Friday, December 27, 2019 9:51 pm
By Segun Adedoyin
It is now 29 years since I got my first job after graduation from the Law School. Unlike my fellow Lawyers, my career did not begin in a Law firm. I joined the headquarters of a prestigious Merchant Bank, known in those days as “International Merchant Bank.” The Bank had two owners:The Federal Government of Nigeria with 60% shares and the First National Bank of Chicago with 40% of the shares in the Bank
It was an elite Bank built beside the Atlantic ocean in Victoria Island. The bar beach was its closest neighbour. The IMB headquarters was a magnificent structure known as the “glass house “. it was a beauty to behold, constructed mainly with glass. This Bank building had no rival at the time in terms of aesthetics and value. The atmosphere was indeed quite cosy,fully air-conditioned with the regular snacks and free lunch.
What about the people in the bank? You had the finest brains in Banking, Finance and Accountancy. In IMB, you got a job because you graduated from a top rate university with very high grades or the then military establishment saw no harm in you and/or wanted you in. I won’t tell you in which category I belonged at that time.
IMB produced the Godfather himself-Ebitimi Banigo. He was a former CEO and accepted as mentor by many Nigerian Bank CEO’s. Banigo, in 2005, could count 30 Nigerian Bank CEO’s who had trained under him in IMB. His protege includes Jim Ovia, founder of Zenith Bank, Akinsola Akinfenwa,former CEO of Skye Bank, Adeyinka Asekun, former chairman of Wema Bank and Ernest Ebi, former CBN Deputy Governor.Reginald Ihejiahi,former CEO of Fidelity Bank,Godwin Obaseki, current Governor of Edo State and fair-skinned Folorunsho Alakija,now billionaire oil magnate.All these people worked with Banigo when he was CEO of IMB .
I recall admiring and relating with brilliant minds who were my superior officers- Henry Imasekha, always dressed in the finest suits, Bismarck Rewane with his jerry curled hair and straight gait. Dele Joda with his mid -pattern hair cut. Mosun Oyerinde, who doubled as my “aunt “and HOD. Bayo Babatunde,another superior officer ,always wore the latest style of suits and was always smelling nice. Funmi Dele-Giwa, wife of the late Dele Giwa, was my immediate supervisor. She was a very considerate person-Kind and beautiful. Shola Momoh, wife of the Channels TV CEO, sharp-witted ,eloquent and very pretty. The women in IMB seemed like they were selected from a beauty pageant. Gbenga Adimula, my egbon ,who dotted on me.
My Colleagues: Sally Mbanefo, ravishing beauty. She was DG of the National Tourism commission(NTDC). Tim Agba, my close buddy. Mabel Ndagi, Gbenga Yerokun, Binta Musa and Dobson Omene..
With the array of sound professionals training you in IMB, you can only turn out wiser than you were before you joined the bank.
It was not all good but certainly was not the era of grand looting of banks as it happened later with Oceanic and Intercontinental banks under Cecilia Ibru and Akingbola. Matter of fact, sometime ago, I met Mr John Oyetan, former CEO of IMB and NAL Merchant Banks in his modest rented apartment in Ikoyi. It was in a block of flats! We discussed this issue. A simple and contented man. He ran 2 banks at seperate times, for more than 6 years.
While I was in the Bank. It took only 3 years for me to predict the future of not only IMB but Banking in Nigeria. I knew it was time for me to leave . By early 1993, I had left IMB.
Unfortunately, this training ground known as IMB no longer exists in name. The building itself is a shadow of it’s former self.
The good news however, is that the seeds it has sown in the form of JIM Ovia and co are building edifices and doing good for themselves all over the Nigerian landscape.
So much for IMB.
-Segun Adedoyin, a lawyer, writes from Lagos