“No man can become rich without himself enriching others.” – Andrew Carnegie
American billionaire Andrew Carnegie wasn’t the only committed philanthropist the world has ever known, but he was so passionate about giving that he documented his thoughts in a 1899 article: “The Gospel of Wealth”, which called on the rich to use their wealth to improve society.
As noble and appealing as Carnegie’s ideas appear, many of the world’s wealthiest individuals do not seem to embrace this philosophy.
One reason for this might be because for true philanthropists, giving is often inspired by an inner satisfaction to impact lives. It is usually about creating unconditional love and happiness for others.
There are, however, well off people who carry out philanthropic activities as a tribute to their humble backgrounds or as part of corporate social responsibility (CSR).
However it is perceived, giving is an art and for those who have keyed into it, there is no regret. One of such people is Femi Otedola, the multi-billionaire business magnate.
Donating millions of naira to charitable causes/ individuals has become a way of life for the 57-year-old founder of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited.
Not even the prevailing harsh economy has dissuaded him from this path.
It seems there is no sector that has not felt Otedola’s impact.
One of the most recent occurred six months ago, July 13, when Otedola paid $50,000 to offset the medical bills of former Super Eagles coach and captain, ‘Chairman’ Christian Chukwu.
Chukwu, who was down with cancer, was flown to England for treatment.
Why is he doing all this? Hear him: “’I want to extend my appreciation to Mr. Christian Chukwu for coming down to acknowledge me on his arrival from the United Kingdom, for supporting his medical expenses, although for me, it is just a part of my nature.
“I was moved when I heard about Mr. Chukwu’s situation because I remember that about 20 years ago, my father, the late Sir Michael Otedola also suffered a stroke from using fake aspirin. This experience has over time made me to appreciate that good medical attention can give a good and prolonged life and that was what motivated me to rise up and assist Mr. Christian Chukwu.
“To update you, the sum of roughly N36,635,000 has been expended on Mr. Christian Chukwu’s medical and travel expenses and it is my joy that I am spending the money God blessed me with to be of assistance to him.”
Otedola’s gesture was not a one-off affair as he also reached out to ailing ex-Super Eagles goalkeeper Peter Fregene.
Fregene, 72, represented Nigeria in the 1968 Olympic Games. He has been bedridden since 2016, with a yet-to-be-disclosed ailment.
When Otedola got wind of his ailment, he directed that the ex-player be brought from Sapele, Delta State to Lagos on June 14. Fregene was first air lifted to Benin and subsequently flown to Lagos. He has since been at the Reddington Hospital in Ikoyi.
Waxing philosophical on his passion for the poor, the down-trodden and many who would have been forgotten, Otedola said: “In my circle of friends, many people spend up to N50 million to drink champagne and generally ‘enjoy’ life, but at the end of it all what happens? It passes out of their body as waste. For me therefore (and I also tell my friends) it is important to use such money to benefit others and put a smile on the faces of as many people as we can.”
For most entrepreneurs, CSR comes naturally, but Otedola has gone even further by extending helping hands to people who never dreamt or imagined they could ever be touched, in what is now being appreciated as the ‘Otedola example’.
For Nigerians who grew up in the 80s, the name Sadiq Daba conjures happy television memories.
When recently Daba’s health took a downward turn, Otedola intervened in the veteran actor’s situation, once again giving Nigerians a positive example at a time when stories of man’s inhumanity man to abound.
For many fans of the actor, Otedola’s intervention, when all hope seemed lost, can never be forgotten.
Otedola came to the rescue of Daba, who was battling leukaemia and prostate cancer.
Before the billionaire’s intervention, family and friends had lost hope of saving the veteran actor.
Grateful? Yes, Daba was and still is.
His words: “Today, they came to present me with an oxygen converter, various drugs as prescribed by my doctors and, to crown it all, a physiotherapist to take care of my needs”.
Daba, Chukwu, and Fregene are not the only beneficiaries of Otedola’s large heart in the sports and entertainment sector.
Tinsel actor Victor Olaotan got $100,000 (N36 million) from Otedola when his health took him away from the big screens.
Another beneficiary was gifted reggae superstar Majek Fashek who was also bedridden at some point and couldn’t foot his hospital bills.
But the act of philanthropy that blew people’s mind and which they won’t forget in a hurry occurred last month.
Otedola, in an unrivalled act of charity, donated N5 billion (approximately $14 million) to the Save the Children Fund through his daughter, Florence Otedola Foundation (Florence is more popularly known as DJ Cuppy).
The money is to support various intervention programmes for destitute children in the north-east, which is under the siege of Boko Haram.
It is believed to be the single largest individual donation to charity in Nigeria’s history.
Otedola made the donation on Sunday, November 10, 2019, at a ceremony organised by the Cuppy Foundation in Abuja to raise funds for Save the Children.
Cuppy Foundation is a non-profit organisation (NPO) established by DJ Cuppy. The charity works to improve the welfare of vulnerable and marginalised children, focusing on early childhood education and healthcare among numerous other programmes. Otedola’s eldest daughter, Tolani, first mounted the stage and announced the gift on behalf of her father. Afterwards, the billionaire spoke.
He noted that the persistent crisis in the north-east, brought about by the Boko Haram insurgency, has turned millions of children into destitute. He called on other wealthy Nigerians to emulate his actions.
“God has been so kind to me in life and I feel highly privileged. The only way I can show my gratitude to Him is to use my resources to support those who are underprivileged. This I intend to do for the rest of my life,” he said.
DJ Cuppy’s foundation has been helping to save children in Borno, Adamawa and other parts of north-east affected by insurgency.
Otedola’s generosity was commended by a fellow philanthropist and Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote.
“People find it very difficult in Nigeria to give money away but the more you give the more God blesses you. Femi, you are no more a rich man. You have joined the league of wealthy men. I have said I will give more of my money when I pass away,” Dangote said.
In March 2009, Otedola became the second Nigerian after Aliko Dangote to appear on the Forbes list of dollar-denominated billionaires, with an estimated net worth of $1.2 billion.
Otedola, like his father, the late Sir Michael Otedola, has demonstrated that he is a generous man whose heart flows with milk of kindness. The stylish philanthropist has proved to be a pacesetter when it comes to giving.
To influence and impact the lives of the upcoming generation is indeed commendable and it is something those who know, associate with the Otedola dynasty. The billionaire is always reaching out to young people in rural communities and giving them hope of a better future.
Over the years, he has awarded multi-million naira scholarships to indigent students in Lagos State, especially those from his Epe homestead.
About five years ago, Otedola pledged N1 billion towards funding scholarships for indigent students in the state. According to sources, he has quietly surpassed that figure without making any fuss about it.
Otedola is indeed a motivator and inspiration for his generation. In his own way, he is helping to change the narratives with his dedication to humanity at a time when many just want to take and not give back to the society.
In a clime where people loot the common wealth, he is sending a message to all that it is better to be our brother’s keeper
As our Philanthropist of the Year, Otedola has demonstrated that it pays more to give than to receive.
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