To many, the billionaire Femi Otedola is a superhero. He is to Lagos, Nigeria what Bruce Wayne is to Gotham City. He does not wear a cape like Batman nor drive around in a Batmobile but he does have an impressive fleet of supercars that turn heads. He may not be a crime fighter in public like Batman but we surely remember how his bravery in fighting off an attempt at extortion by some members of Nigeria’s legislature showed them to be lacking in the integrity that their group was purported to have. We remember his donation (alongside his billionaire sidekick, Aliko Dangote) of N200 million to the Lagos State Security Trust Fund in 2007 and over a decade later, we see how instrumental it was to drastically reduce the crime rate that Lagos was hitherto notorious for.
His influence is, however, bigger than just one city and not just because of his philanthropy. Although Lagos can lay claim to him as her own, it is not a marvel that to others Femi Otedola is Africa’s version of Tony Starks, albeit much humbler than the character that Robert Downey Jr. has superbly brought to life on the big screen. His humility is the stuff of legend and his approachability is uncommon among men as rich as he is (although truth be told, there are not as rich, let alone richer than he is in Nigeria). A genius mind equipped with great leadership abilities; his success in business continues to inspire many more to attain success in their own entrepreneurial endeavours. His presence on the National Economic Management Team during the Goodluck Jonathan administration cannot be extricated from the economic success that presidency brought Nigeria. Lesser men with way fewer achievements strut the place with more arrogance than you would find in a peacock with the gab of Jose Mourinho but not this man. Femi Otedola has empowered and continues to empower thousands of people and does so without lording it over them or stripping them of their dignity. His bespectacled grizzled face wears a half-smile most of the time and from the dance-offs, we’ve seen him have with his daughters through the window of Instagram, it’s not hard to tell that he really is a good man with a good heart. He may be a self-made entrepreneur but he unabashedly lets us know he is also a husband and father too. In the wake of the backlash that Chimamanda Adichie received when she asked Hillary Clinton why her Twitter bio began by listing her achievements with “Wife”, it is noteworthy and laudable that there are successful men who boldly display their commitment to be husbands and fathers in public and in private.
In this season where seeking and demanding for accolades is the new trend, Femi Otedola doesn’t demand any, yet he is getting a lot. An upcoming musician named Dice Ailes made a song, titled it “Otedola” and he quickly gained ascendancy and popularity in the Nigerian music scene. The whispers that were becoming murmurs have now turned into outright calls for Femi Otedola to consider becoming the next executive governor of Lagos State. If he were to throw his hat in the ring, he would certainly be eminently suited for the task of helping Lagos truly become a mega city deserving of the title. As the calls of “Femi Otedola for Governor of Lagos State” are increasing, including a notable ode in his favour by King Sunny Ade at arguably the biggest social gathering in Africa this year, Femi has repeatedly affirmed his support for current Lagos governor Akinwunmi Ambode to be re-elected for a second term in office. This display of humility may be self-effacing to some but it at least leaves the possibility open for him to succeed Governor Ambode after his inevitable second tenure in office would have expired in 2023. If Lagos State were to ever create a monument for its past governors similar to the Mount Rushmore memorial monument in the United States of America for past presidents, many, many people would be glad to see alongside the faces of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Babatunde Fashola and Akinwunmi Ambode, the face of Femi Otedola as well.
Lagos State deserves it.