At 86, I can only say thank you Lord – Otunba Balogun

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Not only is his story replete with inspirational lessons from missions accomplished and lives touched, his strengths anchor on industry, honesty, integrity and the touch of divinity.

He belongs, not to the class that seeks to make themselves role models by speech, but leaders by example. Otunba (Dr) Olasubomi Balogun, CON, is that man.

Here is one industrious and persevering mortal, who, having been divinely graced and generously endowed, has now made himself a perching branch for other birds to pasture. In inspirational living, entrepreneurial leadership, harmonious co-habitation and philanthropy, he is one man who has become a leading light and a shining example, whose name resonates with a legion values and a dozen epithets.

And in fact, he has been the very epithet which good men are associated. He isn’t successful in just one segment of life, but he is a multi-disciplinarian accomplisher, who by the kind of success he has thus far posted, commands awe and respect.

Blue blood, pearl on the Nigerian investment horizon, the banking czar, philanthropist par excellence, role model, nationalist, cultural custodian, and the dresser with panache are some of the several epithets that trail his name.

Having been born on March 9, 1934, his sojourn here thus far has been marked by impact, on individual lives, on groups of persons and sectors. There is not just no way to encounter the man of the moment and not come away with sundry lessons.

Young Subomi was originally of a Muslim background, and later converted to Christianity while at the famous Igbobi College Yaba for his secondary education. There, he worked briefly as a teacher, before going to study Law at the London School of Economics.

While there, the disciplinarian side of him came to the fore, in that, rather than take to a life of personal enjoyment, he stuck with one of disciplined behaviour, regularly attending fellowships and inculcating positive values about life and living.

The platform enabled him come in contact with some distinguished individuals, including Nigeria’s former military Head of State, Yakubu Gowon. He was able to hold himself and was rightly taught as a youngster. The Olori Omo-Oba also said, “even though my parents were affluent, they had a common touch. We didn’t put on airs.

Two things I like and have a weakness for are my white dress and my white cars. When I started First City Monument Bank, FCMB, I wanted it to have a solid character and integrity.” It is of importance that all the distractions notwithstanding, Subomi kept faith with his academic pursuits and eventually earned his law degree.

Upon return to Nigeria, he joined the Western Region Ministry of Justice and was a Crown Counsel. He was also later, a Parliamentary Counsel in the Federal Ministry of Justice. Upon reflection sometime in the past, he had referred to the epoch thus: “I qualified at a very young age. At 25, I was one of the youngest lawyers in the Western Region. Then I tried to be very close to my God, always seeking His guidance, and it is the answer to such prayers that brought me to where I am today.”

According to the Asiwaju of Ijebu Christians, “the then government of Western Region trained me as the first Parliamentary draftsman. When the British were passing the Nigerian Independence Act, I was the first black face to be seen in the official box. This is the background I have.”

However, he had a paradigm shift in his career focus after the January 1966 coup, joining the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank. Again, he showed grit and focus here, in that rather than just sit back and enjoy the perks that came with the job, he began to envision a scenario for him to play a more significant role. In fact, it was at this point that he began to tinker with the idea of investment banking at NIDB.

Coupled with his interest in the investment bank concept, he began a crusade for the establishment of a merchant bank sponsored by NIDB. The fallout of all of that included the setting up of ICON securities, a merchant banking outfit in 1973 as a subsidiary of NIDB, and the young and industrious Subomi Balogun moved to ICON Ltd as the Director of Operations.

He had thought through a career path thereon, but when this was not forthcoming, he refused to let his aspirations die. He stepped out to establish City Securities, a stock-broking and issuing house. His input was outstanding and business philosophy engaging and it was not a surprise that plum firms were willing and ready to do business with the new security firm.

In 1979, he took the bull by the horns, applied for a merchant banking license and remained committed to the dream despite initial discouragement. This led to the establishment of First City Merchant Bank, one of the premium brands in the Nigerian financial banking services industry.

Without that doggedness, there would not have been these key players in the Nigerian banking and financial services environment. Today, FCMB Group (a financial conglomerate comprising First City Monument Bank, FCMB Capital Markets, FCMB Assets Management, CSL Stockbrokers, Credit Direct Limited, FCMB (UK) Limited, FCMB Microfinance Bank Limited, FCMB Trustees Limited and FCMB Pensions Limited), are quietly doing robust business and adding to the development and growth of the nation’s economy.

Otunba’s philanthropy In the area of philanthropy, he has a number of interventions and projects to his name, from the National Pediatric Centre in Ijebu-Ode that he donated to University of Ibadan’s University College Teaching Hospital, to the endowment of a Professorial Chair at the same university for Capital Market Studies in the Department of Economics and Finance.

He is the brain behind the annual Christmas carols in December and prayer sessions and thanksgiving services in January in his country home, Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, of which he is the convener. He is a sponsor of a Research Fellowship domiciled at the Legal Department of the University of Lagos, as well as other commitments at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Yaba College of Technology, African Leadership Forum, as well as the fully equipped and air-conditioned 40-bed children’s centre at the Ijebu Ode General Hospital.

Not so long ago the University of Ibadan renamed its International Conference Center and Hotels, “Otunba Subomi Balogun Conference Center and Hotels.” In recognition of his magnanimity, awards have rolled towards him from different directions.

Latest among uncountable awards and honour, is the Lifetime Achievement Award recently given to him by Ernst and Young (EoY). Otunba Balogun, is a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Management and a recipient of the American Biographical Institute Inc’s Distinguished Leadership Award for outstanding contributions to the development of Investment Banking among many others.

As the Olori Omo-Oba – “chief prince” – of Ijebu, he serves as the ranking Prince of the dynasty that provides the Awujales of Ijebuland. He is the Olori Ebi (Head of Princes and Princesses) of the Arojojoye Ruling House in Ijebuland. Truly a man of many firsts, he said “I was the first to insist that my staff should be wearing dark suits. I wouldn’t say that I am anything more than a human being but there is the unseen hand of God holding me. If I come again, I would do all that I have done again.”

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