Almost everybody seems to know her. You probably won’t need to ask more than two people in her neighbourhood before you’re directed to her house. Known as Mama Bank in the Ilaje-Akoka area of Lagos, Mrs. Adeline Ibidapo Banire is a reporter’s delight any day.
At 88, she still carries on with the gait of a 60-year-old. Her memory is still very sharp. Her speech is still very clear. She laces her conversation with facts and figures, giving dates and describing events with gusto.
At home with many languages
That Thursday at about noon, this reporter arrived at her compound and climbed straight to the last floor of the two-storey building where she lives.
It’s a moderately furnished apartment. A few visitors were with her. But she was in deep conversation with an Igbo lady. You probably think she is Igbo given the way she speaks the language.
But she is not. She is only gifted in languages. She speaks Igbo, Edo, Yoruba, a smattering Hausa, and another Cameroonian language. She has a mastery of the Ijebu dialect too, though she is not from Ijebu.
She welcomed the reporter as soon as she was done with her visitor and began the conversation almost effortlessly. She was amused that the reporter is from Ijebu and spent time chanting the oriki (panegyrics) of people from the reporter’s hometown.
The pictorial tour
After the initial pleasantries, Mama Bank began a pictorial tour; taking the reporter through some of the pictures on the wall of her sitting room with brief lectures on the pictures.
They were pictures of her immediate family members. She pointed with a broad smile at the picture of her father, Mackenson Bolarin Agbe-Davies who worked in the now defunct Public Works Department. The man rose through the ranks in the accounts section of the PWD. He worked in several parts of the country including Cameroon which was then part of Nigeria.
Mama Bank was quick to remind the reporter how many Nigerians took on white names.
“Many of the black people who worked with the white men then were seen as family members of their white bosses.
“The blacks adopted the names of their bosses that is why you have the compound name Agbe-Davies. My grandfather had worked directly with the white. Many other people were like that.” she recalled.
And then she pointed to the picture of her grandfather who trained as a lawyer in the UK. ‘This picture was taken in the UK in 1921 when he went to study law. A Lagos photographer snapped the original picture to preserve it. That is why it appears in this form” She said. Her daughter’s picture when she was about three years old along with some other children including her late son also rests on the wall.
Mama Bank’s wedding picture hung elegantly among the array of pictures. Though her husband is now late, she recalled with thanksgiving that he witnessed the marriage of their daughter, Kemi before he passed on in 2005.
And then the picture of her daughter and grandchildren. She spoke so well about her daughter and son-in-law, Yomi Sunmonu, and tells you as a matter of fact, “My son-in-law is my son. His mother, Chief Mrs. Modupeola Otegbola and I are so close and intimate. She is a foremost industrialist. She is the manufacturer of Subaco Lace. She is also the Yeyeoba of Ota”
My mother, an enigma
While still standing, Mama Bank pointed to her mother’s picture, Chief Mrs. Eudora Ebunoluwa Olujobi with glee. She recounts tales of how the woman nurtured her along with her siblings.
They were 10 in number from the same womb. She is number 2 in the hierarchy. The first child, Mrs. Lape Oyewole; now late was married to Dotun Oyewole one of the popular Abeokuta-based Oyewole twins. Dotun Oyewole was then the registrar of the Joint Admission Matriculation Board.
All the other children turned out successful in their various fields of endeavour. The success of all her siblings is traced to her grandmother. She described her grandmother as one of the foremost Christians in Abeokuta. . She said, “When it comes to people who lived for God, she was one of them.
My mother, the only surviving child of her parents
“My maternal grandmother had several children who never survived beyond four to six months.
“They were just dying as they were being born. This was perhaps due to the lack of a good healthcare system then. My mother was the only one who survived. She was born on October 10, 1910.
“She attended Girls Anglican Seminary College, Lagos, and finished from there in 1927. She was a successful woman. She brought us up in a disciplined way and in a disciplined environment. Members of her family then were among the first set of Christians in Abeokuta. My grandmother was an outstanding Christian. She and her husband were so committed to the faith. Despite the challenges they had with childbirth, the man did not marry a second wife.”
For about one hour into the interview, Mama Bank was still standing. She was not in a hurry to sit down as she made passing remarks about all the other pictures on the wall.
Adeline Banire’s fascinating qualities
One of the fascinating qualities of Mrs. Banire who spent the greater part of her carrier life in the banking sector is the vastness of her tentacles. Her sense of recall is incredible. She described places and recalled events with mathematical precision. Important dates and timelines were at her fingertips.
