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Saturday, 20th April 2024
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anthonia akingbola

Anthonia Akingbola

Anthonia Akingbola is a renowned accountant, banker and administrator. She began her career in the finance sector at the Union Bank of Nigeria Plc., where she rose to become the First Lady Inspection Officer of Union Bank of Nigeria PIc. She is currently the Chief Executive Officer at Tropics Finance.

The Good Old Days

I grew up in a large nuclear family. We are eight children: three boys and five girls. I’m the sixth child. My parents were wonderful, and the image I have of God as a loving and caring father I owe, to a large extent, to the kind of father I had. He was hardworking, loving, and faithful to his family. In spite of the constraints of work and time, he managed it all so well that he spent quality time with his children. We were with him and always approached him for questions, company, and discussions. He, with my mum,
worked tirelessly to take care of our growing needs and sent us all to school. We lived in the good old Lagos. The community then was simple and beautiful. People related with one another very well. Neighbours showed genuine interest in one another. The society was less complicated than what we have today. It was not uncommon to gather outside in the evenings and listen to moonlight tales. We kids around the neighborhood grew up together as well. If we were not worshiping in the same place, we were attending the same school, and I remember that festive periods were times we looked forward to and individual religious beliefs didn’t tamper with that. If one’s neighbour was a Moslem, we celebrated the Ileya or other festivals together, and when it was Christmas or the lent period, we observed it together as well.

Right Steps

I had my primary education at Our Lady of Apostle’s Primary School, Yaba. I can’t recall any striking thing about my days then. However, I recall that I used to be a quiet person in my secondary school, which was Queens’ College, Yaba. My elder sisters attended Queen’s College as well. My immediate elder sister was quite boisterous, my complete opposite, such that people found it hard to believe that we were sisters from the same parents,
even though we looked alike. I related very well with my teachers, so well that even till now, we’ve remained close friends. I came out with a B.Sc in Accounting from the University of Lagos and went for an Advanced Management Programme at the Lagos Business School. I am a chartered stockbroker as well.

After my secondary education, I had some setbacks so I couldn’t go to the University immediately. My father suggested I worked. So, I started my career as a clerk at Union Bank. This was a right step towards fulfilling my dreams. I’ve always wanted to be an accountant since my primary school days. After my university education, I participated in several relevant core banking courses that accelerated my professional development. I became the
first female Inspector in 1988 at Union Bank, Lagos Branch, and was on it before I voluntarily retired in 1991 to manage Tropics Finance and Investments Limited. I have been on this since then.

Under Nobody’s Shadow

The banking sector where I have worked is not gender biased, in the sense that some benefits are not more favourable to men than to women. I’ve never worked in the civil service, so I can’t say categorically what operates there. I’ve never experienced any gender discrimination in my job, but the only thing that comes to mind was when I wanted to get an issuing house licence from the Securities and Exchange Commission. We also needed the
certificate of registration from them. So I went with my staff for the interview. At the end of the exercise, the statement made by the late Mr. Akamiokor that he thought I was working under the shadow of my husband struck a chord in me. He said he had assumed that it was my husband that was ‘pushing me’, or giving me credibility but that the way I distinguished myself during the interview had proved him wrong.

If there is discrimination against women at the workplace, it is because women are not working hard to change the status quo. When I started off in the bank, it was the era where people could stay on the same clerical grade for nine years. This was common especially amongst many women, who didn’t feel they needed to improve themselves. It’s unfortunate, but there are still those in this 21st century who think the only way up for them is to go to
one man or another. Many of them have a lackadaisical attitude to work. They don’t believe one can get to the top without the boss going to bed with them, thereby giving the impression that every woman is like that. Maybe in the past, when most women were not having easy access to formal education, one could sympathize with this feeling of being a second-class citizen. But what edge has any boss over his female staff, or what right has
he to make illicit advances towards you if you are at the same educational level with him?

My mentors have always been those women who went ahead to improve themselves. There is hardly an area of banking I do not know something about because not only did I start my banking career at a young age, I also started the career at Barclays Bank (now Union Bank) which was a good ground for banking. However, at times it is a Herculean task to have a woman as one’s boss, especially if one is more qualified than she is. I’ve had
that experience, but at the end I sailed through. Women must be willing to be hardworking, forthright, and visionary, if they want to compete favourably with others: men or fellow women. When I used to be the only woman on the Council of Bank Directors’ Association, I considered it a positive thing and used it to the advantage of the women staff working with me. I once listened to a lecture on CBN by John Hackey in his programme, ‘The Man Talk’. He was of the opinion that most men and women do not think alike. This comes in useful when the men on the board approve the sack of a staff, especially when it’s a woman. I try to make them consider things by highlighting outside causes that might have affected the quality of work of the staff. At the end of the day, they do listen and give the person another chance. Most times, they are not disappointed. I let my working environment work with me. I see these men as my fathers, so am willing to learn from them. 

