OTUNBA SUBOMI BALOGUN: THE CHRISTIAN LAWYER WHO CONQUERED BANKING GOES HOME IN A BLAZE OF GLORY
Earlier this month one of the most accomplished Nigerians and an entrepreneurial banker of gigantic repute; Otunba(Dr) Michael Olasubomi Olayiwola Oladimeji Olaonipekun Balogun passed on to eternal glory. Born 9th March, 1934 at Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State, the son of a Court Clerk, he had his secondary education at the famous Igbobi College, Yaba Lagos where he obtained the Cambridge School Certificate in 1952. He thought in a Secondary School for a year before proceeding to the prestigious London School of Economics (LSE) to study Law in 1956 after having passed with distinctions at the GCE Advanced Level as one of the pioneer students of the Nigerian College of Arts Science & Technology, Ibadan. He graduated from the LSE with Second Class Honours Degree in June 1959 and was called to the English Bar in December 1959.
Under the sponsorship of the then Western Nigeria Regional Government, he was the first Nigerian to receive special training in Legal Drafting in Whitehall and the City of London with particular specialisation in financial legislation, instruments and agreements. He subsequently served as Crown Counsel at both the Ministry of Justice of the then Western Nigeria and later as Assistant Parliamentary Counsel in the Federal Ministry of Justice in Lagos.
Between 1966 and 1975, he was the Principal Counsel and Company Secretary to the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank (NIDB). During this period, he received extensive trainings at the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) now known as the World Bank. It was these trainings and exposure to finance matters that opened the mind of the then budding Lawyer to the treasure trove of opportunities in finance beyond the usual going to court. He also received extensive trainings from leading Stockbrokers, Investment Banks and Merchant Banks in London and New York. In 1973, he was appointed the Director in Charge of operations of Icon Securities Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of NIDB. During his time, under the direction of the Managing Director, he spearheaded the conversion of Icon Securities into a Merchant Bank. He was also instrumental to the establishment of Icon Stockbrokers Limited, a foremost stockbroking firm which he subsequently headed. Following the establishment of Icon Limited (Merchant Bankers), he was seconded to the bank as an Executive Director.
After he was unfairly passed over as the Chief Executive of the new bank, the birth of which he had worked assiduously for on account of being a Lawyer and not a core banking person, he took courage and with only a seed capital of N60,000 and an unshakeable faith in God, resigned his position, to set up his own Company, City Securities Limited (CSL) which was the first institution in Nigeria to combine Issuing House and Stockbroking business under one roof.
His big break came during the Nigerian Indigenisation(privatisation) programme when his burgeoning firm was solely saddled with the responsibility of selling the shares of such A list oil companies as Mobil, Total and Texaco among others. By the end of that exercise, he had put against his name and that of his company, the public sale of shares of about 11 international companies and the private sale of shares of over 20 foreign companies.
In 1982, he founded First City Merchant Bank (FCMB) the first Nigerian owned Merchant Bank without foreign technical partnership.
In the year 2000, as part of the process of expansion of its services to universal banking, the bank changed its name to First City Monument Bank and was one of the shining lights of the subsequent Central Bank of Nigeria induced Bank consolidation programme that has seen it evolve into an even bigger banking institution.
Having pioneered the concept of entrepreneurial banking in Nigeria, Otunba Balogun became a mentor to a whole generation of bankers in Nigeria. It is a testament to his generosity of spirit that he openly shared the nuances and intricacies of entrepreneurial banking with his band of proteges, not minding that they could go ahead to set up competing institutions and in response, he was highly revered by a generation of Nigerian Bankers who constantly deferred to and eulogised him at every turn in his lifetime and now in death left no one in doubt that he was their mentor, it was therefore not for nothing that he was widely regarded as ‘The Grand Master of Nigerian Banking.
When the time came to evolve into universal banking and a name change was necessitated and he "rechristened" his bank; First City MONUMENT Bank, some critics went to town questioning the Chief's audacity or bonafide to so name his institution. Those critics were roundly and rightly condemned, on the ground that what Otunba Balogun has done for indigenous banking in Nigeria up to that point has not only been ground breaking, but nothing short of monumental.
Besides his indelible footprints in the banking world, one of the resounding legacies the Otunba left behind are his children. There’s a saying that Children are the letters we write to a future we will not feature in. In his four Sons: Bolaji, Babajide, Ladipupo and Gboyega; Otunba Balogun has successfully written his own letters, but the remarkable thing is that the future didn’t have to wait, as in his lifetime those letters were being read and clearly understood by his generation.
Raising resourceful and responsible children as successors has often proved difficult for most empire builders; successors who will continue to hold the touch and step into the shoes of their illustrious founders and even go beyond what their progenitors accomplished. The corporate landscape is littered with the carcases of once thriving companies led by entrepreneurs who in their lifetimes built great enterprises but who unfortunately at their passing, their shoes became too big for their successors to step into and so could not match the vision and dexterity of the founders, leaving once great institutions lying either in ruinsor prostrate.
However, by the grace of God and his legendary stern discipline, our dear Otunba Balogun characteristically made light work of that seemingly tough task by raising four sons who are not only raising the bar at the FCMB powerhouse but have even successfully spread their tentacles into other financial services. The Ijebu Chief must have been justifiably proud seeing this in his lifetime.
He was a straight shooter who never suffered fools gladly. He never prevaricated on issues and with him, you know where he stood per time.
On the subject of his faith, since his conversion to Christianity as a 14-year-old at Igbobi college, Otunba Balogun lived throughout with the philosophy that Christ is the foundation of everything and that with God nothing is impossible.
At every stage of his life and career, he left no one in doubt of his allegiance to Jesus Christ. He was something of a Crusader in the banking hall.
As the Asiwaju of Ijebu Christians, he was for years the leader and rallying point for all Christians within the Ijebu territory and beyond. His Ijebu-Ode abode was always a converging point through the popular annual Thanksgiving Service.
He once described his attachment to the white colour in his dressing as a reflection of his spirituality. To him, white connotes purity and cleanliness.
On the subject of dressing, from a young man, the Otunba was widely known for his sartorial elegance, always well turned out in his pinstriped suits for his official engagements and his signature white flowing gown for social events and was once described by the late Nigerian Attorney General Chief Bola Ige as the best dressed Nigerian of his generation. Very few who knew the revered Chief in his lifetime would question that assertion.
Besides banking, undoubtedly the next most absorbing engagement of Otunba Balogun was his philanthropic activities. His main pre-occupation was the health care of Children. He was the first person to endow the Children Hospital in the University College (UCH) Ibadan. He also spent a billion naira in building a teaching hospital for sick Children at the National Paediatric Centre in Ijebu- Ode, reputed to be one of the best equipped on the African Continent.
Throughout his life, he stuck to his abiding belief that one should live a life of service to one's God and humanity and that if God has endowed anyone with a lot of the things of life, he owes a duty to make an effort to return quite a lot of it to the society, a creed he lived till he breathed his last.
GOOD NIGHT!!! Otunba Tunwase
The Olori Omo Oba Akile of Ijebu land
May your enterprising and benevolent soul rest peacefully in the LORD