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You are here:Home>>Strategic Research & Analysis>>Why is Dangote neglecting Igboland?
Tuesday, 23 April 2013 15:43

Why is Dangote neglecting Igboland?

Written by Azuka Onwuka
Dangote  photo credit vanguard Dangote photo credit vanguard

 

According to one of Nigeria’s uncelebrated writers, Obi B. Egbuna, what is important in life is not what name a man is called but what difference his being alive makes to the world around him. Last week’s announcement that Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, would build an $8bn refinery in Nigeria by 2016 was another difference or value-added to the world around him, which in this case is Nigeria. Last week also, Nigerian actress, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, was named among the World’s 100 Most Influential People, which was another difference made to the world around her.

 

In contrast, the news concerning our politicians, public office holders and the impact of bad governance which made headlines included: Ex-minister misappropriated N3bn contract fund – EFCC; MEND destroys oil wells, threatens to bomb mosque; ACN, Presidency clash over Jonathan’s Lagos visit; Gunmen sack two Plateau villages; Ejigbo local council chairman kidnapped; US Report: There is massive corruption in Nigeria.

 

All this buttressed the long-held view that while politicians and public servants (in addition to the impact of their bad governance) cause Nigeria a bad image and retrogression, any time there is a piece of good news or an image-boosting incident in Nigeria, it usually emanates from individuals rather than government officials. In fact, all the international awards and honours or milestones achieved by Nigeria – including the only Nobel Prize – were achieved by individuals, many of whom achieved such fame and recognition without any contribution from the Nigerian government or any public servant.

 

The news story on Dangote explained that the new Dangote refinery is expected to refine around 400,000 barrels of oil per day, thereby almost doubling Nigeria’s current refining output. Even though Nigeria’s four refineries have the combined capacity to produce about 445,000 barrels per day, regrettably, they produce far below their capacity because of decades of neglect and mismanagement. That was Dangote’s subtle way of announcing that even though he is Africa’s richest man with a value of $16.1 billion, according to Forbes estimates, anybody who is planning to beat his wealth in Africa should work extra hard.

 

But beyond Dangote’s wealth, what I find pleasantly strange is his patriotism which makes him to invest not just in Nigeria but in different parts of Nigeria, unlike most other Nigerians. With all sense of modesty as an Igbo, I have discovered that the only ethnic group whose citizens invest in all parts of Nigeria beyond their own ethnic group and the former and current capitals of Lagos and Abuja are the Igbo. Nigerians of other ethnic groups can easily and freely establish factories or buy property in the United Sates, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, and other countries, but when they want to invest in Nigeria, they ensure that it is either within their ethnic group or in Lagos or Abuja. These are the areas they consider safe, where they will not lose their investments in the event of a crisis or the break-up of Nigeria. So, contrary to the pretence of most Nigerians about a long-term belief in one Nigeria, they really do not believe in it. You can only invest in non-movable structures in a place where you believe in: a place you are convinced that your investment is safe in the long run.

 

Most non-Igbo Nigerians who live in other areas outside their ethnic zone go into such towns with a bag containing their personal effects, live in rented apartments, if they are entrepreneurs – which they are seldom not — they transact their business in rented shops, sending their profit to their ethnic zone, and, at the rumour of any crisis, they flee from wherever they are at that material time, be it their office, shop or the market. Most times, they ensure that their family members are not with them in their place of domicile, so that it will be easy for them to flee without looking back. And if there is no crisis till they are transferred or they retire, they relocate to their state with a small bag, the way they came, their wealth in their bank account or in investments in their state of origin.

 

The same non-committal lifestyle is displayed by most of the foreigners who do business in Nigeria. They come in with briefcases, live in rented apartments away from the locals. If they are in paid employment, their salaries are wired directly to their home country, while some allowances are paid to them locally for their upkeep here. If they are employers of labour, they also come in with their briefcases, live in rented apartments away from the locals, and also ensure that – no matter how big their business is – that it is run from rented or leased premises. They send their profits to their home countries. They also ensure that their companies are privately owned so that they will not be accountable to the local investors regarding how they spend their profits. In addition, many of them over-shoot their foreign quota of expatriate staff and the use of foreign staff for positions that Nigerians can man, while placing the Nigerian staff on a salary scale lower than the foreign staff.

 

But these foreign companies are not to blame, for they know how lax our government is on issues that concern the interest of its citizens. As much as Ghana needs foreign investments, many Nigerians who set up businesses in the country have so many tales of how Ghana tightens its noose to ensure that those who invest in their land put the interests of their citizens and country as top priorities. There are stories from some companies that the profit they make from their company in Ghana cannot be taken out of Ghana.

 

It is only the Igbo that believe that the land where they live and do business should also be developed. Even though they had suffered great losses in business during the Nigerian Civil War of 1967 to 1970 and continue to suffer such losses at times of religious and ethnic crises, they have continued to invest in the areas where they live. This behaviour has been described as foolish by non-Igbo and Igbo alike. But it has not made the Igbo to stop it. That does not stop them from buying or erecting property in their ethnic group.

 

However, there are a few non-Igbo that site their businesses in areas outside their ethnic groups, but most of them are in sectors where they cannot help doing so like telecoms, broadcasting, oil, etc. But such people also need to be commended for taking such risks and investing in their fatherland.

 

Dangote’s case is so significant not to be noticed. Even though he is from Kano State in North-Western Nigeria, his companies are located in Obajana, Kogi State; Ibese, Ogun State; Ilorin, Kwara State, Apapa, Lagos State, Calabar, Cross River; Numan, Adamawa State, etc. Now that he is about to go into oil refining, he will be investing in a part of Nigeria and creating many jobs for Nigerians and helping to solve our refined petroleum products. It is, however, curious that Dangote has not sited any of his factories in Igboland, the land of the people he shares business DNA with. He may need to explain if this is deliberate and coincidental.

 

Dangote has been criticised for making his money through his closeness to the governments in power. He has been criticised for fighting his business opponents with ferocity. If such is true, it is not his fault but the problem of our country that laws that protect businesses from cronyism and monopolistic competition are not enforced.

 

The worst injustice the looters of our commonwealth do to Nigeria and Nigerians is that they siphon our national wealth out of the country and invest same in countries where they add no value to us. Many of them hide these funds in Swiss banks, some of which are not known to their families, and at the time of their death, this money remains in Switzerland, helping to oil their economy while our economy bleeds.

 

But Dangote sinks his money into our economy in different parts of the nation, thus affecting lives and oiling our economy. Therefore, the conferment of the national honour of Grand Commander of the Order of Niger – second only to the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic — by President Goodluck Jonathan on him in 2011, was not misplaced.

 

On a lighter mood, Dangote means in Igbo: “Dan, please buy”. It could have also been a corruption of the Igbo expression “Di anyi, gote,” which in English means: “Dear, please buy”. It may not be asking for too much if Dangote is urged to conduct a DNA test and make the result public. This writer will not be surprised at all if the DNA result shows that somewhere in the past, one of his forebears may have been Igbo. Be that as it may, Dangote will do well by remembering to site one of his factories in Igboland. That way, Ndi Igbo can indeed “gote” from his vast business empire.

 

But I pray that unlike the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola, he would not accept to be lured into partisan politics.

Azuka OnwukaAZUKA ONWUKA ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

 

Last modified on Tuesday, 23 April 2013 15:55

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