For some years now, many have insinuated that the growing business rivalry between two of Nigeria’s most celebrated business titans —Aliko Dangote and AbdulSamad Rabiu is orchestrated while few others believe the two are honestly on each other’s case in the shark-infested business world. While the two titans have severally come to the open to exhibit brotherly love, insiders alleged that it’s all façade as the beef between the very wealthy men is deeper. In fact, they say the clash in their business interests has its roots in traditions pre-dating both men’s business careers. However, less than a year after what appeared to signal the thawing of a cold relations and dousing the groundswell of rumours that the two Kano-born Forbes-rated billionaires don’t see eye to eye with the March 2020 visit of Dangote to the pristine headquarters of the BUA Group in Lagos, it seems the gloves are off once again between the two men as their recent actions suggested.
On Monday 8 February, the very day Dangote, Africa’s richest man, announced the commencement of his foundation’s effort at feeding of one million malmourished children across the country, his arch-rival Rabiu, same day, decided to take the wind out of Dangote’s sails as he also announced his commitment of over a billion naira to purchase one million doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines to be distributed freely to Nigerians with delivery pegged for next week. The billionaire, it was gathered, also planned to spend additional billions to buy another round of five million bottles of the vaccines for the Nigerian populace. As the news of Rabiu’s gesture flooded the internet, CACOVID, a private sector-led organization with Dangote as a prominent member, in a swift press statement, faulted Rabiu’s action. CACOVID said it operates on a collegiate fund contribution model, and there is no agreement between BUA, CACOVID, and Afreximbank. CACOVID revealed that its leadership has agreed to contribute $100 million to procure vaccines for Nigeria, with the one million doses being the very first tranche and that no individual or company (member) can purchase vaccines directly from any legitimate and recognized manufacturer. Rabiu and his team find this statement to be “very petty and unbecoming of seemingly serious corporate citizens because it is tantamount to playing politics with the lives of Nigerians.” They then insinuated that “a prominent member” of CACOVID is not happy that BUA took the initiative to pay for the vaccines in the interest of Nigeria thus attempting to scuttle it. Of course, everyone knows that the “prominent member” referred to is no other person but Dangote.
As a proof that Rabiu —this time around— ready to go the whole hog in squaring it up with his rival, the BUA Chairman opted to hit his friend where he thinks might really hurt him more by calling for the relaxing of all the policies that give favourable monopolies to himself and Dangote. There is no gainsaying that cement has helped place the two business moguls among Africa’s wealthiest —Forbes has estimated the net worth of Rabiu and Dangote at $5.5billion and $12.1billion respectively as of January 2021. Earlier in the week, Rabiu feels the Cement and Sugar industry, which is Dangote’s core areas and cash cows, need to be liberalized to force prices down. According to the business tycoon, despite Nigeria being the continent’s largest cement exporter, the output is still not enough to satisfy local demand given its huge population. “There is no point in making a policy that only one, two or three people are able to benefit from that policy. That does not make sense. We are benefiting from this policy, but I know it is a bad policy. So, whilst the policy is good, the way it is being administered is not good. You can’t have a policy that restricts so many people from participating, at the end of the day you are just creating a monopoly. That is exactly what is happening in the industry,” Rabiu was quoted. With this statement by the BUA Chief, cynics believe the rivalry has been further heated up and the battle for supremacy between the two moguls now intensifies. However, if anything, they all wish this recent fierce rivalry could bring in good tidings, especially in the provision of more than enough needed vaccines for the people of the country.