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Balogun: Banking Icon, Now Philanthropist, Religious Leader


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HIS entry into the banking sector was not with much fanfare, but there was no doubt that he was on what he wanted to achieve. Today, after many years in the sector, Otunba Subomi Michael Balogun has left legacies difficult to equal.

Balogun, the Asiwaju of Ijebu Christians, consummate banker and entrepreneur, who many have come to style the constructive philanthropist, has every reason to be happy.

Beyond the symbolic well-wishes and grand receptions marking his recent birthday, ther e is more that engenders fulfillment, as he has been able to impact the different spectrums of society, leaving many positive front prints on the proverbial sands of time.

It is such that today, no story could be told on the evolution of merchant and consumer banking in Nigeria and philanthropy and support for religious causes without his name being mentioned in glowing terms. His legacies demonstrate the fact he is a man of foresight, unusual commitment and love of good deeds.

Using FCMB (First City Monument Bank), the platform that has by far given him greater portion of the public reckoning he enjoys today, he raised new paradigms in business management, provided invaluable financial backing for many other enterprise, brokered high yielding deals and raised the stakes of banking business.

And through his philanthropic gestures, Balogun has helped many to rediscover lost destinies and find hope for daily living, with his religious philosophies in tow.
In fact, in the things of the faith, he has remained no less a pillar of support, making huge donations towards their projects and for the deepening of other worthy religious causes.

That is why as he celebrates, banking in Nigeria is also in celebration, as Nigerians who have drank from his well of kindness salute this man of destiny born at Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State on March 9, 1934.

Balogun had his secondary education at Igbobi College in Yaba, Lagos. He was at a time a secondary school teacher and later read Law at the London School of Economics (LSE) and was called to the English Bar in December 1959.

He never failed to optimise every opportunity to personally equip himself along the line of his growing up. In the end, acquiring the requisite academic and work experiences when combined gave him the edge he enjoys today. What was left was to put to application the wealth of knowledge and experience already internalised.

That he has made a first-class success of every endeavour he handled thereafter is proof of his depth of knowledge and how effectively it had been harnessed by the different institutions and positions he came across.

FCMB, a front liner in Nigerian banking, is a compelling example. Its resilience and continued dominance of the sector, when many contemporaries are either extinct or lagging, is an indication of the strength of planning Balogun and his team put together at inception.

There is no doubt that it had taken the best of him to help the bank weather the many storms that had dotted its paths, and to climb the peak of excellence in banking services delivery.

For nine years, between 1966 and 1975, he was the first Principal Counsel and Company Secretary to the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank (NIDB).

He received extensive training at the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), otherwise known as the World Bank, and its private sector affiliate, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), both in Washington DC, United States (US), which sharpened his abilities for the banking business.

But he desired more and actually got more by way of extensive training from leading stockbrokers, investment banks and merchant banks in London and New York.

This paid off in 1973 when he was appointed Director in charge of Operations of Icon Securities Limited, a subsidiary of NIDB, where he teamed up other colleagues to midwife the conversion exercise of Icon Securities into a merchant bank.

He was also instrumental to the establishment of Icon Stockbrokers Limited, a foremost stock broking firm, which he subsequently headed. When Icon Limited (Merchant Bankers) was established, he became an Executive Director, representing it on the Council of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), distinguishing himself in the handling of many capital issues.

By this time, the burning desire to establish his own firm with cutting edge service delivery had reached its peak. He took the bold step of resigning in December 1977 to set up City Securities Limited (CSL), the first institution in Nigeria to combine issuing house and stockbroking businesses under one roof.

In less than two years, CSL became almost synonymous with the Nigerian capital market, with Balogun making appearances at events of central importance and providing needed light where necessary.

A proof of what he did and stood for came to manifestation in 1979 when he founded the first wholly Nigerian-owned bank, FCMB, which was that bride that drew its poise and entire packing from Balogun as chairman and chief executive.

It soon became a market leader and received national and international recognition, with its paid-up share capital growing from N2 million at inception to N1.5 billion, while total shareholders fund rose to N2.65 billion by December 2002.

Through his philanthropic gestures, he has been able to soothe many bruises and heal many hurts, thereby leaving society better than it previously was.

Apart from his commitment to the welfare of the less privileged and physically handicapped, Balogun, in 1987, through First City Merchant Bank Limited endow a Professorial Chair at the University of Ibadan for Capital Market Studies in the Department of Economics and Finance.

