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‘If Otunba Balogun Hadn’t Quit Insurance, Would He Have Founded FCMB ?’ Nigerians Mourn The Icon’s Exit

The Oasis Reporters

May 19, 2023







Otunba Subomi Balogun

Otunba Subomi Balogun, Founder of the First City Monument Bank Group has passed on. His death was formally announced on Twitter by Ogun State governor, Dapo Abiodun.




He has been described as “one of the nicest human beings on earth” by an adoring fan.

The story is that when the Civil war (the Nigerian-Biafran war ) broke out, a young banker named Subomi Balogun, who had a house in Apapa G.R.A. then, had a neighbour then, who was a young Igbo architect.

The architect fled from Lagos in the wake of the crisis and relocated to the Eastern Nigerian enclave of the ill-fated Republic of Biafra. When the war ended in 1970, the architect returned to Lagos and the banker not only returned the house to the owner, he had kept all the proceeds of the rent for him in the bank.

“In other parts of the West as well as other parts of the Federation, we know what happened to abandoned properties”, continues the narration.

Architect Alex Ekwueme was to repay such unusual kindness and generosity a decade later when he emerged as Vice president to Shehu Shagari.

When Subomi wanted to set up a bank, many people saw it as an anathema, something unheard of. Some even claimed he was a protégé of a particular politician and so they went about saying, ‘Don’t give him any licence!’ If you give him a licence, he would use it to finance someone.





Fast forward, Chief Alex Ekwueme presided over the next Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting and approved the banking license of Otunba Subomi which gave birth to the FCMB you know today.

It pays to be good.

The consummate financial expert , philanthropist and boardroom giant , renowned for his sartorial elegance , according to reports coming in , died at the age of 89 in a London Hospital on Friday May 19, 2023

I first came into contact from a distance in Kano, North West Nigeria. First City Merchant Bank, then on the third floor of African Alliance Building on Airport Road was relocating to Murtala Mohammed Way and I had a few technical jobs to perform over the relocation. He came for the commissioning. Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero was also there.



The merchant bank too, was transitioning into a commercial bank, thus becoming First City Monument Bank.

Further into the story, the helmsman in the Kano branch was quitting and had to come to the branch on a Saturday to remove his personal items. I was with him and he said to me, ” if Otunba hadn’t left Insurance, would there have been FCMB today” ?

A few decades after, Nigerians would say that Otunba Subomi Balogun, Otunba Tunwase of Ijebuland has run his race and has taken his bow, after showing masterclasses in Insurance, stockbroking and in mainstream banking.

It was however gathered that the family had informed the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, of his death.

Chief Michael Olasubomi Balogun was born March 9, 1934 at Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State to Muslim parents.

He however converted to Christianity while in secondary school.

Subomi Balogun was a long time member of the council of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).

He graduated from Igbobi College and studied Law at the London School of Economics.

Before leaving for Europe, he briefly worked as a teacher.

As a student in London, Subomi Balogun regularly attended fellowships and had the opportunity to meet some noted Nigerians such as Yakubu Gowon before the latter became the Head of State.

After earning his law degree, he returned to Nigeria to join the Ministry of Justice, Western Region.

After the January 1966 coup, he joined the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank (NIDB).

At NIDB, his interest in investment banking led him to advocate for the establishment of a merchant bank sponsored by NIDB.

When ICON securities, a merchant banking outfit, was established in 1973 as a subsidiary of NIDB, Balogun moved to ICON Ltd as a director of operations.

When Balogun’s ambition to head ICON was not realised, he left the firm to found City Securities, a stock broking and issuing house.

City Securities developed relationships with Mobil, Texaco and Total petroleum marketing companies, handling the companies equity offerings.

In 1979, he applied for a merchant banking license to establish First City Merchant Bank.

Balogun was inspired by the entrepreneurial works of Siegmund Warburg, who co-founded S.G. Warburg, he visited Warburg in London prior to establishing his merchant bank.

He often tells the anecdotal story of how his son inspired him to take the leap in starting the bank.

When the operations of the bank took effect in 1983, Balogun established an entrepreneurial culture at the new bank, unique as an owner-managed bank in contrast to the government owned banks at the time.

Balogun built a National Pediatric Centre in Ijebu-Ode that he donated to the University College Teaching Hospital (UCH).

A direct descendant of Oba Tunwase of Ijebu-Ode, Chief Balogun, till death, was the chieftaincy title holder of Otunba Tunwase of Ijebuland.

He is also the Olori Omoba of Ijebuland and the Asiwaju of Ijebu Christians.

By Greg Abolo

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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