The steel bankeress
By Yinka Olatunbosun
One of the most glamorous professions in Nigeria, trailing after the oil industry is banking. It is generally associated with some level of sophistication and the attraction for money is a compelling reason for plaunging into it. Still, the challenges that accompany success in the banking industry are astronomical and women are the most victims of sexual harassment and gender discrimination that are predominant in the field. Hence, banking on her 17 years of banking experience, M.M.Fahm relives the drama that has a potent verisimilitude; a near-truth chronicle of the lives of women who work at the Foundation Bank in the novel, The Steel Bankeress.
The book uncovers the reality of placing ambition over personal life and interest. In a brief chat with THISDAY, the writer explains how the work was created.
“Fiction is generated from facts from life,” she said. “But then, the story in the book is a creation of my imagination and it is 70percent fiction. The characters are fictional.”
Speaking on the reason why a pen name was used, the author said that there was need to “seperate the artistic creation from the personal life of the writer.”
The novel is set in Lagos at a period in the banking industry that preceded Charles Soludo’s tenure as the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria. Through the book, the author raises the issues of business ethics, corporate bullying and the sacrificing of values on the altar of meeting set targets for female marketers. In the author’s note, Fahm attempts to capture the relevance of the book to a wide range of readers.
“It is creatively inspired from the lives of women who have no choice but to remain in the banking industry. Month end, quarter end, year end period is a nightmare for most marketers. Despite all this, the banking sector still receives floods of C.V’s. Unemployment and underemployment is a critical issue in Nigeria and that is why you see chemical engineers and lawyers as marketers. The marketing drive is still intense in a stagnant economy and the savings culture is still at a very disappointing level, as there is basically nothing left to save after each salary or transaction. Yet, these women besiege you for deposits.”
Beyond dealing with subjects related to the profession, the book reveals human foibles such as interpersonal rivalry, petty jealousies as well as inordinate ambition. The plot of the novel centres on the character of Pamela Kajola, a branch manager of Foundation Bank who desperately desires to be elevated to the position of Business Development Manager. Her thirst for power has made her cold and insensitive to the feelings of others.Worse still, her past haunts her. While anticipating the reaction of readers to the characterisation in the novel, the writer predicted that “the reader may have intense pity for the tormented Pamela the villainess of the novel, respect for Enitan’s show of maturity and compassion, irritation at Adeola’s naivete, repulsiveness at the unscrupulous Dr. Mayowa and deep empathy for the mentally disturbed Racheal.”
The book celebrates womanhood and is a handbook foe every woman tolling a successful path in a corporate world. The cover illustration of the 600-page book is intriguing, drawing attention to the seductive nature of some female bank marketers. Though it is a common expression that one should not judge a book by its cover, the 65-chapter book may be an exception to the rule.