Olayemi Oduseto

At 83, the Grand Master of the Nigerian Banking Sector is serving God, appreciative of His grace, while touching lives…..
He was born like any other child. But very early in life, his confidence that greatness was achievable was in his heart like a rock. Fate in his new faith, having been born by Muslim parents, began to create the pathway to this destiny. The Asiwaju of Ijebu Christians remained focused, kept his ambition to himself, held onto his God and His grace, absolutely refused to succumb to the vagaries of life and bypassed every hurdle that came his way.

Today, after many years in the sector, Otunba Balogun’s legacies are indeed difficult to equal. His achievements are numerous, but one which often comes to mind includes surprising detractors with his “can-do and no guts no glory” instincts as he made history by founding the first ever Nigerian private bank to be established in Nigeria without foreign direct investments or funding from the government of Nigeria. This has remained an enduring legacy.

“Consummate banker and entrepreneur, Otunba Michael Olasubomi Balogun, the man who many have come to identify as a constructive philanthropist, cannot but thank the Almighty God for many reasons. For these, he is very happy and indeed, is an accomplished man. Beyond the well-wishes and the traditional grand receptions that usually accompany his addition of another year, there is more to his sojourn on earth that engenders fulfilment and global admiration. In his kind disposition to life, he has been able to impact the different spectrums of society, leaving many positive footprints on the proverbial sands of time.

It is difficult to achieve a historical disclosure of the evolution of merchant and consumer banking in Nigeria for instance, philanthropy and support for children, women, the less privileged and religious causes without his name being mentioned in glittering terms.

The Olori Ebi Fasingbuwa (Head of Princes and the Ruling House) to the Awujale in Ijebuland’s legacies across these spectrums demonstrate the fact he is a man of foresight, unusual commitment, a lover of good deeds, his people and their culture. History has no choice but to give the Baba Oba of Ijebu–Ife his place. Vide FCMB, the platform that has by far given him the greater portion of public reckoning, he enjoys today, he raised new paradigms in business management, provided invaluable financial backing for many other enterprises, brokered high yielding deals and raised the stakes of banking business.

The same way and through his philanthropic gestures, he 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.

As he is celebrated across the land today, sons and daughters of the soil who have drank from the well of his kindness, salute the Asalu-Oba of IjebuImushin, a man of destiny born at Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State on the 9th of March 1934.

First City Monument Bank, (FCMB), a front-liner in banking business in Nigeria is a compelling example of deep vision, and personal challenge. Its resilience and continued dominance of the sector, when many contemporaries are either extinct or disturbingly lagging, is an indication of the strength of planning Otunba and his selected management team and workforce put together, right from the foundations.

He had his fair share of working for others with its attendant plethora of injustices suffered at a time, despite his God-given skills, excellent spirit, sound knowledge and quality experience. The tactician was not deterred. It came to a point and at a time when the burning desire to establish hisown firm with cutting edge service delivery got to its peak. He took the bull by the horns and resigned in December 1977 to set up City Securities Limited, the first institution in Nigeria to combine Issuing House and Stockbroking businesses under one roof.

In staffing and business philosophy, it was evident that the new security firm had come to transform the business sector, and this it did in no time. In less than two years of the establishment of City Securities Limited, it became almost synonymous with the Nigerian Capital Market. The main inspiration himself was on song, making distinguished appearances at events of central importance, and providing needed light where necessary. In recognition of his success and the success of enterprises running under his name, he became an immediate reference point to his numerous admirers and other protégés.

A proof of what he did and stood for came to manifestation in 1979 when the first wholly Nigerian owned bank, appeared on the business horizon. As it were, Balogun single-handedly birthed this bank –First City Merchant Bank Limited. He was the main inspiration, promoter and life-wire.
A new bride had arrived, but much more a bride with many positive attributes, including a solid foundation that was to stand the test of time.
No wonder, it attracted many suitors. FCMB was that bride, which drew its poise and entire packing from Balogun as Chairman and Chief Executive.

Otunba Balogun is a rare mortal. In fact, there aren’t many in his bracket. His milk of human kindness is always overflowing, and has in the process, touched many in the society. Through his philanthropic gestures, he has been able to soothe many bruises and heal many hurts. So has he been able to leave the society better than it previously was.

Apart from his well-known commitment to the welfare of the less privileged and physically handicapped, in 1987, he was the first in Nigeria, through First City Merchant Bank Limited, to endow a Professorial Chair in a University when at the University of Ibadan he set up a Chair 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. Outside the University of Lagos, he has equally donated to several altruistic causes at the Olabisi Onabanjo University (formerly Ogun State University), Yaba College of Technology and African Leadership Forum.

The Children’s Emergency Unit in the University Teaching Hospital, Ibadan does not bear his name for nothing. He it was who breathed a life of relief to the institution, by undertaking its perpetual maintenance and upkeep.
The same is true of his involvement at the Ijebu Ode General Hospital where he donated a newly built and fully equipped air-conditioned 40-bed Children’s Centre which he asked to be named after his mother, “IYE SUBOMI’S CHILD CARE CENTRE”.

A few years ago, he donated a Police Post at Imoru in Ijebu-Ode District and he also built a Civic Centre named “OtunbaTunwase Civic Centre” for Ijebu-Ode Club. He has also 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 many Nigerians at secondary and tertiary levels. About ten years ago, he endowed, perpetually, an annual award of scholarships to the best students in Muslim College, Ijebu-Ode in honour of his late father; and also set up another scholarship endowment in honour of his mother known as “IyeSubomi Scholarship”. Otunba Balogun has set up endowments for the Nigerian School for the Blind at Oshodi, and he has also instituted, through FCMB, an Annual National Marathon Championship for Disabled Athletes.

About twelve years ago, he established an umbrella organisation 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).”

When in August2000 he presented his Memoirs, “The Cross, The Triumph and The Crown”, he threw a big challenge to other wealthy persons in society by that singular but gigantic gesture. 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 the children’s project. On June 7, 2013, Otunba Balogun wholly donated the Paediatric Centre, to the University of Ibadan at a signing of Deed of Total Gift ceremony.

What indeed could make a man donate a personal estate worth N7bn in the open market, a hospital facility to the University of Ibadan for specialists’ training for medical students, treatment of children and women? First, he says it was donated as part of his contribution to the 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 of the tour, 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.

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. 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 church services. 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. I love reading the scriptures; the more I read the more I get to know God and the more I love Him. I became so much involved in talking about Christ.”