Winning awards is no longer a sometime thing for billionaire Femi Otedola. His boundless and borderless philanthropy has ensured that it is an all-the-time thing. For this, and more, Otedola ticks all the boxes and tops the list in any award considerations by the media and other organisations. At the moment, his shelf overflows with awards and honours trophies, writes Lanre Alfred
Magnanimity is seldom a strong suit of many billionaires. But nature does not use a one-size-fits-all approach which is why billionaire Chairman of Geregu Power, Femi Otedola, is widely perceived as one of the rarest and kindest of money men. Otedola is hardly the type of billionaire whose affluence is clutched in baubles. His ascension to the billionaires’ club was no trick of fate, neither was it a mirage mired in tufts of fleeting vanities and buzz words. He is indeed worth every ounce of invincibility and financial acclaim accorded him.
A billionaire many times over, since he made good, noiseless but far-reaching philanthropy has been his watchword; his philanthropy is innate, a voluntary act which cannot be manufactured. He provides a wide range of social welfare programs with the intent to be the voice of those who desperately need help. He nurtures a robust interest in the humane and chooses only to see the sunny spokes behind the darkest pall.
Upon the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and with the launch of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Nigerian Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19, Otedola donated N1 billion, stating on his social media accounts, “We must all do what we can to flatten the curve.”
In October 2019, he donated N5 billion to his daughter, DJ Cuppy’s eponymous foundation in aid of Save the Children’s work in Nigeria. Described as one of the largest individual donations to a philanthropic cause in Africa. Those who know Otedola intimately and remotely were not surprised by the donation. His humaneness is almost surreal.
In the life of Otedola, nothing trickles; everything pours and in torrents too. From the beginning of 2020, it was one award or honour in appreciation of his personification of the art of giving. He teed off the year with the coveted ‘Philanthropist of the Decade’ award by ThisDay Newspaper. As part of activities commemorating its 25th anniversary in January 2020, the board of ThisDay Newspaper awarded 24 individuals and institutions for their contributions to the socio-economic and political growth of Nigeria.
The awards committee said of Otedola: “Given his recent hefty donations to the public cause and lifting the needy, it is not surprising that former Chairman of FORTE Oil Plc, Mr. Femi Otedola, is the people’s choice for philanthropist of the decade. His singular donation of N5 billion to assist children of terror-ravaged North-east remains unexampled. Some prominent Nigerians such as Sadiq Daba, Victor Olaotan, both actors; and former Green Eagles captain, Christian Chukwu, were rescued from the jaws of death by his philanthropic intervention in their medical issues.”
Humanity has, indeed, benefitted immensely from Otedola’s prosperity. The benevolent billionaire has been responsible for the revival of the lives of some prominent Nigerians. He sorted the medical expenses of the famous reggae icon, Majek Fashek, who was sick and stranded in London.
Majek later died in his sleep in June 2020. Otedola also footed the N36 million medical bills of former captain and coach of the Super Eagles, Christian Chukwu, who had surgery at the Wellington Hospital, London. Just as he also came to the aid of Peter Fregene, a former Green Eagles goalkeeper, who had been bedridden since 2001; and popular actor, Victor Olaotan, a lead character in the popular TV soap opera series, Tinsel.
Veteran actor, Sadiq Daba, remains in Otedola’s eternal debt for still being alive. In 2017, Daba, who had been battling leukaemia and prostate cancer for the past few years, returned to Nigeria from the UK where he went for medical treatment on the bill of Otedola. A lot of elite philanthropy is about elite causes but not so for Otedola who, in 2019, also offered to assist ailing Nigerian lecturer, Inih Ebong, a former associate professor in the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Uyo, who was wrongly dismissed from his job in 2002 and despite several legal victories, has still not been reinstated. The list of beneficiaries of his large-heartedness is inexhaustible.
