Friday, October 16, 2015 12:46 pm
Sometime in 1988, I received a call from a good friend about an interesting investment opportunity with a few colleagues. After a series of meetings, it became very clear to me that we were about to embark on an audacious but incredibly special journey, and I was excited about the prospect of being a part of such a project. For almost 2 years, I worked alongside the likes of Akin Akintoye, Fola Adeola, Tayo Aderinokun (of blessed memory), Gbolly Osibodu, Bode Agusto and a few others on this investment project. As of 1988 when we began the journey, Fola was 34, Tayo was 33, Gbolly was 33, Bode was 33, Akin was 35 and I was 33. The objective: To own a BANK.
It was a bold objective considering our respective ages at the time, but certainly not an impossible task in our eyes. So we began to hold countless meetings at Fola’s residence in 1988, until we eventually shifted base to Tayo’s First Marina Trust office in Victoria Island. By late 1989, we were ready to put in our bank application at CBN, along with the required minimum capital. This effort was spearheaded by Fola and Tayo (the two brains behind the entire operation), and supported by about 40 persons (including myself), most of whom were in their early 30s and working for different organizations at the time.
The end product? We formed arguably one of the finest financial institutions Nigeria has ever seen- Guaranty Trust Bank (known as GT Bank today). The bank was licensed on the 1st of August,1990 and we commenced banking operations later that year. A group of young boys in their early/mid 30s OWNED a bank! We simply dreamt big, and turned this dream into reality.
I am taking the liberty to reflect on this chapter of my personal history against the backdrop of some of the criticisms about the ages of some of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministerial nominees. The argument being brandished about is that by nominating the likes of Chief Audu Ogbeh and Alhaji Ibrahim, Usman Jubril as ministers, our President is somehow blocking the destinies of younger Nigerians by preventing them from occupying such positions.
People are quick to reference Yakubu Gowon and Murtala Mohammed as being relatively young when they ascended to power, and they argue that the same opportunities that young people had in the past are no longer available today. They also argue that around the same time we were forming GT Bank in the late eighties, there were also a number successful young entrepreneurs who distinguished themselves as well – Bola Tinubu (Treasurer at Mobil Oil), Gbade Ojora (ED Mobil Oil), Jim Ovia (Zenith Bank), Erastus Akingbola (Intercontinental), Dele Momodu (Publishing), Tony Elumelu (Standard Trust), Liyel Imoke (Politics), O’tega Emerhor (Standard Alliance Insurance), Aig Imoukhuede and Herbert Wigwe (Access) and Atedo Peterside (IBTC) are some of the noteworthy youngsters who made an impact in various fields in Nigeria at the time.
Perhaps, at play is the venting of some on-going frustrations by the younger generation today, but it is important to put things into proper perspective. Since pre-independence, the Nigerian youth have played a pivotal role in nation-building and economic development. The vast majority of the founding fathers that led the struggle for our independence were relatively young. Chief Obafemi Awolowo was 37, Akintola was 36, Ahmadu Bello was 36, Balewa was 34 and Enahoro was 27 when they led the struggle for independence after the death of Sir Herbert Macaulay.
Only Nnamdi Azikiwe was over 40 (he was about 42 at the time). Indeed, even the post-independence military hierarchy was fueled by the active participation of young persons in nation-building at critical periods of our nation’s history. The first coup in 1966 was led by a 29- year old Nzeogwu and countered by the likes of T.Y. Danjuma, Shehu Musa Yar’adua and a few others, all in their 20s.