What man­ner of man is Aliko Dan­gote?

Daily Trust - - BUSINESS - By Aliu Akoshile

It was a poser I hadn’t thought of. Yes, his name rings a bell. Even his busi­ness am­bi­tion is as tall as the Mt. Kil­i­man­jaro, Africa’s high­est moun­tain stand­ing ma­jes­ti­cally at 19,340 ft above sea level in Tan­za­nia. Co­in­ci­den­tally here I was in Tan­za­nia, ac­tu­ally in Mgao, a coast-line vil­lage lo­cated in Mt­wara dis­trict of the East African coun­try.

The event was the com­mis­sion­ing of a 3 mil­lion met­ric tonne Dan­gote Ce­ment plant, the sec­ond largest in Africa and the largest in the East and Cen­tral Africa. Aliko Dan­gote was at the epi­cen­ter of the event and the cyno­sure of all eyes last Satur­day.

The ti­tle of this piece is a poser from a Bri­tish-born Tan­za­nian with whom I sat on Ta­ble 22 un­der the gi­gan­tic canopy used for the event.

“Is that Dan­gote?”, my friend en­quired in a hush tone, as if call­ing out the name would at­tract a penalty. I looked in the di­rec­tion he was gaz­ing at, I sipped some sparkling ta­ble wa­ter to first quench my thirst as the scorch­ing sun had just be­gun to ra­di­ate the serene en­vi­ron­ment. “No, that’s Femi Otedola, Dan­gote’s clos­est buddy”, I re­sponded, adding, “He owns Forte Oil Plc, one of Nige­ria’s lead­ing petroleum com­pa­nies.”

Af­ter a while, my friend pointed at another guest. “He is Don­ald Duke, for­mer gover­nor of a state in Nige­ria”, I said again. Then another guest: “Oh, that is Wale Tin­ubu, he’s the Group CEO of Oando Plc. He is chat­ting with Ladi Ba­lo­gun, Group CEO of First City Mon­u­ment Bank, FCMB. Yes, they are both Nige­ri­ans,” I clar­i­fied.

To his friends, he’s sim­ply Aliko. And among the pop­u­lace, he is widely and fondly called Dan­gote. Whether you call him Aliko or Dan­gote, the fact re­mains that Africa’s rich­est man can­not be ig­nored wher­ever he shows up.

He had some­how en­tered the venue unan­nounced. But his pres­ence was im­me­di­ately ac­knowl­edged by a co­terie of pho­tog­ra­phers and cam­era­men who had clev­erly po­si­tioned them­selves at the en­trances.



was shuf­fling around the guest ta­ble where he first stopped to ex­change pleas­antries with guests. He shook hands with ev­ery­one on the ta­ble, had a brisk chat with some guests, granted a group photo op­por­tu­nity to the guests and moved to the next ta­ble. He did the same there, and with a sup­pressed smile, he moved to the next ta­ble. I reck­oned there were about 60 din­ner ta­bles un­der the canopy. I’m not sure if he cov­ered all. But af­ter about 30 min­utes of ex­chang­ing pleas­antries all over, I was up close with Aliko Dan­gote.

I shook his hand firmly as if to test the strength of the stamina with which he is run­ning his multi-bil­lion dol­lars busi­ness em­pire. He smiled at me fa­mil­iarly but I knew we have not met. I had seen him at close range only twice, and both this year in La­gos and Abuja. I quickly men­tioned my name as rep­re­sent­ing Kabiru Yusuf, the Chair­man/CEO of DAILY TRUST. His face bright­ened up. “How is he?” he en­quired. We took our turns for the hand-shake and cap with it with a group pho­to­graph.

Now back to the ques­tion that inspired the ti­tle. My friend at the ta­ble was pleas­antly sur­prised that Africa’s rich­est man can be this free in a public gath­er­ing. But I re­minded him Dan­gote was largely a self-made man. He ob­vi­ously knew the trou­bles his guests must have taken to at­tend the his­toric event.

For in­stance, the trip to and fro Mgao was an ex­cit­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, if you love fly­ing. By the time I re­turned home Sun­day morn­ing, I had done six flights of about 15 hours in a barely 48 hours trip from Abuja to La­gos to Dar es Salam to Mt­wara and back in re­verse or­der.

The man­ner by which Dan­gote gave at­ten­tion to the guests was truly in­spir­ing and enough to evoke emo­tion. I had thought Africa should be grate­ful to him for achiev­ing on the eco­nomic front what the lead­ers have tried to achieve po­lit­i­cally. In ad­di­tion to this $600 mil­lion ce­ment plant in Tan­za­nia, he has al­ready com­mit­ted about $45 bil­lion to set­ting up ce­ment plants in 10 other African coun­tries.

As Nige­ria-bound guests boarded the char­tered Boe­ing 737-500 se­ries, we had no inkling of his com­ing on board to bid us farewell. While we waited for the crew to com­plete their statu­tory checks and doc­u­men­ta­tion, I heard shouts of Dan­gote! Dan­gote!! Dan­gote!!! Here again, I’m up close with the man, the gen­er­alis­simo of busi­ness in Africa. He went round the cabin, shook hands with ev­ery­one and wished us a safe trip back home. “I’m head­ing to South Africa”, he dis­closed, as we all hailed him for this ex­cep­tional dis­play of good­will.

Akoshile Di­rec­tor, TRUST

is As­so­ciate Busi­ness, DAILY

Aliko Dan­gote

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