“Native Trader, Not to be Trusted”

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This is a story, as told by the Late Chief Michael Ibru, on the occasion of ‘Auntie’s’ (Mrs. Elsie Ibru) 60th birthday.

The tale goes thus…

In the mid 1950’s, after leaving UAC, Broda and Uncle Jimmy large established LAIBRU – a small trading company that was the catalyst for what would eventually became the IBRU Organisation.  Chief Michael, simply known back then as ‘Mike’, came up with the idea of importing frozen fish into Nigeria – so as to alleviate the protein deficiency in the average Nigerian’s diet. In order to achieve his goals, he had to source for funding from the banks. At that time, the established banks were mainly foreign/British – Barclays, Standard etc… Hence he proceeded to one of such banks to appeal for a loan.

During that era, the British Establishment, public and private, scouted students of excellence from reputable schools such as Igbobi College. Identified students were recruited after graduation, as the nation’s work force.

Thus, as a result of Broda’s flawless performance at Igbobi College and later at UAC, during his first visit to one of these banks, he was immediately recognized by the bank manager. Clearly his reputation proceeded him. For the purpose of this story the bank manager shall be referred to as ‘Mr. Black’. To the amazement of the Nigerian staff present, including an elderly clerk, the ‘small, fine boy’ wearing khaki shorts and a simple white shirt was warmly welcomed with statements such as;

Mr. Black – “Ah, Michael Ibru. UAC! Igbobi college! Head boy I believe? Fabulous to meet you old chap. How’s the cricket? Team captain and first colours I hear! Cup of tea?”

Extremely elated at such a welcome, Broda proceeded to explain what he was hoping to achieve and that he needed a loan.

Mr. Black – “Well, Michael, that’s a fabulous idea. But you do know ‘old boy’ that your request will have to be approved by the bank’s home office in the U.K?”

Chief Michael -”Yes Sir.”

Mr. Black – “That would take about two weeks?”

Chief Michael – “That’s fine sir.”

Mr. Black – “Very good. Be back in two weeks and I am sure I should have some good news for you…”

An optimistic Chief Michael left with dreams of a bright future ahead for him and Nigeria.

Two weeks later, he was back at the bank.

Mr. Black – “Ahhhh Michael old boy, how are you?  Cup of tea? How’s the cricket these days? et cetera…”

The conversation continued for at least an hour with no mention of his project. Broda cleared his throat…

Chief Michael – “Erm, sir, any news as regards to my application?”

Mr. Black – “Your loan? Oh oh yes, your loan. Yes yes I have sent it off. Just another two weeks and you should get your answer.”

Chief Michael – “Thank you sir. I will see you in two weeks.”

Hmmm… Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock. Two weeks later…

Mr. Black – “Just two weeks more old chap…”

Hmmm… Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock. Two weeks later…

Mr. Black – “Just two more weeks old chap …”

A YEAR later, Broda once again disappointed, was leaving the bank, wondering if the two weeks would ever come to an end. He was almost at the door when the elderly Nigerian clerk, who all this time had been watching this handsome determined young man, relentlessly show up every fortnight for one year, approached him. He took him by the arm and in a gentle fatherly way said;

“My son, please follow me. I must show you something.”

In his usual polite manner, Broda followed. He was lead to an office, where the clerk handed him a file. Broda was perplexed at what he saw. In his hands was the application he had submitted to Mr. Black. Yes indeed,  the ‘oyibo’ had sent his file off to the home office. However, he had also noted as his recommendation;

“Native Trader, Not To Be Trusted!”

A regular person at this point might have become despondent but no, not Chief Michael. Instead, more determined than ever, he brushed himself off and proceeded to the African Continental Bank where ‘Auntie’ worked as the confidential secretary to the chairman of the N.C.N.C,  Mr Fredrick McQueen. ‘Mike’ was granted audience, a loan of £3,000 followed, IBRU Seafoods (named by Auntie) was launched and the rest as they say is history…

Broda’s story taught me many things about how one should live ones life.

Determination, relentlessness, optimism, resilience, perseverance, patience and the willingness to help others are attributes that come to mind.

He was living proof that Nigerians can and should be successful by cooperating amongst themselves and should not be under the misconception that as a people we always require external aide to progress.

Mekay-e! Fantomas!

”When the fog horn blows, I will be coming home!” (Van Morrison)

Perfect rest in the loving bosom of the Almighty – Amen!

Peter.

– Narrated by Peter Ibru

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