BORN into an aristocratic family on March 9, 1934 in the ancient city of Ijebu Ode, Otunba Michael Olasubomi Balogun, albeit trained as a lawyer in the United Kingdom, he is better known as the icon of the country’s Capital market, the pacesetter in entrepreneurial banking and the great living legend of our time. The merchant bank that he founded in 1982 transformed to a universal bank in 2001 and became known as First City Monument Bank. The bank has been on the upward swing, thanks to the vision, dexterity and sagacity of the founder, and the abiding faith of the Almighty God.
Today, the prime mover of the FCMB financial conglomerate is 89 years old! Imbued with uncommon gait, aristocratic mien, culture and heritage, the Head of Ijebu princes and princesses, and leader of Ijebu Christians has been a common denominator in the cultural renaissance of his people. He is one of the major sponsors of the annual Ojude Oba Festival of Ijebu Ode.
A close analysis of the contributions of Otunba Balogun to the country’s socio-economic landscape reveals “a man whose fame rested on solid personal achievements, despite his privileged upbringing” to paraphrase Chinua Achebe in his epic novel, Things Fall Apart. He has a distinctive style about whatever he does and beyond his enviable success in every ramification of life. He is a constructive philanthropist and a venerable Christian leader who has been devoting a substantial part of what God has bestowed him with towards the care and service of the less privileged and the needy.
In his nearly six decades of unassailable corporate practice, he has become a venerated boardroom generalissimo who has combated the vicissitudes of life, and corporate politics with indomitability, tenacity, assiduity and stoicism. Despite the machinations of naysayers, his empire continues to be a reference point as it continues with his “heritage of excellence.”
As a visionary father of the banking and finance industry, he is convinced there are no short-cuts to any place worth going. He is one Nigerian that is painstakingly and unequivocally in pursuit of excellence. He confoundingly demonstrates to all who care to study and tap from his sagacity, objectivity and resilience that the future belongs to those who believe in their dreams of making the world a better place for all and sundry to live in.
Even though he had a Muslim background, he became a Christian whilst at Igbobi College, Lagos and ever since he has made Jesus Christ the corner stone of his existence and success. His perception of his Maker has been the fortifying force and propeller in his period of travails. He strives never to be under any illusion that detractors, cynics, critics and character assassins will not aim at him. First, success breeds detractors. Second, envy and jealousy accompany accomplishments. Third and importantly, no society wants an individual to be fed to the extent that the individual will have the audacity to say he is well fed or he is satisfied.
Characteristically, Otunba Balogun had taken his travails with Christian fortitude, forbearance and equanimity. He is always convinced that there are positive and negative dimensions to success. When travails bear their deadly fangs, he is known to take refuge in his Lord. In all circumstances, he attributes his triumph to Divine will and absolute commitment to the Almighty Lord. His soul mate, prayer warrior and wife of great simplicity and astonishment, Olori Abimbola Adetutu Balogun has been a monumental pillar of support and of unquantifiable assistance in his journey through life.
Now that this doyen of entrepreneurship is 89 years old, a year short of being a nonagenarian, it is apt to sum up his existence in four short statements. First, in him was a determination to succeed in the face of seemingly unsurmountable odds. Second, his life has been the life of a man who came, saw and conquered. Third, this is a man who is wearing the crown because of God’s benevolence and magnificence. And, fourth, this is a pacesetter in life who is not naïve to think and act as if the world is a bed of roses.
Apart from unquantifiable contributions to the society, he is committed to the future of the Nigerian child, born and unborn. Three decades ago, he established in Ijebu Ode, the National Paediatric Centre as a referral institution for the healthcare, welfare and survival of our children. The international centre handles teaching, research into, and treatment of every aspect of paediatrics. He has since handed over the centre to the University of Ibadan Teaching Hospital for effective management.
Indeed, in the last forty years, his philanthropic endeavours under The Otunba Tunwase Foundation have been traversing several endeavours including education, religion, healthcare and other spectacular initiatives and interventions. No doubt, he has been paying his dues as he is never tired of assisting humanity. In actual fact, in the pursuit of excellence, spirituality and commonality, he seeks for Providential guidance and support.
A creative, energetic and visionary leader, even at 89, he is convinced about the imperativeness of constantly nurturing his faculty and body. No wonder, he spares the time to go to his private office at least three times a week. The energy may not be too strong, studying him at close quarters reveals a phenomenon with an enhanced mental agility and capacity with uncommon nourishment and enrichment, holistic perception of issues and the world around him, better grasps of the dynamics of socio-political and economic power, and better appreciation of the Creator of the heaven and earth. He is therefore, of the opinion that to ‘completely peg off’ now will make him vegetate with its attendant consequences of inertia, passivity, mental inactivity, longueurs and emotional disequilibrium.
A man ahead of his time, his private financial institution, First City Monument Bank Limited is now publicly quoted (in the Nigerian Stock Exchange) with several national and international subsidiaries. He is of the opinion that the Almighty Creator used him as a vessel to embark on the voyage that successfully anchored the empire.
He is ever ready to serve as a corporate counsellor, financial and banking engineer and architect, corporate law adviser, community mobiliser, humanist, constructive philanthropist, and above all, a great but a very humble servant in the Lord’s vineyard.
As a corporate strategist, mentor, coach and leader within our chequered nation, he sees good corporate governance as sine qua non to taking the country to the Eldorado. He believes that good corporate governance is a sum total of probity, accountability, transparency and due process in the management of affairs. He advocates that critical attention should be attached to the wellbeing of the society. He contends that laws of nature must be adhered to as they are sublimated and have the potential of spiritual reawakening and reinvigoration.
As Otunba Michael Olasubomi Balogun, CON., Olori Omo-Oba of Ijebu turns 89, this is wishing the grandmaster of the Banking and Finance industry, profound good health, sagacity, additional longevity, and continued relevance to God and mankind.
*Chief Fassy Adetokunboh Yusuf, a veteran journalist, lawyer, teacher, corporate governance expert and community leader writes from Ijebu Ode (WhatsApp: 0803 315 4488 & E-mail: [email protected]).