As Femi Otedola turns 58 on the 4th of November 2020, he will deservedly receive a deluge of goodwill, celebratory messages from all over the world. The man is divinely blessed and exceptionally so, especially when one considers that the Bible says in its book of Proverbs that “a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches” but Femi Otedola is one of the few blessed with both great riches and a great name. The handsome, stylish, Nigerian billionaire and philanthropist is practically ubiquitous across the African continent and in elite circles across the world. When Reputation Poll International put together its 2020 list of 100 Most Reputable Africans, F.O as he is fondly called by his friends and associates easily made the list. The List comprised Africans making great impact in field such as Leadership, Advocacy, Entertainment, Education and Business. As Reputation Poll aptly noted in its citation, Femi Otedola is a “luminary… whose social impact, as well as social entrepreneurship are transforming businesses in Africa and affecting lives positively without controversy.”
Not many can thrive in the murky, shark-infested waters of global business without being stained by controversy and smear campaigns launched by unscrupulous enemies whose hate is often unjustifiable. Femi Otedola has and continues to do so. Some say it is a divine reward for his legendary kindness and humility. Whatever the cause is, he is undeniably loved and highly esteemed by people across all strata of society. His love for his family is well known and has had many wishing he was their father. Some months back, there were “Oohs” and “Aahs” all over social media as news broke that he had bought his three daughters a Ferrari each. It’s not just that he buys his children luxury cars and takes them on exotic vacations across the world. He actively supports and encourages them in all their different endeavours of being a disc jockey, actress, fashion designer, blogger and singer. His love for his wife Nana is no secret either and it is a delight to see a man succeed in business and also at being a husband and devoted father.
Many, many Nigerians are grateful to God that Femi Otedola has not limited his generosity to his immediate family. His life embodies the Francis Bacon quote that says “Charity begins at home but should not end there.” For many years, he has consistently given multiple million naira scholarships to indigent students in Lagos State. He has contributed significantly towards the security of lives and property in Lagos with his donations to the Lagos State Security Trust Fund, including being the largest single individual donor in 2019. In the same 2019, Femi Otedola doled out 14 million US Dollars to the Save The Children charity, making it the largest ever charitable donation by an individual in Nigeria’s history. The donation was to support various intervention programmes for destitute children in Nigeria’s north-east region that has been long embattled and devastated by the insurgency of Boko Haram. This well thought out philanthropy is to its recipients, a lifeline and a powerful pull from the rubble that their homes and lives had been reduced to.
Children are not the only recipients of Femi Otedola’s munificence. National icons like Christian Chukwu, Peter Fregene, Sadiq Daba and Victor Olaotan who were seriously sick and needed a lot of money for medical treatment to save their lives all received the gracious intervention of Otedola. Sources close to the man say these are just a few of the many people whose lives have been saved because Femi Otedola chose to use his money to help others instead of only spending it on himself or on the acquisition of the finer things of life. As he had said before, “In my circle of friends, many people spend up to N50 million to drink champagne and generally ‘enjoy’ life, but at the end of it all what happens? It passes out of their body as waste. For me, therefore (and I also tell my friends) it is important to use such money to benefit others and put a smile on the faces of as many people as we can.”
This sort of disposition is clearly not a gimmick and it continues to serve as a beacon of light in a society such as ours where men like Femi Otedola are a rare breed. As he celebrates another birthday, his immediate family will not be the only ones celebrating him. The accolades and goodwill he gets will be very well deserved. That can’t be said for many of his contemporaries but it is hoped that they will learn from Femi Otedola, the people’s billionaire. Truly, in a world full of conflicts, diseases, calamities and inequality, we all need to show the milk of human kindness, to reach out and comfort the sick and give a helping hand to the weak.