He has a Research Fellowship endowed in his name in the Legal Department of the University of Lagos and has donated to several altruistic causes at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Yaba College of Technology and African Leadership Forum.

He undertook the maintenance and upkeep of the Children’s Emergency Unit in the University Teaching Hospital (UCH), Ibadan and donated a newly-built and fully-equipped air-conditioned 40-bed Children’s Centre, named Iye Subomi’s Child Care Centre, after his mother at the Ijebu-Ode General Hospital.

A few years ago, he donated a Police Post at Imoru in Ijebu-Ode and also built the Otunba Tunwase Civic Centre for Ijebu-Ode Club, as well as provided street lighting for the street named after his ancestor, Oba Adesimbo, Tunwase I, known as Tunwase Drive.

To date, he has awarded over 300 scholarships to Nigerians at secondary and tertiary levels and about 10 years ago, he endowed an annual award of scholarships to the best students in Muslim College, Ijebu-Ode in honour of his late father.

This banking guru also set up another scholarship endowment in honour of his mother, known as Iye Subomi Scholarship, in addition to endowments for the Nigerian School for the Blind in Oshodi and instituted, through FCMB, an annual national marathon championship for disabled athletes.

About 12 years ago, he established an umbrella organization known as “Otunba Tunwase Foundation” to cater for all his philanthropic endeavours and services to the community.  Under this Foundation, and on his 60th birthday, he commenced the construction of a special gift to the nation – the “Otunba Tunwase National Paediatric Centre (OTNPC).”

This is a referral institution to cater for the health care, survival and welfare of the Nigerian Child and to provide an avenue for specialized studies and academic researches into all manners of children diseases and ailments.

It was in the same day, he handed over a cheque of N10 million to the Chairman of the Management Committee to start off the construction.  He has expended over N300 million so far on the first phase of the project from his personal resources and this was commissioned in March 2004 to commemorate his 70th birthday.

When in the August of 2000 he presented his Memoirs, “The Cross, The Triumph and The Crown”, he threw a big challenge to other wealthy persons in society. Many of them had donated to the course of the launch believing to personally and directly impact on his life, but he chose otherwise, by specifically directing that all proceeds from the sale of the book be channelled to the completion of children’s project. On June 7, 2013, Otunba Balogun wholly donated the Paediatric Centre, valued modestly at N3.7billion, to the University of Ibadan at a signing of Deed of Total Gift ceremony.

Otunba Balogun is a leading member of many bodies and institutions cutting across various sectors of human endeavour. In August 1988, he was elected a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Management in recognition of his contribution to the development of Corporate Management & Leadership.

What indeed could make a man donate a N3bn worth of hospital to a community? First, he says it was donated as part of his contribution to improvement of Nigeria’s health sector, and then added that the determination to construct the centre was informed by his experience after touring the children’s emergency wards/wing of the university’s College of Medicine. In the course, he saw children in various health conditions and was emotionally moved to establish the institution to help them and others who may find themselves in such a condition.

“I have seen so many children suffering due to lack of adequate healthcare delivery in the nation’s health sector and this was what prompted me to establish this hospital. Today, I am delighted to hand it over as a total gift to University of Ibadan and I urge you to make it one of the best in the world”.

Apart from building the OTNPC, he financed the construction of a 40-bed Children Hospital, known as the Iye Subomi Child Care Centre (named after his late mother) at his hometown of Ijebu-Ode as part of his philanthropic activities. In November last year, the Hamstrings Club (Doctors-in-training) of the University of Ibadan presented him an award on account of his philanthropic works and the donation of the pediatric centre to the University of Ibadan.

As he has previously testified, success in banking appears to be the precursor to his philanthropy: “I did not start philanthropy until after I became a banker. I was just about 36 when I set up some scholarship funds to train students in some schools in Ijebu. I gather that at the last count there are not less than 300 university graduates that have benefitted from my scholarships. One of the scholarships is in honour of my father, another in honour of my mother.”

How about his constant reference to God? He asserts that he had always been close to God, but then, along the line, something happened that turned out decisive: “My two parents were very religious but they were Muslims. When I was at Igbobi College, I was drawn to attend service. Incidentally, my late mother was educated. I confided in her that I was going to convert to Christianity. The late Bishop Segun, who was a priest at Porogun Church in Ijebu Ode, converted me at the age of 13. Having accepted Jesus, I just found myself loving Him.

According to him, when he reflects on what God had done at every stage in his life, he found out it is better standing with the Almighty as according to him,” if you stand by your God, He will also stand by you.”

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