The day was Wednesday, December 16, 1987. The venue, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos. The grandeur of the occasion was Alfa Communication Publishers of the Banking Annual, Incorporating who is who in banking.
The company‚Äôs management had instituted an award known as Banker of the Year. The award was supposed to have been given August 19, but an event of August 19, but had to hold as 1987 event would not be postponed beyond 1987.
The time for Wednesday gathering was fixed at 10.45 am.
At 8.50 a.m. the writer was at the venue to have first hand information from start to finish of the event of the day. On arrival, there was no sign that any big event would be taking place some one hour ahead.
Concerned, the writer consulted with off Vials of NHA. They were aware of the event but not sure of the time. Well I will – The usual attitude reporters you might say.
At exactly 9 a.m. commercial Kombi bus brought a naval band outfit for the same event. They asked for the venue, the lecture theatre of NHA. It was not even opened as then. At their instance the place was opened inspected and decided on where best their band would be. The set about their business with the usual military; tradition not minding if the event would still hold or not.
At 9.45 a.m. still m sign of anything happening. The organiser were yet to put up appearance. Just the came the first bank an assistant general manager with First Bank was engaged in a pep talk.
After some round talks about “beautiful Nigeria” he chipped i do you think the gathering would hold? Perhaps it has been a celled. I was optimist would hold and I t him so. Do you think it would be a successful gathering if it held? Yes I said consider the personality invited. Minutes later started trickling in men in suit and tie alighting from them. It happened in such a quick succession that at 10 am quite a sizeable number of people had come in.
Those around started to take their seats and in a matter of 15 minutes, every available space at the lecture theatre had been taken over with bankers, individuals, journalists and others from all walks of life. The crowd was large and impressive. Men wh were worth their salt in financial circles were around, an army major, a police senior officer all took their seats to witness the novel occasion.
Just about 11 am, came a rush of press camera men. They were rushing I to take vantage positions in front, a sign that the big ones were approaching. Then came a welcoming tune from the naval band ushering in Mr. Ola Vincent, Dr. Pius Okigbo and the award winner and his wife.
The master of ceremony took the stage and after a brief introduction he said, ‚Äúthe chairman of tonight‚Äôs occasion, it was laughing and correction of this morning, that brought Patrick Oke of NTA Newsline fame to the reality that he was not representing the 9.80 pm NTA Newsline hit a aster of ceremony at NIIA in restitute of banker of the year.
He successfully introduced the chairman, Mr. Ola Vincent and the guest speaker, Mr. Pius Okigbo. On the mention and introduction of the award winner it was clap, clap, clap from the moment he got up from his sea to the time he took his place on the high table. It was an August ovation that gave credence to his popularity among his peers and to his choice as the first winner of the banker of the year. It was the treat for his wife. The preliminaries of the ceremony continued with a brief welcome address from the chief executive of Alfa Communication, Mr. Tunde Fagbenle.
Mr. Fagbenle disclosed that the primary objective of instituting the banker of the year aware was to provide a forum for the acknowledgment of exceptional competence and professional excellence in one of the most important sub-sectors of the Nigerian economy.
He further disclosed that it was felt in his company that while there is some superficial public awareness concerning the importance of sector, a platform needed to be created to acknowledge the tremendous contributions which operators in the sector have made and continue to make to the economic of advancement of Nigeria.
The chairman of the occasion spoke most eloquent and persuasively on the Nigerian economy laying same perceived problems of parastatals and the issue of the oil subsidy removal. At a point, the world bank representative got up and left the hall in apparent protest over the criticism on world bank advised reforms being carried by Nigeria. He left and never returned.
Dr. Pius Okigbo the guest speaker took the opportunity to unmask banks in th country pointing out their flaws and made proposals for the key roles they should play in the economy. The real moment came when the award winner was to be crowned. The editor in chief of Alfa Communications outlined the methodology in selecting the banker of the year.
According to him the first step was he sending of opinion poll questionnaire to all fellows of the Nigeria Institute of Banker, all permanent secretaries of finance and economy planning, Federal permanent secretaries in Economic Ministries and departments, including finance and national planning all chief executives of banks and financial journalists.
According to the editor in chief, these eminent and knowledgeable personalities were asked to individually indicate their choice for Nigeria‚Äôs Banker of the Year, using contributions to the banking industry, contributions to national debates on and economic matters, publications, contributions to society managerial ability, innovations and others as criteria.
The banker of the year 1987 according to the spokesman polled 50% higher than this immediate rival who scored less than 6%. They did not elaborate on actual scores.
The touching moments came when Ikenna Ndaguba, of Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, FRCN, read the citation which aroused the emotions of those present at the occasion.
The citation was catalogue of pioneering achievements amongst which were the initiation of the rural banking programme while at the Central Bank.e