Mr. Daniel Okezie Igbokwe is a retired banker with over 25 years experience. He owns an outdoor advertising company called Frontage Media Advertising with an office in Lagos. On his 60th birthday recently, he spoke to Peter Uzoho about his life’s journey, his banking experience and marriage, among other issues
You celebrated your 60th birthday anniversary recently. What does it mean to you?
It means God’s grace to me and my family. I have a lot to be thankful to God because looking back to where I’m coming from and where I am now, I’m quite happy to say that one has actually achieved quite a lot. I have children, I have a loving wife and, I have siblings who are loving too. And, God has been faithful. I worked and I’ve retired – a banker, a successful one at that. So I have every cause to thank God. Celebrating today is really to say, thank God for keeping me alive and for making things worthy for me to continue again. My hope and prayer is that He guides me on to be able to fulfil His purpose for me here on earth.
Can you take us back a bit? What was growing up for you like?
Growing up was interesting, tough and all that. I came from a very modest home but, I’m blessed to have gotten parents who were loving and that was the backbone. We weren’t rich by any standard but, we were taught to strive and make things work for us. And having loving parents guided and helped me. So looking back really to where I’ve been today is a lot of hard work, planning, and God’s grace made all these possible.
Where were you born?
I was born here in Lagos, at Obalende to be precise. And I grew up here in Lagos too until during the Nigerian Civil War when we had to go back to the village. We all know what war makes people to pass through. We went through a lot of harrowing experiences. I was in Primary Four before the war and, I completed my primary education there in the village. So after the war, I went to Enugu for my secondary school. I started secondary school at Union Secondary School Enugu. I finished in 1974 and came back to Lagos to do my high school at St. Gregory College. Thereafter, with God’s grace, I got admitted into the University of Lagos to read Finance and I graduated from there. After my graduation, I worked briefly with the Federal Ministry of Finance before I went back to do my Master’s at the University of Ibadan where I read Economics. Thereafter, I became a banker. I started with Arab Bank, later moved to Savannah Bank and then, to Commerce Bank. I was one of the pioneer members of Commerce Bank. After the collapse of Commerce Bank, I did a brief business before I joined the Omega Bank and that’s where I retired from in 2004.
What was life like after banking?
After banking, I must say God has been faithful. It has not been easy but, interesting. You know you can’t do something for 25 years without having something to show back. So I started a consulting firm. I was doing training for banks and companies in the area of credit administration and presentation and all kinds of trainings. Along the line I got into Outdoor Advertising. I became a member of APCON and then went into full time advertising. I have an outdoor advertising company. The company is called Frontage Media Advertising Company and, located here in Lagos.
Where do you reside currently?
I live here in Satelite Town. To the glory of God I have my own house here and I’ve been here since 1995.
When did you get married?
I got married in 1988. In fact, by November 26 this year, I will be 30 years in marriage.
How did you find your wife?
Again, I think it was God working it out to perfection. After my Master’s programme at the University of Ibadan, I then came back to Lagos to start a job. So one day, I went to UNILAG to visit a cousin of mine called Nkechi. When I got there I met someone in her room who was actually sleeping. And I looked at her and said wow! This must be the bone of my bone. I walked up to her to ask after my cousin whom I had come to see and that was how the relationship started. We courted for about five years before we eventually got married in 1988. I must say she has been a pillar to me and very wonderful. To the glory of God we have two wonderful children – a boy and a girl. Kelechi is my first son and Daisy is my first daughter.
What attracted you to your wife?
You know I told you earlier that she was sleeping when I got there… I saw the beauty in her. I think something moved in me to say ‘hey! move on’. Going further, like I said it wasn’t a short courting: we courted for five years and, within those years I was able to find out that she is not only homely but, she is the one that would go with you through thick and thin. I was convinced by all she was able to do within the period of our courtship. She is studious; she is respectful, God-fearing, and loving. If you ask my siblings they will be able to confirm this. We are six in number and all boys. You know how rascally they could be. So she was able to gather all of them under the same roof and ensuring that we all live in peace. I must say she’s been wonderful, she’s helpful and supportive. She’s been my adviser, my everything. I’m not a very easy person to deal with but, if she has been able to stay with me this length and able to contain me it then shows that she has some kind of quality that is wonderful.
How do you relax?
That’s what working has taught me. The reason I stopped at two kids was because I saw my father struggle almost all through his life training his children. So my idea was to get to a point where I need to really relax and, by the time I retired in 2004 what I was doing was to try and see how I could begin to relax. So I try to go to the gym, I try to go to exercise myself; I try to move around and see friends. You know it’s not easy here in Lagos because of transportation issues and all that, but then, I do relax.
Do you like reading?
Oh yes, that’s one of my hobbies. I love reading books.
What kind of book do you like reading?
My background is Accounting, so I love economic books. And then I like novels and autobiographies mostly to guide me to see pitfalls that people had gone through and how they were able to overcome them. And then, I like motivational books too because it helps me in my training. Like I said, I facilitate a lot of consulting in places. It helps me to teach.
Which of the writers do you enjoy most?
To be honest, I don’t have a favourite. You know there is always something to pick from every book. But I will probably say John Maxwell is good because he combines his with the holy book and try to teach principles of living well and all that. But, otherwise, I will say all the authors are good as long as you read them and there is something to get from them.
What’s your favorite food?
My favorite food is beans. Mainly porridge beans and if you add it with fried plantain you’ve caught me.
