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Dangote honoured as The Guardian Man of the Year 2015

By Marcel Mbamalu, Tope Templer Olaiya, Seye Olumide, Gbenga Salau and Femi Adekoya
23 April 2016   |   3:59 am
Last night, Alhaji Aliko Dangote was hosted to a public presentation of the prestigious The Guardian Man of the Year Award.
Chairman/Publisher of The Guardian newspapers, Lady Maiden Ibru presenting The Guardian Man Of The Year 2015 Award to President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, at the ceremony held at The Wheatbaker Lagos… yesterday. PHOTO: FEMI ADEBESIN-KUTI

Chairman/Publisher of The Guardian newspapers, Lady Maiden Ibru presenting The Guardian Man Of The Year 2015 Award to President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, at the ceremony held at The Wheatbaker Lagos… yesterday. PHOTO: FEMI ADEBESIN-KUTI

… Award is special ahead of Forbes’, says Industrialist

From the first Man of the Year in 1987, when General Olusegun Obasanjo, who had that year assumed the unofficial role of the critic-in-chief of the military government of the time, it has been the tradition of The Guardian to celebrate trailblazers each New Year Day. Last night, the 2015 Man of the Year, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, who had earlier in the year joined the illustrious alumni of the bold and courageous, the good and the great, was hosted to public presentation of the prestigious recognition.

The atmosphere was devoid of the usual Nigerian award for a high personality. The hall, small with guests standing, a mini rostrum, with about five tables for a mild cocktail, created an ambience of a modest celebration that attracted prominent Nigerians from different fields of endeavour, most especially operators of the private sector.

Dressed in a fitted-suit with black shoes to match, Aliko Dangote, the awardee, got to the WheatBaker Hotel, Lagos venue of The Guardian Man of the Year Award ceremony at exactly 6:00 pm. He was ambushed by photojournalists who ensured he took pictures with The Guardian backdrop. Thereafter, he was ushered into the Rufkatu Hall at exactly 6.06pm, in company of two aides to a rousing welcome by guests, which included his three lovely daughters, Mariam, Fatimah and Halima.

On entering the hall, he met Fola Adeola, founding managing director of Guaranty Trust Bank. They shook hands warmly, exchanged banters just as Chairman and Publisher of The Guardian, Maiden Ibru, walked up to him and exchanged greetings. Immediately, they walked out of the hall for a photo session with The Guardian backdrop. Five minutes later, he was re-ushered into the hall by Maiden Ibru. Then there were some minutes round of exchange of pleasantries between the celebrant and a few guests including the Managing Director of The Guardian, Mr. Emeka Eluem Izeze.

Before then, guests had started strolling into the hall around 5:00 pm, exchanging greetings and banters. But at 6.18, the Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian, Debo Adesina mounted the rostrum to announce the commencement of the programme with the singing of the National Anthem.

The cocktail was immediately called to order and the event kick-started with the welcome address by Lady Maiden Ibru. She extolled the man of the moment, Aliko Dangote, for defying the odds and seeing opportunities where others pulled back. “For venturing into the quick sands of manufacturing, Dangote has arguably become Africa’s foremost industrialist, entrepreneur, investor and a big employer of labour.”

According to the publisher, The Guardian saw early on the need to single out trailblazers as worthy examples for the society, which necessitated the institution of the Man of the Year Award, to celebrate individuals and groups that have made the greatest impact in the lives of the people, nation, continent and the world at large.

Explaining the rigorous process that culminates in the eventual unveiling of the Man or Person of the Year Award, she said the exercise, which usually begins in the Editorial Board with nominations by members, is followed by weeks of debate, during which a shortlist of candidates is drawn up.

“There will be more scrutiny and debate at the end of which two candidates emerge as top contenders. Further debate and due diligence take place and finally, the best candidate is chosen, usually unanimously. The Man of the Year is then announced in The Guardian on New Year day, she explained.”

Speaking on the choice of Dangote for the award, Mrs. Ibru said the highly successful entrepreneur was an easier pick. “In our estimation, he stood shoulders higher than others in his bold efforts to become the builder of modern Africa, to create jobs for our teeming population and courageously confront conventional wisdom that says an African entrepreneur stands no chance when pitched against multinational firms from Europe, North America and Asia.”

“In the process, Alhaji Aliko has rewritten the form book that indicates that Africans would rather patronise western and Asian firms than one of their own. In choosing Dangote, The Guardian is making a poignant statement about the role of the newspaper in the society. One of which is identifying heroes and publicise good examples as a way of redirecting the values of the society. This is what The Guardian has sought to do with the personalities chosen over the years.”

In his remarks, Dangote said he had received three awards this year and the one from The Guardian stood out from the three beating the two other awards from Forbes. According to him, the Forbes Award was about his worth monetarily which does not matter to him because he would rather work hard than somebody telling him his worth, because “I know what I am worth.”

He noted that feats by indigenous investors are often times not recognised by their countries and in the local media, thus making The Guardian award notable and commendable.

With at least $16 billion worth of investments in the Nigerian economy, the President of Dangote Group, has unveiled plans to surpass Federal Government’s investments in the private sector since 1980 through expansion of its existing capacity and raising stakes in new investments.

Besides, Dangote unveiled plans to partner with the newspaper to conduct a comparative analysis and study bordering on the volume of investments and sustainability of such investments between the Federal Government and Dangote Group.

According to him, despite being the single largest investor in the nation’s economy, Dangote Group is exploring new areas of investments where needs in the society can be met while expanding its investments in the oil and gas industry through its petrochemical plant.

“When we announced our plans and target of one million metric tonnes of Cement capacity, we were seen as unserious, but today, we receive letters from different countries to come and invest. We are considering investments in essential commodities to meet needs of our people,” he revealed.

“I don’t know how The Guardian Newspapers got their ranking criteria, but I must say it is commendable considering that we are never appreciated at home. I don’t need an award to tell me how much I’m worth or being among the powerful people in the world. This recognition is highly appreciated.”

“What we have achieved with our investment in the Cement industry is to drop the price of Cement. Presently, our sales volume is about 45 per cent but we are targeting a sales volume of 70 per cent by the end of 2016. The gas pipelines we are trying to build will be the biggest in the country surpassing Federal Government’s own”, he added.

Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Alexander Thomopoulous, who raised the toast for the man of the moment, said: “He is a pride to Nigeria, Africa and the black race across the world. His humility and character stands him out.”

The Managing Director, Mr. Emeka Eluem Izeze, also used the evening to introduce The Guardian’s sister company, Guardian TV, to illustrate the organisation’s expanding profile in the industry.

The Editor-in-Chief, Mr. Debo Adesina, noted that the celebration was not about the assets he has or the celebration he has made, but rather the people he has built over the years.

Dignitaries at the event include former Chief of Army Staff Gen. Chris Ali, Mrs Mariam Uwais, former lawmaker in Lagos State, Mr. Habeeb Fasinro, Mr Emmanuel Mok, His Eminence Arch Bishop Alexander Gianniris of the Diocese of Greek Orthodox and former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba among others.