THE new book by M.M Fahm entitled The Steel Bankeress (Grace Springs Africa Publishers, Lagos; 2013) is a great insight into what goes on in Nigerian banking sector. There is no ambiguity right from the beginning of the book. Even though the book is a work of fiction, in the prologue the reader is led to realise that the author is out to expose the undercurrents, the mess and recklessness which characterised the Nigerian banking sector in those years before Dr. Charles Soludo became Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria.
As a teaser into her world of fiction, the author in the prologue vividly recalls how a particular bank had its four branches on just one side of a street within one kilometre on the Island. Very incredible method of recruitment was carried out by this bank where educational qualification did not matter but “extreme boldness and cut-throat business ethics” where the “female gender had the anxious edge over their contemporaries.
“Their glamorous and scandalous flamboyance could compare favorably with that of the Nigerian Nollywood filmmaking industry”, records Fahnn in the prologue. The book’s prologue gives a summary of the state of Nigerian banks at the turn of the 21st century. The real deal in this book of 600 pages is however in the power of narration and characterisation; the author strides through the banking sector highlighting the aggression, ambition, desperation, sophistication and diabolic attitudes which members of the public and most importantly, their customers could see.
The Steel Bankeress is a book about a woman of steel, a ruthless banker who has no feelings for her colleagues. It’s a well-written book about the pains and travails of bankers and the politics that are rooted in the banking hall.
The story centres around five main characters-the ruthless Pamela who is the Branch Manager of a bank; Rachael, her deputy; Enitan, another colleague; the pretty Adeola, who is a junior officer and Dr. Mayowa who runs a clinic in the city.
Pamela is desperate to become the Business Development Manager, which is a post higher than the Branch Manager. She is determined to uproot any colleague on her way to climb to the post. She threatens and harangues colleagues and subordinates in order to fulfill her ambition. She sees faults in everything Rachael her deputy does and bullies her. Enitan, their other colleague is not spared. The Steel Bankeress exposes all kinds of petty jealousy, rivalry and marginalization being carried out in the banking sector and how some female bankers can be mean.
Dr. Mayowa comes into focus when she brings her bogus medical business proposal and tries to open an account in the bank. The role she plays in the unfolding drama brings chaos and disaster into the lives of the other characters.
The story is full of dramatic irony and suspense, which will grip the reader from the beginning to the end. The author writes in simple and understandable language and her descriptive power is good. The activities and the roles of the men in the life of the female bankers are not left out. These men slug it out in rivalry and the consequence is disastrous.
Being a former banker herself, the author, Fahm has brought her deep knowledge and insight into play in highlighting a sector where she operated for years before moving on into another sector. This is a book that shows the reader that behind the glamour of the banking sector, there is cut-throat politics, rivalry, vindictiveness and unscrupulous drive to get to the top at all cost.
However, the title is a bit awkward; banker is a banker whether man or woman and so genderless. Fahm should just have titled her novel The Steel Banker and left the readers to find out for themselves the banker’s gender, although the illustration of feminine figures on the cover gives this away.
Source: The Guardian