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Between Dangote and Otedola

I do not know much about Femi Otedola whose antecedents in business is certainly short or put the other way one of the miracles of…

I do not know much about Femi Otedola whose antecedents in business is certainly short or put the other way one of the miracles of a peripheral capitalist social formation where anybody without any serious industry or business antecedence could rise from grass to grace. Aliko Dangote on the other hand, I have known him in business for quite some time now not just because of the ancestral linkages of his family with commerce and capital accumulation but as well his total life commitment to commerce which may be said to be responsible for the emergence of that trading empire which I often love to criticize because it is not necessarily rooted in the real sector industry.

One of the achievements of the Obasanjo administration which the former president himself was proud and said often was that out of the millions and trillions that accrued to the nation in the eight years that he held forte, one major achievement was that he created about ten Nigerian billionaires.

Two among these billionaires are Aliko Dangote whom everyone knew as a businessman before the advent of the Obasanjo administration. No doubt he was one of those who funded the notoriety of the PDP in 2003 and 2007 and in return enjoyed bountiful waivers as a means of encouraging indigenous trade and entrepreneurship, I guess.

Femi a very young man I understand whose industry is oil through the sheer will of the powers that be but definitely without any prior antecedence in business also benefitted tremendously from the failure of policies of the Obasanjo administration and the resultant leakages in the national economy where apparently the greatest thing that paid off was sycophancy and nepotism. Today, the young man stands amongst the richest Nigerians even if with no genuine initiative arising from industry which creates wealth, goods and services.

To the best of my knowledge such emergency billionaires are only found in this country. We all know how Bill Gates for instance made it to the top of the global financial empire. Through hard work, ingenuity and industry, not by the will of any global or local political actor.

One of the reasons why some of us are very critical of government’s privatization agenda is not just because the so-called national capitalist class is incapable of piloting the commanding heights of the economy but mainly due to the absence of transparency and due process in the scheme as well as the obvious leakages that dampens the spirit of genuine competition and encourages instead the proliferation of non starters’ taking control of the peak of the national economy.

The downstream sector of the national economy was definitely and deliberately sold out and tilted to one section of Nigeria against the other. Was it Obasanjo who sold National Oil to Mike Adenuga when the going was good? Yes. Was it Obasanjo who sold Unipetrol to Wale Tinubu? Then came the Africa Petroleum which changed hands several times before coming back to Femi Otedola.

I don’t blame either the young Yoruba chaps who cashed in on the opportunity opened to them and bought up all the major oil firms in the country. Why didn’t people from the other parts of the country put up spirited effort to buy these companies?

I think there is a problem even amongst the Nigerian petty bourgeois elements. They are either selfish, lazy or uncoordinated or both. This may be the factor that has now resulted in the one way traffic that we see in the downstream sector of the Nigerian Oil industry.

The MRS group got its share of the sector when Chevron-Texaco was offered and sold to them. I understand that that is where the problems between Dangote and Otedola actually started but only became public with the share allegation over AP. Whatever the case may be, I am of the opinion that the crisis which seem to be waxing and becoming uglier with the sensitive segment of public opinion either becoming partisan or at least taking positions on the basis of facts  available to them must be properly understood so that the unassuming public is not held captive to a battle that is entirely not theirs.

   My initial view on this crisis is premised on the understanding that it may be well if it will result in positive competition so that Nigerian consumers may have options at perhaps cheaper and more affordable rates as against what one might call the oligopoly that characterizes business and markets in our economy. In the same vein, the protagonists must strive to translate the billions of profits that they make in fulfilling the social responsibility dimension to their immediate societies and the nation at large. We will like to start counting the number of schools, hospitals, scholarships, chairs of research and other important contributions of profit to the development of the less privileged members of the society.