Note: Chief M K O Abiola, during the Presidential campaign in 1992-3had promised to ask for reparations totalling several billion dollars from all the countries which participated in the slave trade.
ACCORDING to MKO, the whites forced our fore-fathers to work for nothing while enriching their masters. Instead of asking for financial aids and debt forgiveness from those countries, we should instead send them a bill on behalf of our parents carried abroad in the 17th and 18th centuries. Curiously, reparations have cropped up as a credible defence of their nefarious activities by some Yahoo Boys in a group led by an unemployed graduate. One of them might break into a Central Bank in Europe.
What does corrupting time not diminish? Our grandparents brought forth feebler heirs, we are further degenerate; and soon will beget progeny more wicked. —Horace, VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ 247.
Horace was right. If what my father and mother told me about their parents’ ethical standards and theirs was anything to go by, then their heirs and heiresses, including the fathers and mothers of everybody in my generation, were feebler. Dad regaled me with stories about how my grandfather and others trekked from their village to Lagos, Ilesha, etc. I had to include Ilesha because one of my great-grand fathers walked from Ogotun in Ekiti to Ilesha – nearly 80 kilometres – in search of work and education.
He got both. The best my father could do was a mere 25 kilometres. In my days, 1958-1962, at Igbobi College, Yaba, we had the annual Cross Country Race. Forget the hyperbole; all we covered was only about three to four kilometres and to me that was cruel and unusual punishment. But, before the bus services were extended beyond Yaba Bus Stop, we had to walk one and a half kilometres with our loads to the boarding house. And we thought nothing about it.
Today, if any child is asked to walk half that distance to receive education, he/she might never go to school. But, it is not physical degeneration which is destroying the future of Nigeria; it is moral decadence. It started with our parents – especially the politicians and bankers.
Omo yin o sagbafo, oun káso wale. E róju ole e o mu (Yoruba proverb). I will try my best to translate that Yoruba proverb which takes us directly to the heart of the matter. It means “Your son/daughter does not manage a laundry business. Yet, he brings fine clothes home freshly washed. Don’t you know you have caught a thief?” In the days of the grandparents, in any Nigerian society, known to me, a person living above his known means becomes a suspect? A thief was a thief and there was no dissent about it once someone could not satisfactorily explain how he came about valuable goods beyond his honest means of livelihood.
Furthermore, nobody in the community wanted to share the loot with the thief because there is a companion adage which said Eni gbe’po l’aja nikan kol’ole. Eni gba lowo e na ole ni. That easily translates to “It is not only the person who stole who is a thief, any accomplice is also guilty of the crime.” It was because nobody wanted to be an accomplice, before and after the act that honest people did not share in the booty.
Today, if the loot is big enough, millions will line up to collect their shares of the “national cake.” What has happened to our ethical standards and at what point did the degeneration occur? “A bank is a fraud supported by many for the benefit of a few corrupt people.”
There are certainly other reasons to adduce for the situation in which we find ourselves now with Nigerian youths. But, the rise of the first indigenous banks, based on regional/ethnic considerations was responsible. I have decided to use banks as a metaphor for all the other causes of pervasive moral degeneration in Nigeria. In arriving at this unpleasant conclusion, I have attempted to be as objective as possible. It would appear that sudden exposure and access of Nigerians to large sums of other peoples’ funds unhinges them in every generation. There is no other place where the frequent encounter with large sums of money occurs than in banks.
It might come as a surprise to most readers that even in the year 2020, banks are still to some extent frauds supported by millions of people, the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Federal Government – including courts. Only God knows how many trillions of Nigerian money is lost every year to ATM machines swallowing cards. Only the Almighty knows how many more trillions sit in dormant accounts of banks which they lend out to earn returns without making any investment. In many respects, millions of Nigerians are still supporting bankers’ legalised fraud for the benefit of a few.
The first banking crisis in Nigeria occurred in the 1950s and mostly in Lagos and the old Western Region. Indigenous banks were floated in the country to compete with the two foreign pioneers of banking – Bank of British West Africa, BBWA, and Barclays Bank DCO. In less than five years all but one of the Nigerian banks had collapsed. They were promoted by the first Nigerians educated and experienced in banking and the masses trusted them with their meagre funds.
Yet, the banks collapsed because they were consciencelessly looted by the promoters. The Nigerian factor had entered banking in a brutal way – never to leave it. Sacks of depositors’ funds were taken out with wastepaper to be lent to money-doublers who invariably vanished with some of the loot.
But, the bankers still had enough left of the stolen money to buy acres of land which today constitute some of our large estates – especially in Lagos – in Apapa, Ikeja, Gbagada, Anthony Village and Amuwo-Odofin; among others.
The first generation of “criminals in designer suits” (they are always well-dressed) went away with hundreds of millions of other peoples’ funds by buying up magistrates and by joining churches and mosques to which they make generous donations. The really astute ones joined secret cults among whose members were magistrates and justices. Thus, even if the evidence painted them as black as charcoal the judiciary discharged and made them as white as a lump of sugar. Banking in the 1950s was a grand conspiracy against depositors.
Unfortunately for the Central Bank and the banking authorities, who did not anticipate such pervasive misconduct by people regarded as pillars of society in those days, there were no statutes under which they could be effectively prosecuted. Some of them, being lawyers were aware of this and went on to take advantage of the lapse to rob their fellow Nigerians mercilessly. A few were back into banking during the second generation of banking during Babangida’s deregulation of banking under the Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP.
If any group of stakeholders can be accused of having worked assiduously to sabotage the efforts of the Federal Government to revive the Nigerian economy which was in a recession when Buhari involuntarily left office with the economy in a recession, that group would have to be bankers. If there is any top manager – chairman, managing director, executive and non-executive director of any bank in the 1980s who is prepared to tell the truth he would confirm what the banks did to ensure the partial failure of SAP.
I am not trying to promote my book, but more details are provided in the book Ibrahim B Babangida1985-1992: Letting A Thousand Flowers Bloom, Chapter 11. Permit me to quote a passage from that book. “SFEM was supposed to make access to foreign exchange easier and market determined. Instead of helping in achieving the objective, [all the] banks and financial houses stopped lending to manufacturers, as well as other businesses, and went into currency trading full time.
“The upward trend in the exchange rate was not determined by the end users or the market, but largely by a cabal of selfish bankers. It was also determined largely by the gains from round-tripping which all the banks adopted as official policy. It was deliberate sabotage,…”
To be continued…..