I have never been a fan of the stock market. I believe it is one great commercial con. Take for instance I buy a company’s stock today which appreciates ten times by the following year, which I then sell for a handsome profit. In doing so I would have contributed nothing to the production or management of that company. I probably would not have known the location of that company and would not have needed to know what the employees of that company go through to keep the company going.
All I did was act on information that was probably fraudulently inspired by people who wanted to make money the same way I just did.
The sector also did not do itself any favours with me when my dear old sister lost more than a quarter of her hard-earned retirement gratuity in the current global stock market crisis. She invested some of her pension from working more than twenty-eight years in a Nigerian pharmaceutical company, against my [good] advice to put more investment into brick and mortar, in Nigerian stock. She chose to listen to unregulated ill-trained operators of the Nigerian stock market and invested in shares she was told would ever continue to increase in value, in the Nigeria share rush of the nineties and early this decade.
I have made money from the stock market myself, but only because I took advantage of free money available which I did not ask anybody for. When the then national telephone and gas suppliers in Britain were being privatized by Mrs. Thatcher to reward her friends I, like most customers, was given free or very cheap shares. I sold them within days, as soon as the markets opened and the values quadrupled overnight, and made good money. My former employers also rewarded me with company shares for performance and as loyalty incentive. I sold them for good money as soon as practical. Unlike my dear sister I was never under the illusion that share prices only rise and rise.
Given the inherent vulnerability of the stock market to fraudulent influence and the well-known Nigerian penchant to capitalise on the smallest loophole, it was no surprise to read about the way President Obasanjo and Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke and their cohorts allegedly manipulated the markets to make what is only make-believe money. Shares only become money when you sell them. A deliberate disregard of this fact in conglomerate boardrooms and equally criminal attitude of bankers to continue to lend to rich men against the ‘value’ of these shares, led to the current crisis in the world economy.
There is a predilection by Nigerian leaders to disregard laid down rules anytime the rules do not suit their purpose, even when the individuals are the ones that made the rules. And that is exactly what precipitated the current (they tell us it is ended) succession crisis in the Nigeria stock exchange. A nation is built on lasting institutions and institutions are built on enduring policies and regulations.
Everyone knows the crisis is rooted in the rivalry between Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Mr Femi Otedola. That in itself is not a bad thing as long as everyone plays by the rules. It is to their credit that the two main combatants have so far played by the existing rules - Otedola in the process getting a sanction against Anenih and his firm. There are also further legal moves in process to find against Aliko Dangote but already some people’s impatience has got the better of them and in this Oba Otudeko stands out as the main culprit. He was the umpire charged with delivering a just result.
I admit a crushing admiration for the likes of Aliko Dangote, Oba Otudeko and Femi Otedola. It takes more than government patronage to make it into the Forbes 1000. We know many who, despite their proximity to Dodan Barracks and Aso Rock, never made it beyond palatial mansions, exotic cars and living large. Dangote, Otudeko and Otedola, and I am not saying they are the only ones, show how to recycle wealth to create jobs and benefit others beyond their families and girlfriends.
Oba Otudeko could have nipped the crisis in the bud by declaring right from the start that the rules that the first Vice President automatically gets the ticket, would be adhered to. Instead he, I believe, allowed his own sympathies to get the better of him and waited until Aliko Dangote went to press with accusations and until when the crisis was threatening to tear the exchange apart, before declaring his preference for the rules. That was immensely political and akin to that consummate American politician Collin Powell waiting until the eve of the election, when he (Powell) already knew that barring an extraordinary occurrence, Barack Obama was going to win the election, before declaring his endorsement.
One would have thought the shenanigans would end there, only to read Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke say in one vein that Dangote has been elected by popular vote and in the other, that there was no voting and that the election was accented by unanimous acclamation. Now there are, we are told, sixteen leading members of the council eligible to vote. Were they allowed to vote? How many voted for Aliko Dangote? Were there any that would have voted against him?
In the event these people have not done Dangote any favours. It is predictable, going by what leading members of the exchange were saying about their desire to follow rules and prevent instability, that Aliko Dangote would have got the winning votes. The manner of initial press exclusion and the absence of an announcement of the votes cast, puts a cloud on what should have been a transparent victory for Aliko Dangote.
Is it not ironic that Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke would cite the precedent of Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu, an accomplished businessman and politician but who was not known for his democratic principles?