VP’s Remarks At First Bank Of Nigeria’s 125th Anniversary

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This is very wonderful and l really want to thank the organisers for very thoughtfully putting together such a splendid ceremony, from the delightful turn out of pictures which shows some of the very memorable messages.  l said to His Royal Highness after listening to his speech, l must say that these are the confessions of the repentant captains.

But l thought that being the birthday of First Bank, that l should have offered a present to someone here who is enjoying this dinner as well as l am.

I want to ask if there is somebody for a price, who might know what name is given to the 125th anniversary? For example, you say jubilee for 50 years, what is that description for 125? If you know the answer just get up and tell us.

Actually, the word is pronounced “Quasquicentennial.”

So we all now know that the 125th anniversary is called the Quasquicentennial anniversary and l think that when we celebrate this kind of very special anniversaries, the reflection must be different from the other ones we celebrate.

But let me congratulate the board, management and staff, past and present of First Bank on this marvellous occasion of the 125th anniversary of the bank.

Being Nigeria’s premier and largest bank for decades is certainly worthy of celebration and in the past one-week or so, there has been a harvest of praise and commendations at home and abroad. I have been reading a few such tributes to First Bank and these days, l have a bit of time after campaigning and waiting for the inauguration.

But perhaps, one of the most intriguing for me was one written by my egbon, JK Randle, where he opened by saying that “The combination of One plus Two and Five – making eight has significant implications amongst magicians, tarot card readers, fortune tellers, snake charmers and Pentecostal preachers of prosperity, who insist that it is supercharged with spiritual dimensions. Regardless, we must abandon metaphysics and concentrate instead on heartily congratulating our nation’s oldest bank on its 125 Anniversary.”

But I disagree with him slightly, any entity that attains the age of 125 cannot complain if people take a spiritual approach to explain its phenomena.

How many ‘anything’ last 100 years, let alone 125?

So let me add mine to it.  For me, there are at least three takeaways from the First Bank odyssey.

The first is the place of grace, which is described as unmerited favor in the life of any human or institution. It is that factor that cannot be explained by administrative acumen, financial prudence or good business practices alone.  This is important because so many old banks that were well established, well run all over the world have failed even in old age.

And many here would remember Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Barring Brothers in the UK and co., have collapsed in living memory. And the collapse of some of them is not necessarily due to mismanagement.


In any event, who is to say which error of judgment can become fatal. So there is something to be said for grace and providence. The hand of God, I believe, is the reason for First Bank to thank God for His hand in their story.

The second is that the status of an icon comes with responsibility. You have nothing more to prove except that good values can be allowed to thrive and should endure.

As President Buhari said in his congratulatory message to First Bank at the weekend,  “purposefulness, prudence and propriety” have come to define this Institution.

For an iconic institution, every new day is legacy and history being made.

The third and final point is a little presumptuous, and in the form of counsel, how does a 62-year-old young man like me advise a 125-year-old?

My counsel is that age is not a barrier to innovation and vision. Indeed to take again from the Scriptures, we are told that Abraham at the age of 90 got a fresh mandate from God. Regularly renewing your mandate and reworking your vision will surely help to keep you ahead of the young Turks who continually challenge your premier status.

We are extremely proud of First Bank because your success all these years reinforce our belief in ourselves as a people and as a nation and not only are we capable of building great institutions, we can nurture them for centuries.

So let me say a birthday prayer…


As your days so shall your strength, so shall your success and so shall your favour with God in Jesus name, amen. And everyone who says amen will live long, amen.

Happy Quasquicentennial Anniversary!

Thank you very much.