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Naija billionaire, where’s your brand?


Aliko Dangote

If the explanation for your stupendous wealth, is simply that you are an ex-minister or ex-governor, then you should stop reading this right now because you ought to be in jail.

I am always sad when I see some of our rich people strutting around without any visible brands to which we can attribute their wealth. In a nation with a teeming population of poverty stricken people, a few rich people without visible brands to show for it, is a sure sign of injustice and corruption. It is a clear indicator of systemic failure and institutional malaise. In saner climes, the rich are identified with the brands they either created or inherited. But in this country we have rich people whose only claim to fortune is public office or being close to those who have held public office, or being close to those who are close to those who have held public office. It’s such a shame! And such people should be extremely ashamed.

Rich people should be a source of inspiration and shining examples for others to emulate. Their stories, whether it is rags-to-riches or silver spoon stories, should offer something inspiring. We want to be motivated and encouraged. The stories of the rich should tell the rest of us that we too can achieve success in whatever endeavour we lay our hands on. Since we started worshipping money, never caring to ask questions about the sources of dubious wealth, we have lost our soul as a nation and the result is the rot, poverty and insecurity we now live with.

We have a lot of excellent examples which should provide the stories we need to inspire the younger generation and guide them along the path to greatness and success. Brands are the sources of the wealth of the world’s wealthiest people. The industrial giant known today as Doyin Group started as a small trading business in 1968. Today, the company produces numerous brands from personal care products like toothpaste, soaps, to food and beverage, agrochemicals and paints. Given the tough operating environment in this country, especially for manufacturers, we have a lot to learn from the kind of staying power, hard work and determination that has sustained the brands under the Doyin Group umbrella.

I do not think there are many people in this country who haven’t directly or indirectly used a Dangote product. Founded in 1981, the conglomerate has evolved from commodity trading into the largest industrial giant in West Africa and one of the largest in Africa, with annual revenues in excess of $3billion. Dangote Group employs more than 26,000 people and has a robust portfolio of brands including cement, pasta, flour, fruit juice, sugar, salt, tomato and milk. If they tell us Aliko Dangote is the richest man in Africa, we can see very clearly why he is. Beyond that, we can learn from his story and be motivated to pursue our dreams no matter how hard the journey is going to be. There are many billionaires in our midst who have become who they are by building brands that add value to our daily lives while creating wealth and employment for our people. But are they the ones we celebrate?

By virtue of their very busy life, they are hardly the ones you see dancing around at parties. They have no time for frivolities, neither do they hug the paparazzi. And because empty barrels make the most noise, we are daily fed with updates on the antics of the so called socialites many of whom do not have clearly visible sources of wealth, thereby giving them celebrity status. It make me sick to see rich Nigerians whose only claim to fame and fortune is having held or currently holding public office. These are the leeches and parasites who plunder our common resources and destroy the essence of our nationhood. They come in different hues and forms. There are former local government chairmen who have houses and families abroad; former governors who own entire streets in foreign countries; former ministers who have billions in foreign and local bank accounts. Like rashes, they are all over the place.

This class of thieves, who we celebrate and idolize, are the reason for most of our problems in the country today. They are also the reason that marginalization is all about which people are appointed to which office. It is unfortunate that we look at the ethnic origin of government appointees and complain of imbalance. Because we see public office as an avenue to riches. Instead, we should direct that energy to holding these office holders accountable, questioning their every move and making life difficult for them. We must demand the highest levels of probity and service. This is the true power of democracy. When public service is truly about service and sacrifice, many people will find it unattractive, and only those who have a genuine commitment to serving the people will aspire to public office.

In the countries we admire, the wealthiest people are the brand owners. They are the true value creators, whose brands touch our lives and add value to our everyday existence. These are the people we should celebrate and hold high as role models. They are the ones helping us live a better life. But as long as we celebrate looters and sing their praises at our parties, our society will continue to depreciate and decline, our best values will rapidly fade away and our collective identity will continue to be defined by perpetual poverty.

Muyiwa Kayode is CEO at USP Brand Management and author, The Seven Dimensions of Branding. Brand Nation is a platform for promoting national development based on the universal principles of branding.

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