He is not missing in the area of educational philanthropy. Otedola dazzled at the Augustine University’s Fundraising and Founders’ Day event held at the Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos in 2018 when he pledged to donate a well-equipped Faculty of Engineering building to the institution. The foundation for the building, worth N2 billion, was laid at a quiet ceremony on November 27, 2018. Similarly, he has made several donations to the Michael Otedola University Scholarship Scheme, which was established in 1985 by his late father, Sir Michael Otedola, to give underprivileged students in Lagos State access to higher education.
Since its inception, the scheme has benefited more than 1,000 students. He once donated N100 million to the Otedola College of Primary Education in Noforija, Epe, Lagos State while in 2008, he donated N80 million to the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Port Harcourt.
Also, in 2019, he was named the biggest individual donor to the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF). Subsequently, he and some other donors were celebrated at an event, ‘Transformational Security,’ and the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, commended him for consistently intervening to improve the society. All of these have not gone unnoticed by a discerning world.
He was honoured by the Silverbird Group as ‘Man of the Year 2019.’ The same year, he won the ‘2019 African Philanthropist of the Year’ by the respected African Leadership magazine for his unequalled philanthropy and charitable contributions to society. At the African Leadership Persons of the Year Investiture Ceremonies and Awards gala night held in Johannesburg, South Africa, Otedola’s famous daughter, DJ Cuppy, received the award from the President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, on his behalf.
The billionaire chairman of Geregu Power Plant shared the news on Instagram with a message: “It is an honour to receive the 2019 African Person of the Year award for philanthropy and charitable contributions to society. Yesterday night, DJ CUPPY represented me in accepting this prestigious award from Mr. Akinwumi Adesina, President African Development Bank in Johannesburg, South Africa.”
Otedola was also a winner in the ‘Leadership in Business’ category of the Zik Prize in Leadership Awards, which was instituted in 1995 to award prizes to exceptional leaders in honour of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigeria’s first president.
“The purpose of this award is to encourage and nurture leadership in the African continent and Diaspora,” Prof. Pat Utomi, a member of the advisory board, said.
On his humanitarian gestures, Otedola was quoted as saying, “God has been so kind to me in life.
I feel highly privileged. The only way I can show my gratitude to Him is to use my resources to support those who are underprivileged. This, I intend to do for the rest of my life. In a world full of conflicts, diseases, calamities, and inequality, we all need to show the milk of human kindness, to reach out and comfort the sick and give a helping hand to the weak.
“A lot of people think when they die, they take their money with them, we’ll see. In my journey of life, I have taken the risk, I’ve done the chase, I’ve enjoyed the thrill and I have achieved success and recognition. What next? You give it back.”
Recently, Sun Newspaper recognised the philanthropic work that the Nigerian billionaire is doing across Nigeria. The award of honour recognised Otedola’s untiring dedication to those who cannot help themselves, raising the bar on what it means to be sympathetic, humanitarian, and human.
The year 2020 is a few days away from ending but what better way to wrap up the year if not with the conferment of the prestigious ‘Humanitarian Award of the Year 2020’ on Otedola by the influential New Telegraph Newspaper.
Though born into an influential family – his father, late Sir Michael Otedola was a former Governor of Lagos State – he has never been involved in partisan politics. Otedola was born in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, on November 4, 1962. He is married to Nana and blessed with four kids – Tolani, a fast-rising singer; Florence (DJ Cuppy), a disc jockey, singer, and humanitarian ambassador; Temi, a style blogger, and up-and-coming actress; and Fewa, his only son. Despite his hectic business schedules, with the attendant global junkets and commitments, the gangling man of means makes out time for his children. He is one of those rare men who believe that fathers bear a fundamental obligation to do right to their children, and they need to be involved in their lives, not just when it’s convenient or easy— but when it’s difficult and thankless, and they’re struggling.