For instance, she gave a vivid account of the Benin Expedition of 1897. She also recalled other important landmarks in the course of the interview. She recalled how General Yakubu Gowon chaired the 1985 wedding ceremony of her nephew, Bayo Oyewole to Funke; the daughter of the late Major Babafemi Ogundipe in the UK
Ogundipe was the second in command to General Gowon when he was Nigeria’s head of state.
Gowon had told them how despite being junior to Major Ogundipe in the army he was asked to be the head of state after the 1966 coup that brought him to power.
When Nigeria was truly one
Mama Bank has links with many prominent Nigerians from across the country. “I grew up when Nigeria was one. The capital of Nigeria was then Calabar. We didn’t see tribe. We didn’t see religion. We were one and we related peacefully with one another” she enthused.
Born in Abeokuta, Ogun State on September 11, 1934, she stated that her genealogy could be traced to Ogotun Ekiti.
“My great grandfather is originally from Ogotun Ekiti. He and his siblings migrated from there to Epe on their way to Lagos. They settled in Epe.”
It was from Epe that they began to spread across Lagos. But my early years were spent at Iporo Ake in Abeokuta with my grandmother.
Journey to Benin
Mama Bank lived with her mother at Abeokuta. “One of the criteria for gaining admission to school then was that your right hand had to get to the left ear when placed across your head. Mine was not getting to the left. So I had to stay at home. I enjoyed the company of old women in the neighbourhood and listened to a lot of fairy tales,” she recalled.
But the story changed in 1940 when her paternal grandmother came to Abeokuta and took her to Benin where she began school.
“In 1940 there was this conference of Obas that took place in Abeokuta. All the monarchs from across Nigeria came to the palace of the Alake of Egba Land for the conference.
“My paternal grandmother accompanied the then Oba Akenzua of Benin to the conference. She was well known in Benin. She was a philanthropist in her own right. After the conference of Obas, she requested that I follow her to Benin.”
It was in Benin she enrolled at the Baptist Elementary School, Mission Road. She was in the same class with the proprietor of Igbinedion University, Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion.
In fact, they shared the same bench, the same birthday, and birth year. “It was long after we left school that I got to know we were born the same day. But I was born in the morning while he was born in the afternoon. I used to tease him that I am older than him.” said Mama Bank with laughter.
But her father never wanted her to stay in a mixed school. He changed her school after about three years in the Baptist School to CMS Girls School also in Benin where she completed her primary education.
Benin turned out to be home for her. Apart from Chief Igbinedion, she had close ties with a lot of other prominent individuals in the city.
The Obaseki connection
Important names like Gaius Obaseki, Omo Osagie and a host of other prominent Benin indigenes were either related to her or close friends. She recalled with relish how she used to place the present governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki on her back when he was a child.
“Stella, the mother of the present governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki was my classmate at the CMS Girls School. I used to put the present governor on my back when he was small. His mother and I were quite close.” she recalled.
From Onitsha to Cameroon
By 1946, Mama Bank completed her primary school. It was around that time her father was transferred to Umuahia from Minna.
This time, her father would not allow her to remain in Benin. They both went to Umuahia where she also fell in love with the people in the East.
She had only spent one year in the East when she picked the language and became so fluent in it. She later attended Queen of the Rosary College Onitsha for her secondary education.
By the time she was through with her secondary education, her father was transferred to Cameroon. “Going to Cameroon was another exciting part of my life’s journey. In those days, Cameroon was part of Nigeria. Nigerians were transferred there to work.”
Life in Cameroon
Life in Cameroon was a different ball game. Mama Bank recalled with nostalgia the extreme hospitality of Cameroonian ladies.
“Many men who did not take their wives along when they were transferred to Cameroon ended up marrying Cameroonian ladies. The Cameroonian women were quite enchanting. Many men who went there forgot about their wives at home.” she said.
Though a poor region, she said Cameroon was a country where banana and plantain were in abundance. Their special delicacy was unripe plantain. “You see plantain everywhere. Plantain was their food. They take it with palm wine that tastes like sugar. After eating the unripe plantain and drinking the palm wine you see them bursting with so much energy.”
Life was fun in Cameroon. But Mama Bank could not continue to stay with her father. At some point, she sought his permission to come back to Nigeria. By March of 1955, she was back in Nigeria. She went to Benin and then Abeokuta where she began to create a pathway for her life.
