How I became bank MD at 39 – Falalu Bello
Malam Falalu Bello, a lawyer by training, has led at least four different banks at different times as managing director. He recently took over as the new National Chairman of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), from Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa, a former governor of Kaduna State. He shared parts of his private life with Daily Trust Saturday. Excerpts:
Daily Trust: What informed your transition from business to politics?
Falalu Bello: Honestly, I have not transited. I am still a businessman. I don’t believe people should do politics when they don’t have anything to do. I don’t believe people should do politics as a vocation. I believe people should do politics because they have something to do. I am not here to make money. So I cannot kill my business because of politics. Maybe I have to re-arrange it. I don’t have the time to give to the businesses as I used to do, but I would not close down the businesses because of party politics.
DT: What would you bring to the political arena based on your business background?
Bello: The important thing is you do business to bring services, and services are meant for people. Historically, I was a trader. I used to import, bag, and sell fertilizer. So we are going to show people that we are not in PRP to promote poverty. We are in PRP to make people own their own political party, to make their lives better. That, to me, is what I am trying to do in party politics.
DT: Your working experience started in 1980, as a magistrate in Kaduna, before you veered into the financial sector. At what point did you decide to make that move?
Bello: I’ve been working all my life. I am one of the few Nigerians that held position at four banks as Managing Director. The first bank I held, I was there as a worker for 10 years before I became the manager. I spent four years before I moved into another bank; I spent three years there before I was appointed as the manager of the Bank of Agriculture. I served, and left, and that was when I went into business.
The merger that came as a consequence of the consolidation policy of Governor Soludo, brought me back to banking, when the boards of the banks on which I served, asked me to come and midwife the merger, which I did till 2010. I have been a manager in my life, and not a businessman. The business element came in subsequently.
DT: You have headed many major financial institutions. What aspect of your experience would you say you carry from one role to the next?
Bello: Discipline. Whatever you do in life, if you do not have discipline, you cannot succeed. You are placed to manage many people, and you should be a role model to them. For example, ask anyone who has worked under me, they can never say I came late to office, even once. It is not by choice, it is a necessity. I want to have the moral courage to tell those under me that they must come to work on time. I just felt I must do that, so whoever you are, executive director, manager or messenger, you have to come to work on time, because I come to work on time. And I have done on few occasion to stop and to clock everybody, because I was there on time and I can query those who came late.
So, you have to have discipline to instill same in others. Discipline and integrity, those two things, and the grace of God, saw me through. I became a managing director at the age of 39, of a bank that my father did not even have a single share. So, add hard work to the mix.
DT: How many of your children are following in your footsteps, career-wise?
Bello: One of them is in AMCON, and one of them read Architecture and is busy in Abuja. The next has finished his Master’s and is going for a PhD. Perhaps the one following my footsteps is with her husband, and they have decided that she should continue studying. She had a first class in Banking and Finance, and a distinction in Risk Management.
I actually have 17 children, and four wives.
DT: How does someone as busy as you are relax?
Bello: I have family and friends. Even my small kids engage me a lot. I also go on a treadmill four times a week as a form of exercise. So you can say family, friends, and exercise.
DT: What is your favourite food, and how often do you indulge yourself ?
Bello: I am diabetic, and have to mind what I eat. I have had it for 18 years, and it is something that someone can live with. One just needs to watch what one eats. But I actually eat everything; what is important is the quantity you take. My favourite food is Kunun Tsamiya and Kosai (Akara). For lunch, it is Cous-Cous. You have to align with foods that don’t have too much sugar. Then for dinner, it is something light, like yoghurt and fruits.
Malam Falalu Bello