A mighty tree has fallen! Ijebu-land and Nigeria has lost one of her greatest sons of our time.
I have read several tributes of this great man full of accolades but I would take a detour by providing a few of my personal memorable accounts with him.
First, I have been a Subomi Balogun adherent for as long as I can remember with no apologies.
As a young boy, I had one of his unique pictures on my bedroom wall. He was clad in a white outfit with a coloured embroidery, a departure from his usual all-white agbada. On that occasion, Chief MKO Abiola/Concord Newspaper awarded him the African Business Man of the Decade.
During my school days, my friends knew no one could speak ill of him in my presence.
I was ever ready to defend Otunba Tunwase. A man of many parts, admired and loved by many. Even the few who dislike him still want to be associated with him in public because of the special grace upon him. According to Proverbs 16:9, “When a man’s way pleases the Lord, he would make his enemies be at peace with him.”
Coincidentally, my maternal grandmother of blessed memory Alhaja Adebukonla Adeniji and Otunba’s mother Alhaja Adebukonla Ashiru-Balogun are from the same root. I used to drive my Grandma and Mom to visit Mama at Otunba’s initial white bungalow (Adebukonla Lodge) before he rebuilt it into the current Otunba Tunwase Court.
On every occasion my sister and I met with Otunba, he would always remind us that he is our Uncle on both sides of our lineage. My Dad and I were with him shortly after I secured my admission into Ogun State University, so he proudly shared the news with him. He asked what I would be studying I told him Accounting, and he said, make sure you get good grades and I will get you a good job even though all I wanted then was to jet out and study in the United States.
I remember on Christmas Eve 1991, my Uncle of blessed memory Ambassador Olu Adeniji hosted one of his usual get-togethers on this occasion at his Ijebu-Ode GRA home. My Uncle was a great host and family man, he loved to gather the family together either at my grandpa’s home on Gbelegbuwa street or at his abode frequently.
On this occasion, he hosted Otunba Subomi Balogun & Olori, my parents, Engineer & Mrs Deoye Fowora, Ambassador & Mrs Femi Fowora, Chief Olu Okuboyejo, Uncle Bayo (Brigadier) & Aunty Lolade Oduwole, Professor Bayo Adedeji, Oba Sunday Sonoiki (Molipa), Professor Kogbe, Uncle Bode Ladejobi and a few others.
The ladies were all together in one living room while the men occupied the larger one. I was the only young boy in the midst of these great men. As usual, I was running errands with great pleasure from hanging their Agbadas when they wanted to get comfortable to helping them mix their drinks. I was a fly on the wall as you should expect learning and enjoying their conversations. Amidst all the conversations, one stood out when Otunba Subomi said at age 36 he had built four houses. My jaw dropped I wondered if he just misspoke but Chief Okuboyejo confirmed it and went down memory lane when they were colleagues at the Justice Ministry and their old times residing at Apapa, Lagos.
My admiration for him triple-doubled, I was inspired wondering how he did it? On our way home since my Dad was part of the conversation I directed my first question to my Mom saying “did you hear what your brother (Broda mi) as she normally calls him said?” So I asked if Otunba could have built four houses before age 36, my Mom said it’s very possible though she was in the United States studying during those years but “Broda mi Olu” (her brother and host) would definitely know better. Then she asked why I was so surprised, and she said don’t be he has always been different since they were very young with a myriad of instances.
Otunba was blessed with an embracing charm and nature, every time I had an opportunity to meet him or visit his home he made me feel so important and welcome.
Several years ago, my lovely Mom served as one of the ANCOPPS (Conference of Principals) executives and they were trying to raise money for a project. She decided to contact her Egbon (Broda Subomi) so my Sister Remi and I went with her to see him. We spent ample time with him and Aunty (Olori). Coincidentally, his donation marched the Chairman of the Day – Prince Adewale Abimbola’s contribution and the highest that evening. He told me to represent him at the occasion as the Special Guest of Honor, I was 17 years old. I was euphoric!
My Mom’s colleagues (Principals) were jubilant when I presented the cheque. The event was held at the Gateway Hotel, Ijebu-Ode. Major General Ogundeko (rtd.) a VIP, who sat to my left at the event was very engaging. I never knew then I would become a Commissioned Officer just like him someday.
Otunba is a spiritual man. He was very prayerful and attributed all his success to God’s favor. He did not claim to be a self-made man, a common cliche in our society. He continually acknowledged that God’s mercy from above made him grow in wisdom, stature and favor with God and man.
Otunba was a very meticulous man in conduct and appearance. His style of dressing gives that away easily. One such instance was at my Uncle Olu’s 60th birthday service at Our Savior’s Church by Tafa Balewa Square. We arrived early, a few minutes after us, Baba Chris Ogunbanjo arrived, my cousin, Segun Adeniji ushered him into the sanctuary then Otunba arrived and told us he came early to receive the Kabiyesi Awujale and his entourage.
He immediately reserved a room for the entourage. He went further and coordinated the seating arrangement in the sanctuary and a few minutes before the service commenced he led the entourage into the sanctuary. He made sure the Lead Cleric had the correct appellation for the recognized dignitaries.
In 1993, Otunba was the Chairman at my Sister’s wedding. I remember his promptness to the ceremony and support for my parents. He reminded the guests during his speech that he was the Chairman at my Mom’s 21st Birthday party reception in 1964. We still have an album with several black-and-white pictures of the event.
In 2000, my loving mother – Mrs Olabisi Okuwa – passed on at a relatively young age after a battle with cancer. My family was devastated, Otunba stood by us as a pillar of encouragement and support.
According to the book of Matthew 22:14, “For many are called but a few are chosen”.
In my book, I believe Michael Olasubomi Balogun was chosen. He possessed a special Grace but that grace upon him attracted obvious envy.
By dint of hard work and God’s favor, he is the only Nigerian who has successfully built an indigenous Merchant Bank cum Commercial Bank from scratch and handed it over to his son (second generation), who has since completed a successful 10-year tenure and handed over same to an accomplished female successor. What a great precedent! FCMB has been operating for more than four decades with 200 plus branches and over 11 million customers.
More than seven prominent families have attempted to run a Nigerian bank none has been able to achieve this feat. Today all those banks are either acquired by new owners or liquidated.
Otunba Subomi Balogun is a leader of men and the Doyen of Entrepreneurial Nigerian Banking. An exceptional personality, whose life exemplifies Peter Drucker’s definition of leadership as “the lifting of a man’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a man’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a man’s personality beyond its normal limitations”.
May the Good Lord accept you into his bosom with open arms.
May he say unto you welcome my son you have exuded the glory I bestowed unto you exceptionally well.
A video clip of the Prayer Breakfast you host annually which went viral around the world is a testament to God’s approval of your work on earth. You said goodbye in a glorious way to the world praising God, dancing and praying for more glorious years.
Omo Arojojoye Omo Adeletejiteji
Omo afi Aran pojo!
The Asiwaju of Ijebu Christians!
My father, siblings and I shall miss you dearly. We pray the Lord comfort Olori Abimbola, children, grandchildren, Aunty Ronke Atere and her children.
Tributes by Ayodeji Okuwa,