Stockbroking is more of a male domain, but there is no need to feel intimidated because there are a lot of other women doing well. Take the Director General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Dr. Mrs. Ndi Okereke Onyiuke (OON) as an example. She has done so much to encourage women to join the profession and be active on the trading floor. There is also the Director General of NAFDAC, Professor Dora Akunyili, as well as Prisca Soares of NICON. It is easier for the women to effect transformational changes for all when they are at the top. With hard work, they are prepared to get things done properly to the best of their ability. It is disheartening to note cases of discrimination against women in Nigeria. When one considers some widowhood practices meted out to women in some parts of the country, one wonders where our humanity is. A woman should try as much as possible to have basic education, at least. More importantly, a woman should be economically empowered. This way, she would be able to live a better life and ensure that her children do not suffer.

Marriage is a School

I met my husband when I was working at the Union Bank, before I
proceeded for university studies. We’ve been together for over 25 years. Till today, when I consider how we met, I thank God for the setbacks I had which caused the delay in my going straight to the university after secondary school. Marriage is a school of life we all go through to acquire knowledge and neither one’s father nor mother will be there with one. With this in mind, I counsel young people to pattern their marriage according to biblical injunctions. The relationship must remain platonic until marriage. I have
practised it and it has paid off. Keeping a relationship platonic until marriage helps one to view the other person objectively and see if one could stick with certain attitudes for the rest of one’s life. It also prevents the possibility of getting infected with AIDS or any of the sexually transmitted diseases. It is risky and foolish to go into an intimate relationship with a man or woman with whom one has no marital commitment. The cost is too high, no matter what material benefits both stand to gain. I read in the papers of the dilemma a 17-year old girl put herself into because the man she was courting jilted her when she ignored him for denying her the three hundred naira she requested from him. The story is pathetic because that child has no business talking of such issues at her age. It is important to know that not all friendships end up in marriage. What happens then if one has given in to sexual advances that could result in pregnancy and/or diseases?

After one has prayed and done one’s courtship the proper way, one must not forget that blending would take time. It is not automatic. Each partner has come from a background that is different from the other. It is through one’s patience, strength and understanding when the toils and difficulties inherent in every relationship come, that blending will become firm and strong. Motherhood is fulfilling, though to a large extent, this depends on the relationship a mother has with her kids. The joy of motherhood is to see that children have imbibed the values they were brought up with. It’s like our work speaking for us, and our prayer is that our work speaks well concerning us. As a woman, the home is our primary responsibility and if a woman has the greatest career, but fails in raising her kids properly then she is a failure. It’s like success without successors.

When my husband and I were raising our kids, we didn’t give room for indulgence. For instance, our first son was taken to school everyday in our car. But one day, my husband and I decided that our son needed to have a taste of what it meant going through the public transport. So, we asked his uncle who was living with us then, to take him by bus through Sabo. It was a fresh experience for him because when he came back from school, he was full of stories of the reality of going to school through this means of transport. The first thing was how the conductor shouted ‘Iwaya- waya- waya!’ And he went on to tell us how a school girl’s plate of rice fell off and was ran over by a coming bus as she tried to get on to the bus he was in. I recall an incident when one of the officers in my husband’s office called me on the phone and said he saw my son trekking home. That was when he was in SS2 in King’s College, Lagos, and I remember I was quick to ask him what was wrong with that. Life is not a bed of roses. My husband and I try not to over protect them.

Dealing with teenagers, as I have them now, isn’t easy. They feel they’re adults and sometimes you have to try and see issues from their own perspective. It is not in all cases that they are wrong, especially when one is fair to remember one’s younger days too, when one had had to think differently from one’s parents. It’s always a case of looking at the same thing from different perspectives. It is not uncommon to hear them say ‘you people should respect us as graduates’, when we try to put pressure on them concerning certain issues. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learnt in being a mother is patience. Without patience, we can’t take pains to reason properly with each other and that way, we won’t be able to teach and correct them when they go wrong. The kids and I got talking recently, and I wanted to know what they felt about when they were younger. My firstborn said whenever they wanted to ask me for anything, they would first make the sign of the cross! They knew it was expected of them to ask properly if they wanted me to fulfill their need. When one watches the children progress in life, the pains and challenges expended in bringing them up become worthwhile.

