Otunba Subomi Balogun, the founder of First City Monument Bank (FCMB) Group, died today in a London hospital after a brief illness.
He was a fulfilled man who built his business/financial empire from scratch.
The following story reveals his background, education, legal practice, foray into the financial sector and the establishment of FCMB.
The Story of My Life
Otunba Subomi Balogun, the Otunba Tunwase who doubles as Olori Omo-Oba of Ijebuland, in an interview with The Issues Magazine held at his Tunwase Mansion in Ijebu-Ode recently, came as a man who is deeply in touch with his roots and determined to take the Ijebu culture and tradition to its Olympian heights.
He spoke on his early life, his family background, and his relationship with both the Royalty and the Borogun Dynasty of Ijebu. He also clarified his grandfather’s name, adding that he built a royal museum in furtherance of his quest for the authentic history of the Ijebus, particularly the Ijebu Royalty.
* On Family Background and Education
“My father was Alhaji Abudu Odutola Ashiru Balogun, a prominent member of the Obafowora Age Group, called “the Socials”. My father was born in 1902, the same year the late Papa Ogbeni Oja Timothy Odutola was born. They both attended Ijebu-Ode Grammar School between 1919 and 1922.
“My father was very enlightened and well-educated. My grandfather was Mogaji Ashiru Oduwole Odunuga, whom we proudly call, Baba Elesin of the Odunuga family. He was a son of Balogun Kasumu Odunuga – a distinguished son of the Borogun Family.
“My father was one of the first Ijebus that were appointed Akowe Court and along with late Papa Chief Timothy Odutola. They were both appointed to the most senior administrative and judicial function, as they were called, “Akowe Court” along with his former classmate, Papa Chief Timothy Odutola. They were both on leaving Ijebu-Ode Grammar School, appointed to the topmost position in the local administration by the Colonialists in the judicial and administrative cadre. It embraced both judicial and administrative functions. At that time, they were regarded as only next to the Colonial District Officers, who were usually expatriates, during the colonial administration.
“My father and Papa Odutola were randomly posted to Ijebu Remo, at Shagamu, being the Remo headquarters, and Ijebu water side headquarters at Abigi. When I was young, I frequently visited my father at Abigi water side during my holidays and on some occasions, I was asked to be coaching some school children in different subjects because I was known to be very bright.
“When my father was posted to Shagamu as Head of Administration of Ijebu Remo, my father married a Remo lady who gave him a son directly next to me by the name, Abdul Ganiyu Olufemi Olabamidele Ashiru Balogun. He was 3 months younger than I was. Another son of my father by an earlier wife, named Bode Kokumo Ashiru Balogun was born five months before me and he is still alive. My father was particularly interested in the education of children and in 1940, he sent four of us to school. However, I was given double promotion because I had been brought up by an educated mother, who had earlier sent me to teachers who were giving me private lessons I took the entrance to Secondary School, Ijebu-Ode Grammar School and in less than 18 months, I was admitted to Igbobi College, Yaba.
“I have heard people calling my grandfather, Ashiru Koda. I do not know whether the people who called my grandfather, Ashiru Koda were conversant with the history of our family. My grandfather did not have a surname or the name Koda. Whenever he was speaking and wanted to emphasize any statement, he used the word “Koda”, meaning certainly or an emphasis. This was a word from the Northern Hausa and Fulanis who were his partners in the business of selling cows and rams. The use of the description “Koda” was abusive as I would explain later.
“Rather, my grandfather’s real name was Ashiru Oliga because he had a herd of cows which were kept in a cow shed and which he ultimately gave to my father to build a house which my father named, “Igadile Mansion”. The word Ashiru Koda is abusive, but quite a lot of people who do not know the meaning described my grandfather as Ashiru Koda. As I said, he used the expression from the Hausa/Fulani language to emphasize whatever he was saying, meaning, “Believe me what I am saying is right and true”. This description of my grandfather with the name, Koda, we regarded as being abusive by people who are ignorant of the meaning of the word, “Koda”. It was a foreign expression to the Ijebus. It is like another Ijebu elderly man called, “Dodorogi” to describe the man’s head and other descriptive expressions like “Kekere Owo” and “Pamupamu”. There were so many of these descriptive expressions we had in Ijebu, but most of those who called my grandfather with a word that is only emphasizing something, are unfortunately misinformed and did not even know the origin of “Koda”. I am repeating that it was a way of describing or emphasising a topic by my grandfather and not his name.
