My Lagos landlord and APC presidential candidate, Bola, on Tuesday invited captains of industry, the business community, and the CEOs of the largest businesses in the country to a town hall meeting at the Eko Hotel.
At the hall that day were the best and brightest of our business community, which included
1) Aliko Dangote of Dangote Cement
2) Abdulsamad Rabiu of BUA cement
3) Jim Ovia of Zenith Bank
4) Mke Adenuga of Glo
5) Tony Elumelu of Heir Holdings and UBA
6) Nduka Obiegbena of Arise TV
7) Herbert Wigwe of Access Bank
8 Allen Onyema of Air Peace
9) Kunle Soname of Bet9ja and the owner of the new airline in town called Value Jet
10) The Chagoury family, which owns the Eko Hotel and Eko Atlantic City, was also present.
These men are the largest employers of labor in Nigeria after the central government, and they all have corporate headquarters in Lagos.
After listening to the flowery presentation of Tinubu and his team, they nodded their heads while some of them asked questions, which were answered by Tinubu and his foot soldiers.
But here is one thing that is remarkable: none of them in that hall endorsed Tinubu’s presidential ambitions.
Those of them active on Instagram did not share the pictures of that meeting on their page on Instagram.
They only listened, asked questions, and went home.
In keeping with convention, they will reach out to Tinubu on WhatsApp to ask for an account number to donate money to his campaign.
Just the same way, they will reach out to Peter Obi and Atiku Abubakar and ask for an account number too.
and that is the right thing to do.
These men showed up because they respect Tinubu, and they know the influence he wields in Lagos, so they will not like to be in his bad books because the implication is dire. But one thing they can never do is publicly announce who they will vote for.
Half of them, gathered in that hall, will not cast their vote for Tinubu. They might vote for Atiku or Peter Obi, but they can’t tell their host that to avoid his wrath, which will destroy their business.
This scenario resonated with what my performance coach recently told me about staying away from politics if I want to build a big business in Nigeria.
Nigeria is a strange place to do business.
An example that comes to mind is what Wike is doing to River State politicians who were once his allies but are not supporting his madness.
Wike is arbitrarily closing their business down, revoking land titles that they legally own, and daring them to come and campaign for Atiku in Rivers with a warning that it can only happen over his dead body.
That is the outcome that happens when business is mixed with politics.
Dear young person running a business that has the capacity to grow and be the next Dangote tomorrow,
Just as I have made a promise to retire from politics after this election, you should also make that commitment too after this election if you want your small business to grow as big as Dangote’s in the near future.
Learn from the Dangote example: Dangote has a budget for every frontline candidate, whether Peter Obi, Tinibu, or Atiku, and he does this in every election cycle.
He will donate equally to each campaign, but at the end of the day, he will only vote for one of them, and that choice is very private to him.
In 2015, Dangote donated billions of naira to both Goodluck’s and Buhari’s campaigns.
Immediately, the result was announced, and Buhari’s was declared the winner. Dangote was among the first callers to Buhari’s residence.
An intelligent businessman who wants to protect his business in a 3rd world country called Nigeria.
In America, a business can be either Democratic or Republican.
Pay Pal Co founder and billionaire investor Peter Thiel is a Republican, and he donates heavily to the Republic Party’s campaign.
The Koch brothers, a wealthy family business in America, are Republican donors, as they support the party with millions of dollars every year.
The Koch brothers heavily funded the Republican takeover of the Senate in 2014.
But our democracy has not yet matured and evolved like the Americans’.
Ours is just 23 years old, and it is still very crude and primitive.
The Nigerian government can use a stroke of a pen to destroy your business for being in their bad books, and we don’t have any institutions to protect you, unlike the Americans, who have robust institutions that protect the interests and concerns of their citizens.
Elon Musk initially wanted to opt out of the deal to buy Twitter, but Twitter went to court to force him to close the deal.
This is the power of an institution at its finest.
We have seen how the sprawling business empire of MKO Abiola was destroyed by a stroke of the pen because of politics.
At his height, MKO Abiola was the richest man in Nigeria with a worth of over $5 billion but today, all his businesses are dead and in a comatose state.
From Concord newspaper, Abiola Farms, Radio Communications Nigeria, Abiola Bookshops, Wonder Bakeries, Concord Press, Summit Oil International Ltd, Africa Ocean Lines, Habib Bank, Decca W.A. Ltd Abiola Football Club. to Concord airline, they are dead and old shadows of themselves.
Late Abiola was also the largest employer of labour in Nigeria, at the height of its fame.
In the 1980s, Abiola’s firms and companies employed over 5,000 people in Nigeria and all over the West African subregion.
Any time I’m on my way to the airport and I drive past what used to be the Concord newspaper building owned by the Abiola’s which is now abandoned and derelict, I shake my head for Nigeria.
Late Sanj Abacha banned the newspaper in 1994, it never recovered and came back to life after the ban was reversed till date.
Don’t forget, you serve customers who are both Labour Party and APC or PDP, so you have no business pandering to one party or supporting them publicly as a young person running a business who wants the business to scale.
A customer can decide to boycott a product because the founder or owner is openly supporting a candidate that he or she does not like, so the customer makes the decision by voting with his or her feet by refusing to patronize the company.
You can support your candidate, but let your wife, husband and close friends be the only ones who know this choice.
Always remember this as your business grows.