed a penchant for banking and financial matters. Promptly, in 1973, he became Director of Operations for Icon Securities and spread his tentacles to other financial related endeavours including the membership of Council of Stock Exchange representing City Securities Limited and Icon Securities.

Recounting his sojourn in life, the entrepreneur extra-ordinaire returns all glory to the Most High, whom he believes is the reason for everything that has happened to his life. He says;

“I have gone through the crucible and I haave emerged a stronger person and victorious. I, like all Christians never lose hope which is why I have adopted the church hymn that says through the love of God our savior, everything will be well. I thank God for my life. Most achievements of human beings are acknowledged posthumously, but in my case, God gave me the grace to see the amazing grace He has showered me with, and I’m a particularly lucky son of God”

Grand Master, as he has come to be known among stakeholders in the banking and finance world as a result of his dexterity, innovativeness and outright can do attitude, set up his own securities outfit in 1977 after resigning from Icon, and since then, has not looked back, taking the financial world stride by stride in total accomplishment.

In 1979, he set up the first solely Nigerian owned merchant bank, known then as First City Merchant Bank. It was in 1982, however that he joined the retinue of commercial banking operators with the new improved First City Monument Bank, and followed it up with setting up of a chair for capital market studies in the Department of Economics, University of Ibadan, a school he is so passionately attached to, in 1987.

Brilliant and well-travelled, Otunba Balogun is not one to take with kid gloves the traditional institution, and so passionately, he has been attached to the famed Ijebu Ode annual festival known as Ojude Oba. He cherishes it so much that he has been throwing his weight behind it year in and year out. That, among many other achievements has earned him the enviable title of Olori Omo-oba of Ijebuland.

You need not know Otunba Balogun on close quarters before perceiving the intimidating aroma of his down to earth personality, infectious generosity, phenomenal achievements and fatherly dispositions. He is a man everyone wishes to have as husband, father, uncle, son and many more.

As reported in his company’s website, Balogun’s “story is that of a man who understood early in life that the true essence of wealth is achieved only when it is deployed to the service of humanity, especially the less privileged. A man of proven immense wealth who is highly regarded, respected and honoured in the society, the honour bestowed on Otunba Balogun does not, however, stem from the immensity of his wealth, but from the good use to which he has put this wealth for the service of humanity.”

His ability to affect lives, most especially the less privileged, has bestowed on him more than enough appellations including the Otunba Tunwase, the Olori Omo-oba of Ijebu; the Asiwaju of Ijebu Christians, the Baba Oba of Ijebu-Ife and the Asalu-Oba of Ijebu Mushin. In addition, everyone agrees that he is the pioneer and role model of entrepreneurial banking in Nigeria as well as a constructive philanthropist and a distinguished church leader.

Otunba Subomi with Otunba Gbenga Daniel

Otunba’s love for children is phenomenal, necessitating the building of several institutions for the health care, welfare and survival of children. During one of his great birthday celebrations, he announced “…Don’t give me a personal birthday gift, give everything you have for me to the children’s hospital”.

Otunba’s immeasurable contributions to the wellbeing of mankind and growth of the financial world have attracted a long list of recognitions in his trail. He is a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Management; Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers; Council Member of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry; and Life Vice President of the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce. He is also a recipient of the American Biographical Institute Inc’s Distinguished Leadership Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Development of Investment Banking.

In addition, he holds the University of Ibadan Doctor of Law degree (Honoris Causa) and the Olabisi Onabanjo University Doctor of Science Degree in Management Sciences.

He has made notable commitments in major institutions of higher learning including endowed a Professorial chair at the University of Ibadan for Capital Market Studies; a research fellowship in the Legal Department of the University of Lagos, Yaba College of Technology, African Leadership Forum, etc. Otunba Balogun holds the National Honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).

He is a holder of the title of Cavaliere dell’Ordine Al merito della Repubblica Italiana (Knight of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy), conferred on him by the Italian President in January, 1994.

Otunba Balogun is also a distinguished author, opinion leader and a respected community leader. He is credited with the writing of The Cross, The Triumph and The Crown among others literary works.

Hear him: “I have a very strong character. There is nothing that I did that I wish I had not done. I have no regret over any of my past actions.”

Philanthropy is an interesting pastime for this gentle giant, and that remains the testimony of all who has been privileged to meet him in one way or another. He took his giving talents further with the establishment of the ‘Otunba Tunwase Foundation’ through which he exhibits his philanthropic spirit to all and sundry.

Otunba is happily married and blessed with lots of children and grandchildren.

Sir, for being a role model to this age, and creating so many firsts which no one is yet equal, you are our Boss of the Week. Congratulations!

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