First Bank Nigeria Plc is a miserable bank. Yes, I said it. Nationwide miserable. Or, more specifically, Southwest wide miserable. I had cause to travel across five states in the spate of 48hours, going about my legitimate business of buying and supplying physical goods and I had cause to go into the different branches of this redundant mammoth or passing by in a car and seeing the total disregard and disrespect meted out to frustrated and seemingly choice less customers. Yes, customers, not clients.
From Ogbomoso, Ibadan, Oyo state to Osogbo, Osun state to Ijebu Ode, Ogun State to Badagry, Lagos state and even more appalling, along Unity road Ilorin, Kwara State and the list is endless. All you see in front of First Bank Nigeria Plc branches are endless queues of pathetic and disgruntled caramel colored beings, almost, zombie-like shuffling forward to the ‘state of the art’ security doors of the bank or to the ‘take all the time you need to dispense money’ automatic teller machine. Is technology supposed to make the lives of Homo sapiens in tropic region hell on earth? I wondered. Or is it that, the automatic teller machines in First Bank are jealous of the huge fan base, ‘the state of the art’ security doors command, that, in its keloid wisdom, it thought it wise to dispense money ever so slowly, so it can say “Yohoo! See, my P is bigger than yours”. I mean, it is heart wrenching, seeing hordes, both in front of the machines and the doors. I die a little death every time I approached a First Bank branch.
A comedian once said, “If people pay you in little amounts, like in hundreds and thousands, then you should regard those people as customers, but, if they pay you in millions and billions, then, they are clients”. So, they required different kind of treatment? Hello? I see this as a typical Nigerian business philosophy. A warped one at that. As I craned my neck this way and that way, looking at the stale-shit-like faces of the people on the queue, I don’t see no millionaires and billionaires amongst us. Then, I asked myself, is that the philosophy of First Bank? Or is the bank just plain old and tired and couldn’t just be bothered with all this customer services sound byte, young, suave, Ivy league ties life coaches mouthed over the airwaves?
Ah, at last, you are inside the bank and the temperature inside rivaled that of warm spit. That is the least of your problems really, because you just realized that the population inside tripled the population outside. Then, it dawned on you that, while you saw ‘customers’ shuffled in, you actually never saw them raced out, the bank just seemed to swallow them into its great under belly. You, fatalistically, took your place in the queue. There should be continuity in business, yes? So you continue from where you stopped. And, since there is nothing really for you to do on the queue, expect to stand, and look bored and frustrated and primed yourself up to ensure that nobody cut the line or in front of you for that matter, your eyes roamed the banking hall and you noticed that there is something nineteen seventyish or eightyish (depending on how old you are) about the hall, aside from the humongous computers (that are forever hanging), the portraits of the current President of the nation, the Governor of the state and maybe, the Director of the bank. Nothing much had changed. There are no surprises. You can never get lost in First Bank, even in twenty ninety-eight, that is for sure.
I very much wanted to turn around and exit this gwadforsaken bank. But I am a business woman, my suppliers needed to be paid and the life of my goods hang in the balance. So I squared my shoulders, with my head held high, “I can do this” I muttered, as I inched micro millimeter forward in the queue to a hyper-bored looking middle aged teller.