Before the emergence of Dangote, Africa’s richest man, Nigeria has never lacked wealthy men and women.
The epitaph, ‘giant of Africa’ was said to have actually been coined by the number of rich men and women coming out of Nigeria.
Nigeria is ranked Africa’s biggest economy with a population of over 200 million and a Gross Domestic Production (GDP) of $432 billion and is a major oil producer in the world.
The country also ranked third in Africa with the highest number of millionaires, only bested by South Africa and Egypt.
From Da Rocha, Ojukwu and many others, Nigeria paraded a number of men and women with high net worths and deep pockets.
Candido Da Rocha (1860 – 1959)
Born in Brazil, Da Rocha was the first Nigerian in recorded history to become wealthy. He hailed from Esan in modern-day Edo State.
He became a millionaire at the age of 18 and a multimillionaire at 22 after he inherited $1 million from his father and grandfather.
Da Rocha sold water from house to house, a business he inherited from his father who was nick-named Casa d’Agua.
Considered a millionaire, Da Rocha sent his dirty clothes to the laundryman in the United Kingdom.
Shrewd and forthright, the first Nigerian millionaire was not given to unnecessary platitudes and politicking.
“His friend Herbert Macaulay persuaded him to join politics. On a particular day when he was addressing would-be voters, he simply told them that he was seeking their votes to represent them. He clarified that he would not use his wealth to get their votes.
“At the end of the day, he didn’t win,” his 90-year-old granddaughter, Mrs Angelica Oyediran, told SUNDAY PUNCH.
Da Rocha was also reputed to have usually sent his clothes to the United Kingdom (UK) for laundry.
Alhassan Dantata (1877 –1955)
Dantata sold groundnuts as far back as 1918, with the United Kingdom-based Royal Niger Company, later known as the United Africa Company.
He was said to have founded, with other people in business, the Kano Citizens’ Trading Company, established for industrial undertakings. In 1949, he donated property worth $10,200 to establish the first indigenous textile mill in the North.
In 1917, he acquired two plots of land in the non-European trading site (Syrian quarters) at an annual fee of $20.
In 1950, Dantata was made a councillor in the Emir of Kano’s council, the first non-royal individual to be honoured. Born in 1877 in Bebeji, Kano State, he died in 1955. He was said to have lived a modest and religious life.
At the time of his death, he was the wealthiest man in West Africa. He was the great-grandfather of African richest man, Aliko Dangote.
Adeola Timothy Odutola (1902-1995)
According to reports, renowned Nigerian politician, Obafemi Awolowo asked Odutola for a loan of about 1,400 pounds from Timothy Odutola which Awolowo promised to repay 12 years later and the pair went on to form a political alliance.
Stupendously rich, Odutola was the first president of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria. He was reported to have established a multimillion-dollar business, including three factories, a retail franchise, a cattle ranch and a sawmill before 1960.
Before his breakthrough, he worked as a clerk in various departments of the Lagos Colony and the Ijebu Native Administration between 1921 and 1932.
By 1932, he opened stores where he sold damasks and fish in various cities in the Western Region; and later, he began trading in cocoa and palm oil.
Sir Mobolaji Bank-Anthony (1907-1991)
Famous businessman and philanthropist, Mobolaji was an erstwhile Lagos Stock Exchange council president.
He invested in Aero Contractors and held the rights to cars made by Rootes Group. Businessman and philanthropist, he was a former Lagos Stock Exchange council president.
He was also a minority investor in Aero Contractors and held the distributional rights to cars manufactured by Rootes Group.
When he died his wealth was put at an estimated $4bn in today’s economic value.
Chief Shafi Lawal Edu (1911–2002)
Edu was the first president of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and the Lagos Rotary Club.
At 54, he had built a fleet of eight oil tankers. He was also on the boards of Blackwood Hodge Nigeria, Haden Nigeria, Glaxo Nigeria and the Federal Industrial Loans from 1954 to 1959.
He had shares in big companies like Bata, Alumaco, Wiggins Teape, BP (formerly British Petroleum), Lever Brothers and Nigerian Breweries.
Sanusi Abdulkadir Dantata (1919–1997)
Under British rule, according to Forbes, Dangote’s uncle became rich trading commodities like grain, oats and rice and was one of Kano’s wealthiest citizens.
In the 1960s, he was the country’s largest licensed produce-buying agent of groundnut.
He gave his beloved 21-year-old cousin (Dangote) a loan of N500,000 to trade in rice, sugar and cement upon graduation from a university in Cairo, Egypt.
Sir Louis Odumegwu-Ojukwu (1908-1966)
Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu was Nigeria’s first-ever billionaire and founding president of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
The progenitor of Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu the Biafra warlord, said he made his wealth by selling dried fish, textiles, cement and transportation.
Ojukwu was said to have made his money by importing dried fish, dealing in textiles, cement and transport.
- Ade Tuyo
- Talabi Braithwaite (1928–2011)
- Emmanuel Akwiwu (1924-2011)