In the Ghanaian mythology, a story is told of a mighty warrior named Ossei Tutu, no consanguinity with the archbishop Desmond Tutu. The latter is a retired South African cleric. Ossei was so pissed off by the murderous activities of the ultimate terminator – Death – that one day, he decided it was high time he stopped it from playing God, deciding who should live and who should die. How would he achieve that? Come with me. First, he assembled his family and told them he was going on a dangerous journey to confront death with the ultimate goal of dispossessing it of the garment of mortality in order to clothe mankind with everlasting life.
His household had mixed feelings about his mission. If he triumphed, they would have mortality restored to them like it was supposed to be at creation before Adam and Eve sinned. If he failed, they would lose him forever. Ossei had three wives; the youngest was just six months old in the marriage. Before taking off, he warned them not to despair throughout the journey which was to last for seven days. If they did, his mission would fail and no one would ever see him again.
Ossei set out in the wee hours of the morning. Given his legendary bravery, his household did everything to maintain calm in the belief that he would return home a conqueror of death. On the seventh day, the entire family gathered in his expansive compound full of angst as they gazed in the direction that led him away. No one could eat except the kids.
By the sunset, anxiety began to eat them up. And as the midnight approached with the challenger of death not anywhere in sight, panic set in but they remembered his warning. At a point, the youngest wife could not rein in her despair. She broke down in tears just as the mighty warrior was within an earshot to his compound, though enveloped by darkness. The rule had been broken! And Ossei’s heart was broken. He vanished into the darkness forever, and the rod of mortality returned to Death.
The first time I heard the story, I was so sad and blamed the stupid woman for breaking the rule. Even as a kid, I desired immortality. For a very long time later in life, I reflected on the mission. A woman caused mankind to lose mortality when Eve listened to the Devil and ate the forbidden fruit, thus disobeying God. And she dragged Adam along. If Adam had behaved like a real man and refused the deadly offer, only women would have lost mortality. Again, it was a woman (Tutu’s third wife) that robbed mankind of the second chance to regain mortality. Women!
The above narrative came to my mind in mid-October, last year, when I was at the departure hall of the Ilorin International Airport. The social media came alive with the story that the Chairman of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, had passed on. Stories or footless rumours of the demise of prominent Nigerians are very regular in the social media. However, such wicked stories are woven around politicians and are intended to send panic into their followers, hangers-on, etc. But Dangote is not a politician. So, why peddling such a rumour about him?
Confusion and anxiety gripped the intending passengers in the hall. As someone in the media who is very familiar with the pastime of rumour-mongers, I was exceptionally unperturbed. But when I saw the worries that suffused their faces, I pleaded for calm. I introduced myself as a journalist and asked them to give me a few seconds. I put a call to this paper’s State House correspondent, Abdullahi Gulloma. If the rumour was true, the Presidency must know. Just as former president, Goodluck Jonathan, explained that if $20bn was missing in Nigeria as claimed by the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, America must know!
Gulloma debunked the rumour. I informed my fellow passengers that they should not fall for the wicked rumour. They believed me because my handset was put on speaker and most of them heard my conversation. What actually surprised me was the way they reacted to the rumour. Were these not Nigerians whose stock-in-trade is to wish their leaders dead? Rather than the usual death wish, panic struck them all, irrespective of their tribes… be they Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Fulani, among others. The shock they expressed spoke volumes of the closeness of Aliko Dangote to their hearts, even as most of them, if not all of them, had never met him in person.
At a recent interactive session in Lagos with top media practitioners drawn from different parts of the country, the richest man in Africa who is also listed among the world’s 100 most powerful men under the sun, held his audience spellbound for 120 minutes. The epitome of humility reeled out the exploits of his conglomerate that took off as a trading company about three decades ago which has now blossomed into one of the major pillars of the Nigerian economy… a leading manufacturer of essential consumables like cement, spaghetti, salt, vegetable oil, tomato paste and flour.
Dangote Group’s forays into the oil and gas industry will ultimately define his overall achievements as a man destined to be among the first, if not the first, in any business he lays his fingers on. For him, he is either a leader or nothing. It is this mentality that forced him to surrender the Dangote Noodles to the United Foods Industries Limited, makers of Indomie Noodles – the apotheosis in the industry.
As the night wound down, I kept wondering where Aliko Dangote, the modern-day Midas, now 60, and his conglomerate would be in the next 10 to 20 years when he would be hovering around 70 or 80. But I would not be musing about this if Ossei Tutu’s chicken-hearted wife had not messed up her hubby’s divine mission.
Please, join me in wishing this God’s gift to Nigeria and Africa a happy 60th birthday in arrears.