Religion Magazine

Is’haq Kawu: Nigerian Billionaires and the Nigerian Condition

By Samoluexpress @Oluwasegunsomef

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By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu

LAST Friday, January 3, 2014, VANGAURD newspaper, like other Nigerian newspapers, carried a report sourced from FORBES magazine, titled “The Biggest African Billionaire Gainers in 2013”. The report said that the combined net worth of four Nigerian billionaires, Aliko Dangote, Folorunsho Alakija, Abdulsamad Rabiu and Mike Adenuga grew by $12.65Billion (or N2.024 Trillion) in 2013 alone.

FORBES added that Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote, was the biggest gainer in terms of increase in net worth. In 2013 alone, Dangote gained $10.1Billion (N1.62trillion), and by the end of the year, he was worth $22.9Billion (N3.66Trillion), up from $12.8Billion as at the end of December, 2012. Nigeria’s richest woman, Folorunsho Alakija, was described as the fourth biggest gainer in 2013, with a $1.9Billion (N304Billion) increase in her wealth, thus ending 2013 with a net worth of $2.5Billion (N400Billion). She is a big oil industry player as owner of Famfa Oil Limited.

Similarly, Abdulsamad Rabiu, Chairman of the BUA Group, was named Africa’s ninth biggest gainer in 2013, with a $550Million (N192Billion) increase in wealth, taking his net worth to $1.2Billion (N192Billion).

Ranks of world’s billionaires

Abdulsamad was said to have joined the ranks of the world’s billionaires for the first time, “based on success at his BUA Group, whose biggest businesses are sugar refining and cement”. The BUA Group’s “annual revenues are estimated at $2Billion. The group “also does business in real estate, steel, port concessions, manufacturing, oil and gas and shipping”.

Nigeria’s second richest man, Mike Adenuga, was named 15th biggest gainer, with a gain of $100Million (N16Billion) to end the year with a net worth of $4.7Billion (N752Billion). FORBES said of Adenuga, that “he built his fortune in oil production and telecom…He hit it big when the military regime of former President Ibrahim Babangida awarded him construction contracts and his first oil prospecting license with which he became the first Nigerian to strike oil in commercial quantities”.

So the uber-capitalist magazine, FORBES has again revealed the nature of the society that is being built in Nigeria. When these annual reports began coming out a couple of years ago, it became clear that we have arrived at a new pass in Nigeria, the pass of the fetishism of money and the lionizing of the super rich. Neoliberal capitalism has been “successful” in Nigeria; it has created a tiny clique of super rich who worked the Nigerian system to their advantage in a unique alliance of the nouveau bourgeoisie and the political elite.

The transition to civil rule in 1999 consolidated and expanded a trend which had emerged in the wombs of military dictatorship, but especially during the implementation of Structural Adjustment Policies (SAP). Obasanjo’s neoliberal surrender consolidated the incestuous alliance of these rich individuals and the political elite and it was no surprise that these individuals, in the main, have bankrolled the political and electoral expenses of the ruling administrations and party. A nd for their labour, they got the accesses which allowed their flowering as members of the clan of the world’s billionaires.

The obverse of the process that FORBES magazine reported with relish, is the Nigerian condition. That Nigeria of the few billionaires and their allies in politics, is today one of the most unjust and most unequal societies in the world. The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics on January 6, 2014, reported that 112.519million Nigerians live in relative poverty conditions; this is out of a population of 163 million people.

The Statistician-General of the NBS, Dr. Yemi Kale, who presented the report said “in 2004, Nigeria’s relative poverty measurement stood at 54.4per cent, but increased to 69 percent or 112.518million Nigerians in 2010”. Kale then added that “it remains a paradox, however, that despite the fact that the Nigerian economy is growing, the proportion of Nigerians living in poverty is increasing every year”.

Urban and rural poverty is increasing and the economy which allows a few billionaires to increase their “net worth” in billions of dollars annually, is not creating the jobs that can take millions of young Nigerians out of desperation and despair. These alienated young people are high on drugs; they are involved in many criminal endeavours; they are in desperate search for opportunities abroad and those who have stayed do not love the Nigeria of a few billionaires that FORBES magazine celebrates.

It is the condition that gave rise to a few billionaires, that has also provided the conditions for insurgency in Northern Nigeria. Afterall, The National Bureau of Statistics’ report also added that North-West and North-East Nigeria recorded the highest poverty rate in the country in 2010, with 77.7 percent and 76.3 percent respectively.