“His name was Ashiru Oduwole Kasumu Odunuga from the Borogun Dynasty. He was very wealthy, trading in cows and other animals, and had a large agricultural settlement outside Ijebu-Ode, at Imuku and Ishowe. From there, he married many wives who gave him many children. One of the wives happened to be an aunty to my late cousin, the late Chief Bayo Kuku. The Kukus and Odunugas are cousins, as both of them hailed from the Borogun family in Mobasoro whose descendants almost covered half of Ijebu-Ode, hence we are described as, “Omo Borogun La’n se so, siwo siwo lan sowo, baa reni gbekele a tera mo se eni” and that Borogun was the father of my grandfather, Mogaji Ashiru Oduwole Odunuga, alias Oliga (Cow Shed). Hence, my father’s house where we all lived, was named IGADILE MANSION and it is still there at 100 Olode Street, Etimoro, Ijebu-Ode.
“My mother was very well known as Adebukonla Olisa, the daughter of Karimu Olisa, who was the eldest son of Olisa Olubajo, but my mother, Adebukonla was the first daughter of Barikisu, who came from Imupa and married to Karimu Olisa, one of the first people that brought wealth and vehicles into Ijebu. He was called Baba Ilaro, Prince Merchant. My mother’s mother, as I said, was Barikisu. Her mother was Adeyimika and Adeyimika was the eldest daughter of Oba Tunwase and the immediate younger sister of Oba Adekoya Ogberegede Loba, who reigned for just about a year as Awujale.
“When I was born in 1934, I had just lost my grandmother, known as Barikisu, daughter of Baba Sanusi Alawo of Imupa. He was the husband of Omoba Adeyimika, the eldest daughter of Oba Tunwase. I was lucky that my mother was educated and her contemporaries were Omoba Mrs Mafe and Mrs Odeinde, who proposed the toast to my mother on her 80th birthday. The three were sewing mistresses, teaching young ladies how to sew, during the Empire Day ceremony on May 24, the colonial celebration of the birthday of Queen Victoria of England.
“My mother was educated; she attended St. Saviour School in Ijebu-Ode and later Christ School, Ilaro. She was trained as a sewing mistress by a Mrs Allen who had a Sewing Institute at Bamgbose, Lagos when she was still staying with her cousin, Omoba Adeola Odunsi (Royal Brothers). I was pampered by everybody, especially the members of the Tunwase Ruling House because my father’s house, Igadile Mansion was on the same street as the Royal Home at Agunsebi.
“When I was young at 6 years of age, my father took four of his children, including myself to start school at Moslem Primary School. I was the youngest of the four of us, but I had the privilege of having been taught rudimentary “abidi (A, B, D) Yoruba alphabets and ABC (English) ” and I was given a promotion to standard one. I was admitted to a secondary school, Ijebu-Ode Grammar School and in my second year, I left Ijebu-Ode Grammar School, to go to Igbobi College, from where I passed out with Grade One Cambridge School Certificate.
“When I was at Igbobi College, I was involved in Christian chapel services and my teachers did not know that I came from a Muslim background. At a point, I went to my teacher who ultimately became Bishop Festus Segun and confided in him that I was still a Muslim and would want to be converted to Christianity. I was a child of Divine miracle. I thank my God. I worship my God in my way and I have always shown a strong desire to give thanks to the Divine source.
“I am a child of God and the good Lord has been so kind to me. Whatever you see in me now, is a Divine gift. The good Lord appears to have acknowledged me as a son. I remember that because I had educated parents, my education was uppermost in my life and I had the unique privilege of going to some of the best institutions. I am an Igbobian. I left Igbobi College in December 1952 with a Grade 1 Cambridge School Certificate.
“When the Nigerian Government decided to create an institution for Nigerians to be doing Higher School Certificate or GCE Advanced Level, I was one of the pioneers that were admitted to the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology at Ibadan. In those days, the Ministry of Education just gathered all the people who had Grade 1 Cambridge School Certificates. So we had a lot of distinguished Nigerians there. Some of them have even passed on. I considered myself a privileged child of God because I have always been involved in pioneering at different stages of my life. I was in the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology and I think that was when my character was formed.
