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An encounter with my icon – Otunba Subomi Michael Balogun



By Joseph Edgar …

Now that I am out of FCMB, I can write this article. Gone is the fear of being labelled a sycophant looking for promotion or the next salary grade. Now I remain free to soar in my praises for this global icon who has unwittingly shaped my professional live and my sartorial choices.

As a rookie in Lagos, I used to stand in front of the Primrose Towers waiting for the Otunba to arrive in all his glory. I used to watch him alight from his gleaming cars, walk majestically and surely towards the Tower he had built to mark his hard work and industriousness, his double breasted suit and elegant pocket square marking him out from the humdrum of squalor around him. He would take his time, look up at the Tower and slowly begin the walk of success.

Yes that is what I usually call the walk, I would drop my second hand shirts and just stare wishing that I was his son. Such a great man. I would mimic his walk, a safe distance behind him lest the over enthusiastic security men pounce on me and make mincemeat of my dreams.

I would follow him into the foyer of the building, watch him enter the elevators with all the elegance only one steeped in the fineries of life could muster. As soon as the Elevator closes, I would go to the marble stone and read those immortal words and then exit to Shomolu.

Otunba and his son, Bolaji drew me into the world of Investment banking. I stupidly thought that investment banking was all about the suits which Bolaji and his god of a father usually mesmerized me with. Following their footsteps I jumped into the world and have been broke ever since.

After stalking Otunba for years, I swore to work in FCMB before I die. In fact FCMB and BGL remain my choices of the best investment banking franchise this side of the Atlantic Ocean, so when Nicholas sacked me at Investment One where I went to hide myself I did everything possible to land at Otunba’s CSL managed by his elusive son Gboyega.

During the interview, I did not even listen to all the questions they were asking me. I was not interested in Gboyega’s British accented questions about the markets and my comportment, all I wanted was the opportunity to meet the Otunba in the twilight of his life and drink from his pool of wisdom. I got the job, the pay was measly and the conditions were almost laughable but it got me closer to my ultimate goal in life, meeting the Otunba.

On the day of my appointment, I could not sleep. I paced up and down my Shomolu living room annoying my wife who was busy watching her favourite Yoruba movie. I did not know what to wear. The Otunba was finicky in dress code. He measured you with how you looked and never missed a detail. I have over the years watched his pin stripe suits, his Bow ties, his handwoven neck ties and his prim and proper mannerisms.

What will I wear? All of a sudden I was lost for choice. All my expensive suits now looked like rags, my Bow ties irritated me and I started crying. My last chance and I had nothing to wear. I needed to meet up with the Baba, suit for suit, tie for tie and shoe for shoe. The fact that Baba was a billionaire was of no interest to me, I had to make him adopt me and put me up in one of his many back flats in those Edwardian mansions that he has come to be known for.

Finally morning came, with swollen eyes I walked into his outer office where Mrs Adekusibe held sway. A very nice and highly efficient lady who calmed my nerves with small talk before she ushered me to see Otunba Subomi Michael Balogun.

I took in a deep breath, looked one more time at my custom made blue double breasted suit accessorised with a paisley red hued Bow tie and patent Paul Smith Shoes and with small confidence walked his walk into his office. My people, the office reminded me of the Duke of Edinburgh’s inner recess, his huge table feeling like a wedge between me and this colossus and as I walked, he stared at me, admiring my gait, feeling the quality of my suit and nodding his head showing appreciation that he was finally meeting an original protege not fake ones like Rotimi (pastor go kill me).

He asked me to sit even as he kept watching me with eagle eyes. I could see the admiration and sensed his happiness that his HR people have finally found gold. He asked who I was and the impeccable English oozing out of his gap tooth ever so smoothly like melting ice on the beautiful lips of a Hollywood starlet. I opened my mouth and nothing came out. I was weak, I started to panic, what was happening, I meet my god and I can’t speak English again, my mother Inlaw has followed me here o.

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He smiled, offered me water to drink and asked me to try again. I did and nothing still came out. So in his Solomonic wisdom, he started complimenting my looks. Telling me how he started the behemoth known today as FCMB, how he pioneered the wearing of Bow ties in Investment banking, this woke me up and my garrulous self came up. I started regaling him with stories of my never ending admiration. My trips from the University of Ibadan to watch him walk the walk, to read the marble stone at the Primrose Towers, my devouring of his biography and also the story of him chasing Victor Mazi the then Minister of Finance for his banking Licence.

I saw a small Ijebu tear drop from his tired eyes. Eyes that has seen it all, the forex scandal, the hard choice between his sons for the Head of the Bank, the N25b minimum shareholders’ funds and all the visitidudes of life, he was tired but happy. He has seen his dream grow from one man to a shareholder base of 15,000 . He was happy, he was fulfilled but the struggle is never ending.

He was happy with me, proud of me and asked ‘where did they find you’. I was happy, my god was proud of me. Suddenly satan struck, Otunba asked me the price of FCMB shares on the floor and the music stopped. I felt hot pee rise from my bowels, my heart skipped and sweat started coming out from places it should not. In my preparation, I had forgotten the main thing. The share price of our Bank. Kai, I was busy worrying about the suits, socks, his biography and literally forgot the main essence of Otunba’s life, FCMB. Kai, I not only disgraced myself but my god. I could see small disappointment but because I had made an impression he helped me.

At his age, he told me the exact price of FCMB and advised me never to forget again. I was lucky, I could have lost my job that moment. God saved me and Otunba being very spiritual had heard God’s supplication and forgave me.

He thanked me and made me promise to see him regularly. He didn’t offer me a drink, I didn’t mind, I was just happy that 20 years after I had met the man who as a young man redefined investment banking. I have now left FCMB with the same dream and vision and hope that in another 20 years another young gun would work into my office and worship me the way, I have worshipped Otunba. But unlike Otunba, if he didn’t remember the share Price of Aquila Asset, I will flog his bare bum and kick him to the bushes of Shomolu.

God bless you Sir and may you live long and watch me replicate your dreams.

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