One of his daughters, Temi starred in ‘Citation’ a new movie, alongside tested thespians like Haitian-born Hollywood actor, Jimmy Jean Louis, Sadiq Daba, and Gabriel Afolayan among others. Otedola was one of the first to post the trailer of the movie a few weeks back. His caption was, “Citation! My daughter, Temiloluwa, starring as Moremi Oluwa in ‘Citation’ (about sexual harassment) – Kunle Afolayan’s feature film. This movie is sure to be the best ever that has come out of Nigeria.”
During filming in Ife, Osun State, Otedola visited the cast and crew. An impeccable source disclosed that to make her movie debut interesting and stress-free, daddy dearest booked a whole hotel in the ancient city where the billionaire heiress was the only guest with her security guards and domestic aides. All through the month-long shooting, she was heavily guarded round the clock. A University College, London, graduate of History of Arts, Temi, 23, is a fashion and travel blogger and owns JTO Fashion, a multimedia platform from which she expresses her adventures through the arenas of fashion, beauty, art, and travel. With over a million followers on Instagram, Otedola has just seven followers and Temi’s boyfriend, the superstar singer, Mr. Eazi, is one of them.
But it is not only Temi that has the backing of her dad, her two older sisters – Tolani and Cuppy – enjoy the same fervent support. He is a major force behind their blooming careers in entertainment. Tolani, the dark-hued singer-songwriter took the Nigerian music industry by storm in 2019 with her hit single, Ba Mi Lo, featuring Reekado Banks. When she released her newest single, Badman, the billionaire posted the teaser on his social media pages saying, “My daughter, Tolani, beautifully sung and cleverly written latest single is out. Link in my bio.” Tolani holds a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Psychology from the prestigious St. Andrews University, Scotland; the same university attended by Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge.
It must, however, be DJ Cuppy that has enjoyed her father’s support the most, perhaps because she was the first to go into entertainment. Starting out as a deejay, a female in a male-dominated sector where talents abound and the competition is cutthroat; DJ Cuppy has proven that the sun does not have to go down for her moon to shine. While her stock keeps rising at home, Cuppy has been flown to every part of the world for performances. Those who have seen the business and economics graduate of Kings College, London, at work, say her strength lies in her clinical understanding of her crowd and ability to play the music that suits them at every point in time. One of the first things Otedola did when Cuppy decided to be a DJ had her intern at Roc Nation; the foremost American music label owned by billionaire rap royalty, Jay Z.
In 2015, Cuppy set off on her first DJ tour to eight African cities themed ‘Cuppy Takes Africa’. The tour, which was supported by GTBank and the Dangote Foundation, took her and her team to Senegal, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda, and South Africa.
Otedola is always so eager to connect with his family. He never misses any of their milestones. Wherever in the world he is, he makes out time to be with them which was why a simple and spontaneous light-hearted father-daughter banter between him and Cuppy spun a social movement, an urban refrain, and a song that became a mainstream hit.
While on holiday in July 2019, Otedola and his daughters stopped by in Italy for some Gelato, the video of which DJ Cuppy excitedly posted online and bang! it went viral, spinning countless rehashes, memes, and skits by established stars and social media influencers and users. Even his billionaire friends like Aliko Dangote, Wale Tinubu, Herbert Wigwe, and Donald Duke among others all had their gelato video remakes. The viral reviews of Gelato made DJ Cuppy to later team up with the rave-of-the-moment street-hop star, Zlatan, of the Zanku fame, on a new song fittingly titled ‘Gelato’.
Gelato became a bona fide fan favourite while enjoying intense streaming and downloads on music-streaming websites like Spotify, Tidal, Boomplay, Soundcloud, and MTN Music among others. it also went on to become a daily trending topic on social media with many users commending the young lady for constantly reinventing herself and proving to critics that there is more to her and her artistry than her father’s billions.
With a slew of hits in her growing repertoire already, especially the monstrous hit, Green Light featuring Tekno, Gelato threw Cuppy back into the cultural conversation and further earmarked her as one of the new generation singers whose songs always find their ways to the top of the chart without an aggressive push, a fairly rare accomplishment in a constantly evolving industry.