Albert “Egba” Okumagba’s big personality dominated every room he walked into. His earthy and folksy nature masked the intensity of the brains that hid behind his smiley eyes. I got to know him when, between 2007 and 2010, we worked to restructure the finances of Transcorp Plc.
Those were difficult days as Transcorp suffered indigestion from the NITEL acquisition. Many of the meetings were heated but Egba never left one in doubt that we could sit afterward and share a drink.
He was the bankers’ banker. His old Nokia Communicator phone – which I doubt he ever upgraded – had the contact details of almost all the most important people in Nigeria; from presidents to governors to senators to security chiefs. He was a regular feature at all the major government and business events from Aso Villa to Transcorp Hilton. Irrespective of who he was with (and they were typically movers and shakers), Egba would stop and acknowledge his friends, typically with a big hug.
He walked with the air of a man with purpose and who trusted his abilities. And he had real abilities. He built BGL Plc. into one of the biggest investment banks in Nigeria before his 40th birthday. The firm advised on over 70 percent of the bank consolidations of the mid-2000s and other major transactions from them until his ordeal started about 4 years ago.
It is hard to know what stories to believe in Nigeria. The jury is out on whether he should have fought with the regulators or whether he should have sought a settlement. That debate is neither here nor there. He lost the fight.
I ran into him a few times and I was glad to see that he still had the sparkle in his eyes. Although his stride was a bit measured, he still had big ideas. He was always excited by big ideas. If I was a betting man, I would have wagered that he would bounce back with something big.
But that is not to be. The heavens called his number on November 19, 2020, and he answered. That second act is not to be. At least, not on this earth. I do not doubt that he would be a major act in the hereafter. May he find peace there. May posterity be kind to his memories.
* Patrick Okigbo 111, is a policy analyst and principal partner at Nextier Capital Ltd.