In Abeokuta as a teacher
Back in Abeokuta, she became active as a steward at the Saint Peters Church Ake. Incidentally, her mother and the mother of Professor Wole Soyinka grew up together. Soyinka’s father was a District Supervisor and was in charge of recruiting teachers. He was the one who facilitated a teaching job for her.
Mama Bank first taught in a primary school for about six months and then she was transferred to Anglican Girls Grammar School in Abeokuta. She spent a few years teaching before she secured a job in the then Barclays Bank.
As a teacher, she earned about 12 pounds. Out of the 12 pounds, she would send two pounds to her paternal grandmother in Benin and then buy groceries for her mother in Abeokuta. She was doing all that when the opportunity came for her to work in the bank.
Journey in the banking industry
It was while teaching she got wind of the vacant position in the now defunct Barclays Bank. She dumped the teaching job and came to Lagos for the interview. She was successful and turned out to be one of the second set of Nigerians that would be employed by the bank.
“I got the job in Barclays Bank on April 27, 1959. I was employed first as an accounts clerk and was trained on the job. The only black people I met in the bank then were the typist and telephone operator. The rest were white people.”
The bank had promised to pay her about 16 pounds monthly. By the time she got her first pay, it was 13 pounds. That unsettled her. She was told her pay was cut because she had told the bank during the interview she still had the ambition to study law at the university.
She however noted that many of her white bosses were school certificate holders just like her. “After about three months that they joined the bank the white folks were made our bosses,” she recalled.
The slang then was, “For every credit, there is a debit. For every debit, there is a credit. The bank manager then was Walter Smith. Many prominent Nigerians were customers of the bank.”
From Barclays to ACB
By 1965 she got a better offer at the then African Continental Bank. By then FS Mcewen was the General Manager of ACB. He was principal at City College, Sabo before he joined the bank. It was through him she got to the bank in 1965.
It was that same year she married and she was set for a 35-year sojourn in the banking sector. She first served at the Apapa branch of the bank. She recalled how the Ibru Family began the fish business and how the family patronised the bank. By the end of that year, she was transferred to the Idumota branch of the bank.
The bank was on the first floor of the building at Idumota. The Koreans were selling gold on the ground floor. Ironically, the person who used to open the gate for people to enter was Chief Rasak Okoya, owner of Eleganza Industries.
“He was so patient and friendly. He was the one who used to deposit the daily sales money in the bank for the Koreans. That was how I got to know him.”
Mama noted that the indigenization policy of the government then, made it possible for Chief Okoya to acquire the business from the Koreans when they were leaving Nigeria.
Pastor Mike Okonkwo’s connection
Ironically, one of the cashiers who worked closely with Mama Bank was Pastor Mike Okonkwo, founder of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission.
“Pastor Okonkwo and I were both cashiers. It was during the war that he met Christ. He is from a good family.” she noted.
The Igbos according to her “dominated the whole of Idumota. Bishop Okonkwo speaks Yoruba like a Lagosian. But during the war, the Igbos in the bank were advised to go back to the East.”
Bank and family life
For Mama Bank, it was not difficult to run her home along with her job. “Because of the background of my family, it was easy for me to cope. My mother inculcated the spirit of hard work in all her children.
“There was no lazy person among her children. Even the boys were good at kitchen work. The home training I got helped me in the banking sector. So it was not difficult to cope. I had domestic workers, but then I still had to do a lot of things by myself. And I coped well at work. It was just part of me.” she said.
While in the bank, she recalled that it was taboo to watch customers wait endlessly without being attended to. “It is the commission of the customers that was put together to pay our salary. So we had that consciousness that the customer is always right. That made us excel in our banking career,” she said,
Jesu Oyingbo, a customer of ACB
She recalled how many prominent Nigerians patronised the bank. Of note is her experience of the famous Emmanuel Odumosu known as Jesu Oyingbo which means “Jesus of Oyingbo”.
He was a religious sect leader who claimed he was Jesus Christ that had returned. He founded the Universal College of Regeneration in Lagos. He declared himself as the messiah and was able to hoodwink a lot of people who gave up all their belongings to follow him.
Mama Bank recalled that Jesu Oyingbo was a notable customer of the ACB. “ The colour of his cloth was always the same as the colour of the car he drives per time. Whenever he came to the bank, if he was wearing pink cloth, you can be certain that the car would be pink and his driver too would wear pink. He was a man of style. There were all kinds of stories about him.”
