What first catches your attention in this book is its unique title. What has leaving the tarmac got to do with the expected subject of the book or with the personality of its author? Your interest is stimulated nonetheless because you know that there would be some sort of tie.
The straight-to-the-point mannerism of the recollection holds you from the very start with the introduction by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The influential statesman’s quick question about the accuracy of the book and the affirmative response of the author, which led to Obasanjo assertion that the author must have stepped on some toes since every true story comes with the good, the bad and the ugly, immediately excites your taste buds as you anticipate what the “ugly” in the book might be.
Very early in the book, you begin to link the title to the very core of the story. The author narrates his turmoil in missing his flight back to school due to the endemic corruption and inefficiency that characterized the aviation industry at that time. He states boldly and you will all agree, that this cankerworm permeates the system leading to all sort of dislocation and inefficiencies. The link is cleverly woven into the fabric of this book and his forays in business. At every conjecture, the experience as a young secondary school leaver at the Tarmac is thrown in and used as fuel to ensure that once again, he would not be left at the tarmac.
The challenges that come with operating in a heavily regulated environment controlled by strong forces, in this wise, the Central Bank, the constant struggle to align or at best position a driving personal and corporate vision to the constantly moving pieces that is public policy, especially at the level of fiscal and monetary controls, leaves the reader in awe of the duo who took upon themselves, the herculean task of building an internationally respectable financial brand.
The prose is simple, sweet and engaging. Aig speaks circumspectly and moves from topic to topic with the ease of a ballerina. As he mentions the issues, you are tempted to dig deeper but the mastery of his delivery keeps you flowing along with him as he shares his story.
My most engaging moment was the meeting between Aig, Herbert and their bosses at GTB. I had been anticipating this meeting since I started reading the book. The duo had gone very far in the acquisition process, had raised a considerable amount of money and were coasting to the point of no return when this meeting held. I was expecting more details, more gist but as is his style in this book, the epoch-making meeting was glossed over.
I would have wanted a fly on the wall description of that meeting. Was Aig scared? Was Herbert jittery? Did Fola scream? Did he beg? Were there threats? Was it a shouting match? Did anyone kneel to say, ‘don’t vex?’ I craved that drama from the book and didn’t get it.
Did this book tell us how to buy a bank in Africa or how a bank was even bought in Africa? I will say, not too well. The acquisition of Access Bank was dealt with in a hurry and even the role of BGL, the mercurial Investment Bank led by the late influential Albert Okumagba was also dealt with in a flash. I suspect that BGL people would not find this part very exciting as the story of the acquisition is stuff that is passed down generations in BGL.
Aigboje’s mettle is on display immediately after the bank is acquired. His confidence grows as he talks about the value chain strategy. A strategy he attributes the initial success to. From MTN to Dangote, the strategy enabled the nascent bank to capture a huge market share from these conglomerates, stabilizing it and justifying the confidence reposed on both himself and Herbert by critical stakeholder groups. Confidence that the man at the Banking Supervision of the CBN took almost forever to build.
This book is a simplified workbook for those of us who would like to go into the very tricky act of revamping a dying or dead brand. I tried and failed woefully ending up in an EFCC cell. For Aigboje and Herbert to take a run of the mill brand and build it into what it is today is not only remarkable but almost something of a miracle in this terrain. The meat of the book is all about this.
Here Aigboje finds himself as he floats and flies in his descriptive turn. He takes us through it all – visioning, clarity, Board building, risk management, capital management, strategy, human capital and much more importantly, his partnership with Herbert who came out in this book as dependable, bringing tremendous value to the table and making the succession plan almost seamless.
You do not sense any friction between the duo. You sense a clear understanding and mutual respect. You do not sense ambition on the part of Herbert and you see a careful portrayal of the respect Aigboje has for Herbert in this book. This to me is the success of Access Bank far and above every other thing you put in to build the brand.
One thing that kept jumping at me as I read, was the outsider mentality that never left Aigboje as he narrated his experience. The meetings at the CBN where he averred that some people already had an inkling into some of those earth shifting policies, his fear of being left on the tarmac again; but you come out of every summon to the CBN with relief that once again he was prepared. The issue of the clearing bank is an example. You will have to read the book very carefully at this point to understand the details.
Just as you are about to consign yourself to the beauty of the narrative that is the building of a bank, getting to start your review with a harsh critique of the book not being about buying any African bank, you are suddenly dropped at the feet of a second acquisition – that of the Intercontinental Bank.
Here Aigboje has found himself. His experiences during the first acquisition come to the fore. His pen gets stronger as he analyses the reasons behind the acquisition, the process itself, the advisers on the transaction and the post-acquisition challenges – human capital, technology, integration, market perception, and regulatory issues. Here, you find a more than ready Aigboje.
But here too, the story doesn’t do much for an entry-level Investment Banker looking for practical experience on M&A but goes ahead to give a world-class narrative on post-acquisition management of a super complex structure.
He finally closes the book on his thoughts and actions in the area of sustainability. Aigboje has been phenomenal in this area, working assiduously to support, entrench and work with like minds both locally and internationally in ensuring the very best in class push towards sustainability. This, I want to dare say, may have driven his resolve to leave Access Bank at the time he did, which was a clear two years from when he should have.
This book in my estimation cautiously opened Aigboje to his readers. He was careful to keep the reader in the realm he wants them to be which is the topic of the book. Buying a bank and not other more exciting areas like his personal life, his regrets, his family life, etc. Only once was his wife and children mentioned and this was as an illustration in trying to drive home a point during his take on work-life balance.
The only other time was in the first chapter in a discussion with his mother. Aigboje successfully guards his privacy, remaining formal and almost warning the reader to focus on the topic. You will not see Aigboje relax in this book, you will not see him eat at his favourite restaurant or know the kind of music he loves to listen to. In another book which he may write someday, perhaps, but certainly not in this one.
In conclusion, despite my issues with the title, this was a wonderful book. It took me less than 24 hours to finish its 217 pages but another three days to write this review because I was challenged as to what angle to tackle it from.
It was a beautiful read, written with precision, clarity and accuracy that gives it the authenticity it truly deserves.
I give it a five star and would be recommending it not only for budding investment bankers and vision-driven leaders but to the general population as it carefully explains the ethos of what I want to call a followership driven renaissance in our society in the face of the woeful reliance on tepid leadership. A powerful read.