For First Bank of Nigeria, 125 years is not just a number

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  • Continued from last week.


It goes without saying that the British managers of the Bank had easy access to the colonial administrators from the rank of District officers to Lieutenant-Governor and Governor/Governor-General. They belonged to the same exclusive social clubs e.g. Ikoyi Club (which was previously known as the European Club); and enjoyed special medical facilities e.g. “European Hospital” (now Military Hospital) while the General Hospital was for “the natives”.

All over Nigeria, the Bank worked the same hours as the colonial government officials.

Government offices and banks would open on the dot of 8 o’clock in the morning and close at 3 p.m. which left plenty of time for lunch and siesta followed by golf, tennis, squash racquets or billiards at the club.

Cocktails and dinner either at club or at each other’s homes were regular features of the day and night. At the weekends, cricket, beach parties/picnics, boating, fishing, swimming and horse-riding were generally available for the expatriates.

As for “the natives”, they had to make do with whatever leisure activities they could rustle up by relying on their ingenuity. Entrance to the exclusive clubs and residences of the expatriates was only through the back door or the kitchens. The only leveller was the scourge of malaria and diarrhoea which ravaged West Africa with vicious frequency. It provided the colonial officers and British bank managers with a ready excuse for the consumption of large quantities of gin and tonic, with whiskey and soda as the alternative to be chased with brandy and cigars. Champagne came much later.

As if to ape their colonial masters and British bank managers, “the natives” took to smoking cigarettes and pipes stacked with imported (or local) tobacco. In addition, they made do with beer and football.… Read More...