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Femi Otedola – Simple at heart, Brilliant in mind -Keem Abdul

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It’s one thing to be so rich that musicians mention your name in a song. It’s another level when you’re a billionaire in US dollars and a musician makes a song, titles it with your name, shoots a music video for it and has it promoted all over the continent of Africa. Your name was already popular but that has you almost immortalized in Nigeria’s pop culture as the country’s emerging new sound gains acceptance globally. Being on the Forbes list of richest people in the world is cool but this?

If you think like a post Millennial, then this school of thought might not be far from yours. Not that there’s anything wrong with thinking like a post Millennial. It’s just that when you’re a man like Femi Otedola, and you have been through many ups and downs, you know how to have fun, be social yet introspective enough to realize that there is more to life than the money, cars and the fame.

Many Nigerians are still in shock at a donation Femi Otedola made to a charitable cause in November 2019. Mr Otedola gave away NGN 5 billion of his hard-earned money to the globally renowned Save the Children fund for the purpose of helping destitute children affected by the ravaging, drawn out armed insurgency in Nigeria’s north-east region. 5 billion naira is approximately $14 million and by no means a small amount of money. Otedola’s donation is the largest by a single individual in Nigeria’s history. Even his friend, Alhaji Aliko Dangote who was present at the event where the donation was made only donated N100 million to the same cause. It had people wondering why instead of amassing more money for himself or chasing his far richer friend Aliko to surpass him on the Forbes list, he had chosen to do such a “give-away” – as some mockingly tagged it. Some even tagged the donation as “audio money”, a term coined by a popular Nigerian musician named Rude Boy; the term refers to people who live fake lives to impress other people on social media, or figuratively speaking, those who write cheques their mouths cannot cash.

Well, it certainly was not audio money. Not long after that event where the donation was announced, the Save the Children Fund to whom the donation was made acknowledged that they had indeed received the funds from Femi Otedola. The Foundation was established in the United Kingdom in 1919 but works globally to improve the lives of children through better education, health care, and economic opportunities, as well as providing emergency aid in natural disasters, war, and other conflicts. Femi Otedola’s superstar daughter Ifeoluwa, popularly known as “DJ Cuppy” is an ambassador for the Save the Children fund and it appears that her passion and collaboration with the renowned organization attracted the benevolence of her father who has been a philanthropist for a long time.

To say that Femi Otedola has a kind heart would be stating the obvious, yet quite the understatement. At a point in his early days, it is reported that he wanted to be a priest, devoting his life to doing God’s work. He may not have walked that path, but it is evident that he reveres the Almighty and has been divinely favoured to still reach thousands of people with the wealth he has been blessed with. In his remarks after his 5 billion Naira donation was announced, he had said: “God has been so kind to me in life and I feel highly privileged. The only way I can show my gratitude to Him is to use my resources to support those who are underprivileged. This I intend to do for the rest of my life.”

You can tell he wasn’t joking. He is a man with the milk of humanity flowing through his veins even though he has business on his mind. Yes, he may have sold off his stake in Forte Oil but his eyes are on Nigeria’s power sector where he hopes to make great impact in solving the country’s perennial electricity challenges but also make money while at it. He is after all, a shrewd businessman. One does not become a billionaire by accident. Femi Otedola also has his eyes on Nigeria’s movie industry Nollywood and just might be gearing up to give Hollywood executives a run for their money. A few weeks ago, he visited the set of “Citation”, a new movie being shot by Nigerian award-winning filmmaker, Kunle Afolayan. He did say he was there to see what the making of a film was like and that his new interest would be to support the fast-growing Nigerian movie industry.

Femi’s friend, Aliko Dangote did say prophetically as he prayed for him ;

“People find it very difficult in Nigeria to give money away but the more you give the more God blesses you. Femi, you are no more a rich man. You have joined the league of wealthy men.”

If you thought the man’s money was going to be greatly depleted after he gave 5 billion naira to charity, you are wrong. Besides if even if you take away a man’s money, if he retains his inner peace, has a sound mind and the favour of The Almighty as Femi Otedola clearly does, he is still a wealthy man. Just don’t be surprised to see him in music videos, films and on top of the Forbes list soon.

*Culled from the maiden edition of TEJ, March 2020*

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