Although the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of Lagos State, Nigeria’s Centre of Excellence and one of the fastest growing mega cities and economies in the world reached a crescendo recently, individuals and groups are still marking the epochal event in sundry ways.
Perhaps one of the very significant activities in the year-long celebration was a parade of several celebrated Lagosians who have distinguished (and are distinguishing) themselves not only in their various fields of endeavour but also in their contributions to the increasing greatness of this Numero Uno State in the Nigerian Federation. This was done through a publication commissioned by the Lagos State Government and which was titled, 50 Distinguished Lagosians. It is a compilation of the profiles of selected Lagosians, numbering 50 (as the title indicates) and interviews with some of them. While the publication does not pretend to have captured all Lagosians that qualify to make such a historical publication (there are many more!), there is one thing that is common to all the personalities chronicled and those who are not in that particular publication – the fact that each of the personalities is a living legend in his/her own right!
One of them is Kazeem Olorunnimbe Ogbara, an experienced professional commercial banker with 30 years of experience that dates back to 1988, when he completed his NYSC at the (then) International Merchant Bank. He is also an entrepreneur of no mean stature, and scion of a great family – the Ogbara family of Ikorodu in Lagos State of Nigeria.
Kazeem, as he is simply and popularly called, needs very little introduction, especially in his native Ikorodu, amongst Lagosians, both at home and in the Diaspora, and in the banking industry in the whole of Nigeria and beyond.
This is because apart from hailing from a great, prosperous and highly regarded family, he has chalked up an intimidating profile in his chosen career and has distinguished himself through patriotic contributions to his fatherland.
Born 58 years ago to late Alhaji (Chief) Lamidi Ogbara, the patriarch of the family and a prosperous and popular billionaire businessman of his time; and late Alhaja Moriat Ogbara; he started his education at African Bethel Cathedral Primary School Marina, Lagos, the same School which his late father attended; and later went to Ebenezer Comprehensive High School, Agege, Lagos, after which he proceeded to the United Kingdom for further studies in 1978.
Armed with first and Master’s (MBA) degrees from the University of Wales in the United Kingdom, the budding professional, now an accomplished technocrat returned to Nigeria and joined the nation’s challengingly fascinating banking industry to begin a career that has been upwardly mobile in the last three decades!
Taking off as a national youth corps member, NYSC at the International Merchant Bank (IMB) in 1987/88, our personality brand in focus joined Eko International Bank (restructured to form EIB International Bank Plc) as a graduate trainee in June, 1990, which bank became one of the legacy banks that formed Skye Bank Plc in 2006, courtesy of the consolidation of the banking industry at the time. He has served (and is serving) in various capacities in the bank.
Worthy of note is the fact that his late father had desired for him and was, indeed, preparing Kazeem to take over the management of his chains of business while he was yet alive. It thus took some effort to convince him to allow this man of destiny to take to banking on his return from his academic sojourn abroad.
As it turned out, however, and like the brilliant young Ogbara assured his dad way back then, his banking experience has more than sharpened his skills in business management – an asset which he has deployed into actually combining his career with fulfilling his father’s wish and actualizing his old man’s dream of managing his business as the Secretary and Treasurer of his companies before his demise, a role which he (Kazeem) performed creditably. Notably, this man of destiny is still a Director in all of his dad’s companies, especially Ogbara Property and Company Limited, the Flagship Company in the Group!
Reflecting on his contributions to Lagos, his state and of which he is so proud, Ogbara has this to say, “As a proud indigene of Lagos State and a responsible Lagosian, I have contributed my little quota, especially as a banker. I have been involved in the servicing and rendering of cutting-edge financial services to State projects, Structuring of financial instruments, assisting conglomerates, manufacturing companies, traders, schools, churches and mosques, hospitals, Cooperatives and other associations; and general Merchandisers. All these have impacted positively on the State’s and Nigeria’s economy, by extension”.
Continuing, he says, “Most importantly…my contributions cannot be over emphasized in Ikorodu, in particular, especially when I supervised as Regional Director for the area. Economic growth through commercial business activities supported by the influx of our banking services, naturally created employment and resulted in exponential growth of private and public enterprises which, in turn, resulted in increased revenue even for governments. I have contributed and still contribute to the growth of Ikorodu Oga Development Association, IKODA such that I once chaired the grand finale of the IKODA AWARDS in 2015. All this is aside my humble contributions to worship centres across both the Islamic and Christian faiths and religious groups like NASFAT which honoured me with an award in 2016”.
In so doing, the scion of the Ogbara family, just like his siblings, is only holding aloft the torch lighted by his father who, in his lifetime, was the first caretaker committee representing Ikorodu (during the regime of Brigadier Mobolaji Johnson), a community leader, philanthropist and first Treasurer of Ikorodu Town Hall Project; a dispute resolution expert, the quality that earned him the title of the Man of Peace and Olori Giwa Giwa of Ikorodu Central Mosque, just to mention a few.
Kazeem Ogbara was conferred with the chieftaincy title of Asoju Oba of Ikorodu Kingdom by Alaiyeluwa Oba Kabir Adewale Shotobi, Adegorushen V, Ayangburen of Ikorodu Kingdom and First permanent Vice Chairman, Lagos State Council of Obas and Chiefs on August 12, 2015.
Instructively, this chieftaincy title was reserved for his father in recognition, appreciation and celebration of the immense contributions of the departed patriarch to his native land. This, no doubt, is a loud attestation to the fact that Kazeem is wearing the big shoes of his father.
In all of this, Chief Ogbara’s interest in education is very deep and his search for knowledge has been consistent and continuing. As such, he has attended a myriad of top management training programmes including, but not limited to, a Senior Management Programme at the Lagos Business School. In fact, he is an alumnus of several business schools, both local and foreign; and he is, at the moment, pursuing a Ph.D. programme in Credit Management at the London Postgraduate Credit Management College, UK. A scholar and professional that he is, he was conferred with a doctorate degree (Honoris Causa) in Business Administration and Banking & Finance by Cosmopolitan University, United States of America in May, 2016; he is a Fellow of both the Institute of Credit Administration, FICA and the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria (Chartered), fnimn; he is equally a certified Honorary Senior Member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (HCIB) alongside numerous other awards and laurels.
A professional to the core, Asoju Kazeem Olorunnimbe Ogbara is a member of several social clubs, especially Ikoyi Club 1938, Island Club, Lagos Lawn Tennis Club and Oriwu Club, Ikorodu.
He is married to a daughter of the late popular industrialist, Chief Amzat Adebowale of the legendary Odomola Family of Epe; and the marriage is blessed with three boys.
Prodded on his future plans, he disclosed that he will, on retirement from the banking industry, go into a full-time entrepreneurship programme and that his next step would be to seek opportunities to lend his experience and expertise to help governments at all levels and across the various Arms as well as the private sector in the areas of life coaching and mentorship of youths and start-up entrepreneurs.
And, taking a peep into the Lagos State of the future, he firmly declared, “I see Lagos State becoming like such cities as New York and Chicago in the US, London in the UK, Paris in France, Berlin in Germany, Barcelona in Spain, Tokyo in Japan, and Istanbul in Turkey”.
By AMOS OLADELE