I don’t care about the number of ditto heads and hapless jobbers who would come to his defense when this piece plays. But my candid assertion is that the character called Aliko Dangote who prides himself as an entrepreneur is neither that.
Nor is he a brilliant businessman as some are inclined to trumpet. Instead, through and through, he is a criminal, pure and simple. How else would one rightly characterize or designate an individual like him who relies on and exploits the shameful patronage-clientage system that pervades the Nigeria project to steal and loot resources that don’t even emanate from or belong to the part of the land, i.e. the upper Niger where he’s from, to enrich himself in such a crass manner?
Go down the list if you may, what unfolds is the pathetic story of this so-called commodity trader who emerged over-night in stupendous wealth by participating in wholesale “sell-off of state-owned corporations, presidential aircraft” and extensive government-owned property of all sorts. My dossier on him reveals that ever since he was introduced to the persistent scourge, Olusegun Obasanjo—I’ll return to him anon—a few years ago by a certain Igbo carry-go female politician who is now an ambassador somewhere in the British Isles, this criminal has grown more brazen by the day in the ways he steals and loots and carts away the resources that abound in especially other parts of the areas that the British called Nigeria.
What he passes as entrepreneurial practices are brigandage and piracy personified. A few years ago, when someone I know attempted to import corned beef into Nigeria from Botswana for distribution, he couldn’t on the grounds that it was on the prohibited list. When I nosed around, I ascertained that this same criminal, Aliko Dangote imports into Nigeria and distributes all manner of corned beef from Argentina, Brazil and Australia. His shenanigan over cement stinks to high heavens. I specifically engineered the same Igbo carry-go politician to approach Charles Ugwuh, the Obowo man who used to be Yar’Adua’s Commerce Minister on the cement thing after I discerned that every iota of cement that comes into Nigeria was through Aliko Dangote. His response to the lady’s inquiry was that the decision made in high quarters is that every cement importation must be left in the hands of manufacturers. Who else constitutes cement manufacturers in Nigeria? Aliko Dangote, the criminal.
Closer investigation that I conducted clearly revealed that this Aliko Dangote has exclusive access, use and control of the Onne wharf in Port Harcourt. My investigation further revealed that anyone, be the one from the customs, or any other state establishment that tries to venture close to that wharf will receive the lashing of his or her life from the goons that man the place for Aliko Dangote. It’s right through Onne that he imports and exports whatever he wants. I’m still trying to ascertain if and how much if at all, that Aliko Dangote, who is a Hausaman from Kano in the upper Niger, pays as duties for his exclusive and stupendous use of that facility, which is a natural asset that belongs to the inhabitants of that part of the lower Niger. Yet, none of all the research I have done so far reveals to me that Aliko Dangote’s ancestors ever conquered the rightful owners of the facility in Onne.
When I read somewhere last year that he signed a gas turbine deal with Siemens for his Ibese cement plant, the question that quickly came to my mind was: Is he not going to also steal the natural gas that will burn in that turbine to power his cement plant from the oil wells located in the Niger Delta? What about the limestone that he will extract from Ibese for his cement works? How much is he going to pay for it? From making it impossible for anyone except only himself, to import cement, he clawed his way to manufacturing cement using limestone and natural gas that he is likely to steal from Ibese and the Niger Delta respectively. What kind of entrepreneur is he? It is only in the Lala-land, which Nigeria is, where anything unsavory happens with impunity, that his kind of entrepreneur is found. The callous resort to by some who call this thief an entrepreneur, albeit wrongly, is an insult to one like Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese-born cellular telephone mogul who by dint of hard work as a brilliant and well-educated engineer/innovator pioneered the technology that translated to today’s cellular telephony and subsequently reaped well and big there from when the ventures he set up blossomed.
One of the countless troubling facts about this man Aliko Dangote is that the brigandage that he personifies and exploits to enrich himself at the expense of the inhabitants of the lower Niger who rightly own the natural resources he steals reflects the culture he was born and socialized in. Patronage-clientage is a ubiquitous system that underpins the practice of authority in the Caliphate society that he comes from. As a norm, patronage-clientage aides the nurture and sustenance of the cultural conditions that support political corruption amongst the Hausa-Fulani. The other cause for serious worry is that the social engineering that the British deployed in their colonial state building endeavor in the Niger basin translated to the extension of Hausa-Fulani authority patterns—that encompass this norm of patronage-clientage—to the rest of the resultant Nigerian supra-national state in its entirety. Hausa-Fulani control of state power in the supra-national state through the various military dictatorships and regimes manned by especially the scourge, Olusegun Obasanjo has further entrenched those autocratic and backward authority patterns into every facet of life in the Nigeria project. That happened to the degree that the elite from the other nationalities have simply fallen in line and embraced a system that yields quick and easy personal wealth to the detriment of progress and development in the land. The ensuing status quo, which is devoid of responsiveness in public life, is a boon that criminals and the criminal-minded from the rest of the nationalities thrive on. The outcome is the norm-less Lala-land also called Nigeria.
Do you now see why I’ve remained in the ranks of the tireless and persistent advocates of the restructure of the Nigeria project along the line of the nationalities that were made to constitute it? With that, the criminal-minded, and a criminal like Aliko Dangote will be constrained to loot only in their own homeland where it is the norm for the ruling elite whose elements are the extensions of society, take the liberty to appropriate public wealth and resources to themselves. They will not for instance, encroach other nationalities in which it is taboo to appropriate public wealth and resources, and anyone who does is sanctioned accordingly without fear or favor.
That brings me to the last words that I’ll ever print on or about the scourge, Olusegun Obasanjo. One revelation stands out in the memoirs of the friendship he claims thrived between him and the late Chukwuma Nzeogwu. It speaks countless, too: On the afternoon of that fateful day in January 1966, while Nzeogwu and his co-conspirators closeted themselves in his bedroom putting finishing touches to their Operation Damisa, he—Nzeogwu—politely shooed him—Olusegun Obasanjo—off when he approached to ask for loose change to pay a fruit seller by throwing his entire wallet to him. The plain and logical explanation of this revelation is that if indeed, his closeness to Nzeogwu couldn’t earn him a role in the group at the time, what other proof would we need that he is worthless? Irrespective of his shameless posturing, I say: scourge Olusegun Obasanjo, your shrine is empty!
As an aside, I must caution those who are obsessed with and cheer this on-coming charade that has been called elections: It doesn’t hold a panacea. Instead, it’ll again help normalize the absurdity—the Nigeria project—that underpins and enables the theft of natural resources by Aliko Dangote and his ilk from nationalities in the lower Niger.
● E. C. Ejiogu is a political sociologist. He is the author of The Roots of Political Instability in Nigeria, published this month by Ashgate Publishing Ltd.