Success is not measured by money, power, or social rank. Success is measured by your discipline and inner peace. -Mike Ditka
Before I am crucified or applauded by those who may think this piece is to highlight the potentials of the business mogul for electoral office, I am only referring to a man who is neither the Managing Director nor the Chairman of his group but is simply, by official designation, the President of Dangote Group of companies.
In an environment where wealth is easily accumulated through questionable and fraudulent means, Alhaji Aliko Dangote’s business that started from mere trading in commodities and building materials in the 1970s with a loan from an uncle, has presently grown into export, import, manufacturing and real estate. The focus of his investment is in basic human needs of food, clothing and shelter. He has incredibly penetrated our livelihood with his products that are indispensable in every home – from the construction of our abodes to our dinning tables and even our clothing. Dangote provides, cements, sugar, salt, flour, rice, spaghetti, macaroni and textile at competitive prices.
As a nonpartisan and detribalized businessperson, he is generous to different political parties, religious groups and cultural institutions. Apart from providing employment to elite graduates from different ethnic backgrounds, he minimizes the level of crime by engaging youths who are school leavers in the area of transportation, packaging, security amongst others.
As a young celebrity, Dangote is not in the habit of extravagant display of opulence, like some elderly moneybags who still behave boyishly and organize Owambe parties with roadblocks to the discomfort of the ordinary citizens. He resists the temptation of participating in highly lucrative, fast money yielding ventures like oil business, GSM, hotel business and even airlines, probably to discourage destructive competition with indigenous entrepreneurs.
As a self-employed person, with minimum basic education, he proves that business success can be through determination, honesty and perseverance; and not necessarily by acquiring Harvard-Oxford certificates or First-Class academic qualification. His managerial skill must surely be the envy of economic professors. Instead of stashing his funds in foreign accounts, a common feature of fraudulent front and public office looters, Dangote invests wisely in the productive sector of the Nigerian economy.
Since entrepreneurship and business ingenuity are not subjected to federal character principle for quota system, Dangote has never worked in the public service where some staff engage in malpractices to fulfill their basic needs while the highly principled and honest civil servants retire wretched. If he were a retired military general or a public officer, some might have queried the source of his wealth since it is easy to calculate one’s salary from first day in office to the retirement age. He is also not in full-time party-politics where political opponents would have rubbished the name of his family through smear campaign. If he was an elected public officer, there could have been allegations against him of treasury looting, nepotism and selfish acquisition of public properties, since most politicians seek for donation or borrow money to contest. If he had lived mostly abroad, there may have been insinuation that he made his millions from 419, drug trafficking or modern day’s slavery of pimps, mortuary washers and gutter cleaners in Diaspora.
Dangote explores virgin and untapped areas to churn out billions in revenue. Not even some states that receive free monthly allocation from the federation account without any practical contribution to the national pool, can match his earning from their internally generated revenue. Their funded public-enterprises retrench the workforce and still declare losses. In fact, the situation in some political offices is so pathetic that some states’ executives not only misapply their monthly allocation from the Federation Account but also corner their local councils’ funds in the name of joint account to render as subservient the elected administrators at the grassroots.
The most commendable move he made recently was his threat to force down the price of cement to the benefit of the construction industry and property owners. He should be encouraged to venture into Garri production business where he can force down the prices of the essential commodities for the teeming masses.
To deny that Dangote does not have monopoly over some of the commodities in the Nigerian market is to deny the obvious. Recently he and other notable Nigerians announced their desire to float a private sector mega company with the name Transnational Corporation of Nigeria (TCN), which amongst other things may acquire government-owned refinery, operate strategic state-owned coys and pioneer status in Agriculture and IT. Even Bill Gate of USA is never allowed to monopolize the computer world as the richest man and the originator of software that is used by almost all the computers in the universe. Dangote should therefore be careful of the evils of retrogressive monopoly, which weakens government regulations, and kills healthy competition. It is better to have a fair share of the market through deployment of infrastructural facilities and equipment than acquiring public institutions at giveaway prices. A situation where the nouveau rich find it easy to bid and acquire public enterprises while the poor, as ordinary citizen without an option for even meager acquisition may not be fair enough in a republic.
Though private enterprises are established to declare financial profit, while the public enterprises render essential and social services to the citizenry, there should therefore be healthy competitions in achieving public-private sector partnership instead of outright acquisition or monetization of a sector. The proponents of privation should consider the deployment of best managers from private sector to supervise the public companies at a fee. Not every Nigerian wants to become a businessperson as some of our children have tall ambition of becoming fearless paramilitary officers, honest public servants and incorruptible politicians.
If Dangote and other members of TCN are interested in Nigeria and Nigerians, they can get concessions to take over our deserted but abundant and fertile lands for mechanized farming for mass food production. If they want to be more patriotic, they should channel their surpluses and energies in instituting educational foundation, where the poor can have easy access to affordable education and arrest the bastardization of public schools, which are now breeding centres for touts and certificated illiterates. They can even invest in university education with lower rate to enrich our workforce.
Let us pray against an alarming period when a future generation will wake up to realize that the government cannot longer provide employment and social services to citizenry due to monopolized privatization.
This article by Yushau A. Shuaib was originally published in Nigerian Tribune May 4, New Nigerian May 8 and Leadership June 5, 2005