Quick thoughts on aspiring to wealth
Many people want to be wealthy and have pots of money, especially around these parts. The belief that all of our problems can be solved with just a little bit more money is real even though that may not be the truth. It is this belief that drives many people in their desire to make more money, legitimately or illegitimately. Money answers all things we say and if we have our way, we must make this money.
Back when I was a child, if anyone asked for an amount of money that you considered a princely sum, you would ask: “Do I look like Khashoggi?”. This was regarding Adnan Khashoggi who was a wealthy Saudi businessman back in the day. I don’t know how his name became synonymous with wealth back then but I know a lot of people considered him the standard for stupendous wealth. And then there was also Aristotle Onassis, the Greek shipping magnate, who was also quite wealthy and famous. These two people were considered wealthy by many standards.
In these parts, and in more recent years, we have come to know Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote as the wealthiest man in Africa. The founder of the Dangote Group with interests in cement, sugar, salt, and a few other commodities, Dangote has managed to amass a significant amount of wealth over the years. With a fortune of $13.9bn, Forbes Magazine recently ranked him as the richest man in Africa, a position he has retained for the last thirteen years. This is no mean feat considering this cutthroat world of global enterprise and all of the challenges and uncertainties that come with it.
His story is one that many motivational speakers have used in gingering their audience. He started small, relocating to Lagos with a loan from his uncle which he used to trade in commodities such as cement, rice, and sugar. His business has since grown as it has expanded to other parts of Africa. With business interests that span many economic sectors, and holding dominant positions in many of these sectors, and with the turnover that those businesses generate, it is not surprising that Dangote is considered the SI unit for financial aspiration AKA the achievement of “mad money” in Nigeria. If you don’t believe me ask the average Nigerian musician.
As of my last count, at least twenty songs reference Dangote in various ways, many by up-and-coming artists with a few from the A-listers. Many of these songs celebrate his wealth or talk about his ambition whilst focusing on the artist’s aspiration to be like him. The most popular of these songs are by Teni, Burna Boy, and Asake:
- Teni sang “But my papa no be Dangote or Adeleke but we go dey ok yea, yea”, in her song “Case” sung in 2018 in acknowledgement of Dangote’s wealth and influence.
- Burna Boy’s 2019 song aptly titled “Dangote” also celebrated Dangote with the well-known lyrics: “Dangote, Dangote, Dangote still dey find money o…”. If you didn’t realise it, the entire song is dedicated to celebrating Dangote’s wealth whilst also encouraging people to have ambition and hustle so that they can achieve financial success.
- Asake, not to be left out, also cited Dangote recently in his 2023 song “Sunshine” when he said “…..o fe lowo bi Dangote, Oni lati jagun….” translated loosely as “if you want to have money like Dangote, you have to be ready to fight for it”.
Dangote’s wealth and influence have made him a prominent figure in Nigerian culture. Even though he isn’t everywhere: his attendance at social events is minimal, he doesn’t do Tiktok challenges, and his Instagram page has barely any posts, many people still look up to him as a symbol of success and ambition. I recall an interview he once gave where he spoke about withdrawing $ 10 million from the bank just to look at it and convince himself that he was rich. He knew that he was rich but he just needed to look at some of his money to convince himself of his status.
As a symbol of aspiration for many people, I often wonder how many people would really like to achieve his status in life. Do they know what life is really like for people like Dangote? The things they have to do? The amount of time and resources they have to commit to retain and grow their wealth? The sacrifices they have to make? If they do know, are they prepared to give up life as they know it for the life that may be required? It is very easy to desire wealth but it may not be so easy to work towards it and this is where the men get separated from the boys.
Even though Dangote isn’t very much in the public eye and there are so many other wealthy people in this category whom many do not know, it is important to acknowledge that the demands life places on such people are much different from the average person. We see the results, probably the material successes: cars, houses, the lifestyle, or the influence: meeting with economic and global leaders, and we desire that life, but it didn’t come easy for people like Dangote.
Unfortunately, in the quest to make money and let everyone know one has money because it seems like a societal requirement these days, many people have gone down unsustainable paths. From internet fraud to compulsive gambling, we see people who are desperate to “hammer” so that they can make “pepper them” money. Many have forgotten where true and sustainable wealth comes from or maybe they never knew.
Sadly, in many different parts of our society, we celebrate wealth without seeking to know its source. The end justifies the means appears to be the new mantra these days and it all boils down to the worsening economic situation. One would assume that many people would be encouraged to seek legitimate wealth but societal pressures appear more concerned with the appearance of wealth than wealth itself. Many people are guilty of looking the other way when they know that their children/ family members/ friends are involved in illegitimate or unsustainable endeavours in the quest to achieve wealth. The general excuse is “everyone is doing it” but does that make it right?
Achieving wealth is possible even though it is not a walk in the park. It is important to understand that the journey is a marathon rather than a sprint. Every successful person starts from one point and gradually grows their wealth through sustainable means. To be truly wealthy, one must create something or add value to something, tangible or intangible. It is not magic and it is rarely ever an overnight achievement. One must also give back to the society that supported that wealth creation because whether we realise it or not, no one is ever really self-made.
Well, since Dangote doesn’t sleep as he is still looking for money, I need to get back to work as I also aspire to wealth. Hard work, smart work, and God’s grace are vital ingredients in our quest for financial freedom. We can make it and we will make it. This is the way I see things today.