Silverbird Galleria: It’s not just about Ben Murray-Bruce…

Silverbird Galleria: It’s not just about Ben Murray-Bruce…

Friday, June 24, 2016 9:55 am


Silverbird Galleria

Silverbird Galleria

By Bayo Adeyinka

I’m very shocked that so many people are rejoicing and celebrating that AMCON has taken possession of the Silverbird Galleria. I’m shocked that people don’t know where to draw the line. I’m nauseated that people have sacrificed common sense on the altar of politics and partisanship. I’m shocked that some people who have never run even a small poultry for a day are ululating over the misfortune of a major employer of labour. How did we become like this?

Silverbird Group employs about 1,000 staff. Let’s assume each person has at least 3 dependants. In our clime, nobody lives or works for himself- you have a father, a mother, a brother, a sister or a relative that must enjoy your benevolence or philanthropy periodically. So, that makes it about 3,000 people who feed directly or indirectly from Silverbird. There is a father who will not be able to buy his drug because the son won’t be paid because AMCON has taken possession. With 1,000 staff on his payroll, Silverbird is a major employer of labour in the country.

Bayo Adeyinka

Bayo Adeyinka

Then, there are vendors or contractors who carry out one job or the other for Silverbird- the man who handles computer repairs, the supplier of stationeries and toiletries, the mechanic who repairs their vehicles, the carpenter or artisan who engages in repair works at their offices, the woman who provides lunch for staff, etc. Those vendors or contractors have Silverbird as their meal ticket. The vendors or contractors also have families to feed at home. There is a daughter whose school fees will not be paid because his father is a vendor to Silverbird and can no longer execute his contract. She may take to the streets. But it’s not just about the daughter- it’s about a glorious future that may be truncated. Maybe we have another 1,000 people here directly or indirectly. So, the cycle is expanding.

On the 8th of May, 1939, Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s properties were auctioned after his business and investments collapsed during the recession of the 1930s. His house in Ikenne was auctioned for 40 pounds and his Chevrolet car for 25 pounds. Even his clothes were auctioned. But he would later regain them again. It is not a crime to owe. We should never criminalize entrepreneurship that runs into murky waters.

It’s not only about individuals or contractors. Even the government will be hurt. Taxes will not be paid. But it is not only government that will be hurt. Even churches and mosques will be hurt- if I’m not employed, I won’t pay my tithe. I won’t think about Zakat. Self-preservation is what will be uppermost in my mind. So, the cycle is expanding.

It goes beyond Ben Murray-Bruce. That is why the AMCON take-over should rather be a source of deep reflection for all of us. Ben Bruce must certainly settle his obligations. He needs to engage AMCON with a loan work-out programme that is reasonable and feasible.

Let me end with this story. On the 8th of May, 1939, Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s properties were auctioned after his business and investments collapsed during the recession of the 1930s. His house in Ikenne was auctioned for 40 pounds and his Chevrolet car for 25 pounds. Even his clothes were auctioned. But he would later regain them again. It is not a crime to owe. We should never criminalize entrepreneurship that runs into murky waters. I pray that Ben Murray-Bruce will rise again- not just because of him but because of thousands who depend on him to make their livelihood.

Is it a curious coincidence that the person on whose timeline I first saw the story has been owing me for more than a year and has refused to pay?

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