“I was one of the few students that passed three subjects at the Advanced Level. Most people passed two or even one. My colleague and a very good friend, Emeritus Professor Ayo Banjo, who was twice the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, also passed three subjects. It was unique. Then providence also put it in my mind that I should read Law. I went around making enquiries as to where was the best place for me to read Law. My attention was drawn to the London School of Economics in the United Kingdom, where I went for a course in Law, between 1956 and 1959.
“Just before I graduated, the Government of the then Western Region of Nigeria had picked me to be the first Nigerian to be trained as a Parliamentary Draftsman. I was one of the people who drafted laws for the Legislature. By sheer coincidence, the Nigerian Independence Act was being passed and I was observing in the official box with some other distinguished luminaries of the Nigerian stock and international stock, Dr Taslim Elias, who ultimately became the first Attorney General and later Chief Justice of Nigeria, was the Chairman of the panel that selected me. I was formally informed by my Professor that the Government of the Western Region had decided to train me as a parliamentary draftsman, the first Nigerian to be so trained. All these mystified me. I felt, “Why am I so lucky?” This is one of the reasons why I just felt that the good Lord has been so kind to me and I should spend my life appreciating Him.
“It started with my education. I went to some of the best Secondary Schools. Yes, my parents were educated. My mother in particular was very concerned that I should get the best education and I made her and my father happy by having Grade 1 Cambridge Certificate. Then I just suddenly decided I wanted to read Law because my father, with the late Chief Adeola Odutola, were classmates, and they were serving under the Colonial Administrative Officers, called D.Os, meaning “District Officers”, and particularly one Prince Hastrup, an Ijesha Prince, who was made a District Officer in the Colonial Days like some young British Citizens. He was a Lawyer. I was wondering why someone like me should not be a District Officer if I qualified as a Lawyer. They were not just Registrars; they are more or less Administrative Officers who were sent out to different parts of Ijebu to administer and to report to the Colonial District Officers”.
* Early Life, Parents, Businesses
“My father started in Ijebu Ode and subsequently in Shagamu which was the headquarters of Ijebu Remo. He was very well known and very illustrious, and even married another wife from Shagamu. He worked later in the Ijebu waterside, now known as the Ogun waterside. Somehow, I was a favourite child who was always taken to all these stations. My only conclusion was that I am a favourite child of the good Lord.
“In late 1959, after my call to the Bar, I was sent by the Western Regional Government to the British Parliament, to learn how to draft Laws, for one year and thereafter, I was sent to the City of London to learn how to draft Agreements. I came back to the country and was appointed a Crown Counsel in the then Western Region of Nigeria. Many people were mystified by my legal draftsmanship qualification. Me, about five other students from Western Region were trained in Solicitors’ Office in the United Kingdom, not in the Parliament as I was trained. The Government of the then Eastern Region of Nigeria, subsequently sent a Mr Roland Okagbue, who was the second person to study legal draftsmanship as I did, and subsequently, he was made Honourable Justice Roland Okagbue.
“I came into the country with much adulation; everybody was wondering; what has this young man got that they have not gotten, as a Lawyer? I said, I would try and prove that I appreciated, not only what the Government of Western Region did for me, but what my God guided them to do for me. I was just working and many people just liked me because of my age and my perceived brilliance.
“Then there was a crisis in the Western Region. I was sitting in my office as a Crown Counsel when a young man in suit, one Mr Richard Okpu, walked into my room and asked if I was, “Mr Balogun”. I replied, “Yes”. He then said that the Federal Attorney General wanted me to come to the office of the Secretary to the Government to see him in the Western Nigeria Secretariat. As I was arriving in the building where the Secretary to the Government had his office, I saw Dr Elias descending the stairs with one Chief Ojo, who was the Chairman of the Public Service Commission. Dr Elias saw me and asked, “Young man, would you like to come to Lagos to work with us?” And I said, “Yes, Sir.” The whole episode was miraculous to me. It had been Divinely ordered. Dr Elias in London interviewed me for a legal draftsman job on behalf of the Western Region when a state of emergency was declared by the Federal Government. The Federal Attorney General, Dr Elias was virtually the Civil Service Administrator. Even though Dr Moses Adekoye Majekodunmi was the one the Federal Government named as the Administrator of the Western Region. The whole thing was amazing. I did not expect that I would be catapulted to such a top job at the Federal level.
“It was the amazing grace of the Almighty God in my life that helped me get such an offer at the Federal level because I was trained only by the Government of the Western Region. By November 1962, at the age of 28, I was offered the job of Assistant Parliamentary Counsel by the Federal Ministry of Justice. It was a unique offer propelled by the amazing grace of the Almighty God.
