Last year, Nigeria’s most successful businessman and richest person alive in the country, Aliko Dangote, had a meeting with his selected strategists. The purpose of the meeting was simple. To decide among the three presidential candidates, Aliko Danogte would support
The three candidates were; 1). Peter Obi, 2). Atiku Abubakar, 3). Bola Ahmed Tinubu
The candidate’s profile, merit, and demerit were analysed by the gentlemen seated in that room. At the end of the meeting, the consensus was that Atiku Abubakar was a better option to back, and the reasons were not far-fetched. Aside from the special chummy relationship between the businessman and Atiku, Atiku, who ironically clocked 77 today, is pro-business, is the right person for corporate business, and has the right skill set to reposition and revive the dead economy. Also, the fact that the cabal around Tinubu was openly supporting Atiku made Dangote’s decision very easy. The calculation was that Atiku would win, and based on that, Dangote chose to pitch his tent with Atiku Abubakar by supporting his aspiration to become our president, which did not materialise on February 25.
It was said that Dangote donated money as well to Tinubu’s camapign, which was his normal traditional custom to do, but his body language showed he preferred Atiku, whom he believed would have been a better president for businesses and the economy in Nigeria than Tinubu. His arch rival and brother, Abdul Samad Rabiu of BUA Cement, chose to pitch his tent with Bola Ahmed Tinubu and did not donate money to Atiku Abubakar. His first choice was Bola Ahmed Tinubu. His second choice was Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Rabiu’s support was so personal that he donated his private jets for temporary use by TInubu’s people during the campaign. Tinubu’s wife, Remi, and his aides were flying Rabiu’s private jets during the campaign. The same is true of Tony Elumelu. It was said that Tony’s UBA provided the much-needed cash for Tinubu’s camp during the ill-fated cash crunch and scarcity before the election. No wonder Tony was the first person Tinubu visited in Lagos as a president-elect.Since Lagos is a very small place, news started flying around in a twinkle of an eye. News got into the ears of Asiwaju that Nigeria’s gift to the world, Dangote, is not supporting his aspiration; rather, he has pitched his tent with Atiku.
He was disappointed with the betrayal by Dangote. Dangote built his wealth in Lagos, the Lagos he owns, and he has been supportive of Dangote’s aspirations before now. Dangote fully backing him would have been a way of paying back his generosity to him; not doing so is a big stab in the back. That Dangote did not support him, but rather Atiku, was one of the reasons why Asiwaju stayed away when Dangote refinery was later commissioned by Buhari in the Lagos he owns.
The election is over. Asiwaju is the president, and the chicken has come home to roost. For the first time since the return of democracy in 1999, Dangote is not the favourite of a sitting government. Abdul Samad Rabiu and Tony Elumelu have taken his position because they fully backed Asiwaju during the campaign. “This is the first time the elected government is not particularly aligned with Aliko,” said one senior banker who spoke on condition of anonymity to the Financial Times. “So it has opened a window of opportunity for people to peddle their own influence.” “Dangote is not as influential as he used to be,” said Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, an Oxford professor of the politics of Africa, who described the billionaire as a Nigerian oligarch. At a time when he had bet his fortune on the success of the refinery, that was not a comfortable position to be in, several close observers of Nigeria said.
Matthew Page, a former CIA expert on Nigeria, told the Financial Times that Rabiu donated heavily to the Tinubu election campaign and had been emboldened by his close relationship with the new president. The cement market was smaller after eight years of economic stagnation, he said. “The tide pool has shrunk, and the two biggest lobsters in the tank are snapping at each other.” The biggest casualty from the politics of Dangote is his 650,000 per day Dangote refinery, which has been starved of crude oil by NNPC. Before Asiwaju came in, Dangote had a binding agreement with NNPC.
The agreement was this: That NNPC would invest $2 billion in Dangote refinery, or if they cannot invest in cash,they will provide crude oil worth that amount for Dangote refinery to process. This investment will give NNPC a 20% stake in the Dangote refinery, while Dangote will keep the remaining 80%. NNPC is too broke to drop $2 billion, so they choose to provide $2 billion worth of crude oil in lieu of the cash they were expected to drop so as to own a 20% stake in Dangote refinery.
But there is a problem. Buhari, who was the president when the deal was sealed, is no longer in power. The new Whiz kid is not a fan of Dangote any more, so the guys at NNPC saw the body language, which is the fact that Aliko has not visited Aso Rock since Tinubu relocated to Aso Rock, and they were influenced by that to start playing politics by fuffiling their own side of the bargain. NNPC, which was at the mercy of Dangote when Buhari was in charge, turned to hard nuts to crack under Tinubu.
As of today, the reason why Dangote refinery has yet to refine any drop of crude oil is because NNPC has not supplied the facility with crude oil as they promised to do under the last government. Frustrated by what NNPC is doing and the politics they are playing, Dangote’s Indian manager was forced to say that the refinery would start importing crude oil from trading oil companies abroad since NNPC is not forthcoming. The outburst was forced to move the hands of NNPC, and it worked as NNPC invited Dangote’s guys to the negotiating table.
In a recent interview, Dangote admitted that the issue with NNPC has been solved and refined crude oil will flow soon from his refinery. He also remidned the sharks, circling and baying for his blood, saying that Dangote Refinry is bigger than him, in case they had forgotten. Rabiu of BUA Cement has visited Aso Rock more than four times since Tinubu relocated to Aso Rock Villa. The same is true of Tony Elemelu.
Dangote, the poster boy and darling of the previous Nigerian government, has not been invited once to come, and this speaks to how low he has fallen on the ladder. He only went to inform Mr. President that Bill Gates was coming to town the next day for polio eradication. Stories allegedly floated by BUA Group have accused Dangote of profiting from illegal foreign exchange trades worth billions of dollars. This government is investigating forex allocations made to Aliko Dangote when Godwin Emefiele, the former central bank governor, was in charge of distributing dollars at the official rate to chosen industries at far below market prices, the Financial Times reported. Dangote bet on the wrong horse during the last national election, and now the sharks are circling and are baying for his blood and his multibillion-dollar business empire as well.
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