it was a day of glamour and joy in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital as the governor of the state, Senator Ibikunle Amosun gave his first daughter, Miss Ayomide Amosun’s hand out in marriage to Mr. Oladipo Dabiri, the son of Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Senior Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora to President…
DON’T ask me if Aliko Dangote, the celebrated Nigerian manufacturer of world repute is about to manufacture a new product, a new balm called Dangote’s Balm (of Gilead)—after all everything bears his name, from Dangote Sugar to Dangote Salt to Dangote Cement to Dangote Flour to Dangote Refinery to Dangote only-God-knows-what-next!
Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of the restorative balm of Gilead, the magic balm that soothes wounds of people whose hearts and spirits have been broken, whose hope have been shattered by the savagery of war. People who have lost everything, whose houses have been set on fire for no reason. People whose businesses have been destroyed in the name of a communal fight, a brotherly fight as old as the fight between Cain and Abel.
Hey, if you haven’t heard about the balm of Gilead, then you would have to turn to the Bible, to the book of Jeremiah Chapter 8 verse 22 where it is written: “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wounds of my people?”
In those days, when I was studying Bible Knowledge for my A-Levels at Ijebu-Jesha Grammar School mixed with Literature and Political Science, little did I know it will come handy in future when I would become a Bible-quoting journalist and an upholder of evangelical journalism.
Last week I was giving a career talk on journalism to some kids, to some students of Chrisland College, V.C.G., Lekki and one of the questions they asked was: What subjects should we study to become journalists in future? I told them every subject counts in journalism. I told them that the inspiration to write a newspaper column can come from anyone, anything, anywhere.
My inspiration for today’s column comes from the laudable and yeoman role played by Aliko Dangote in giving out a whopping N50 million to the victims of the communal strife in Ile-Ife, the cradle of the Yoruba race which witnessed a brutal fight on March 8, between Yoruba and Hausa—two tribes who had lived together in bliss and in peace from time immemorial. Then all of a sudden, the devil took over and all hell was let loose, leading to killing, looting and burning affecting 220 people who lost their homes and everything they had worked for.
The whole thing could have escalated into another civil war but thanks to the Ooni of Ife Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi who deftly managed the situation and brought everything under control, such that the Emirs of the north didn’t need any countermeasure. Leading the chorus of praises for this new Solomon of Ile-Ife is Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Emir of Kano who says: “From the north, we were convinced not to issue any public statement after Ooni explained the steps he had taken; he deserves our praise.”
Sanusi had taken a further step by appealing to his friend Aliko Dangote to assist the helpless victims of the bloody conflict with his healing balm of philanthropy. Luckily, Dangote has a system in place for healing victims of calamities—both natural and man-made. Victims of flood, earthquakes, famine, war, communal strife and all other forms of sufferings. This is what the Dangote Foundation does.
“The whole philosophy behind the foundation is: How do we bring relief to those who suffer among us?,” the chief executive of the Dangote Foundation Zuera Youssoufou tells me, in the course of gathering materials for my big book on the lives and times of great Nigerians, good Nigerians, selfless Nigerians like Aliko Dangote and my good friend, the philanthropic Mike Adenuga who is also a manufacturer of the balm of Gilead.
For Aliko Dangote, giving is rooted in his family genes. “I have spent some time with his mother in Kano,” Youssoufou further reveals. “That has been the way he was brought up in Kano with his mother. That’s the way they live. All this idea about giving. Because if you don’t give back, you too won’t be blessed. So you have to help others. And the more we can be impactful by giving, the more we can really change people’s lives, then the better all of us would be. That’s what he really believes in and that’s what I try to bring into this job.”
As a thorough Hausa man who made his fortunes in Yorubaland, who loves the Yoruba way of life and who has acculturated to the point of behaving like a Yoruba man in his style, attitude and taste, it is easy to understand and feel Dangote’s pain, seeing the two tribes at war, the two tribes that he is intricately intertwined. If you call Dangote a “Yorub’ausa man”, you have struck the nail right on the head.
Aremo Segun Osoba testifying to the Yorub’ausa dual identity of Dangote, told me in the forthcoming book:
“Dangote is also a detribalised individual. He has spent the best of his adult life in Lagos. And he has become rooted in the culture of Yoruba and Lagos. He is one northerner who I know wears the Yoruba cap gobi better than a lot of Yoruba people. He wears the real, original, Yoruba gobi made of aso-oke and hand-woven. He wears it the way our ancestors have been wearing gobi. I always laugh at him. You would think he is one oligarchical prince of Yorubaland. Even the style of his agbada is Yoruba-style. He wears his own Hausa cap and babanriga when it is convenient for him, for example on Fridays when he is going to the mosque. But most of the time, you see him in the gobi. He has too many friends who are Yoruba. Most friends around him are people with whom he grew up in Lagos. Take for example, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, the former governor of Ekiti State, who is one of his best friends. People don’t know they have been together way back from when they were both living in Surulere as young people.”
Niyi Adebayo who also spoke to me at length, totally agrees with Osoba. And so does the former governor of Cross River State Donald Duke who shared lunch with me, talking for two hours about the early years in Surulere with “Ali Cash,” the man with cash and the balm of Gilead. Another close, bosom friend of Aliko Dangote whom I plan to interview very soon is the oil magnate Femi Otedola. Watch out for my interview with Otedola.