Tension in Sterling Bank over offensive Easter advert
Abubakar Suleiman, Sterling Bank CEO

By Adebayo Obajemu

In what is widely regarded as bad judgment, the management of Sterling Bank incurred the wrath of many Nigerians, especially Christians through an offensive Easter message where the bank compared the risen Christ to the rise of the famous Agege bread. In swift reactions, Nigerians ever since the offensive message berthed have been condemning the bank for insulting Christian faith.

Sensing the backlash, the management of the Bank immediately apologised to Nigerians over its comparison of the resurrection of Jesus Christ to the rise of Agege bread shared on its social media page and subscribers mails.

Already there are growing fear that the axe may come down the bank’s management, as the advertisement regulatory body has threatened punitive sanctions for professional breaches. It was also learnt that board of the bank may also wield the big stick against the management forestall further action against the bank.

A reliable source said that the bank was thoroughly embarrassed by such executive recklessness, which should not be tolerated by a credible corporate organization such as a bank. However, given ethnicity of the bank’s CEO, it believed that a strong lobby may be mounted to save his neck because of its likely political implications.

Most social media users described the message as insensitive and insulting to Christians, calling for the boycott of the bank. Many Nigerians spoken to by BusinessHallmark have threatened to withdraw and shut down their accounts with the bank.

Sanya Ojewole, a business man told this medium that “Let me be emphatic, I’m going to shut my business account with that irresponsible bank called Sterling , are we saying the management of the bank do not have sense?” Reacting another account holder with the bank, Zachary Lekaot said.

“I’m considering closing my account with the bank since it doesn’t have respect for my faith.”

Majority of social media users demanded that the post be brought down immediately and an apology be tendered by the bank. The bank reacted to the outcry by pulling down the banner on its social media page, replacing it with another banner and tendered an apology.
Text on the new banner reads: … “Let he who has never sin cast the first stone. For our recent error, we sincerely apologise. Forgive us in the spirit of Easter!”

The bank added: “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. We humbly celebrate His resurrection, the defeat of death…”

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has called for the removal of the chief executive of Sterling Bank, Abubakar Suleiman, over the controversial advert by the bank. The bank’s swift apology came after being widely criticised by Nigerians. Mr Suleiman also released a statement apologising on behalf of the bank.

“Our honest intent was to join our millions of customers in Nigeria and worldwide in celebrating this solemn event, but our execution fell short on this occasion,” the lender said.

The Advertising Practitioner Council of Nigeria (APCON) has already weighed in and said it would take action to ensure the bank is sanctioned, adding that the advertisement was not submitted to the council for approval.

CAN, which is the umbrella body of Nigeria’s Christian community, called the advert blasphemous and insulting.

“In case the management of the Sterling Bank is not aware, the resurrection of Jesus witnesses the immense power of God Himself. To believe in the resurrection is to believe in God. If God exists, and if He created the universe and has power over it, then He has power to raise the dead,” CAN said.

“If He does not have such power, He is not worthy of our faith and worship. Only He who created life can resurrect it after death, only He can reverse the mystery that is death itself, and only He can remove the sting and gain the victory over the grave (1 Corinthians 15:54—55).

“The Empty tomb shows the supremacy of Jesus. Go to the grave of any other religious founder and his carcasses are still there being worshipped, but where Jesus was buried, it is boldly written; He is no longer here, He has Risen! That is what we are celebrating at Easter and for Sterling Bank to compare it with a loaf of bread is blasphemous and insensitive to the religion embraced by billions of people globally,” it said.

CAN dismissed Mr. Suleiman and the bank’s apology, saying it did not come from a penitent heart.

How can someone in his right mind describe the risen Christ as a loaf of bread. That is insulting, ridiculous and a mockery of Jesus Christ. We advised Christians to be wary of the bank and other financial institutions they are patronising,” it said.

The group said it was awaiting the decision of APCON.

“In the interim, we call for the immediate removal of the Chief Executive of Sterling Bank; Mr. Abubakar Suleiman with his Management whose actions have clearly shown their hostility and hatred for the Christian faith,” it said.

 

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