During the Nigeria-Biafra civil war, many Igbo people fled other parts of the country for the East because they were being killed and massacred wantonly and the Federal Military Government was doing nothing about it.
Many abandoned their homes, properties and businesses for safety. Of them, was a young Igbo architect who had a young Yoruba banker as a neighbour in Apapa, Lagos. He also abandoned his home, and with his family, fled for the East.
However, the young Yoruba banker, while the war lasted, rented out his neighbour’s house and kept every kobo for him while he was in the East.
In 1970, after the war had ended, the Igbo architect returned to Lagos and the Yoruba banker handed over the entire proceeds of the rent, and also the house, to the Igbo architect.
Some few years later, the Igbo architect became the Vice President of Nigeria and the Yoruba banker established a commercial bank; the first by a private citizen in the country’s history.
However, he could not get a license to begin banking operations. Many people were against him because it was unheard of at the time.
At this time, the banker remembered his neighbour who was now the Vice President and tracked him to the Christ Church Cathedral, Marina, Lagos on a particular Sunday. He had tried to get an appointment to see him in his office but it was without success.
He and his wife then decided to go lay ambush for him at the Church but the security men would not allow them around the Vice President. The couple then decided to sit by the pew close to the aisle to beat the security in the hope that the Vice President would see them while he walked to the front row. Yet, he still didn’t see them.
After the church programme, they positioned that he will see them on his way out. However, the people following him out and the security men blocked his view. That was when the banker’s wife decided to take a risk and like the woman with the issue of blood, pulled the Vice President’s attire to get his attention who then turned and saw his old friend and his wife.
The young banker then narrated his plight and told the Vice President how he had tried to see him and what he needed to see him for. He told the him about his application for a bank licence.
“Don’t worry yourself. Just come tomorrow at the Federal Executive Council meeting which I would preside because President Shehu Shagari would not be there,” the Vice President assured him.
At 3.00 pm the next day, the Finance Minister called the banker on phone that his licence was ready. The rest they say is history.
That young banker was Otunba Michael Olasubomi Balogun while the architect in this narrative was one of Africa’s elder statesmen and former Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Alex Ekwueme. The bank is what is now First City Monument Bank (FCMB).
by: Ayomide Akinbode, silvernewsng