Chapter 1: The Meeting
This is the true, unabashed story of a thirty-something year old Tiv man who was thrown out of the a lucrative industry in Nigeria at the middle of a recession, went back, by chance met a elderly Igala woman from a completely different background, and came to learn life’s most important lesson about financial freedom. He was born into privilege, raised in the Old Ikoyi part of Lagos, she into squalor somewhere in the remote village of Akpelu in Dekina, Kogi State. He was an Oxford man, married young, climbed moderately in his career wise, would someday be Managing Director of one of Nigeria’s then thriving investment banks –or so he thought—and now he had nothing; she came from the dregs and had now climbed out—so much so that she was able to help a stranger pick up his life along with the things that mattered most.
My name is Panshak Tersoo, and like most turnaround stories, mine starts with an accident.
I should not have been anywhere near the location of that life-changing experience. But on that particular day in December of 2013, I had to go back in time to when I was a little boy.
I should think everyone—when presented with some daunting challenge—has had to fight the urge to return to their childhood; to a time when life was simpler—easier to cope with—as I have.
I had been the first of three sons of doting but often absent middleclass parents, and now I wanted to reclaim my grasp of this cherished place I had once occupied on planet earth. I found myself back on the balcony of our 25a Glover Road, Ikoyi home ; staring from it at a bright sunny day. I could hear pigeons chirping as the breeze scattered flower petals from the two dandelion trees in the driveway all over our fairly large compound. This was where I had grown up.
Then, I had a sudden image of masons outfitting a newly etched swimming pool with glazed tiles to the right side of the main building. My mother,who worked in big oil, had decided my brothers and me should learn to swim, and my father, an airline pilot, had thrown his chequebook behind the project. Nothing was ever too good for his boys, and he had gone ahead to hire one of the best swimming pool builders in Lagos to do the job. After the pool had been finished, the problem became getting us, boys, to use it. In fact, the swimming instructors were handsomely paid as I recall but we never really did much with any of daddy’s cash dole-outs. And though he felt terribly proud of that swimming pool and my mother was estactic, I still wished they weren’t almost always away on work-related trips as they were during my formative years.
Today, as I gazed at the stately building that had once been my home, I thought of how much throwing money at our problems had cost. How I never lacked for anything save the feeling that my parents really loved my brothers and me; having to eventually endure the loss of my mother to cancer and the rekindling of a most comforting relationship with my grief-struck dad, who himself passed away shortly after. My childhood had been a bittersweet drift where money had never been a problem. But now, I was nearly broke, nearly alone and quickly losing my perspective on life and its purpose.
Turning away from the comforts of the past, I snapped back to reality. Yes, I was still standing in front of my childhood home but it wasn’t the welcoming building I once knew any longer. The building in front of me had a stoic ambience. The trees that once flanked our compound on both sides had been replaced by driveways that snaked behind the building. Then, it came back to me refreshingly, like a splash of cold water on a sunny afternoon, why I had been standing in front of 25a Glover Road, Ikoyi in the first place.
You see, I had managed to secure a job—which I had now come to dread—as a commercial banker with one of the recently nationalised banks. It had been about six months now, and commercial banking, unlike like investment banking seemed very menial—a lot like using a needle and thread instead of sewing maching to run stitches. I was here to see the pick up the title documents to this house as security for a $3million loan which I was about to have disbursed to my customer, Alheri Exports Limited.
Still in my own cocoon of asphyxiation and nostalgia about lost heirloom and family, I walked up to the front door not knowing what to expect. All Mr. Aliyu, Alheri’s CEO, had told me was that the property belonged to his Aunt and she had agreed to put it up for his company to get the loan.
‘Good morning my son, are you from Faruq?’
I was startled out of my musings. The speaker stood at the front balcony—yes, the one I had cherished as a little boy—on the first floor of the building, apparently savouring the cool breeze that this Monday morning brought with it. She was an attractive elderly woman wearing a flowing yellow gown with her head and shoulders covered up in a white shawl. I hadn’t noticed her before, but I now noticed she was wearing gold bangles and an expensive gold watch. She seemed so vibrant and yet secure.
I was instantly struck numb. I wasn’t used to interacting with old women, not to talk of one this strikingly beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, for the last few months I had been opportune to meet so many people as day-to-day commercial banking demanded—the opening of new accounts, dealing with customer complaints and of course, attempting to meet the crazy targets I was required to meet at the end of each month—but none of them evoked more awe as did this woman….To be continued