Toast to Aliko Dangote @ 64

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By Thomas Imonikhe

AS Muslims warm up for the commencement of this year’s holy month of Ramadan fasting, Africa’s richest man and president of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote who clocks 64 years April 10, will not likely neither roll out the red carpets nor beat any drum to mark the day.

Yet it is not impossible that some of his intimate friends and top aides may organize a ‘surprise’ party in low key and draft the business mogul to pump champagne for surviving the past 365 days in which the global community had been fighting one of the deadliest pandemics known to humanity, COVID-19.

Sadly however, latest statistics on the corona virus indicate that the disease has so far claimed over 2.9 million lives worldwide out of a total of 135 million cases, 108.7million recovered and 23.4 million active cases.

The current gloomy state of the nation emanating from her current security challenges as well as socio-economic woes are perhaps other reasons the African leading billionaire would reject any elaborate event to commemorate his birthday.

At the heart of Nigeria’s crises begging for speedy resolution however, are poverty and joblessness with the country bearing the infamous tag of being the poverty capital of the world in addition to unemployment rate hitting 33percent according to the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS.

But the good news is that the situation could have been worse but for such man of vision, wisdom, tenacity of purpose and business acumen as Dangote who rather than stash funds abroad had been investing heavily in diverse sectors of the economy not only to create hundreds of jobs annually but boost productivity.

As a matter of fact, the nation is waiting with bated breath for the coming on stream of the over $12billion Dangote Refinery located in the heart of Lekki Export Processing Zone in Lagos state originally billed for this year but  has to wait till 2022 following delays caused by the pandemic.

He is coming to the rescue because the African giant and a leading member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC cannot build new refineries, maintain existing ones and get them functioning some 65 years after crude oil was discovered in commercial quantities at Oloibiri in the Niger Delta. What a shame!

Therefore, completion of the installed capacity of 650,000 barrels per day (bpd) project no doubt will end the country’s nightmarish experience in the petroleum sector, attain self sufficiency in products supply especially petrol and save billions of dollars in foreign exchange hitherto spent importing the product as well as the multiplier effects in health, education, housing, security and other sectors of the economy.

The huge potential benefits of the project is better appreciated against recent disclosure by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC that between N100billion and N120billion of taxpayers money goes monthly to keep the pump price of fuel at current level as subsidy by the Federal Government.

But the billionaire is already upbeat in readiness for the inauguration of the $2.5bn Dangote Fertilizer Plant also located in Lekki any moment from now which could as well pass for a priceless birthday present to Nigerians considering its importance to the nation’s agricultural sector.

Described as workaholic and devout Muslim, Aliko has for the umpteenth time made it abundantly clear that the narrow path to success is for people to wholeheartedly embrace hard work, dedication, motivation, love  for the job, integrity and consistency all  anchored on a solid plan and well defined goals.

He has similarly been forthcoming in pointing out the secret behind the success story of the Dangote Group that made it dominate markets with its genuine products which include “investing in the familiar; identifying the opportunity to be a market leader and looking to improve your network” among other strategies.

Little wonder then that each of the Group’s manufacturing divisions has since been separated into publicly traded companies including Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc; National Salt Company of Nigeria Plc; Dangote Flour Mills Plc; and Dangote Cement Plc.

Dangote towers above most of his peers when making investment decisions. During an interview with Al Jazeera News, he  explained, ‘‘We (Dangote Group) are not doing like other Africans who keep most of their money in the bank. We do not keep money in the bank. We fully invest whatever we have and we keep on investing (sic).’’

Besides, he has proven that his faith in Project Nigeria is rock solid going by  location Dangote industries and one  of his famous quotes. “Let me tell you this and I want to really emphasise it … nothing is going to help Nigeria like Nigerians bringing back their money. If you give me $5 billion today, I will invest everything here in Nigeria. Let us put our heads together and work”, indirectly rebuking public office holders who looted the nation’s funds to foreign banks.

As a leading philanthropist with heart of gold and concern for the less privileged members of society, he founded a charitable organization, The Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF) solely dedicated to adding value to people’s lives throughout Africa by supporting health, education, and economic empowerment initiatives.

It is also worthy of note that it took the serious intervention of Dangote’s Foundation in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2013 to mobilize funds and materials for the eradication of polio and for government to strengthen routine immunizations of children throughout the country. This paid off handsomely in August 2020, when the entire African continent (of which Nigeria was last) celebrated its official certification as free of wild polio after many decades of combined sustained fight.

His milk of human kindness has also been aptly demonstrated in the ongoing joint efforts to combat the pandemic in which Dangote Industries contributed N2billion to the relief fund last year and personally taking the initiative to lead the Coalition Against COVID-19, CACOVID in mobilizing funds and equipment to contain the pandemic, a gesture that has been commended by many.

However, like every human, it has not been all smooth sail for the famous entrepreneur in the past year with several muds thrown at him. For instance the failed attempt by his former American girlfriend Autumn Spikes, who in January took to the social media to expose their secret relationship of almost 10 years ostensibly to extort $5million from him remains fresh though the case is pending in Miami court, Florida in the United States.

He has also been under fire from those who have sought explanation on why it is cheaper to buy Dangote Cement  in Zambia than in Nigeria while the tango between the BUA Group and Dangote Group over pricing of products and exploitation of natural endowments is still on..

Dangote has also not realized his dream of acquiring English Premiership Club, Arsenal FC though remains keen on it. “I would like to buy someday, but what I keep saying today is we have $20bn worth of projects (Dangote Refinery and Dangote Fertilizer Plant) and that’s what I really want to concentrate on… I’m trying to finish building the company and then after we finish, maybe sometime in 2021 we can”, he was quoted as saying on the planned acquisition.

A man of many laurels, Dangote holds Nigeria’s second highest honour, the Grand Commander of the Niger, GCON. Born 10 April 1957 in Kano to Muslim family of Mohammed Dangote and Mariya Sanusi Dantata, the daughter of Sanusi Dantata, he is the great-grandson of Alhaji Alhassan Dantata, reportedly the  richest West African at the time of his death in 1955. He was educated at the Sheikh Ali Kumasi Madrasa, Capital High School, Kano, Government College, Birnin Kudu and Al-Azhar University Cairo in Egypt.

His business career which started in 1977 with the establishment of Dangote Group as a small trading firm in 1977, the same year the budding industrialist relocated to Lagos to expand the company which today has transformed into a multi trillion-naira conglomerate spread  across Africa providing thousands of jobs.

His footprints in food processing, cement manufacturing, freight and sugar market are visible while the products are readily available in nooks and crannies of the country. It is therefore not surprising that for the tenth time in a row, Aliko Dangote has been named the richest man in Africa in 2021, with an estimated net worth of $12.1 bn from the $10.1bn credited to him by Forbes in 2020, making him the 191st wealthiest person in the world today.

Happy birthday to Aliko Dangote.

 

**Thomas Imonikhe is General Manager Publications, Champion Newspapers.

 

– April 10, 2021 @ 14:40 GMT |

 

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