Thursday, 1st June 2023

Otunba Olasubomi Balogun: When light dims for quintessential administrator, philanthropist

By Omiko Awa and Azeez Olorunlomeru
20 May 2023   |   3:21 am
The banking community, culture enthusiasts and the elite were yesterday, ruffled when the news of Otunba Michael Olasubomi Balogun’s passing flickered in. It initially came like a hush descend, but within minutes, it spread like wildfire, flooding the Internet and other social media platforms.

The front view of the late Subomi Balogun’s Ikoyi, Lagos home…yesterday Photo: Ijeoma Thomas-Odia

The banking community, culture enthusiasts and the elite were yesterday, ruffled when the news of Otunba Michael Olasubomi Balogun’s passing flickered in. It initially came like a hush descend, but within minutes, it spread like wildfire, flooding the Internet and other social media platforms.

The scion was the first Nigerian to singlehandedly establish a merchant bank in the country. He was a big fish that cannot swim in shallow waters. His demise in London will surely create a big vacuum in the country.

However, with the unpleasant news, The Guardian dashed to the Ikoyi home of the famed Ijebu chief, expecting to see a lot of people come to commiserate with the family, but the reverse was the case. The gates to his palatial home were under lock and key as if nothing happened, while the security men manning the wicket carried on their business as usual.

Worried about the situation, The Guardian asked the security men if there were guests inside the compound, but the answers were in negative.

One guard said: “We have been instructed by the family members never to open the gate for any visitor.”

He confirmed that Otunba Balogun was dead, but was not sure if any condolence register had been opened for him either in Lagos or his country home, Ijebu.

Born on March 9, 1934, in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, Otunba Michael Olasubomi Balogun spent his early years in his community as a Muslim before coming to Lagos for his education.

He had his secondary education at Igbobi College, Yaba, Lagos where he wrote and passed the Cambridge School Certificate in Grade One in 1952, and later the General Certificate Examination (GCE) Advanced Level. While in Lagos, he was converted to Christianity and the name Michael added to his name.

Passing his exams in flying colours, Michael as he wished to be called then, picked up a teaching job in a secondary school before leaving for London School of Economics (LSE) in 1956 to study Law. He graduated in June 1959 and was called to the English Bar in December 1959.

Returning to Nigeria, he was later sponsored by the Western Regional Government to receive special training in legal drafting in Whitehall and the City of London, with specialisation in financial legislation, instruments, and agreements.

Completing the course, Olasubomi served as a Crown Counsel in both the Ministry of Justice of then Western Nigeria and as Assistant Parliamentary Counsel in the Federal Ministry of Justice in Lagos.

From 1966 to 1975, he served as Principal Counsel and Company Secretary to the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank (NIDB), where he developed interest in banking. Subsequently, he received training at the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) also known as the World Bank and its private sector affiliate, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) both in Washington DC. He went further to learn from leading stockbrokers, investment banks, and merchant banks in London and New York.

By 1973, Olasubomi was already showing a great level of expertise in banking, even as he became the Director in charge of the operations of Icon Securities Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of NIDB. He was later part of the team that converted Icon Securities into a merchant bank.

The lawyer-cum-banker later headed Icon Stockbrokers Limited, a foremost stockbroking firm that he played a crucial role in its establishment. He was later seconded to Icon Limited (Merchant Bankers) as an Executive Director and was there till 1977 when he left to set up his own security company.

In December 1977, Olasubomi Balogun came up with City Securities Limited, the first institution in Nigeria to ever combine the duties of issuing house and stockbroking business under one name. This was only a first step to establishing his merchant bank. From there, he set up the first wholly Nigerian-owned merchant bank – First City Merchant Bank Limited (FCMB).

He singlehandedly set up FCMB and led the bank for its first two decades, functioning as Chairman and Chief Executive. He successfully pushed the bank from its local frontier to the international scene. The bank’s paid-up share capital grew from N2 million at inception in 1979 to N1.5 billion, while total shareholders fund rose to N2.65 billion as at December 2002.

In 2001, the name of the bank was changed from First City Merchant Bank to First City Monument Bank, after it became a universal bank.

Three years later, on July 15, 2004, FCMB changed its status from a private limited liability company to a public limited liability company and was listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) on December 21, 2004.

Otunba Olasubomi was a philanthropist par excellence. He carried out most of his philanthropic activities through the Otunba Tunwase Foundation (OTF).

He built healthcare institutions for children, including the Ijebu-Ode General Hospital, a fully-equipped air-conditioned 40-bed Children’s Centre, which he donated to the University College Teaching Hospital (UCH) in 1989. He named the facility after his mother — Iye Subomi’s Child Care Centre.

On his 60th birthday, he started building the Otunba Tunwase National Paediatric Centre (OTNPC) as a gift to Nigeria. The OTNPC is a referral institution taking care of child healthcare and welfare, and also providing an avenue for specialised studies and academic research into different children’s diseases and ailments.

A good mixer and well travelled honcho, the Ijebuland traditional chief received the American Biographical Institute Inc’s Distinguished Leadership award for his outstanding contributions to the development of investment banking, and the University of Ibadan’s degree of Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) in recognition of his amazing achievements both in the field of Law and socio-economic development of Nigeria.

He was a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) and a council member of a number of multi-national Chambers of Commerce. He also held several traditional titles among the Ijebu people and has received many awards and commendations.

Until his death, he was the Otunba Tunwase of Ijebuland, the Olori Omoba of Ijebuland, and the Asiwaju of Christians in Ijebuland.

Aside from Christianity, Otunba Balogun was a very active participant in Ijebu festivals and promoter of culture. His financial support to the festivals through FCMB and his ever presence at the event showed his commitment and love for culture, not only for the Ijebu people but the entire Yoruba land.

Always appreciative of God and good deeds, Otunba did not condone indolence, no matter who exhibited it.

In one of his interviews with The Guardian in 2018, the late illustrious Ijebu chief said: “ The good Lord has enabled me to build one of the largest purposefully built children’s hospitals in Africa, which I have now given to the University of Ibadan. It has been converted to a Medical College affiliated to the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan. If you walk in there, you will find quite a lot of equipment that you don’t find everywhere.”

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