You know Aliko Dangote as Africa’s richest man for four consecutive years, and the largest employer of labour in Nigeria — after the federal government. But, like everyone of us, all that makes the billionaire is not a single story of business and wealth.
Today, Dangote is 60, and a towering giant in Nigeria’s socio-political and economic landscape. As the first Nigerian non-public office holder to be awarded the country’s second highest honour, the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON), the billionaire is only a honorary rank away from the nation’s president, who is the Grand Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (GCFR).
TheCable highlights a number of things that define Dangote, the young boy who turned a N500,000 loan into a multi-billion dollar venture.
When he was eight years old, Dangote lost his father, Mohammed Dangote. He was raised by his maternal grandfather, who was into trading of building materials, an inspiration for Dangote’s prowess in the years to come.
His business acumen may be said to have flowed from his great-granfather, Alhassan Dantata, who was a trader in kolanuts and groundnuts, and was also regarded as Africa’s richest man at the time of his death.
‘AT 18, UNLIKE OKONJO-IWEALA, I WAS IN BUSINESS’
Dangote was born in Kano state, the business hub and nerve centre of northern Nigeria. He attended Sheikh Ali Kumasi Madrasa, an Islamic Quranic school, where he learnt the basics of reading and writing Arabic.
He went on to Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. The country’s oldest degree-granting university, renowned as Sunni Islam’s most prestigious university. Its focus is on Arabic literature and Islamic learning, but diversified into other fields in 1961, including business, which Dangote studied in the 1970s.
Speaking at the Mo Ibrahim Forum in Morocco on Saturday, Dangote said at 18, he had already started his business, and unlike Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was in the university. Okonjo-Iweala was also on a panel with him.
“If you look at where we were then as Nigeria, it was actually just after the war like Ngozi said but the economy was booming. 100 percent of our industries were actually not generating their own power,” he said.
“Once you finish the university, you want to go and teach, people were really having a great time, because as soon as you finish school, you get a car, which is not possible today.
“The economy was growing at about 11.45 percent. As at that time, when I was 18, I was already in business, but I know that a lot of people, who actually finished their school, there was sort of a great hope.”
TEARY BLESSINGS FROM ARCHBISHOP BENSON IDAHOSA
Like President Buhari said on Sunday, Dangote is known to be a kind-hearted individual, regardless of race, religion or region, which would later earn him teary blessings from Benson Idahosa, the first pentecostal archbishop in Nigeria and father of pentecostalism in the country.
According to The African Apostles:Volume 1 (Patriarchs and Pacesetters), a book detailing the lives and times of great African preachers, in the late 1970s, Idahosa hosted TL Osborn, an American pentecostal Evangelist, and his wife, Daisy in Benin.
They had stayed late ministering at the Miracle Centre of Church of God Mission just opposite the Benin Airport, and needed to catch their flight to Lagos which was supposed to be a connecting flight from Johannesburg to France, England and then the US.
By the time Idahosa took his guests to the airport, they were told that the last flight for the day was overbooked. Not a single seat was available. The passengers had boarded and the flight about to take off.
The jetliner had begun to taxi towards the runway. Idahosa’s new Mercedes was reported to have sped towards the tarmac and screeched to a halt in front of the plane. Benson Idahosa came out and waved at the pilot, and subsequently got audience with him and the passengers on board.
“Excuse me friends, I have two of God’s special servants in my car. They must go to Lagos today on this plane. Two of you will get off now so God’s servants can board. God bless you,” Idahosa was quoted to have said.
One man was said to have tapped his assistant and both gave up their seats for TL and Daisy Osborn.
Idahosa reportedly stopped the first man in the aisle of the plane. He asked him: ‘Young man, what is your name and what do you do?’
“My name is Aliko Dangote and this is my assistant. I am a trader, a businessman,” the young man was quoted to have told Idahosa.
“The world will get up for you. My God will bless you! God will take you and your business beyond Africa and bless you beyond measure,” Idahosa said to Dangote, and walked out of the plane “waving, with tears in his eyes”.
TIES TO FELA, DON JAZZY AND OLAMIDE
Who would ever think Africa’s richest man would have any interest at all in entertainment or the well-being of the Nigerian music industry? But yes, this strong business man has a soft musical side.
In Morocco, just over the weekend, Dangote, Okonjo-Iweala and Akinwumi Adesina were asked to describe their lives when they were just 18-20 years old. Okonjo-Iweala teased Dangote, saying “I’m sure Aliko didn’t know about Fela Kuti”.
Surprisingly, Dangote said he listened to Fela Kuti, the afrobeat god. His love for music and the entertainment industry was also vivid in his intervention during the Don Jazzy-Olamide feud, which started out at the 2016 Headies.
The two artistes, who engaged in a dirty war of words at the Headies 2016, were said to have been reconciled by the multibillionaire.
TO BUILD DANGOTE UNIVERSITY
In 2016, Dangote Academy sent about 800 graduates to India
You know Dangote as a big businessman, with strong presence in importing, production, and manufacturing. What you may not know is that Dangote has an academy, and hints that he will transform the academy into a university.
He said it is not the role of the private sector to train graduates, “but if for example I am trying to set up a business and we really don’t have people in the market to hire, obviously, you don’t expect me to now say ‘okay, I’m trying to get an instumentation engineer, and then go and hire somebody who read history”.
“I think we need to also make sure we revive most of our technical schools, it doesn’t mean that everybody has to get a university degree. You can go to a technical school, and learn something.
Speaking of his academy, he said: “Right now, we are saddled with also transforming the academy into a university because we are lacking in terms of getting people who are running this big businesses that we are setting up”.
Dangote sent about 800 Nigerian graduates to India in 2016 to learn how to run a 21st century refinery. His academy is continually taking such initiatives to further train its employees.
WORTH SIX TIMES MORE THAN ARSENAL
Dangote had also expressed interest in buying Arsenal Football Club, one of the leading premier league sides in the UK. His bid has not been successful, but the billionaire businessman is not known for giving up.
Interestingly, he has enough cash to buy the entire club.
According to Forbes Magazine, revered newspaper responsible for the valuation of persons and businesses, Dangote is worth six times more than Arsenal Football Club.
Arsenal, in 2016, was valued by Forbes to worth $2.017 billion, while Dangote was valued at $12.3 billion.
Dangote also own nearly half of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, which is worth in excess of N9 trillion.
FAMILY MAN AND AFRICA’S BIGGEST PHILANTHROPIST
Dangote is married with three children Mariya (named after his mother), Halima, and Fatima. He also has an adopted son, Abdulrahman Fasasi.
He is Africa’s richest man, but his dream is actually to be Africa’s biggest philanthropist.
“I set up Dangote foundation in 1994 based on a simple premise; to whom much is given, much is required. That has meant for me, looking at the poor among us, and being compelled to bring some relief,” he said.
“I don’t only want to be known as the richest person in Africa, but the biggest philanthropist. I want to use my resources and my voice to help shape a better Nigeria.”
Hearty cheers to the man of the day!