Alhaji Aliko Dangote
The Los Angeles Times, recently featured Nigeria’s billionaire and Africa’s rated richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote in an exceptionally beautiful narrative. The reporter, Robyn Dixon who from the tone of the piece must have spent time with Dangote was not really telling any new story about Nigeria’s known business mogul. From how Dangote had dared the odds to remain in business to how he’d dusted his competitors by staying ahead of the game, the reporter went on to identify a billionaire who though has his interests in other areas of survival, but is known to have made the bulk of his money from cement manufacturing.
And then, the writer gets to where he was originally going: “In that sense, Dangote resembles Russia's billionaire oligarch class, which got rich when the state sold off assets after the collapse of communist rule. His close links with Nigeria's political elite gave him an inside line when state assets were privatised- a process that, like Russia's, has been criticised as opaque and corrupt. Critics call Dangote ruthless, and accuse him of aggressive price cutting to drive smaller rivals out of business.”
Dixon was not done. Having earlier described Dangote as the best thing that’s happened to Africa, then he would add: “Unlike Nigerian businessmen who stripped state companies of their assets and let them collapse, Dangote turned them profitable,” Dixon said, quoting one Junaid Mohammed, a supposed politician to authenticate his points. Here is Muhammed talking: “The question is whether he was entitled to the businesses at the price he got them and on the terms…Let us not be naive: A lot of everything that happens in life depends on connections. Your fortunes depend on who will be able to open the door for you.”
What Dixon had done in his piece was identify an element of corruption in Dangote’s humongous wealth. Simple! No more, no less. The beautiful beginning was a mere distraction. In order words, by his inference, no Nigerian or at best, African can amass as much wealth without having tried some shady deals to complement his efforts. Not surprising though, anything short of that would have been a paradigm shift from entrenched perception of Africans, particularly Nigerians by the western nations and their media.
Dangote is of course not watertight. He is considered one of the few Nigerian businessmen whose sources of wealth are not only genuine, but have also maintained standard over the years. Dangote is also said to have stayed away from things that are capable of casting aspersion on all that he had built over the years; he is extremely cautious. He could be ruthless, no doubt, like every businessman the world over since that is the only way to checkmate institutional corruption. Dangote is certainly not a thief.
Thus, to insinuate as Dixon had done in LA Times that there is an aspect to his wealth that is shady is mischievous and somewhat unprofessional.