Where are the Nigerian and African Rockefellers? – By Dr. Emmanuel C. Alozie

Earning a million dollars a day by the age of 53, John D.

Rockefeller has amassed enough wealth to be declared the first billionaire in the world. With his wealth, the founder of Standard Oil had everything the world offers at his command save his health.

Rockefeller suffered from several ailments. Due to his ill heath, he ate very little, his food consisted of only biscuits, bread and liquids.

Some allege that his illnesses emerged as he became absorbed with amassing and protecting his wealth. Asked who gave him his wealth, Rockefeller answered: “God gave it to me.” He could make that assertion because he competed with other moguls, worked hard and could account how he amassed his wealth. I have always wondered when he made this statement and what he had in mind: Did he make it when he became a millionaire? Did he make it when he became the world’s first billionaire? Did he make it when before or after his ailment started? 

Why do I want to know? There are several reasons that I could enumerate, but two persist that I would like to address. Popular reports indicated that Rockefeller recovered after he turned to philanthropy. Becoming a philanthropist enabled him to ease his concentration on amassing or keeping his wealth. He started distribution of his wealth for good causes. I must point out muckrakers accused Standard Oil of treating its employees poorly and forcing them to work in atrocious conditions.

It is estimated that in his life time, Rockefeller gave away over $500 million. The founder of the University of Chicago and Rockefeller University, his gifts were used to create foundations that targeted and had a major impact on medicine, education, and scientific research. Those foundations are credited with the development of medical research, and were influential in the eradication of hookworm and yellow fever.  There are a number of individuals worldwide who have used their talents and wealthy who have used or use their talents and wealth to improve the lots of others and build a cohesive society. They tend to be those who amassed their wealth legitimately and cared for the ordinary man. They are too numerous to mention, but few are Africans.

The other reason I would like to know when Rockefeller made that statement stems from the sorry situation in Nigeria and Africa. In a recent speech, former Minister of External Affairs, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi contended that every Nigerian, if not African, who has amassed wealth did so through corruption and corrupt practices. He is right considering that while more than ninety-five of Nigeria’s 160 million people dwell in abject poverty (2011 Human Development Report ranked Nigeria at 156 out of 186 countries), while the leaders and captains of industry amass unimaginable wealth. If asked how, few, if any of them, could claim the Lord gave their wealth to them, or be able to account how they amassed their wealth. Considering Nigeria’s and Africa’s natural resources and human potentials, it is hard fathom why a few would be so privileged, while the masses languish in abject poverty and ill health. Infant mortality remains high. Many die early. Leadership failure and corruption among captains of industry account for the vices in African societies. These include robbery, kidnapping, violence, modern slavery, prostitution, and poor social cohesion.

Amassing wealth at the expenses of the masses is evil. Evil worry people—the kind of worries that make a person sick. The wealthy in Nigeria and Africa are sick. Not only do they suffer from moral decay, dread and poor values, they drown in physical ailments. Few live a long and productive life as a Rockefeller did who lived to be almost a hundred. They die violently or mysteriously, their fortunes are dispersed, or disappear. Their names vanish, instead of being etched in history. If they are remembered, they are remembered for ill, not for good.

As Bolaji pointed out Nigerian and Africa leaders and captains of industry have “sacrificed value systems on the altar of greed, indiscipline, selfishness and insatiable craze for material wealth acquisition.” Save Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrummah, Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Patrice Lumumba, who are but the few shining stars, Africans cannot point to others as African Rockefeller, Alfred Nobel, Martin Luther King, Jr., General Park Chung-Hee, Lee Kwan Yew Maos Tse Tungs, or Winston Churchill. Rather Africa can account for her abundant corrupt and dictatorial leaders:  Sani Abacha of Nigeria, Zine El Abidin Ben Ali of Tunisia, Ibrahim Babaginda of Nigeria, Mobutu Sese Sekos of Congo, Paul Kagames of Rwanda Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Teodorin Obiang of Equatorial Guinea, Omar al-Bashirs of Sudan, King Mswatis of Swaziland and Daniel Arap Mois of Kenya. 

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