Agbonmagbe could easily have been our own 160 years old Yorkshire Bank. It could have been the regional bank of the South-West driving real economic sustainability, as opposed to ephemeral “growth” without development… Agbonmagbe is a textbook example of a sole proprietorship without skills and a succession plan. Chief Doyin Okupe’s revisionist and rosy packaging will not fly with those of us who are students of the society and its evolution.


Being human is rooted in consciousness. At the root of consciousness, is understanding the linkages between the past and the present. That is what is called history. History is inescapable, it is essential. In history we find our rooted markers, without which we lack a sense of identity. History allows us to build upon our foundations or rebuild unstable structures. It is important to know what happened in the past, for us to be rooted in time. I read a note purportedly written by Chief Doyin Okupe going round on WhatsApp and I cursed out those who removed History from the school curriculum in the intervening years before it was restored. It is when people seek to rewrite or embellish history, that we understand and appreciate the evil that was visited upon us for a while. Anyone or group with no sense of history is prone to damaging themselves and others, as current events reveal.

Agbonmagbe was not the first indigenous bank in Nigeria. National Bank and other less known banks preceded it. National Bank of Nigeria Limited was incorporated on February 11, 1933 under the Companies Ordinance as a limited liability Company. The share capital was £10,000, divided into 10,000 shares of £1 each. Those mentioned in the bank’s Memorandum of Association were: Dr. Akinola Maja, Akintunde Adeshigbin, Theophilus Adebayo Doherty, Alfred Latunde Johnson, Hamza Adisa Zubair, Isaac Ayoola Ogunlana and Colley Akinremi Holloway. (Source: Coker Commission of Inquiry into the affairs of Certain statutory corporations in Western NIGERIA. 1962 VOL II).

The Coker report revealed how poorly trained Agbonmagbe staff were and that: “loans and overdrafts were granted in circumstances which, when considered in light of the Banking Ordinance, would be illegal.” Chief M.A Okupe was a member of the Action Group and a leader in Ijebu-Remo. This obviously influenced the lack of due diligence into the bank’s health before the Western Region government jumped in.


In contrast, Agbonmagbe Bank was incorporated in 1945 with Chief Mathew Adekoya Okupe and his wife Regina Okupe as shareholders. The Memorandum of Association showed an authorised share capital of £5,000 divided into one thousand shares of £5 each. Agbonmagbe, like many businesses of the time, received tremendous help from the Western Region government. In his speech to the Western House of Assembly in 1956, Chief Obafemi Awolowo announced his government’s policy to invest and assist indigenous banks and that Agbonmagbe had passed the “acid test” for this. Given this policy directive, the Western Region Marketing Board invested £25,000 in the bank, constituted of five thousand ordinary shares of £5 each, out of which a total of £13,410 was paid out in 2,682 ordinary shares of £5 each. The Marketing Board invested, so the bank could help commodity buying agents who used them. With government backing, the bank continued to enjoy confidence and that prompted the Eastern Region Marketing Board to place with it, “£200,000 long-term deposit, with an agreed annual yield of 3%.”

The Coker report revealed how poorly trained Agbonmagbe staff were and that: “loans and overdrafts were granted in circumstances which, when considered in light of the Banking Ordinance, would be illegal.” Chief M.A Okupe was a member of the Action Group and a leader in Ijebu-Remo. This obviously influenced the lack of due diligence into the bank’s health before the Western Region government jumped in. When the bank began running into trouble, the Marketing Board converted the £200,000 deposit in the bank into shares and acquired a majority holding of the financial institution. Then, Western Nigeria did a hostile takeover of the bank to protect its investment and prevent bank failure.

Agbonmagbe bank was hardly a glorious incursion. It was a run-of-the-mill loan shark wrapped up in sleaze and shady deals. The bank was not an edifying example of indigenous entrepreneurship and never really transited out of been a loan shark until it was acquired. There was no discernible corporate governance and its failure was inevitable.


Agbonmagbe could easily have been our own 160 years old Yorkshire Bank. It could have been the regional bank of the South-West driving real economic sustainability, as opposed to ephemeral “growth” without development. Unfortunately, the pioneers of indigenous banking in Nigeria, including Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe with the African Continental Bank lacked the management savvy and the transparency needed for proper fiduciary responsibility. Agbonmagbe is a textbook example of a sole proprietorship without skills and a succession plan. Chief Doyin Okupe’s revisionist and rosy packaging will not fly with those of us who are students of the society and its evolution. However, Chief Doyin Okupe is right to call Wema Bank the oldest surviving indigenous bank, post-Soludo reforms.

Agbonmagbe bank was hardly a glorious incursion. It was a run-of-the-mill loan shark wrapped up in sleaze and shady deals. The bank was not an edifying example of indigenous entrepreneurship and never really transited out of been a loan shark until it was acquired. There was no discernible corporate governance and its failure was inevitable. National Bank and The Cooperative Bank certainly made a more lasting impact on the Western Region. Unlike the Cooperative Bank, Agbonmagbe had no core values or guiding development principles. Chief Mathew Adekoya Okupe was certainly not in the class of Chief Adeola Odutola, Adeyemi Lawson, Chief S.L Edu and T.A Braitwaith (indigenous insurance pioneers). Chief Doyin Okupe is just fantasising.

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst writes this weekly column, “Bamidele Upfront” for PREMIUM TIMES. Follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo