Aliko Dangote, patriot or traitor

IN a press release dated December 20, 2023, Professor Wole Soyinka revealed what isn’t really hidden to the discerning. Protesting the arrest and detention of his protege and a former Minister of Power, Olu Agunloye, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after being declared a fugitive, fleeing the consequences of the alleged Mambilla power project fraud, Soyinka, among other claims, said, “The information I have been able to obtain during the past two days of my return to the country is that the Head of the EFCC (Ola Olukoyede) declared that he would release him (Agunloye) only on the instructions of the President of the Nation, (Bola Tinubu). By making such an alleged statement public, the literary icon wanted the world to know that Tinubu was micromanaging the probe and likely ordered the Commission to go for Agunloye, for whatever reason(s).

The Mambilla power probe is high-profile, just like a couple others, being handled by anti-corruption and security agencies. It is just common-sense that the leader of the country, any country for that matter, would be involved and possibly sign on who to pick and who to leave out. Maybe that is why Soyinka was screaming that all the actors in the saga must be arrested or his “boy” should be allowed his freedom. If all mentioned actors, who were in offices at the different phases of the alleged power scam, are to be pulled in, Nigeria would be entering a yet-charted territory in its anti-sleaze war. Imagine Olusegun Obasanjo in EFCC gulag, peeping through the tightly-bolted iron door as Goodluck Jonathan is being brought in, not counting ex-Power ministers alive, et al. That would be the day for Nigeria and maybe we will just get there someday, a not-too-far accountability future.

On January 4, 2024, when the same EFCC raided the headquarters of the Dangote group, it would be hare-brained, to assume that Olukoyede and his men, would go tearing down the inner recesses of the richest black man alive and Nigeria’s number one private employer of labour, without at least, running it by the President. Searching the backyard and bedroom of arguably Nigeria’s most powerful private person for missing and misused people’s dollars, would definitely be consequential, with diverse implications. It was also unprecedented for the Black moneybag, though he alongside others, had been mentioned before in alleged default of humongous bank loans, obviously sourced from depositors’ funds. But nothing like the early-new year shock had been delivered to his doorstep and those who had been dreaming for the “one day for the owner” justice, thought the moment they had been waiting for, had finally, arrived. The public suspicion, that his paths to the wealth that has grown astronomically with the return of civil rule, especially from 2011 when his fortune, according to Forbes magazine’s wealth valuation of Black billionaires, leaped from $2.5 billion in 2009, to $ 13.8 billion in 2011, had been evidence-free, until the raid signaled an official indication that his ways might have not been too pure in public dealings.

Even at that, the raid is yet to prove he is a felon and the negative public perception will remain a mere emotive judgement of a personality and the persona worn for him, until the ongoing forex abuse allegations are proved beyond doubt.

Before the raid, Dangote and the critical Nigerian public, especially down South, were never chummy. Maybe, the public was too expectant, seeing another M.K.O Abiola and his absolute populism in the Kano fellow and the disappointment of the expectation, likely bred anger, resentment and maybe, envy, the final part which James 4:5 says is inherent in the natural man, “Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit of man lusteth to envy?”. But there are also public duties in which the billionaire hasn’t discharged himself and it isn’t much about philanthropy or who he help, as the street, would describe not feeling him, despite making most of his billions from selling everyday household commodities and corsetting arguably the most of government patronage, waivers, concessions and what many believe, to be an undue advantage. Despite being the largest employer of labour in Nigeria, after government, the one who Google erroneously and hilariously identifies as the “owner of Nigeria”, with evidence, hasn’t been the best of boss, in playing ethically.

Years back, fresh as the Lagos Bureau Chief of Tribune, some of his traumatized staff had approached me for editorial assistance, to highlight their plights. They said someone told them that Tribune was always fighting for the people. Their leader is from Kwara. After convincing with pieces of documentary evidence, I encouraged dialogue for the sake of the brand. Thankfully, the senior staff I was asked to call, promised reconciliation and settlement. The feedback I got was that the “renegades” were paid and fired. At least, it was better than the initial termination without compensation, for demanding a less toxic work environment.

The stories told by the traumatized staff would justify the earth-scorching ill-feelings directed at the billionaire in the wake of the astronomical increase in the prices of nearly all his commodities, including salt, but particularly, cement, as Tinubu-induced galloping inflation continues to deliver the most harrowing existential hardship. His staff said he was a profiteer. Is he being one now? The cement price hike, which followed the pattern of every single item in circulation, luxury and essential, particularly irked Nigerians, following unsubstantiated claim he is selling at a lower price in neighboring countries.

Viral videos are calling for total Dangote boycott. Amb. Chief Dr. Bode Aro-Lambo, in a well-circulated video, called on Nigerians to emulate his decision to halt all building projects, to crush and crash Dangote and his-”twin” cement-made billionaire and second richest Black as of 2023, Abdul Samad Rabiu of BUA cement. Forbes claimed both, worth $23.4 billion (N37.850,670,000.000.00). Nigeria’s budget for 2024 is N27.5 trillion, meaning these two men, especially Aliko with a whopping fortune of $14.2 billion (N22,969,210,000,000.00) will conveniently fund Nigeria for a whole year and collect change! Why blame Google then, for assuming Aliko owned Nigeria. Yoruba will say o jo gate, ko jo gate, o fi ese mejeji tiro gate gate (if you look the part, why not play the part).

For those wondering how these two surfaced on the presidential committee for economic recovery, including the banker, accused of defaulting on the payment of a N41.5 billion loan, taken at 15% interest rate per annum, according to CBN’s claim, there are just some people who are like the Pela in that Yoruba wise-saying, encouraging balancing act, which translates, if we go by Pela, the dance would be ruined and if we don’t go by Pela, the dance won’t be entertaining. Tinubu is Yoruba.

Native intelligence must have taught him that no matter how Aliko must have abused the privileges Nigeria extended to him in the past, especially the alleged round-trip of dollar, his kind can’t be ignored when corrective surgeries are going to be taken. Yoruba will say only a thief can successfully figure the footsteps of another thief on the rock, where a trail is usually not left behind.

Nobody has convicted Aliko of any crime, but his image in the minds of the generality of Nigerians is just as great as his usual grin.

April 10, this year, he will be 67. At that age, one should be more concerned about living in the hearts of his own.


Tribune Online