About a week or two ago, Retired Nigerian performer Eldee the Don made a public post saying that a lot of Nigerian “Big Boys” were lucky and that got me thinking (yes I know that is dangerous). I thought about it so much as my mind wandered to names like Dangote, Otedola, Jim Ovia and Tony Elumelu. These men are all ducking wealthy (pardon the typo) and if Eldee is right, then at least eight out of every ten Wealthy Nigerians either got their wealth from favors, or political acquaintances, or rich uncles so I decided to investigate.
Before I continue, here are Eldee’s words according to online vanguard:
“We don’t have enough mentors for our young entrepreneurs because many of our wealthy folks weren’t business savvy, they were simply lucky,.. lucky to have a friend/uncle/brother in govt & able to usurp opportunities./resources illegally.
“They simply “hammered”. You can’t teach luck and that’s why they can’t offer you any valuable business advice.
“More than 80% of the wealth in the nation was illegally allocated, stolen or usurped. Genuine business success is rare so don’t be surprised when all they can tell you is “by the grace of God”.
So I do not make this too long, here are my own findings.
1. ALHAJI ALIKO DANGOTE.
Irrespective of what they say, I still ‘gbadu’ this man but that is not the point right now. The point is that he is the richest man in Africa and he is business savvy so I ran him through Eldee’s theory. Here is an excerpt from wikileaks.org:
Dangote is revered for his assumed rise from rags to riches but his family connections reveal a privileged beginning. Dangote is from the prominent Dantata family of Kano State. The Dantata family made its name and wealth in commodity trading. When in his early twenties Dangote showed promise as a young businessperson, his uncle Sanusi Dantata loaned him naira 500,000 (at the time worth USD 500,000) to start out on his own.
You can read the full article here but as we can see, perhaps Eldee’s theory holds water in the case of this great man.
2. FEMI OTEDOLA
Mr Femi Otedola is in the oil business. He owns Zenon oil and Forte Oil. You can as well say he is the largest Oil mogul in Nigeria. Digging into his origins though, we get to see that his father was Michael Otedola who was a prominent Politician and one time Governor of Lagos State.
So as much as we respect Femi for being able to build and maintain his empires, we see some privileged background. There is no doubt that Mr Otedola is blessed with business acumen but he was also blessed with a background that not many young entrepreneurs get to have. So when he says ‘work hard’ and ‘hustle’, the young entrepreneur would say ‘Sure but I didn’t have a politician dad which kinda makes things a bit easier’.
3. JIM OVIA
For those who do not know, Jim Ovia is the founder of Zenith Bank and he is from Delta State. According to this, he is worth close to $1 Billion.
Jim stands out as a self made Billionaire and according to wikipedia:
Jim Ovia holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Louisiana, Monroe, Louisiana, USA in 1979 and a B.Sc. degree in Business Administration from Southern University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA (1977). He is also an Alumnus of Harvard Business School(OPM).
So he had money way before he started Zenith Bank but so far there is no mention of political favoritism or ‘lucky hammering’. The internet is a bit scanty when it comes to his early life but like I said, he was already able to afford IV league somehow. I leave you to think about the rest.
4. FOLORUNSHO ALAKIJA
Folorunsho was born in 1951 to the family of Chief L. A. Ogbara in Ikorodu, Lagos State. At age seven, she travelled to the United Kingdom to begin a four-year primary education at Dinorben School for Girls in Hafodunos Hall in Llangernyw, Wales. After returning to Nigeria, she attended Muslim High School Sagamu Ogun State, Nigeria. Afterwards, she returned abroad for her secretarial studies at Pitman’s Central College, London. She also studied fashion design at the American College, London and the Central School of Fashion.
That was straight outta Wikipedia. She is beautiful and we can see that she comes from money. As a disclaimer, I would add that I am in no way undermining the business savvy of these individuals but rather analyzing the situation as it exists in Nigeria.
5. ORJI UZOR KALU
Who remembers this man? I sure do. He was governor of Abia state at some point and I really do not remember much else. As it concerns business anyway, he is the founder of SLOK holdings, The Daily Sun, and the Telegraph newspapers. He is a big boy.
His story is inspiring. And you can get the long version here. However if you want the shorter version, it goes like this:
Orji Kalu was in the university and somehow got expelled. While his mates went to court to argue about wrongful expulsion, Mr Kalu chose to drop out and start a business in palm oil with about $35 which he got from his mom. The rest is history.
This is the kind of story one would here in other countries. If speaks of hardwork and consistency which are truly inspiring traits.
There are a lot of factors to consider with a sensitive topic such as this. There are also rumors that you have to be involved in some mystical activities like Damien Dhark in order to be in the top leagues in Nigeria but that is discussion for another day. Of course there are many millionaires in Nigeria and a lot of them ‘hustled’ their way through but the fact is, you do not know many of them. This article is aimed at those ‘world-renowned big boys and girls’ who are Nigerian and it is very rare that you would find one who was born and raised poor without connects in Government or otherwise. Is it just the way the country is? I don’t know. Let’s hear your thoughts on this matter.