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When Execution Fails To Rise To The Occasion:The Furore And Sterling Bank’s Heartfelt Apology

The Oasis Reporters

April 18, 2022

Nigerian Banks continue to get kudos for the heartfelt messages they send out to all their customers each celebration time.


But not everyone realizes that for the message to get to the customers and friends of each bank, so much goes into it.
It could be months ahead, the management would have to instruct the necessary department concerned to activate the bidding process amongst advertising agencies to make their pitch and produce their artwork. It could be a song, a photo story, an artwork etc, which goes into graphics production and finally, the email dashboard, waiting for the appropriate moment to be sent.


For the recently concluded Easter Greetings, Nigeria’s most valuable bank, Zenith Bank sent this touching message to its customers, ahead of Easter:

“As we commemorate the resurrection of our saviour, Jesus Christ, May you experience His Love, Grace and Blessings in all areas of your life”.

From all of us at Zenith Bank Plc.
Such a heartfelt message keys one in, into a prayerful ‘Amen’.

Here comes a ‘transactional’ Easter history lesson with an upbeat story from Stanbic Bank:

Way Before banks existed, Heaven and Earth closed the biggest transaction ever !

From all of us at Stanbic Bank Plc”


What was the worth of the transaction that was closed?

Redemption for the believer of course, and nothing could be compared to it.

United Bank for Africa sends excellent wishes thus:

Wishing you love, joy, happiness and colourful memories this season

From all of us at UBA”. Truly colourful.

Let’s see Guaranty Trust Bank’s message, now called GTCO:


“Easter reminds us that even the longest nights can birth glorious new beginnings.
This Easter, we wish you and your family hope for the future, faith to persevere and lasting joy”.

From GTCO .

The Ultimate Sacrifice to humanity


From all of us at Fidelity Bank Plc”.
Poignant reminder of the sacrifice of the saviour.

Sterling Bank, unfortunately put it’s left foot forward with what many say was an insensitive commentary on the Risen Christ.
Tasteless joke taken too far.


It took the clout of Atedo Peterside who cut his teeth in banking at NAL Merchant Bank that metamorphosed into Sterling Bank to plead their case and ask for forgiveness on their behalf.

As a young man in his 20s, Atedo Peterside had a dizzying rise at NAL Merchant Bank due to his banking dexterity. Before anyone knew it, he had become an AGM at a young age. But he could rise no further.

NAL Merchant Bank had a shareholding structure with the Federal Government holding about half of the stock. Then, Northern Nigeria Development Company (NNDC) held significant shares too, with some private individuals and corporate concerns. What it meant then was that as a Southern Nigerian, you cannot rise beyond the AGM position. That would be your glass ceiling. A southerner could never be a DGM, not to mention becoming an MD. That top position was only for northerners by virtue of the shareholding structure.


Thus, if you are a southern Nigerian and a staff there, the FG stock covers you. But if you happen to be a northern Nigerian, the FG shares covers you. Additional coverage also comes from the NNDC.

Peterside read the handwriting on the wall. Despite having worked so brilliantly at NAL, he threw in the towel.

And he was very lucky. Then Military leader, Gen Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida liberalized the banking sector and gave licenses to those willing to to become Bankpreneurs. Atedo Peterside raised his hand, got a license to set up Investment Banking and Trust Company (IBTC).

That would be a story for another day.

But Atedo Peterside still has a soft spot for NAL Merchant Bank which merged with other banks to become Sterling Bank.

He pleads:


” Reactions trailed Sterling bank’s Jesus/Agege bread Easter message.

Sterling Bank’s Easter message to Christians has continued to generate more outrage many hours after. The message which compared Jesus Christ to Agege bread, has left many wondering if the bank’s managing director, Abubakar Suleiman, who is of Muslim faith, would have tolerated such a joke if told about Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

This is even as the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), has vowed to sanction Sterling Bank over the ‘distasteful’ Easter message” reports an online medium, The Witness

Recall that Sterling Bank had in the controversial message, said that Christ had risen, just like Agege bread, an attempt to draw an analogy between the resurrection of Christ which Christians celebrate on Easter Day, and the rising of bread when subjected to heat.

