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Otunba Olasubomi Balogun: The Prince as Pathfinder

By Omoh Gabriel, Business Editor

OTUNBA Michael  Olasubomi Balogun has been described by many as a man of excellence, integrity, an exemplary leader.  He is the Founder of FCMB Group  and a  trail blazer and pioneer extraordinaire in the  Nigerian financial and business sector. Otunba Subunmi Michael Balogun has also been frequently referred to in the Nigeria financial circle as the Grand-master and Baron of the Nigerian Capital and Money Market for his pioneering efforts in the development of the Nigeria financial markets.

*Otunba Michael Olasubomi Balogun
*Otunba Michael Olasubomi Balogun

vanguardHe surprised detractors with his can do and a no guts, no glory instincts and made history by founding the first ever Nigerian private bank to be established in Nigeria without foreign direct investments or funding from the Nigerian government. Of the several of such ventures, his has remained an enduring legacy.

Subunmi’s life journey story inspires confidence and tenacity; Rather than staying down and remaining vengeful after being unfairly treated by his employers for a role he more than deserved in a company he had even helped drive to the peak with his expertise; Otunba Subunmi Balogun pulled himself together and took a giant leap of faith in venturing out on his own.

Giant leap of faith

A move that has not only paid off, but fruit of that move the First City Monument Bank has become a legacy which has now been handed down to a new generation of leaders and is currently headed by his son Mr. Ladi Balogun.

In an interview with Vanguard when he clocked 80, Subunmi said “I am not a pharisee of real life experience, my journey to what you now see had been divinely guided, and if you care to know, I am happy and thankful. If any of you go to PrimroseTower, the headquarters of FCMB, this block prim-rose-tower is dedicated to the glory of God as an embodiment of a young man’s faith in the unfailing support of the Almighty God and in his own destiny, in spite of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

“It is also a monument of a young Nigerian’s determination to succeed and prove that given the opportunity, Nigerians have the capacity to attain a commanding height in the management of financial institutions. Lastly, it serves as a lesson to all and mankind that in all things, men may have their say but in the final analysis, the Almighty God will have His way”.

When you mention courage, tenacity, inventiveness, brilliance, distinction and visionary leadership, all of these attributes added to faith, personifies the life story of Subunmi Balogun. Born to Muslim parents, he has never been one to shy away from his converted Christian beliefs and unwavering faith and the importance of Godly practices both in his personal walk and business life.

This move bears testimony to his courage, independence and willingness to go against the grain. These combined with his resolve to make the best of life and be the best, are the virtues that helped him quit his job and set up a bank in a way no one had ever done before at the age of 42.

The Ijebu people had long been nicked named tight-fisted people, but Otunba Subunmi Micheal Balogun has proved this assumption a wrong one too many times and continues to do so with his philanthropy.

He has touched and continues to touch lives with his hundreds of scholarships and support to the under privileged and many other charitable undertakings. He is one man that has said to himself that no child in Nigeria should ever die of a curable disease.

His charitable actions are too many to be listed here. He donated the Otunba Tunwase National Paediatric Centre, OTNPC, Ijebu Ode to the University of Ibadan.

The beginning of the journey: I had a dream, I had a vision. I was cheated, I was an employee in an institution created by Nigerians and Americans, but I was the brain behind the whole thing. I went on a course in the US and I came back with ideas with which we should set up a merchant bank.

The whole of the company was aware that I was behind it. But when it came to selecting the Chief Executive, I was told that in spite of all entreaties, that I could not be the Chief Executive because I happened to have a basic training in law. I was 42 and they brought a young man with little or no experience, from America, at 32, to take my place.

Tenacity of purpose

One of the gifts God gave me is courage and tenacity of purpose. I decided to pray in addition to my decision to fight it out, so that was what happened to the dream and the vision which was clear. By nature God gave me what we call courage, tenacity of purpose, discipline, I knew where I was going but the vista was as misty and unbelievable.

I was trying to prove a point, that I wasn’t arrogant or envious, but with the support I had and with the grace of the Almighty God so when I felt cheated by not being allowed to head an institution created by foreign institutions and then former employers. I had a courage to desire and without anything in my pocket except my God, I decided to start a on a journey of self actualisation.

It wasn’t a proud journey; it was a journey of faith, a journey on the handbill of my God. my confidence in myself and my trust in the Lord God our Savior. In the course of the whole journey, it has been turbulent. I had a focus, I had courage, and I had an unstated faith that the good Lord will carry me through, come rain come sunshine that mortals may have their say, but in the final analysis, the Almighty God will have His way.

Maybe that was one of the reasons why I was made the Asiwaju of the Ijebu Christians association, but that faith was very strong. So 35 years ago without thinking of what to do, I threw in my letter of resignation.

One of the things we have come to learn in this country is that in the first process of having a vision or a dream, only an individual does dream, other people would join later on. And in this country in those days, it was an anathema for an individual to   set up an institution; one man show; one man show, as if when you’re dreaming, more than one man can dream.

Born March 9, 1934

  • Graduated from Igbobi College 1952 with Grade 1
  • Graduated with LLB Honours from the London School of Economics June 1959
  • Called to the English Bar December 1959
  • Assistant Parliamentary Counsel 1962
  • First Principal Counsel and Company Secretary to the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank 1966 – 1975

Stock broking and issuing house

  • Director of Operations for Icon Securities Limited 1973
  • Member of the Council of Stock Exchange representing City Securities Limited and Icon Securities 1973 – 1988
  • Resigned from Icon Limited (Merchant Bankers) December 1977
  • Set up his own company, City Securities Limited the first Nigerian institution to combine stock broking and issuing house December 1977
  • Set up the first solely Nigerian owned merchant bank known then as First City Merchant Bank 1979
  • Set up a Chair for Capital Market Studies in the Department of Economics, University of Ibadan 1987
  • Became a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Management August 1988
  • Donated the “IyeSubomi’s Child Care Centre to the Ijebu-Ode General Hospital 1989
  • Commenced the construction the “Otunba Tunwase National Paediatric Centre” 1994
  • Established the “Otunba Tunwase Foundation” 2000
  • Published his memoirs “The Cross, The Triumph and The Crown” August 2000
  • Commissioned the “Otunba Tunwase National Paediatric Centre” as a gift to the nation 2004.


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