In this month’s episode, we tell the story of how one of the biggest deals in Nigeria’s corporate history was executed with the heart of a lion. It’s a story of sheer guts, desire, deception, fraud, crony capitalism, rise and fall, tact, brilliance and most of all, ambition.
The Beginning of the end
It was late into the night on March 4th, 2004 as directors of United Bank of Africa (UBA) deliberated on one of the toughest decisions they had ever faced. Just two years earlier, the bank had been forced into a similar position, only that then it was not as punitive as this one. This time, they were grappling with a Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) directive to split the post of CEO from that of the Chairman.
This CBN directive was like a knife struck at the heart. The business whiz kid and majority shareholder of the bank, Hakeem Bello Osagie (HBO), had been asked by the CBN to resign within 24 hours. Thus, a decision had to be taken that night. As the board deliberated late into the night in a bid to address the predicament, it became clear that there was no way out.
The reign of Hakeem Bello Osagie as one of Nigeria’s most enigmatic banking Chiefs, had come to an abrupt end. For the Nigerian banking sector which watched in amazement at how this young man rose to become a symbol of the new era of Nigerian banking, the news of HBO’s fall from grace still ranks as one of the shocking moments in the sector, which at the time was entering an uncertain future. But as the saying goes, when one door closes, another opens in the never-ending chapters of history.
Flash back – Era of predatory banking