As news broke of the illness of erstwhile GTB MD, the Great Tayo Adenirokun earlier this year, rumors began to spread about who will be his new successor should Uncle T (as Tayo was widely known) not make it.
This was strange to me as I felt the natural successor was offcourse his deputy, Segun Agbaje who had been his assistant for almost a decade. From the inner streets of Lagos Island where beer parlours are located to the porch bars in VI the debate raged on. Some opined Segun was too harsh and was not a craftsman. Some thought his temperament was not suited for the esteemed position of bank MD. Some even think he lacked the requisite business skills that people like Uncle T and Fola Adeola before him had.
They even said he wasn’t even an original member and so the vision and tenacity his predecessors had for the bank did run in his DNA. ” Segun is a mad man” some would say. I heard to story of a guy who an encounter with. He oversaw a non performing loan that was going bad and risked provisioning. Segun stood him up before everyone in a credit meeting and literarily tore him to shreds. “You crazy guy, go get me my money. Have they being paying you?” he would rage at the poor fellow. “I want my damn money or you will be sacked. Get me H.R”. These stories, atrocious as they may had sounded did leave me wondering if there was something to it. I also learn It didnt happen to one guy, several had similar stories. But was all this really an issue?
Uncle T sadly passed away on the 14th of June 2011 and as expected or unexpected Segun Agbaje became the 3rd MD of the bank. That made some more disgruntled. I was asked a friend why no one seemed comment much on Tayo’s feeling about Segun? No one seemed to mention that. Uncle T was a very smart and savvy guy and I wondered if Segun was that mad how he could I’ve coped with him all this while. Sure he wasn’t oblivious of his obvious shortcomings. He must have viewed them differently. GTB identifies itself as a professional bank of which many will struggle to argue against. A bank that decided to go global when others were going local in the days of “public offer”. Same bank that refused to buy or merge with other banks when it was certainly the trend at the time. The bank was distinct and on it’s helm was Tayo Adenirokun ably assisted by Segun Agbaje.
Let’s attempt to figure out what Tayo must have seen differently that the other disgruntled staff dis not. Tayo probably needed a strict no nonsense personality. He couldn’t afford another level headed figure within the top pair of decision making. Whilst he is perceived as the calm and understanding guy, he needed someone who cut an almost opposite figure. Tayo was the Don Corleone, the wise one. Someone had to strike the rod after he spares it. A master strategist in his game, he knew people will take his decisions as a leap of faith rather than a jamboree especially if it’s contrary to Segun’s opinion, which most of the time was probably draconian. That way he gives his staff an opportunity to prove Segun wrong thus motivating the staff to surpass set targets. Little wonder an average GTB staff is miles apart from the rest when it cones to risk assessment.
Those who abhor Segun may well be somewhat myopic and ungrateful. Here is a guy who has helped keep the bank sound, given the staff a sense of security and training likely above their peers in other banks. Its no coincidence staff turnover in GTB is probably the lowest in the industry. They probably don’t acknowledge it but Uncle T must have otherwise he would have groomed a successor. He had once being seen that way too when he was in Segun’s position. Those who knew him in the 90’s when he was deputy to Fola say he was the harder of the two. Fola was the amiable one, the one they all loved to be.
Segun is at the helm now and maybe heads will roll or has started rolling. He learnt from two masters and I bet he learnt well. A despotic leader is not an option for GTB and I am sure he knows that. He has CBN and certainly some members of his board backing him up at least for continuity as a Vacuum helps no one. His experience and track record probably also makes him the right choice to lead the bank to next frontier. As for the staff and those who worry, its time to brace up and have a birds eye view. This is no time to be shortsighted.