“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the creative light of altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s persistent and most urgent question is “What are you doing for others?” – Martin Luther King Jr.
When Life asked that question of multimillionaire Nigerian businessman Gerald Azonobo, many of us were not privy to his answer or to the thought processes that would form his response to such a poignant, profound question. However, Time, that great revealer of mysteries, is giving us clues to Gerald’s answer and from what we see, we are inspired and grateful to God for the man he has evolved into.
Several of the world’s big cities have seen their fair share of wealth ostentatiously displayed and enjoyed by the rich. From Monaco to Milan, California to Cape Town, Lagos to Las Vegas, we have seen the rich enjoy life in what the French call “joie de vivre” and it is often the prayer and desire of both young and old to make it into the big leagues. Lagos, Nigeria has seen many paint it red and of the many who have done so, Gerald Azonobo in his heyday was certainly in a class by himself. Such was his wealth and reputation for enjoying it that on the nights he would stop over at Lagos’ top night clubs, they were practically guaranteed to make more money than on other days. Coming through in luxury cars that sometimes intimidated even his contemporaries and wrists clad with expensive timepieces, the successful business mogul could very well have deserved an episode in the documentary “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”.
Today though, it is as rare to see him partying hard as it is rare to see people doing handstands across the length of the Lekki-Ikoyi bridge. When his absences from his previously favoured spots became prolonged, at first speculation began flying around that his businesses had gone bust and he had fallen on hard times. Unknown to them, Gerald was finding answers to Life’s most urgent and pressing question: “What are you doing for others?” When it began to emerge that he had had an epiphany of sorts and had become a changed man more concerned about the welfare of others, some people thought that he merely wanted to add the philanthropist tag to his name, as a few rich folks try to do. That however was far from Gerald’s case.
As Aristotle rightly noted, “To give away money is an easy matter and in any man’s power. But to decide whom to give it and how large and when, and for what purpose and how, is neither in every man power nor an easy matter.” Gerald Azonobo’s humanitarianism and passion for helping people, often expressed through philanthropy comes from a genuine desire to strategically intervene in lifting people out of poverty so that they can in turn lift others from poverty’s mire and vice-like grip.
Among the strategic interventions that his KUTH Foundation carries out, one of them is particularly endearing and that is the one that correctly identified that a large number of the young people who eventually take to hard drug addiction, prostitution, cultism, abortion, violent crime and other vices are pushed into those acts because they failed their secondary school leaving examinations (WAEC and NECO) and their parents or guardians could not afford to pay for them to retake the exams or even gave up on them altogether. Every year since 2014, the Foundation through its “KUTH Back to School” project has been giving indigent young people like that a second chance at life by paying for them to sit for the GCE examinations. In fact, this year The KUTH Foundation has increased the number of people it caters to through this program and Gerald Azonobo has promised to award a scholarship to the candidate with the overall best result in the examinations. He believes that education is the bedrock for a better future and quite a potent catalyst for social development and economic emancipation from poverty.
As the saying goes, we rise by lifting others. In his somewhat limited capacity as a private citizen, Gerald Azonobo is evidently committed to lifting others and making a considerable dent in the machinery with which Poverty wreaks havoc on them. May GOD favour him with the things money can buy and the things money cannot buy; with allies and a heart that will continue being an extension of GOD’s graciousness to mankind.