I Have had cause to write a couple of articles in the past on the larger-than-life image of Aliko Dangote, and the place he occupies in Nigerian society, but especially the economy. When the media began to celebrate his accession into the exclusive rank of billionaires, I had argued that it was wrong, because he had taken so much from our country, but had not given back to society, through foundations dedicated to philanthropy.
In the period since the criticisms, Aliko Dangote has made even more money from our country; has become almost THE MAIN factor in our national economic life, in tune with the desire of our ruling class to make this a capitalist society, willy-nilly. Dangote looms larger than ever in the stock exchange; in governmental panels and in diversified investments in nearly every area of our economy.
If Dangote sneezes today, the Nigerian economy will certainly catch a cold! For the Nigerian bourgeoisie, Aliko Dangote is the poster child of capitalist success. I recall that once we went for a media briefing with President Obasanjo, and at the dinner table, he told the joke of a young Igbo man who converted to Islam, and was told that his conversion would be incomplete, unless he took a Muslim name, like Muhammad, Is’haq or Abubakar, etc. Obasanjo said the smart young man decided he wanted to be named Aliko Dangote!
Last Saturday, LEADERSHIP WEEKEND newspaper did a cover story, which underlined the essence of the Dangote phenomenon. The story said that in the next five years, Aliko Dangote would outstrip the Nigerian Federal Government, as the largest employer of labour in the land.
The Dangote Group plans to create 750, 000 jobs in the next five years and that will eventually reach one million. The report added that the Group presently employs 26, 000 workers, “spread across its subsidiaries in cement, salt and sugar manufacturing and packaging plants”.
On the other hand, the report said the FGN has roughly 90, 000 civil servant, “but the figure will come up to at least 600, 000 when added to those in the military and paramilitary organizations”. Aliko Dangote long recognised as Africa’s richest individual, “…has in the pipeline, a 300, 000 hectare sugar plantation in KebbiState, rice plantation in KwaraState, and a fertilizer plant and a refinery in the OKNLG Free Trade Zone in Ogun and Ondo states”.
That is not all. There is “the planned expansion of its three cement plants in Obajana in Kogi State, Ibese in Ogun State and Gboko in Benue State, and the planned Independent Power Plant, IPP”.If we are still finding it difficult to wrap our heads around these incredible forays into several areas of the national economy, the Dangote Group recently signed a $3.30billion loan with a consortium of local and foreign banks, “to finance the construction of a petrochemical and petroleum refining plants at the OKNLG Free Trade Zone in Ondo State” and that plant will be largest of its kind in Africa.
Aliko Dangote has changed the face of African capitalism forever; he moved from being just a Comprador to a genuine national (and in fact, a Pan-African) bourgeois! Capitalism is without doubt the most radical development process in human history. It tore asunder the sloppiness associated with all hitherto existing forms of organisation of human society.
Modernity and post-modernism are both products of the radical impact of capitalism. By investing in different sectors of the Nigerian economy and in all parts of the country, Aliko Dangote has made a definitive statement of confidence in Nigeria and its people. His contribution to the making of the Nigerian nation is very significant because it is located at the level of the political economy.
There are always criticisms that can be made, especially at the moral level, about the waivers and advantages that Dangote has taken from Nigeria. The Nigerian state, especially since Obasanjo, seemed to have bent backwards to accommodate Dangote, Femi Otedola and a whole cabal of stupendously rich individuals who were also often financiers of the political agendas of those in power.
But staying within the ambitions of the ruling class to create a capitalist society, Dangote has made a remarkable contribution and continues to do so! At a time when some members of the political elite and intellectuals pooh-pooh the idea of Nigeria or when some lamenting that we have not become a “nation” (whatever that means!) almost like the absurd intellectual in Diogene of Sinope’s painting, who carried a lamp in the afternoon searching for the “righteous” man, a capitalist entrepreneur, Aliko Dangote, is helping to create a Nigerian working class, or more appropriately, a Nigerian industrial proletariat.
These working people are his greatest contribution to our country and they demystify the insulting nonsense that reduces us to just a collection of warring “tribes”; the fixation of certain intellectual and political circles, especially in Southern Nigeria.
And to crown it all, Aliko Dangote has also discovered the métier in philanthropy. I have NEVER met Aliko Dangote in my life and I am an eternal critique of capitalism. But as Lenin used to say, facts are stubborn things! The fact here is that Aliko Dangote is making a huge contribution to the capitalist development of Nigeria.