You have background in banking. So are your kids taking after you?
I don’t know if they would want to take after me. They have their own life to live. The truth is Kelechi my son read Economics and he is pursuing his own Finance line. I’m not sure he actually wants to be a banker. He keeps thinking about Asset Management and things like that, not the core kind of banking we have. Daisy I thought would have read Law but she said no. She has done Marketing and she is working as a marketing executive in Canada. So they have chosen their own profession and they are moving on quite well. I’m grateful to God that they are able to stand on their own.
Are you a member of Umukabia Progressive Union?
Yes, I’m a member of the association. I don’t know the context you want me to define it but, what it stands for is to help the progress of Umukabia community. So I see that going forward it has been helpful but not as solid as it used to be. I don’t know what exactly is responsible but if I should place it, it has to do with leadership. I think a lot is needed to be done to really achieve what it stands to achieve. But I can see the reorganisation and the reengineering that is going on within the organisation. I’m sure soonest, they would take their proper place. So it helps in the community development.
How do you feel seeing all these people gather here in their numbers to join you on your 60th birthday celebration?
Let me even tell you, I didn’t know about this thing until yesterday. And that people are fully here without my saying so, without me asking them to come is a sign of joy. If you’ve seen me yesterday, I almost passed out because I didn’t know my younger brother was coming from abroad. My daughter, Daisy, I spoke to her four days ago while she was in Canada only to see her yesterday without knowing, and a lot of them. So I can’t but thank God and say I’m blessed to have friends and families who have come here to celebrate with me. People came almost all over the world. Some came from Ghana, some from UK, Canada, and U.S. without my invitation. I think I can only be grateful to them, thank them and pray to God to guide them back to where they came from.
What is your advice to couples?
My advice to couples is really to be faithful and truthful to one another. And really, the truth is that there is no marriage that is free of frictions. Relationship is all about being able to overlook certain things. To be successful you have to be able to overlook and forgive, and not begin to complain. You know the person you are getting married to already has his or her own laid out ways of thinking. So you need to begin to harmonise to see a common ground, and that means you will have to drop a little while she drops a little. If you expect her to drop a little and you are not willing to drop any then, you are actually causing frictions. So understanding and trust is key.
What should singles be looking out for when choosing their life partners? Is it money, educational background or what?
I will take you a little further. You know when I was getting married my friends used to make jest of my wife. Like I said, I came from a very humble background. I didn’t have a car amongst all the other guys that were driving into UNILAG to chase girls. In fact, I would wait for my Dad to come back with the rickety Danfo that he was using for his business. Then, once he packed it around 7p.m. during weekends I would take it and drive off. And when we started moving eventually, my friends would call her and ask her: ‘come on Adaoma, you just saw P that has no O in it to even define that this your guy has potential but you just saw the P and you spelt potential’. So what every man or woman should be looking out for is someone that has potential to become something. Another thing is: is he or she educated? Does he or she have a home? Is there a base? These are the major things. The money will come later. And it becomes much more sensible if two of you work together towards achieving that otherwise, you will either be the slave of one or the other one will not respect you. So you need that potential. The P must be big P and then, look out for other attributes.
You have a very solid background in Economics, what do you say about the current state of Nigeria’s economy?
Nigeria’s economy is tottering. It’s unfortunate. I will strongly say that the problem is leadership. All the noise and what have you about change is not change. If you ask me, it’s the reverse gear that they have put us in. I think what we need is to harness the resources we have, both human and material in this country. But it needs a vibrant person to do that. I don’t subscribe to using three to four years pursuing corrupt people and then you leave out major things that are waiting to be done. And from history, we’ve found out that none of the people who we know are corrupt have ever been convicted. So why don’t we just draw a line and say, going forward, this is the way; put things the way they should be. I think the solution to the problem of this country is really leadership and, it is not the leadership of the old. I’m not even sure if it is of my generation – it should be younger people. Unfortunately too, you see, our young people now are not really encouraging in their quest to get what is deserving of them. They are always thinking that they have a right or that something is going to be placed on their laps. Nothing ever gets to you while you are seated. Nothing ever gets to you while you are sleeping.
You have to work for it; you have to struggle for it. And technology and communication have made things a lot better and easier. If you look at how Barack Obama, a black American was able to overcome the racist tendencies in the U.S. and apply it here in Nigeria our youths will overwhelm the old power brigades. And it is just a matter of harnessing what we have and being honest. But unfortunately, we always want to run even before we can crawl. So you see, even the youths that are coming are thinking of having big mansions and all that. You can’t get the mansion without working or clearing the road. So that’s the problem. The economy right now is comatose. It’s unfortunate but it can be reversed and the reversal requires hard thinking, like they usually say, thinking outside the box. And thinking outside the box we need some youths who are honest and not pursuing money. Let me tell you, the whistleblowing as far as I’m concerned is a diversion. How much of it have we been able to retrieve? How much of the money have we been able to use? It’s all diversionary tactics. What we need going forward is to know what we have on ground.
How much of our oil is being drilled? How much is it being sold for? If it’s one barrel we sell, how much really gets back to us? And not drilling 100 barrels and we only get one. We have to find a way to correct this. The new leadership has to stop impunity: impunity by the military, impunity by the police, impunity by those who are in authority. That way, everybody will shape in, because without an organised setting nothing can work. Here, there is no organisation. Here it is winner takes all. The strong will oppress the weak. You can never go forward if you operate like that.