The Founder of FCMB, Chief Michael Olasunbomi Balogun, is the Doyen of the Nigerian Banking Sector. Don’t forget that he was the first Nigerian to set up an indigenous bank without foreign assistance. Not many know what he went through before he could set up his bank many years ago. He shared this secret, two weekends back, at the 90th birthday of Alhaji Amusa Oladimeji Gbadamosi Otiti, the former Deputy Governor of CBN.
Though this didn’t come as a surprise to many as Alhaji Otiti has produced very many rich Nigerians, making use of his position back in those days. One of those who revealed how Alhaji Otiti assisted him was Otunba Subomi Balogun. Though, he couldn’t make the birthday he wrote a beautiful homage about Alhaji Otiti. In it he revealed how Alhaji Otiti assisted him to get licence for his FCMB when all hopes were lost.
According to Otunba Balogun, Alhaji Otiti is someone he regards not just as a distinguished Doyen of the Banking Industry on Nigeria, but a legendary benefactor of some of us, who dared with the grace of the Almighty God to be pioneers in the Nigerian Banking sector. Beyond the age of 90, I would continue to pay homage to this legend, who has left an indelible mark on my personal career In the Banking Industry. This motivator, this encourager to those of us, who came into the Banking industry after his name has become inspirational In the Nigerian Banking industry is worthy of all encomia, and I daresay, he is a remarkable facilitator in the establishment of some of the notable banks in Nigeria.
“Let me start by disclosing the role he played in the establishment of First City Monoment Bank (FCMB). He and the late Francis ljewere, both former members of staff of the Central Bank of Nigeria, were the pioneers In the establishment of the Nigerian banking Institute and are very popular. I became familiar with Alhaji Otiti when he served as a CBN- nominated director on the Board of the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank (NIDB) where I was the Company Secretary & Principal Counsel. At a particular point, I became disenchanted with the way my career was being handled in NIDB, even though I was the one who mooted the idea of our setting up a merchant bank, Icon Limited (Merchant Bankers), which was a subsidiary of NlDB. I confided in Alhaji Otiti, that I was going to resign my appointment in NIDB and set up the first indigenous bank in Nigeria.
With the dose supervisors of the Central Bank of Nigeria and the ready support of the likes of Alhaji Otiti, the late Mr. OIa Vincent and the late Oba Dete OIashore., we survived all the initial obstacles. Our success of course encouraged many Nigerians to take similar steps many years after and opened the floodgates for the establishment of a number fully fledged and wholly owned Nigerian banks (merchant and commercial). In many of these cases at new banking institutions, the name of Alhaji Otiti resonated.
Alhaji Otiti was not and IS not just a banker. He was a supporter and an encourager of many of us, who aspired to acquire the ‘GoIden Fleece’ He is a very committed follower of God (a Muslim) whose passion is to assist anyone who needs his support, the gesture he has extended to many Nigerians. Even in his advancing old age, he would strain himself to assist any person who aspires to attain any goal within the purview of the Nigerian Banking Industry. Beyond the banking industry, his name resonated as a Nigerian, who would go to any extent to lend his supporting hand to those whose paths have crossed his.
Even at his advanced age, Alhajl Otiti is still lending his hand to pull up anyone in need, I know many, who have been and still in the industry, who still recount the assistance he offered them to achieve their ambitions. I can continue to write on the virtues and the contributions of this legendary personality without slopping Let me join many of us his admirers and beneficiaries, to pray for a much longer life in good health and appreciating that he has lived a life of service and kindness to those of us whose paths have crossed his.
Wholly owned Nigerian merchant bank with or without foreign technical partners which was a requirement by the Regulators – at that time, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria.. when we could not secure a foreign technical partner because of the bad foreign press on Nigeria, I spoke with Alhali Otiti , the late Mr. Ola Vincent and the late Oba Dele Olashore, who were all very senior staffers of the Central Bank of Nigeria, that I would want to take a shot at setting up a private merchant bank and would become the first Nigeria to single-handed set up a merchant bank wholly owned by Nigerians without the support of either foreign technical partners or participation by the Nigerian government. I visited many banks In the United Kingdom, the United states and Europe for technical support, but they were not keen to join a new Nigerian merchant bank outfit.
On reaching what I perceived to be a dead end; I made an approach to Alhaji Otiti, who was a Deputy Governor at the Central Bank of Nigeria I rushed to him virtually in tears, while he was breaking his (Moslem) fast in the house of the then Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Alhaji Abdulkadir and after narrating to them both my predicament that my application was rejected because I did not have a foreign technical partner, they both suggested that I could be given a licence and that the CBN would undertake to the Federal Ministry of Finance who were at that time issuing banking licence, that they would supervise us until we would be able to identify a foreign technical partner, which at that time was the major requirement, and that was how a change of policy about foreign technical partner was a reviewed. It was as a result of the persuasion of Alhaji Otiti to the then Governor of the CBN, that I became with Divine support, the first Nigerian to set up a merchant bank single handedly.