Sam Omatseye: Go forth and give

by Sam Omatseye

Three men have shown us the different shades of love. One shows it genuinely, the other as a show man and the third in dubious colour.

I am referring to Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man; Mohammed Ndinmi, Africa’s 39th richest person; and Ali Modu Sheriff, the most prominent African politician whose image conjures the blood and ogre of Boko Haram.

Borno State, where the ravages of Boko Haram left a human trail of tears, beckoned for charity. The internally displaced persons lost not just home, they lost family. Especially, they lost the soul of their lives. Their past is a story told. The past of halcyon moonlights and storytelling, of home jokes and cosy whispers, of family landmarks and quiescent worship, of pictures, of farms and heath, of intimate hugs and family moments and mementoes. They are histories without artifacts. The same family members became corpses without names.

It is time to gather their limbs together after the so-called goons of God roared into their towns and villages with blood in their eyes.

Dangote hit headlines with a donation of N2 billion to the IDPs in Borno State, and he did not do it in the abstract. He visited Maiduguri, especially the Dalori and Bakassi camps. His flesh and blood was present among the bloodied and bowed. “It’s not the first time I am coming here,” he said as though it was news.

His words were confirmed by his amiable host and Borno Governor Kashim Shettima, who acknowledged that he had been coming around and had earlier donated N400 million to the same IDPs. Dangote has not restricted himself to Borno State, It is on record that he had given N1.2 billion to IDPs in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.

The Dangote generosity is also significant in the light of the labour minister, Chris Ngige’s recent “order” that banks should discontinue their firing canon. Dangote is exemplifying the modern view of corporation as civil partners. They are not in society only to make profit but also to profit society.

They are enterprises and conceived for self-enrichment. But that is the province of pristine capitalism. With increasing call around the world social engagement, big companies are being held to account. I may not go as far as compelling individual companies not to fire their workers. I, however, believe that the conversation ought to begin as to the moral imperatives that must factor into such decisions. A bank with billions in its vaults should have a better reason to consign workers into the streets. That is one of the reasons that Bernie Sanders has stirred great passion in the United States election year. Inequality in today’s world is returning to the Industrial Revolution levels, as aptly documented by the French economist Thomas Picketty in his epochal work, Capital in the Twenty First Century.

Dangote’s activities with his foundation reflect this sensitivity. But the Nigerian rich, ever sick of self love, thinks little of the little guy. One of such is Mohammed Indinmi. He is a well-known billionaire and gained notoriety over his donation to a U.S. university while boy victims of Boko Haram are squeaking from malnutrition in a Borno State IDP camp.

He debunked a rumour that he contributed $14 million to a U.S. university but a mere $900, 000. He  probably expected us to embrace him and slobber him with kisses because he contributed an equivalent of about N300 million to a university in a country where its income per capita is probably more than half of the Borno State IDPs put together.

We have not seen from him an equivalent  show of love to his own people suffering in the aftermath of the pious hoodlums. The school is Lynn University and it set up a Mohammed Ndinmi International Business Center with state-of-the-art features like a venture lab, internship centre, 11 classrooms, etc.

Some see him as a show man, more willing to please his rich school than his abject neighborhood. He has inferiority complex, and seeks the gratitude of the American rather than the joy of his own habitués. That suits his ego. He acted in tandem with the words of writer Carlos Ruiz Zafon: “Presents are made for the pleasure of those who give them, not the merits of who receives them.” It’s the same Ndinmi, who sent his six children to the same school and his son buzzed ignominiously on the social media when he flashed his account balance of $100 million. He is not a Nigerian leader, even if he is IBB’s in-law. He is not an American leader either. He is a giver who is a counter to the Biblical line, “charity never fails.” His charity failed in Borno, so did his money.

The other player is Ali Modu Sheriff. The former Borno State governor, in all his moral weightlessness, is embroiled in leadership slugfest in a befuddled PDP. But the man has been the flipside of a Borno statesman. He is an example of a giver as cynic. The man cancelled bursary awards to his state students when he was governor. He boasted that media reports could not hurt him since his indigenes could not read. The same was associated with Boko Haram and has done little to swim out of that poisoned stream. The same man said he donated N150 million to Boko Haram. Many in the state said it was cynical. Even at that, the state said they never received the money. The Borno State Resettlement Committee said they did not get the man’s money but two truckloads of rice. Sheriff has not denied the denial. The genuine N150 million donation to IDPs came from faraway: Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. Sheriff could learn a thing or two about actualising pledges.

The indigenes are probably echoing the lines of the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson: “Let me go: take back thy gift.” It is like the Greeks whose horse the Trojans looked in the face. The Sheriff donation was a nothing about much ado. Shakespeare in his play, Much Ado About Nothing, had a character say, “My charity is outrage.” It was a whited sepulcher.

The IDPs are a charity case. So are Sheriff and Ndinmi. A man’s life consists not in the abundance of things he possess, said Jesus. But in the abundance of love shown. They should borrow a page from Dangote. Shakespeare’s words for the rich: “no legacy is so rich as honesty.”

MTN at rest

At last after the rough-and-tumble crisis, a settlement has been reached. The network mogul MTN will pay N330 billion to the Federal Government. It is relief to the company, a costly one at that. It was important that MTN followed the law in this matter. But the law is not designed to kill. A company cannot learn a lesson in the grave. So, MTN was punished enough to feel the pain but also enough to rouse itself to a more circumspect way of doing business.

MTN has huge investment in Nigeria and many employees. All that also came into the picture in the settlement. The company can now go back to business without the weight of a fine, or after the weight of the fine.


Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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