A Tale of Three Merchants

Once upon a time, there was an ancient city somewhere in the middle of Africa known as Eria. The people of Eria were mostly farmers, herders and petty traders, but they did have a desire for progress and future development. It was a small, rural community where everybody knew everybody,
and every family had a farm and some others had a few stalls where they sold produce from the farm as well as some other items brought in by travelling merchants.
For a long time, everyone was comfortable with the economy of the city of Eria and the general state of things, until news came in that a nearby village had discovered some liquid substance which everyone called “black oil” in their soil. This “black oil” was the toast of everyone, including explorers from far-away lands! It could be used to do almost anything apart from feeding. All of a sudden, the prices of good in Eria began to collapse and their once stable economy seemed
doomed by the sudden prosperity of their neighbours. Merchants were more interested in dealing in this “black oil” rather than their lousy farm products which were worthless compared to the “oil.”
The neighbouring village was fast becoming a metropolis as businesses were springing up, houses were being built, jobs were being created and everything was happening so fast! They were getting richer and developing faster than any economist could predict.
The king and the entire people of Eria wanted, more than anything to see their city grow and progress in various fields of endeavor such as manufacturing, processing, agriculture, oil, gas and mineral exploration, property development, export and general business activities just like their neighbours.
The king of this great city called for a city-wide summon to be held. In attendance were selected individuals from every tribe who were wise in learning, discerning of times and seasons and
having insight and knowledge of matters. These delegates were selected from three age categories: the young {youth of 18-35]; the middle-aged [36-55]; the aged [56-and above].
They all communed, discussed and debated for long hours. Finally, they came to a conclusion. They resolved that three prominent, astute merchants from Eria should be sent to sojourn in this neighbouring village-turned-metropolis for a period, and then journey to far-away lands to study and learn the ways of the people and how such lands were able to attain their wealth. They were also saddled within the responsibility of managing, controlling, preserving and profitably investing and utilizing the earnings of the people of Eria to develop the city and her people as well as sustain the economy of the city.
These three Merchants: Shon, Won and Tu embarked upon their journey through the neighbouring village,then on to the distant lands of the fair-skinned people. Many years later, they returned to the city of Eria, now well learned,
better experienced and with superior foreign expertise to establish their trade. The king was greatly pleased at their return. They showed so much wit, charisma, acumen and demonstrated vast knowledge. As such, the people felt secure, confident and trusted in the judgment of these merchants and gladly entrusted their earnings to them.
Decades later, the city seemed to have prospered, developed considerably, reasonably advanced, and the people were just beginning to savour the benefits of the trade of the Merchants. All of a sudden, a prominent scholar and highly trained professional of that city was given the responsibility of supervising and monitoring the trade of Shown, Won and Tu. This professional in the course of dispatching his responsibilities discovered that the merchants had not only made themselves extremely wealthy at the expense of the people’s earnings, but had also lent out of the deposited earnings of the people without securing a mere collateral as little as a calf, pigeon or hibiscus
flower from their friends, allies and family members.
The three merchants had ruined their trade. Their enterprises were now in great debt and had incurred huge losses most of which could not be paid back or were not recoverable. It was discovered that the merchants had taken of their “acquired wealth” and purchased choice properties, estates and investments in the new developing and “thriving” cities of the day including the neighbouring “oil”-rich city.
The king was greatly saddened and his heart troubled sore. Being advanced in age, he became ill and weary of the woes that had befallen his people, and of the impending disaster and threatening collapse of his once great city. The people had lost the trust and confidence they had in the merchants and in their trade also.
That great city was in dire need of a solution, a pacifier, a revolution, a visionary that would bring the city the glory it deserved and restored the fortunes it had lost. Many prayed, some sighed, a
lot more moaned and cried, while some others yet, smiled home with lots of gold and silver coins in their kitty of which they owed no liability…
[The story, related above is a true-to-life fictional representation of the [crisis] that rocked the financial sector of our country, Nigeria in the year 2009.During this crisis, many lost a lot of money in the stock market as their shares (mostly banking sector shares) depreciated drastically, and the confidence of investors, shareholders as well as depositors in the reliability of the banks was shaken as a result.
In the wake of the drama that followed the crisis, many of the “failed” banks felt compelled to lay off thousands of staff and also close many (unproductive) shops /branches. Prior to this time, these failed banks had been granted bailout by the Nation’s apex bank, the CBN to the tune of billions of naira (and more still needed).
There are a number of lessons for us to learn from this crisis as individuals and as a Nation: 1. We should know or learn how to find the information we need, learn how to o read financial statements of companies(or get someone to do it for us).We should develop our knowledge and business acumen and know how to get the right information and from whom. 2. We should realize that the era of job security or lone job for life and seeing
the banking sector as a job security safe haven is long gone. Rather, we should call on our entrepreneurial spirit and create more jobs and thriving businesses.
3. We should refuse to accept or comfort to the whim and urge/craving to steal, be greedy, lie and portray any degree of insensitivity or lack of integrity. 4. We should be able to identify people and business with integrity, known when we should trust-whether the government that bails out multibillion naira worth banks or the multibillionaire ‘executives’ owners of the banks –when thousands lose their jobs and some of these “executhieves” are still walking the streets as free men.
A wise man once said “he who pays the piper dictates the tune.” Another said “…He who has the gold, makes the rules.”]

Written By: Precious Nwanganga
Connect with Precious on
Twitter: @Pmoney_Talks

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