Subomi Balogun: Sun sets on noble mogul who preserved Alex Ekwueme’s house during the Civil War


… Subomi Balogun dies at 89


Akeem Lasisi

The sun has set on of of Nigeria’s business moguls as Otunba Michael Subomi Balogun, is dead.

The Founder and Chairman of the First City Monument Bank (FCMB) was said to have passed on in London at the age of 89.

Although details of the death have yet to emerge, OVATION publisher, Dele Momodu, among other sources, noted on Friday that two of the deceased’s children were on the way from London, to ‘officially’ break the news to the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona.

Balogun was the Olori Omo Oba of Ijebu.

With the passage, the country has lost one of its influential entrepreneurs who was also a philanthropist and statesman.

Among other beautiful stories he bequeathed to nationhood and posterity, he proved that humanity has no tribe when he preserved the house of a neighbour of his, Alex Ekwueme, during the Civil War.

Rather than coveting the facility when Ekwueme, a South-Easterner who would later become Nigeria’s Vice President, became vulnerable because of the war, Balogun rented it out and surprised Ekwueme with the proceeds.

He told the story himself:

“The first house I built in my life in Apapa, Alex had the next building to mine. As soon as the war started, some pool players took over the house and were playing pool there. They would be there until midnight, but in wanting to protect my own house from being burgled by those people, I arranged for the police to evacuate them. And having done that, I renovated the house and rented it out to a lady from the East and I was receiving the rent.

“When the war ended, Alex Ekwueme returned to Lagos and came to see me. After the exchange of pleasantries, I went to my room and brought out a big envelope.” Otunba Balogun narrated: “In those days, we didn’t use cheques much, it was all cash. So, I gave him the money. I told him I renovated his house, rented it out and this is the rent I collected. Dr. Alex Ekwueme looked at me, he could not believe it. All he could mutter was “Mike, I am grateful.”

Interestingly, Balogun had a little dramatic religious history too as he was born in 1934 at Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, Nigeria to Muslim parents. Balogun converted to Christianity while in secondary school. He graduated from Igbobi College and studied Law at the London School of Economics.

According to an online profile, before leaving for Europe, he briefly worked as a teacher. As a student in London, Balogun regularly attended fellowships and had the opportunity to meet some noted Nigerians such as Yakubu Gowon before the latter was president. After earning his law degree, he returned to Nigeria to join the Ministry of Justice, Western Region. From the regional Ministry of Justice where he was a Crown Counsel, Balogun found a new post as a Parliamentary Counsel in the Federal Ministry of Justice.

After the January 1966 coup, he joined the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank. At NIDB, his interest in investment banking led him to advocate for the establishment of 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 he 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.

Among other charity ventures, Balogun built a National Pediatric Centre in Ijebu-Ode that he donated to University of Ibadan‘s, University College Teaching Hospital. He was also a big sponsor of the Ojude Oba Festival, especially through the FCMB.

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