I have a son who was born in September 1986, though I was not at his birth or indeed at the hospital. The fact was that I was in Nigeria at that time on a business trip that proved to be amusing and scary and provided a story that is still extraordinary.
Nigeria was no stranger to me. I had travelled there in 1960 as a small boy with my family as my father took a posting to Aba to sell washing powder, well that was his first job but soon he graduated to running an insurance company. I knew that my son was due in early September or close to then but my bank had asked me to go to Nigeria on a trading and training mission that could be for several weeks and so a choice was to be made. I felt that if I refused the trip I might not be offered it again and therefore taking a chance on a late delivery of my son I decided to go to Nigeria.
I was working for the Bank of America in their training section with mandates from small institutions in Asia and Africa. They had a proven method of explaining foreign exchange, options and other instruments using a white board and magnetic arrows to indicate the flow of currencies and interest rates. Looking back it was very basic but so many wanted to learn and this was a winner for the bank. In Nigeria the mandate was taken by the Savannah Bank which had a few branches yet wanted to be a player on the world stage. However it’s recent history shows fraud, licences revoked and general dodgy behaviour, I hope I did not contribute towards that end!
It was suggested that another person accompany me and in their wisdom they produced David Allertson who worked in our Manchester branch. His main qualification was that he had been a foreign exchange Trader of the Year and more importantly had never left England. We were given a shopping list for the trip that included tropical suits, telephones and wires, two lavatory seats, slide projectors, printed notes for up to fifty attendees, a white board, pens, paper and many other things requisitioned from the stationary cupboard.
Armed with a large cash advance I duly bought a linen suit in Piccadilly, received my visa from the Consulate and enjoyed many rounds of farewell drinks. Then having engaged a best friend to be on standby for the birth of my son and heir, the trip was set. The fun started at Gatwick where our British Caledonian flight to Lagos was waiting for us. Well I thought it was going to Lagos but as things turned out I was wrong, we were going to Nigeria but not in the way it was planned.