“I was involved in the drafting of the Laws and occasionally attending the Nigerian Parliament in Lagos. I was just 28. That was how everybody started hearing of me. The fellow sent by the Eastern Regional Government at that time, Mr Okagbue, worked in the Eastern Government at Enugu and subsequently became a Judge of the Federal High Court in the Eastern Region. The two of us were employed as legal draftsmen, but I was very young. Going beyond that, I was amazed that they provided me, a bachelor, at 28, with one stand-alone bungalow on Glover Road, Lagos. What also amazed me, at that time, was the privileged position I was given at my young age and not yet married. Naturally, I started wondering why this my God has been so kind and wonderful to me. I just felt and still feel that the good Lord was guiding me because I am a favoured child of God. That is one of the reasons why you keep hearing, “God, God, God” from me. I am not a Pharisee, it is a sign of how I appreciated what the good Lord had done for me, and I regarded myself as a favoured child of God.
“Things were just building up for me. I worked in the Federal Ministry of Justice, I enjoyed it for about four years. I was titled, Assistant Parliamentary Counsel for the Federation. My boss was an expatriate. I thank God again that it did not get into my head, or influence my natural behaviour.
“All of a sudden, the Federal Government was planning with the World Bank, to set up the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank (NIDB). Someone asked me whether I would be interested to work there. I was there as the legal adviser from the Federal Ministry of Justice. It was miraculous. After some interview sessions, led by some of the topmost commercial lawyers in the country, I was made the first Secretary and Principal Counsel for the NIDB. It was a development bank created by the World Bank and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). While there, the good Lord opened my eyes to see what was happening in Finance, Stockbroking, Stock Exchange, selling shares and so on, and I suddenly found myself being redeployed to a Stockbroking company, owned by my employer, ICON Securities Limited. From Law, I went into Finance. I was there to compete with Accountants and others. Suddenly, and Divinely, I was made the Head of Stockbroking and Capital Issues at the subsidiary of NIDB, ICON Limited. I was the Chief Executive. I was amazed. I was sent to do some courses in the World Bank and other places.
“I recommended to my employers that we should set up an Investment Bank to be known as ICON Limited (Merchant Bankers). Then I started experiencing battles. My boss at the time, who was an Economist, heard about it and said, “Look, Mr Balogun, you have been telling people that you are going to be the Head of ICON, you are only a lawyer, I will make sure you are de-seconded back to where you came from”. So, we had a struggle. Eventually, I decided to resign.
“I resigned because a 32-year-old man, an American, who had only graduated three years earlier, was being asked to be my boss just because I didn’t study Finance. I was 42 at the time and I had lots of experience. Privately, I was learning Bookkeeping and Accounts. One day, while the struggle was going on, we were all praying in my private chapel at home where the family usually converged to seek the face of God, when my second son, Babajide said to my wife, “I pity Daddy, why can’t he go and set up his own business instead of wanting to work for other people?” I felt it was the voice of God. That was when I decided to set up my institution.
“Yes, it was Divine and miraculous. It was as if the good Lord took me somewhere where I initially thought I did not belong and when I had problems, I didn’t want to dramatise them. People wanted to frustrate me; I went to Church and saw the then Vice President, Alex Ekwueme, who was my close friend. I asked the Vice President why I had not been given a licence. He assured me that he would do something which he did by approving my licence while presiding over the Federal Executive Council meeting, and I became the first Nigerian who single-handedly set up a merchant bank”.
* Establishment of the Ijebu Museum of History
“The reason why I built the Oba Adesimbo Tunwase Museum was to establish a credible and authentic history of Ijebu, particularly Ijebu Royalty. Our Ruling House, now known as the Arojojoye Ruling House is the largest and almost 25% of Ijebu people are said to have come from that Ruling House. The current Awujale of Ijebuland appointed me as the Olori Omoba of the whole Ijebu since 1995. Subsequently, the family also made me the Olori Ebi. The name Fusengbuwa was first given to the Ruling House, but there were a lot of complaints that Oba Fusengbuwa cannot be the head of a Ruling house in which his father, Oba Jadiara and other senior Royal Fathers were. We then decided to pick a name which is related and used as oriki for the entire family. We have now an oriki which encompasses all Royal families that emanated from Agunsebi, which is Arojojoye, which is Arojojoye Adele teji teji, which we adopted about three years ago.