By Bamidele Ademola-Olateju
One cool Nigerian evening at a highbrow hotel in Victoria Island, I visited a friend with my daughter. Two hours into our visit, after a light meal; casually, he said Alhaji Aliko Dangote was coming to see him and they would be meeting for the first time. I begged to leave so he could get ready for his visitor. Fifteen minutes later we were at the hotel basement. As we walked towards my car, Dangote alighted from a Toyota Prado. He drove himself. He was in very simple clothing. My friend outstretched his hand and said; “Ah! Alhaji…” Before he could say Dangote, he put us at ease and he said; “call me Aliko”. We exchanged pleasantries, he waited until I drove off (sign of good breeding). I could see them walk towards the elevator from my car mirror. That is Dangote, no airs, a man who built a conglomerate, whose worth we know and whose business employ thousands across Africa.
2016, one wealthy Northern business man who reads and loves my column invited me to break fast with his family during Ramadan. His house is the first truly wealthy house I have been, that showed character. The rest are so tacky as to mistake them for shrines. I saw the kind of minimalism often seen in homes of the truly cultured, worldwide. His daughters were grown with their own family and they all came from their bases abroad for Ramadan. They were very conservative in outlook, very polite and very conversational.
I did not see his wife until it was time to break fast. She was a superb hostess. The dinning table was rosewood, it seats 20 people. The hutch was solid mahogany with rosewood insets. The setting was simple but it exudes the majesty of nature. My eyes scanned the rug for signature and it was there; probably more than 50 years old given the design. That dining area alone will be worth anywhere between $250,000 -$275,000; but you wouldn’t know it. To break the ice as we ate, I asked the wife if she collects China. She said, she does. I could tell from the ensemble we ate from. We discussed politics and so many other Naija stuff. It was a great evening.
I cited these two examples to show how those in true wealth behave. Anyone who has met Halima Dangote will attest to her simplicity. The taste of the truly wealthy is cultivated. It is not what you are seeing all around you. The truly wealthy do not flaunt affluence. They have nothing to prove to anyone. It is the nouveau riche that advertises their new found money. In Nigeria, who are the nouveau ríche? They are mostly the drug lords and scam artists.
Old money understand the privilege they were born into and the responsibility that it demands. There are a lot of old money in Nigeria. They don’t flaunt. They don’t advertise, their children do not show off on social media and you may never have heard of them.