Chief Samuel Bamidele Falegan, the first Nigerian Managing Director of Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, FMBN, and former director of Research, Central Bank of Nigeria, in this interview with FEMI AYODELE talks about his life, his ordeal at FMBN, the real reason Christopher Kolade resigned as SURE-P chairman, among other sundry issues
How is Life at 81?
This question reminds me of a song rendered by a young lady in the movie, The Sound Of Music – ‘I’m 16 going 17.’ She couldn’t hide her joy for being 17. So in the same manner, I thank God for my life – from 80 to 81, now going to 82. It brings me joy and glory to God for his faithfulness. My being alive is by his grace. Though it is not strange to be having some cramps of old age, by and large, God has been my supporter. My solace is in the words of Psalm 66 and 71.
Can you talk about your upbringing and early years?
I grew up in a polygamous family and my father was a patterned disciplinarian. Both parents were Christians. As early as 6am, my father would send us to the farm. I remember being carried on the head at age 6 – crying when being taken to farm. By 12 noon, we must have been able to cultivate about 200 heaps. Our father used to supply yams for the whole of Christ’s School for six years. All for the principal then, Rev. Canon Mason, to substitute the money for our school fees and return the balance to my father. My mother was trading in clothes. I remember I would carry some of the clothes on my head trekking to Ilawe, Ikere and Iworoko and return same day. Don’t be surprised. In fact, my father trekked from Ado to Ilesa to buy needle for his machine and returned same day to make clothes for some young people in preparation for Ogun festival. In our time, other than Sundays, we were always on the farm during holidays only to return Saturday evening to attend church service on Sunday.
What prompted you to write your memoir: Yes
I’d thought of writing my life history, but had always felt reluctant to do so. First, as a result of my experience in life, I didn’t want my children to inherit any prejudice nor become victims of such prejudices. Secondly, a friend of mine pointed my attention to the importance of reeling the episodes at the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria and the image it created for me, for better or worse, depending on the way one views it, and that such events should not be swept under the carpet. My children also played a role – they were more persuasive. My story is not meant for me alone, but for the reading public, historians, philosophers and biographers, who will pass judgment on what I did or did not do, topped by what I wrote before my departure. It is good to preserve one’s deeds, or even what others might see as one’s misdeeds.
From your elementary schools days up till tertiary education, you recorded you had problem with passing mathematics. How did you overcome it?
Those were years of serious school discipline, with teachers carrying loads of canes to beat students. We thought they were being wicked but in retrospect they wanted the best for us. Two mathematic teachers frightened me into hating mathematics until I was forced to learn it for Mathematical Economics, which I needed to qualify for my master’s degree in Economics in 1976 at the University of Oregon in the United State of America. The style of the first teacher was to cane you for the number of sums you got wrong. The second always came to school on bicycle. I was always frightened the moment I set my eyes on his bicycle riding up the hill. My seat was by the window, where I could peep, see him and whisper his arrival. He was nicknamed ‘Edumare’. He would lash himself on his right foot about three times and shout ‘Edumare’ before he descended on his victim with numerous lashes. The use of cane was frightening to many of the students and I was particularly frightened of the caning, and I believe that contributed to my hatred for arithmetic later on in life. Even at Fourah Bay College, none of my compulsory subjects involved mathematics. However, it was a different situation for my master’s degree at the University of Oregon. I went to my professor and explained my predicament. He advised me to enroll in a nearby county during my private hours to learn Algebra which would help me understand Statistic and Mathematics Economics at the university. I complied – did that for a whole year and I was amazed at the ease with which I overcame the fear of yesteryears and my hatred for Maths. When some of my colleagues in Christ’s School saw my book on Nigeria’s External Debt Burden 1992, and the qualitative and economic analysis I did, they were surprised.