I don’t have a special diet
On how she came about her agility at 88, she said, “Let me first acknowledge that it is the grace of God that has kept me strong. But I don’t have a special diet. I eat anything that comes my way.
“The only thing I find difficult to eat is a combination of bread and beans. I eat every other thing. So I can’t really say it is the kind of food I eat that has made me this strong. “It is essentially the grace of God. Let me also say that I enjoy dancing a lot. That could also possibly account for my agility.”
My God encounter
Though Mama Bank had always been a church person and active, she never really experienced God in some practical sense of the word until 1977.
I thank God for how far he has led me. The God I serve has been guiding me. Prophet Gabriel Fakeye of the Cherubim and Seraphim, Ayo Ni O played a leading role in my spiritual formation. I never met him but what he predicted for me in 1977 through a publication will always be a reference point in my life.
“My sister-in-law was a member of the church. It was through the branch of the church that I came to know God intimately in 1977. I was involved in the fellowship then. I joined them for prayers.”
She recalled how an exact word of prophecy by Prophet Gabriel Fakeye in a pamphlet and that of a member of the church brought him closer to God.
“It was the prophetic word that saved me from being sacked from the bank. I was warned through word of prophesy that I should be wary about signing any document in the bank on a particular day of the month. Because I was senior staff, I could sign a certain amount of money out of the system.
Saved from being sacked
“But God saved me. I got to the office that Monday morning a lady brought a document for me to sign in the midst of work. I told her if she could not wait, I won’t be able to sign it. She took it to another person. But it turned out that it was a fraudulent deal. It led to the sack of many people in the bank. The then Inspector General of Police, Mohammadu Gambo had to step into the matter to carry out an investigation.
“All of us were first suspended so they could do the investigation. By the end of the day, I was vindicated. Rather than being sacked, I was promoted while many others were sacked.”
That experience has since influenced her relationship with God. Though she is not a full-time member of the Cherubim and Seraphim church, her younger sister, Mrs. Ola Toyo who retired from the University of Lagos is a staunch member of the church. Mama Bank worships at the All Saints Anglican Church, Yaba. She says, “I have since found God to be faithful. I love the Lord. He has shown himself mighty on my behalf.”
By 1989, she retired from the bank as a senior manager with her integrity intact.
Today, Mama Bank who was given the title, Oganla of Iporo Christians in Abeokuta enjoys life; supports people, and makes many around her happy. Since she retired from the bank, she has not been involved in any other job. She has however been living on her investment of many years.
Story by Gbenga Osinaike
Mama was born September 11, I was born September 10 ? I also spent my early childhood (between 1970s and early 80s) at Isalẹ (not Iporo) Ake in Abeokuta with my grandmother.
One aspect of this piece/post is how Mama Bank aptly described, Jesu Oyinbo, Odumosu as “hoodwinking a lot of people who gave up all their belongings to follow him.”.
This characterization perfectly fit the story shared by my grandmother (1894 – 1984) and the account my dad gave of the man whose one of siblings happened to be my father’s classmate and close pal.
Eye witness account had it that Odumosu father was actually a native herbalist (psychotherapist) with specialization in treating the lunatics, the deranged and the lot with pyschosis. He was reputed for using “cane” (ẹgba fún ìwòsàn were) in weeping his patients to sort of “fall in line” in what his admirers and detractors considered to have some remedial and curative (esoteric and diabolic) healing powers. It was this cane (ẹgba fún ìwòsàn were) that Jesu Oyingbo reportedly inherented along record of herbal medicine and voodoo practice (akọsilẹ iwe ogun) after his father’s demise and which he effectively deployed in “hoodwinking” and “hypnotizing” his members and those who patronised him.
I am sure Mama Bank can tell of another “Baba Alatinga” from Cotonou who used to lead native (witch) doctors in “exorcising” the spirit of witchcraft from people but later transform himself and his trade into what has today become one of the most thriving mega (white garment) churches within the Christian denominations.
Bi ọmọdé ko ba ba itan, oye ko ba arọba; nitori wipe, arọba sini baba itan. May the Lord bless Mama Bank for sharing her story and pointing out some of this facts in her lived experience. And may the good Lord bless you and your media organisations for the great work you guys are doing documenting historical facts
Interesting story. I’m particularly wowed by the links of this remarkable with prominent Nigerians.
More oil to the Churchtimes vision.
Amen. Thanks bro