‘Agege bread’ is one of the most popular Nigerian homemade loaves, known for its puffy, soft, stretchy and chewy texture. It’s a slightly sweet white loaf, usually unsliced, oblong and baked in a tin, whose defining characteristic is that it’s fabulously soft and fluffy.


The bread is called Agege bread because it originated from a suburb in Lagos called Agege. Despite its sweetness, it’s alleged that the bread is not healthy for eating due to some ingredients used in its production.

According to Christian doctrine, Easter marks the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and his ascension into heaven. In essence, the bank was trying to depict that Jesus Christ rose like ‘Agege bread’ that are puffy.

The comparison, which triggered a wave of condemnation from Nigerians, had forced the bank to tender a sort of apology, asking, in reference to the Bible, that let he who never sinned cast the first stone.


However, the apology failed to assuage many who insisted that it was done halfheartedly, even as several commentators argue that the message was done in bad faith.


“How can you compare the rising of Jesus Christ with the rising of Agege bread? “is this a joke or what?” wrote @Airsae on Twitter. “Sterling bank, O wrong now!”


On his part, Omatsuli Oyekan, a member of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), wondered if the bank’s MD, Suleiman would joke with the Muslim prophet in the same manner.


“The agency that developed it is insane, the corporate comms person is equally mad and the MD is crazy. Can Sterling MD, Abubakar Suleiman joke with his Prophet Mohammed?” fumed Oyekan,

“They can never joke with their Mohammed like this, war will break out. Don’t give what you can’t take. It’s annoying.”

“Don’t give what you can’t take. It’s annoying.”


Also condemning the message, another twitter user, The Revolutionary Seeker, @The_Seeker76, called for sanctions to be meted out to the bank.


“There must be a consequence for STUPIDITY & INSENSITIVITY,” he said. “@Sterling_Bankng MUST take disciplinary steps against all those involved in this unwarranted, public insult to the Christian Faith and it’s billions if followers.

“This is totally UNACCEPTABLE.”

A user equally alleged that the bank’s action may be because its MD is a Muslim.

“Is it because your MD, Abubakar Suleiman is a Muslim and you think you can humiliate Christians? Shameless and useless bank. All Christians must boycott this bank,” the user tweeted.

Another user, LaWreNce Karka, @karka_lawrence, said “Dear Sterling Bank, Your Easter message is really in bad taste. It is disingenuous and ludicrously mischievous.. You can do better.”

In response to the ‘insensitive’ message, the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, (APCON), said sanction will be meted out on Sterling Bank.

In a terse statement made available to THE WITNESS on Monday, April 18th, 2022, the apex advertising regulator said that, “APCON will take necessary actions to ensure that Sterling Bank is sanctioned for the exposure of such offensive advertisement according to law and that no religious belief or faith is ridiculed or any blasphemous advertisement exposed in any issue.”

A statement signed by the Registrar/Chief Executive of APCON, Dr. Olalekan Fadolapo further stated that , APCON has observed with displeasure the insensitive and provocative Easter celebration advertisement by Sterling Bank Plc, which compared the resurrection of Christ with Agege bread.


Dr Fadolapo said, “The distasteful advertisement was neither submitted nor approved for exposure by the Advertising Standards Panel (ASP), the statutory panel charged with the responsibility of ensuring that advertisements conform to the prevailing laws of the federation as well as the code of ethics of advertising in Nigeria.

“We also found out that the brand management/ corporate communications department engaged a ‘roadside’ consultant to create the copy that has been found to have breached the advertising law in Nigeria.

“The bank has also run afoul of the law by not submitting the copy to ASP for approval before exposure.”

Additional resource:
The Witness

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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