Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

10 Wealthiest Nigerians

Two Engaging Audiences 

With Clem and friends at Westjport Rotary

With Clem and friends at Westport Rotary

I spoke at Westport Rotary on Tuesday. I gave a “Happy Dollar” to celebrate my first boss in fundraising, Dick Foot, who was the CEO of the Westport YMCA and an active Rotarian.

I knew many people in the audience. Jane Sherman, my friend from The Unitarian Church in Westport, is president. Howard Aibel, another friend from church, was there.

My husband Clem came. He added his comments when someone asked whether our parents were opposed to our marriage. He thought I had glossed over the difficulty of persuading his parents!

You can see him speaking. He also posed with ne and Dee Greenberg, and with me and Howard.

Dave Matlow is their program chair and photographer. His photo of Clem and me appeared in the town’s online news source, Westport Now, published by former First Selectman Gordon Joseloff who was in the audience.

Dave and Rick Benson, another Rotarian, had just returned from Kenya and shared their experiences of Africa. Several people had challenging questions; they were already fairly knowledgeable about Nigeria.

Tonight I spoke at Fairfield Library, in the next town to Westport. Again it was a lively audience, full of questions. My friend Leslie came; it was fun to see her.

And lots of people signed up for the blog – welcome to the new subscribers from Lifetime Learners, Westport Rotary, and Fairfield Library!

Sixth and Final Class 

I was sorry to see the end of the class I’ve been teaching at Lifetime Learners Institute in Norwalk yesterday. The topic, Four Hundred Years of Nigerian History From Slavery to Superrich, seemed to keep everyone interested, including me!

Jim Ovia, founder of Zenith Bank

Jim Ovia, founder of Zenith Bank

For yesterday’s final class, I talked about the ten wealthiest Nigerians.

Jim Ovia, ninth from the top on the list, founded Zenith Bank in 1990. Our older son worked for him for several years. Today Zenith Bank has 500 branches in the country and many offices outside of Nigeria, including in UK. Its ads are everywhere, and its name is emblazoned on the landing steps that are rolled out to meet airplanes landing in the country.

At Christmas Zenith Bank decorates the half mile or so of the road where its head office is. It becomes a major attraction, with lighted deer, angels, trees, and wreaths lining the center of the whole stretch.

The wealthiest Nigeria, with assets of $18 billion or so, is Aliko Dangote.

Aliko Dangote, top of the list

Aliko Dangote, top of the list

I think of his name first in connection with cement. That was his initial focus when he started his company in 1981.

Over time he has diversified. The company today is one of the largest trading conglomerates in the world. Among their activities are sugar, pasta, and noodle manufacturing, salt and sugar refining, real estate, port management and haulage, and flour milling. Like most of the other wealthiest, oil is also part of the source of wealth.

I was going through the list in class, giving some details about each. I got to the 4th wealthiest, and someone asked, “Aren’t there any women?”

Folorunsho Alakija, wealthiest woman of African descent

Folorunsho Alakija, wealthiest woman of African descent

“Yes,” I said, “the very next!” That is Folorunsho Alakija, today the richest woman of African descent, surpassing even Oprah Winfrey!

Alakija was initially a secretary in a bank, then went to London and studied fashion design. When she returned to Nigeria she, “set up a high-end label called Supreme Stitches.

“Although she amassed some wealth from the label, a significant proportion of Alakija’s fortune comes from an oil-exploration license granted to her company Famfa Ltd. in 1993. The 617,000-acre oil block would go on to become the highly lucrative OML 127, in which Alakija’s family retains a 60% stake,” according to Ventures Africa,

The same article says, “her assets include a real estate portfolio worth over $100 million and a $46 million private jet.”

Would you like to read about the other seven in the list of the wealthiest Nigerians?

The Fight Against Corruption

The Christian Science Monitor has an excellent article about President Buhari and his anti-corruption fight. The authors say, “In a country where impunity by big business and the political elite is rarely punished, the uptick in penalties has been eye-catching. But for those who voted for President Muhammadu Buhari, each one is a confirmation that their leader’s campaign promise to bring discipline to Nigeria is taking root.

“It also underscores what many Nigerians have always said: that it takes a strongman to whip Africa’s most populous country into shape.”

At the end they provided a quiz to see how well the reader knows Nigeria. There’s quite a bit of history among the questions. I only scored 85%! And I just finished teaching Four Hundred Years of Nigerian History!

I hope some of my LLI students will take the quiz – they’ll find some things they heard about during the six weeks. You can post a comment if you take the quiz. You don’t have to say how you scored!

Chicken Story with Amazing Pictures

Chicken in the Kitchen, a story of Igbo masquerades.

Chicken in the Kitchen, a story of Igbo masquerades.

I mentioned that I’d ordered the book Chicken in the Kitchen by the Nigerian woman, Nnedi Okorafor, with illustrations by Mehrdokht Amini. The book came from the UK publisher Lantana, with a slightly torn package and a little damage to one corner of the book itself.

I was surprised that the British postal service would have less than perfect mailings!

The pictures are gorgeous. Bright reds, oranges, greens and blues. The heroine, Anyaugo, finds a giant chicken in the kitchen, threatening to destroy the food ready for the New Yam Festival the next day.

She gets help from a spirit to chase the chicken away. But instead of fleeing, the chicken asks her to dance!

I won’t give away any more!

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


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  3. Love the photograph of Clem speaking and the expression on your face as Clem adds his perspective!

  4. I so enjoy your Blogs. They are well written, engaging, colorful and decorative for my inner child to get uplifted.

    And yes, I do want to read about the other 7 wealthy people of Nigeria. Who would have thought a woman would be in the first 3!

    Keep up the good work Catherine!.