The Nigerian ruling class made a conscious choice of the nature of the capitalism that has been foisted on our country. The Washington Consensus type of neoliberal capitalism tears society asunder because it is the most pitiless, uncaring and criminal form of that most inhuman capitalist system. It is not an aberration that we have created a monstrosity of a few billionaires who continue to get richer while the majority continues to get poorer and are in distress and despair.

What we are witnessing is the logical result of the choices made by the ruling class. Check out the past decade in Nigeria, and it will soon be clear that the trend has been constant. Maybe one or two odd individuals will join the billionaires’ list, but the process that produces them also deepens the poverty amongst the majority of Nigerians. Not even the acts of philanthropy, which a few of these billionaires, like Aliko Dangote, have embraced in recent years, can dent the ever widening gap between them and the majority of the Nigerian people.

What is also clear is that the Nigerian ruling class processes which created conditions that allowed four billionaires to increase their wealth by $12.65Billion (N2.024Trillion) in JUST ONE YEAR, is NOT SUSTAINABLE! It is that same process that has also made 112.5 Million Nigerians desperately poor.

Something HAS to give! The portents around us are very frightening indeed! So FORBES magazine’s celebration of the wealth of just four individuals might become something the super rich billionaires and the ruling class in general, will come to rue. It is just a matter of time.

Hon. Justice Saidu Kawu: Closure of an era

THE seventh day prayer for the late Justice Saidu Kawu took place in the family house in Ilorin on New Year’s Day. And just as on the day he was buried, Boxing Day, December 26th, 2013, his 85th Birthday, there was a turn out of hundreds of people from all walks of life. And since he died on Christmas Day, the family has received hundreds of visitors as well as messages of condolences.

His death brought home most poignantly, the well-quoted observation by the Malian Professor Hampate Ba, that when an old man dies in Africa, it is the equivalence of the burning of a library. Justice Saidu Kawu’s life was reflective of some of the major phases of our nation’s development. He was an incredible unifier of our family; a man with a generous sense of community and a genuinely decent father and patriarch. He ceaselessly reminded us all of the importance of a sense of honour and of fidelity to the history of our people and Islam. They were points he harped on regularly. Let me illustrate. I was appointed pioneer GM of KWTV in February 1997.

On the eve of my resumption of work, he called my late mother and I, to remind me of the history of our forefathers: “We have never been ‘materially rich’ in our family”, he told me. “We have always been a family of scholars and public administrators; please uphold our honour in your new appointment”. I could NEVER have forgotten those words!

Similarly, many of the people who experienced his incredible humanity have spoken with a deep sense of appreciation and of loss, since his passing. In response to some of the messages of condolences we received, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari wrote: “Thank you…for sharing the grief of all true sons and daughters of our community in Ilorin who have lost a rare gem, a true gentleman, an incorruptible judge and an outstanding leader. He was my surrogate father, yet so humble.

Surrogate father

To illustrate: just last June when I was in Ilorin for the ceremony of my installation as pioneer Chancellor of Kwara State University, he not only attended the event at the campus which is several miles out of town, he was with me at the Emir’s palace for the special prayers which HRH organised to mark my retirement from UN service and appointment as Chancellor, but he also came to the Airport to see me off!!

That was who he was: kind, decent, humble and caring”. Yemi Candide-Johnson said of him: “A judge from a different age and time. It is good that we can remember what is possible. May his soul rest in peace”. While Chidi Odinkalu, Chairman of the NHRC, added that: “his humility and decency on our bench at the highest levels all seems like it was from such an age ago. May Kawu JSC’s soul find merciful and eternal rest”.

Twice a year, during the Sallah holidays, he brought the whole family together and given the dispersal of people in all directions, they were dates we endeavoured to keep, because one was sure to meet other members of the family. It is a tradition we would have to consciously uphold in his memory.

He was a remarkable conversationist, able to engage young and old alike about various issues. And because of my own work in journalism, in recent years, he became particularly obliging with tales of his years as a teacher, headmaster, scoutmaster, development administrator in the old Ilorin NA and as Magistrate in various parts of the North.

The politics of the 2011 elections caused a major chasm within the family, because some of us supported Dele Belgore and became pitted against those in the family who had been part of the Bukola Saraki government. It got so bad that people on both sides stopped relating with each other. He called something close to a family truth and reconciliation meeting to mend relationships. He reminded us that our forefathers never broke over partisan differences and he was not going to allow division, so close to the end of his own life.

I think his generosity of spirit and leadership helped to mend fences. That was the person he was and who we lost: father and patriarch; modest; decent; unifier; honourable; incorruptible judge; a proud sense of community and a very sincere Muslim. May Allah forgive his sins and grant him Al-janna. Allah ya Jikan Justice Saidu Kawu.

Source: Vanguard

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