Commercial Law

Transition: Albert Okumagba, the man who dared to dream

By Anthony George-Ikoli SAN

My dear dear (“Alibert”.)Albert.
From nothing, you dreamt , conceived, birthed and nurtured the BGL Group, into a Nigerian financial services powerhouse and market maker . You set your eyes on Africa, as the next field to take and make over , but I knew they wouldn’t let you, and I always told you so.

You christened, labeled and called me “the legendary AGI” and encouraged me to dream the establishment of the largest specialist legal services firm in Africa , and we were well on the way; quietly working tirelessly for same; organic growth, was ( and remains ) my preference, acquisition and mergers your favoured path, but no matter, we dared to dream , to demonstrate what could be, even if we were from spatial enclaves forbidden to dream, whilst shunning officialdom and disdaining governmental blandishments and patronage .

We are now at last, at the combination stage, meshing the cultures of the legacy firms, having acquired the oldest law firm in Nigeria, and I am consoled that the group you were leading received the constitutive protocols only early this week. Oh death, where is thy sting, all that work, now like ash in the mouth.

We dreamt and gigantically; a Waffi(Warri) boy, accepted and at ease, in his skin, at the most select and glittering tables in the Lagos financial services sector, effortlessly conjuring infinite possibilities of raising finance for corporate Nigeria, creating wealth, and abolishing poverty. But I knew it wouldn’t last and I always told you so. You showed them up for being the empty heads they are: yet, they are and remain the charmed regulators and the supervising ministers of our patrimony.

My eternal optimist, I counseled you to adopt and borrow a chapter from my book of “ engagement with Nigeria- the Ikoli testaments”.
Great soul that you were, you were too trusting in the goodness and the goodwill of men and labored on , trusting and believing that your licenses would be restored and we’d be on the way to financial nirvana. But I knew they’d never allow you wings to fly and I always told you so.

You didn’t drink, but you indulged my Ijaw heritage and fondness for the brew of Bacchus, and in divine Twains and inspired quatrains, ideas flowed and flowered and I thank God, we were afforded glimpses of the immense possibilities awaiting those who would dare dream, but if only the country , would allow.

We turned convention on its head and rejected “paralysis of analysis” and dared to question accepted wisdom in law, and financial services and we commenced the design of the new, for delivering on what had always been, but now more than ever in dire need, if our country were to transit peacefully from the current turbulence to the HAVEN it is capable of being.

And then this……how?
Perhaps, you dreamt of becoming a celestial financial services provider, and were done here, finding it impossible to resist the lure and allure of providing financial services to the denizens of the cosmos, if so, my dearest brother, it would be just like you, to so dare dream. You too much, abeg .

I thought I had conquered pain. I never imagined anything could hurt this much. From noontime when the insouciant grim reaper struck, and the news like thunderclap filtered out of Abuja, Lagos circles have been stunned into suspended disbelief; Egbastik is death defying , but is it a lie?

No mushy, “we love you, but God loves you more”, eulogy from me; for this I believe to be true and self evident; Nigeria, the great land of all the “just living and waiting to die”, the great masticator of its idealists and visionaries, the devourer of its thinkers and sages, just did not love you and desired the continuation of her glory to be sullied; for what would it have cost anyone to return your licenses, despite all you had done to prove more than deserving of a reprieve?

For now, benumbing sorrow is my portion and I can’t think straight, but in the fullness of time, we shall tell your story. My dearest brother and co- traveler, continue to dream, wherever you are, for the true world is but fashioned out of the dreams of those who dare to dream.

Mr George-Ikoli SAN is a former Attorney General, Bayelsa State, and the first SAN from the state.

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