I Don’t Lose My Sleep

When it comes to work ethics, my guiding principle is found in Philippians 4:16, ‘Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things’. I commend honesty and I find it difficult, if not impossible, to work with a dishonest fellow. As long as a person is honest, we would always be good friends. Honesty also means
one owns up after doing a bad thing. For instance, I always try to be as sincere as possible in my relationship with my husband. If I do anything wrong, I tell him, and apologize, but not after giving him my reasons for doing the wrong thing.

I do my work painstakingly, irrespective of who is there, because in Colossian 3:23-24, the Bible says, ‘Whatever your hands find to do, do it heartily as unto the Lord’. I remember our principal in Queens’ College, Mrs. Coker, used to tell us then that respect isn’t demanded but earned, and that it is equally reciprocal. And because I know it is the Lord that gives the reward, I believe in diligence and hardwork. Over and above everything, I trust in God, no matter what the situation is. I don’t lose my sleep over issues that bother me. I tell myself it’s a ‘passing phase’ and it usually is,
and with the efficacy of prayers, things end up working out the way God wants them.

Tropics Finance

Tropics Finance has been able to maintain its head above the fierce competition of the financial world. This is because we work by our rules. It is alarming to see and hear of cases of fraud in the course of banking operations. Some bankers of today have no idea of how to make a distinction between whether the bank was slack in the performance of its duty, or whether the customers were negligent. As much as possible, we do not engage in ‘backstabbing’ because in the long run, the benefits that accrue
through that are short-lived. The Bible talks about that in Jeremiah 17:11 that, ‘As the partridge sits on eggs that are not hatched, so is he that gets riches in a fraudulent way; he would leave them in the midst of his days and in the end be a fool’. This scenario happened with the chickens I keep. My children were so excited the first time they sighted a live chicken that I decided to keep poultry from those my mother-in-law brought from Ile-Ife.

One of the local hens was incubating her eggs but got up, probably to ease itself, during which time an ‘agric-hen’ came over to sit atop the eggs. You know what happened? It instantly fell down and died. And that’s scripture being fulfilled. We operate above board in our finance operation because we are concerned not only with acquiring capital but also by what means we acquire it. We think more of what happens in the long run than undue emphasis on the initial gain. People say the end justifies the means, but in Tropics Finance, the end does not always justify the means; rather, it is the means that justifies or condemns the end. We are wary of anything done indecently, so we believe in being as straightforward as possible in our operations. We have been able to achieve much through God’s help, but the best is yet to come. We are still striving.

Modesty in All Things

I go on the treadmill everyday, except on weekends when there are occasions to grace. I used to be very tiny as a child, because I remember always having to be in the front when we march off to morning mass as a catholic in Queens College. Most of my classmates would be very surprised to see me now with so much weight. At the time of my wedding, my wedding gown was either size 8 or 10. When my husband started complaining of my weight, I combined the treadmill with aerobics, so that I would not only lose weight but keep firm as well. I’ve also suggested that
my husband goes on the machine as well. He is not too fat but a little exercise does not harm! I don’t joke with my exercises at all. I also do a bit of steaming. Talking of diet, most of the time, one is fasting because of commitments in church. But every morning, I take my diet tea before going to my treadmill. I am not very fussy about food, but I like cooking a lot. My husband doesn’t eat outside, so I cook his meals. To reduce the stress attached to that, I usually buy in bulk and pack things that can be frozen in small plastic containers in the freezer. So, if my husband calls and says he is coming home with a guest, all I’ll need is an hour’s notice and the cooking will be done.

When I was much younger I used to buy many lovely clothes for myself. But these days, there is no fuss about such. I buy asoebi when I know I’m going to attend an occasion. There is no use buying it when one is not going to attend the occasion it is meant for. It is good to be known for one’s principles. I wear clothes I am comfortable in most times. Some people spend lots of pounds on jewelry, but I think it isn’t my style. I’d rather set up a motherless babies home with that kind of money or if I have such extra, I give to the needy, because God in turn blesses one. When I am less busy, I listen and dance to Christian music. I read the Bible a lot. I believe if one has been able to read the Bible many times, it’s easier to apply the principles to one’s life. I also try to attend functions I’m invited to. Modesty is my watchword when am dressing up. Sometimes, I use make-up. All I care about is to look neat and nice. I believe in looking presentable and it’s not necessary to indulge in ‘spree buying’ because one’s mates are doing it. I am contented with whatever I have.

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