Aliko Dangote: His Power and Influence (1)
It was in 2004 for the first time that I had an idea of how powerful and influential, the unassuming owner of Dangote Group of Companies, Alhaji Aliko Dangote is.
At the time, he wasn’t the richest African man, but I guess he was rich enough already, to have begun to attract the attention of global rating agencies. It was just a coincidence of some sort, I didn’t set out to study Dangote, I had no need to, I wasn’t a sociologist.
It happened that in line with my occupation as a reporter, I was trying to inquire into the circumstances that scuttled the eventual ‘appointment’ of a customs officer of Igbo extraction, who grapevine report had been shortlisted to take over from then Customs Comptroller General, Alhaji Ahmed Mustapha.
The fellow had been screened by the State Security Service (SSS) as we had it then, and it was an open secret that President Olusegun Obasanjo had foreclosed the decision for his appointment, and in fact, supposedly had his file on his desk at Aso Rock, sequel to giving orders for the announcement.
Nevertheless, the announcement of the Igbo customs officer was never to be, because an urgent and demanding offshore engagement took Obasanjo him out; and with that, the fate of the fate of lgbo fellow underwent a sudden non reversible twist, according to sources.
As usual with some of the unusual phenomenon associated with the politics of Aso Rock, and specifically with the appointment of the leadership of the Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Ports Authority and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the rumour mill had it that no sooner OBJ jetted out than a motley of interested persons began to discuss the pending appointment, under the cover of secrecy.
For whatever reasons, words had filtered out that President Obasanjo have settled on the Igbo officer, even as it was believed that a powerful, northern former military head of state had put in kind words to the president for the fellow’s appointment, amid buzzing noises of disapproval reportedly by some powerful northern clique.
According to the story, having been assured that President Obasanjo had Okayed the appointment of the said candidate and that the approval letter was in fact on the president’s table, it was rumoured that Dangote quickly pulled some strings, reached out to President Obasanjo with an appeal to give the appointment to a northerner.
Dangote’s appeal was reportedly on the ground that the Igbos dominated the import sector, and considering the fact that critical ministries and departments, such as Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria were already been manned by Igbos, giving the Customs to another Igbo candidate at the same time does not appear to respect balanced appointment or reflect federal character.
Obasanjo was said to have given a condition that whoever was Dangote’s choice must be a Christian and must be from the North Central. Those whose business it is know say that in a record 24hours time, the Igbo officer’s name was allegedly substituted by the name of one Jacob Buba Gyang; even as the appointment was made public, without reverting to the then president. The rest like the saying goes is history.
That was my first incline as to the enormous power and influence that the Kano born industrialist wielded.
The second perhaps was when Dangote Spaghetti, got into the market, with another untoward coincidence. Dufill’s Indomie Noodles which had become a brand name in household fast food menu ran into the murky waters of industrial dirty fight. Citizens’ health was reportedly compromised and of course, there were stories that lives were also lost, while the Indian producer of Indomie Noodles faced a harrowing financial bad time trying to fight off the evil contamination of his popular product.
At the end of the day, quiet returned. Dangote Spaghetti made its grand entry in a roller coaster manner into the market as a major competitor in the pasta fast food chain. There isn’t any doubt that President Obasanjo was happy about the apparent win-win atmosphere that prevailed.
No arrest, no prosecution, those that were believed to have died in the cross fire as it were, died unsung and un-avenged, died without official record, through a depraved, highly permissive and complacent system. Life continued.
Thus, I must admit that for a long time already, I have known that Aliko Dangote have immeasurable influence and power. When President Muhammadu Buhari shut down the nation’s land borders for a whole year, it turned out that only Dangote was able to negotiate a unilateral exception after a protracted, seemingly unproductive blockade.
The Large Cement and BUA Cement were left in the lurch, if there was Ibeto Cement, its fate would not have been different from the later two.
In the power equation, it should be recall that the only black man to escape the snare and hostility of the western media so far, is Dangote. The silly confession of his oyinbo concubines in the US and elsewhere just didn’t catch CNN’s developing story system web. Dangote advert is a constant in the financial bookkeeping of CNN, it doesn’t matter to the west or their media whether poor Nigerians who pay through their blood to get these monopolistic driven products die or survive. But truth be told, I became proud of this immensely powerful Nigerian, who was able to circumvent the western media blackman’s phobia.
When Dangote is described as a patriot and nationalist on account of his industrial revolution with Nigeria as the Capitol of his operations, I always believe that he is much more than that. He is an enigma, for all time unfathomable, and seemingly unquestionable even in the face of circumstantial developments.
Competitors cringe backwards when Dangote approaches. For that simple reason, the productive sector has been left without effective competition; to the extent that the Nigerian economy has become a full blown monopoly, through the gradual decapitation of plural economic participation, under a complicit successive administration.
While the nation’s refineries and refining capacity have ultimately collapsed under successive corrupt leadership with all its incompetent actors, the Dangote Refinery have been played up, not as the woodland Robin Hood, but as James Bond in a twisted cosmopolitan economic space.
There is no guarantee that this alternative sole participant in the critical fuel sector would sooner degenerate into economic tyranny. And it is not to be imagined that political tyranny is far apart from economic tyranny; both are twin lions born and cuddled under same circumstances; and therefore, with the un-mistaken tendencies to cause a loud economic roar sending the weak and the vulnerable out of town through unbearable political and economic yoke.
At the time Dangote will show more interest in the football league business and possibly in the GSM telephony industry in Nigeria, perhaps, then, society will wake up to the reality of the present meowing sound. This known natural tendencies in the lion quickly progresses into unmistaken growl in the face of need, and then a stupefying, ferocious pursuit and attack that follows.
As Ramadan steadily draws near, let us contemplate the rising cost of masses basic needs such as sugar and flour, and pray for a redemptive escape from the existing maze of choking economic policies of government, which favours individual enterprise without a concern for the masses.
Power and influence in the hands of the godly and cosmopolitan inclined person could be very reassuring and rewarding for society. On the other hand, power in the hands of unremitting capitalists, can only and always produce suffering and hardship, ignite satanic production and distribution controls, and ultimately spell doom for society.