How MKO lost mum on first work day @ Barclays Bank

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TheYoung MKO Abiola in the late 60s

Moshood was screaming. He had just heard of his mother’s death from a relative who had come to Ibadan from Ogun state to inform him. It was the tenth of December 1956. Moshood was at his first day of work in Barclays Bank. His relative did not respond to his outburst immediately. He wanted Moshood to calm down, and when he spoke after a few minutes, he resorted to a short Koranic verse. “We all belong to God and we shall return to Him”

That was all he said. He knew that only time, and not words, could heal the kind of pain that Moshood was feeling. After that, Moshood went to his supervisor’s office and told him what had happened. The supervisor gave him permission to return to Ogun state for a few days. He left immediately. His trip to Ogun State took less than two hours. By the time he got home, he was surprised to learn that members of his former band were not only aware of his mother’s death, but had taken care of all her burial expenses. He thanked them and told them that he would remain grateful to them for the rest of his life.

He consoled his father. He wished that he had a job in his town, instead of Ibadan, so that he would never have to leave him. Apart from him and his father, every other member of the family felt her loss because Zuliat was not just a mother or wife; she was also a pillar to the entire family, whom Moshood once described as “similar to the light that comes from the moon for guidance” On the day of her death, he tried to explain the magnitude of his loss to a neighbor. “My mother taught me a lot of things but she forgot to teach me how to survive without her”

The GDA and the Author, Abdul-Jamiu Abiodun Abiola in rare display of the book during the interview

But time would prove Moshood wrong. Her teachings, and those of his father’s, had indeed taught him how to survive without anybody. His mother was not educated but the discipline that she instilled in him, as basic as they might have seemed in that rural setting, had provided him with the solid foundation on which he not only survived but made a glittering success of his life, starting from Barclay’s bank, where those teachings were visible in the diligence and hard work that people grew to admire in him. He worked there for two years and would have loved to stay longer but he won a scholarship and had to travel abroad.

 “He left for the United Kingdom, where he studied accounting, commercial law, and political economy at Glasgow University and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland. This period in his life lasted five years, during which time he won several awards for excellent academic performance”

He left for the United Kingdom, where he studied accounting, commercial law, and political economy at Glasgow University and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland. This period in his life lasted five years, during which time he won several awards for excellent academic performance. He was in his twenties by then and had married a woman named Simbiat.
Moshood had already secured a job offer in Nigeria by the time he graduated. Guinness, a multinational company, was set to hire him. It even financed his trip back to Nigeria. The prospects of working in a new post-independence Nigeria, where blacks could climb the corporate ladder as swiftly as whites in big companies, excited him. But not many people shared his optimism. One day an old friend told him, “The colonialists have gone but don’t be deceived! They have left behind corporations to carry out their oppression and suppression”
Moshood disagreed. He felt that his friend, who was unemployed then, was envious of him because of his job offer from Guinness. But before signing his employment contract, Moshood had begun having his own doubts as well. Through reliable sources, he had learned that discrimination against blacks had remained a norm in many big multinational companies in Nigeria, and that since discrimination had not been made an official policy in these companies, it had almost become impossible to address.
 
The Book that cleansed MKOAbiola's Political blemishes


Moshood became discouraged. One day during a conversation with a friend, he said, “If this form of prejudice was an official thing, we could have confronted it, but it is difficult to do anything now because if we bring up the issue, the management of these companies will claim that it does not exist and will demand that we prove our allegations. I’m not interested in working in such an environment”.
His friend, who had always dreamed of being employed in a multinational company, was not convinced. As far as he was concerned, Moshood was just being unwise. “You have not started working at Guinness and yet you’re already complaining. Since when did an accountant bother about matters that should be left to union leaders and activists?”

They both argued further and when Moshood’s friend realized that he was not ready to back down, he advised him to give the company a try, at least to clarify whether what he was hearing were facts or rumors. Moshood agreed reluctantly but just as he was about to start working there, he changed his mind again. The level of the discrimination was much higher than he had thought. He had been informed that Nigerians even battled for basic things like car loans and that their salaries were significantly lower than those of their white expatriate counterparts.
Once again his friend advised him to verify things after working there but this time Moshood disagreed. “I don’t need to verify anything. I already have. I met a white man who, despite being a UAC staff, has an input in the affairs of Guinness employees because UAC is in charge of the Guinness employment policy in Nigeria” He paused briefly. “Do you know what he told me? He said that westerners deserve to be given more perks and a better overall package in Guinness because they founded the company. He also said that anybody who was not pleased about that was free to leave the company.”
 
MKO Abiola and Dad, Chief Salaudeen Adenekan
His friend finally gave up. “People like you go to school abroad and come back with too much pride and an excessively revolutionary attitude. What if western corporations are prejudiced? Can’t things improve in the future? Was Rome built in a day? Anyway, by the time poverty hits you on the head, you will wise up”
Moshood abandoned the job offer and things became tough as his friend had predicted, but he had no regrets. He searched for another job and found one at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. Although his salary was only a quarter of what Guinness had offered him, he was happy with his new job. But after a year he moved on to better employment when he was appointed as a divisional controller in the agricultural division of Pfizer.

The Author Jamiu Abiola with brother, Mumuni Abiola

Working in Pfizer was a pleasant experience. The only thing he complained about was not being able to buy shares in the company. According to him, Pfizer at that time had a policy that barred employees from owning shares. Moshood, who had become very ambitious by then, began harboring the feeling that his efforts for the company would never be compensated as long as that policy remained in place. He finally resigned in February 1969. By then he had saved a big part of his salary and had made up his mind to set up his own accounting firm.
(Excerpts from the book, The President Who Never Ruled by Jamiu Abiola; get copies in any book shop across the world or write Jamiu Abiola through jamiulinguist@yahoo.com. Read The Newspaper Ad that gave MKO his Breakthrough in our next post on this blog)

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