It still hurts like yesterday but it also came with its own lessons; the lessons that have shaped my understanding of life, charity and vanity of life. I never knew that the very rich Nnewi people I had admired as a child would dash my hopes by refusing to assist me in my time of need despite the promise I showed.
It was around August 1996 after I had just finished my post graduate Diploma in Management and needed N10,000 (ten thousand naira) only to complete my school fees for Masters in Business Administration at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka Enugu Campus.
I didn’t have the money. My family didn’t have either not after my well-to-do father was impoverished after the civil war and died couple of years after leaving my mother confused and needy. But, I wanted to be a scholar and a professional.
I had to do menial jobs and petty trading to see myself through secondary school at Nnewi High School, first degree and PGD at UNN.
I wanted to have my masters degree before securing my dream banking job. I believed that I would be better equipped to fly in my career with an MBA.
After looking at my left and my right and seeing no sponsorship hope or fruitful assistance, I decided to approach Igwe KON Orizu, the head of our larger family of Ezeoguine for advice on how to raise the money I needed for my education. “After all, is he not the Igwe Nnewi and who should have enough clout to get one of our very rich men to solve a reasonable financial problem like mine” I assumed.
“Anayo, my brother, you know that I love education. I have seen your certificates and am impressed with your high grades but you can see that I don’t have the money to give you but here is my letter headed paper, write a appeal letter to any person you think could do it and I will sign. But remember that generosity is not a function of how much the rich man has but how keen he is to give”, the monarch ended, handing the letterheads to me.
I constructed a letter that I thought was persuasive enough and addressed it to two prominent Nnewi billionaires; one from Otolo and the other from Uru Umudim.
Igwe signed the letters and wished me goodluck as I set off to try my luck. I was so optimistic that if one didn’t work the other would work. But I was to be shocked to my bone marrow.
My Otolo brother gave me an audience in his office but told me point blank that, “I would have done it if your request is for an undergraduate scholarship, I don’t help those for master degree”. He even gave me a hilarious look when I asked him to lend me the N10,000 that I would pay him back. I visited him with my 75 years old uncle and a senior cousins who swore that our rich man would help if he saw them. Feeling disappointed, three of us left the man’s office with our tails tucked in-between our two legs.
I visited our Umudim brother who had his head office at Machine Parts Section of Nnewi market alone. He asked his secretary to collect the Ihwe’s letter from me, saying that he would read it and get back to me. I visited his office for more than 12 times and he was still to read the letter. And I used my tongue to count my teeth.
Still undaunted, I returned to Enugu and organized a meeting of Okada riders plying UNEC Main Gate to Inside Campus and told them that I could help them buy motorcycles from Nnewi at much cheaper prices. They believed me. After less than 15 trade trips to Nnewi from Enugu, and from the gains I made from arbitrage, I was able to raise my school fees and all the allowances I needed.
Fast forward to 2003 when I was working with Fidelity Bank. One of those two brothers that didn’t help me, the one that hails from Umudim had a credit request from Nnewi branch of the bank valued about N200mn being presented at the Bank Credit Committee holding in Head Office Lagos. As an officer, I could attend credit approval meetings and was allowed to speak for or against any credit. I could have highlighted some of the weaknesses of the credit that would have caused the approval committee to decline our brother’s request but I found myself rather speaking in favour of its approval. And it was approved.
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Again, thirteen years after, when I was in another bank and had become a senior management staff, the account officer of this our Umudim brother came all the way from her branch to my office in the head office asking me to help her push a credit facility of over a billion naira for our Umudim brother. The account officer who is from Nnewi and wanted me to push and support the loan facilities in the spirit of Nnewiness. Not only did I support but I personally presented the credit to both management and board credit committees. And it was approved.
As destiny would have it, I had the opportunity in 2007 to either approve or decline a temporary overdraft facility of N250 million in favour of the Otolo brother who wouldn’t help a postgraduate student. He needed the short-term loan so direly. It was a difficult time for him. Like the Joseph in the Bible, I demanded to see him before I signed. When he met me in my office at Adeola Odeku, Victoria Island Lagos, he couldn’t recollect who I was but he told me that my face was familiar. I exercised my discretional approval in his favour. I rejected his tip of N100,000 for lunch telling him that I would never receive “financial thank you” for helping an Nnewi brother.
Across banks and even now as a head of Corporate & Investment Banking, I have facilitated over ₦20bn for serious Nnewi manufacturing companies and still counting. Yes, that poor beggarly student was not mean and hard when he it was his to turn to help.
My earlier status as a poor or needy student and now an enabler to the business needs of same Nnewi brothers that could’ve conveniently helped me taught me a huge lesson in life. The lesson is not to ever underrate any Nnewi person; and that he could be anybody and could be in a position to even take a consequential future decisions that may affect me and my family for good or for bad.
More importantly, the positive impact of the treatment I received from our two Nnewi billionaires is my decision to behave differently by establishing undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships for very indigent Nnewi students that have produced four PhD holders and some graduates and masters degree holders as my small resources can carry.
That those billionaire brothers didn’t help me at my point of need doesn’t mean that they didn’t or don’t help others. Perhaps, it was my portion as “ndị ụka ọfụụ” would say. It could as well be because they didn’t see future or profit in me.
Anayo Matthew Nwosu