Monday 14 March 2011

Nigeria: Rich Man, Poor Man Billionaires

Setting the O. K. Corral

I was awoken to the tweets and Facebook comments of people who had read a Forbes blog [1] that followed the Forbes 2011 Billionaires’ List that included two Nigerians.

There was Aliko Dangote [2] who had made the list for 4 years running but also had seen a rise on percentage terms of 557% of his wealth in a year to maintain his 1st position in Nigeria and now become the richest in Africa.

For a man who had been in business for over 30 years and despite his various business activities had been stuck in the low billions until the public offering of this commercial vehicle that brought in the bucks, there could be no dispute to the fact that he was that well-heeled.

Then the man who places second in Nigeria is Mike Adenuga [3] but a good 544 places behind the 51st placed Aliko Dangote in the world and this is Mr. Adenuga first showing on the Forbes List, though he might have been on the radar in the earlier years as one to watch but his recent valuation does not touch any of the three previous estimations of his compatriot.

Making the billionaires list with audited sources of income is a feat in itself especially if that derives from industry and services rather than from political power as is usually the case with many disreputable African moneybags who have gained a form of respectability from roguery and are unabashed to display their ill-gotten gains.

A billionaire’s row amongst minions

The contention however that has come out of Nigeria and even so the supporters of the second-placed Mr. Adenuga is that he cannot be that far behind Mr. Dangote.

Now, this is not some isolated issue but an endemic problem of one-upmanship and penis-envy, powerful Nigerians and their sycophants cannot bear to think there is someone more powerful than their potentate, surely not more influential or richer.

However, no one can present corroborated or undisputed figures to close the gap between Adenuga and Dangote but the sentiment and illusion exists that the valuations are too conservative as outrageous comparisons are made to give credence to fallacy.

The fantasy numbers game

I could remember when the census figures [4] were published in 2007 and though it was just 370,000 odd people between Kano State (9,383,682) and Lagos State (9,013,354), politicians were plucking figures out of the air of Lagos State having at least 14 million people but no one had verifiably counted that number, they just needed to say it long enough for the precipitation of supposition upon supposition to become fact.

So, one supporter was willing to bet, though no wager was placed that Mike Adenuga was worth at least $10 billion or $15 billion; I would suppose there is nothing about the $5 billion difference when Mr. Adenuga is said to be worth a paltry $2 billion.

Another did not know what he was worth but knew he was worth over $20 billion which conveniently puts Mr. Dangote in the shade and then the same person allows a swing of $15 billion in chicken change to aver that if Mr. Adenuga was poor he would be worth at least $5 billion.

A pissing contest – Not!

They were so aggrieved by the valuation that they urged the correspondent to seek an interview with Mr. Adenuga who his staff address as Dr. Adenuga whilst might be because of the conferment of an honorary doctorate rather than academic ability, he has an MBA.

It is doubtful that Mr. Adenuga would subscribe to a pissing contest to prove he can do it better but if Aliko Dangote had not made the astronomical gains he made last year, he would have been at $2.1 billion (2010) and created less agitation but because a new man has joined the billionaire’s club a ravilry should ensue considering Dangote lost in 2009 from an even higher valuation in 2008.

The issue is no more about billionaires but that absurd case of Nigeria having a rich billionaire and a poor billionaire – just part of the usual Nigerian narrative and possible grist to the mill of Nollywood imitating life.


[1] Mike Adenuga Is Not A Poor Nigerian Billionaire, His Reps Say - Kerry A. Dolan - Shades of Green - Forbes

[2] Forbes - Aliko Dangote

[3] Forbes - Mike Adenuga

[4] Akin Akintayo: Gauging the Nigerian 2006 Census

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