By  Peju Akande

Philanthropy is driven, at its core, by an altruistic imperative. That is why it is called giving and not “giving and receiving.”

Those who have been blessed and who have migrated to the rarefied rank of the top 1% of the world’s privileged often feel a need to give back, as a means of leveling the playing field and empowering the not-so-fortunate.

In Western societies, philanthropy has become a “business concern” with many of the wealthiest in the society committing, in many cases, to give out half or all of the wealth they have accumulated. Examples include shrewd investor, Warren Buffet and tech tycoon, Bill Gates.

In Africa, Forbes has profiled a few African millionaires who have also pledged to give huge chunks of their wealth to charity before or upon their demise. In January 2019 piece, Forbes noted that 4 of Africa’s billionaires had taken the so-called “Giving Pledge” and they included South African mining titan Patrice Motsepe; Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese-born telecoms mogul, Zimbabwe’s richest man Strive Masiyiwa of the Econet fame and Tanzania’s telecom mogul, Mohammed Dewji. These men have pledged to give at least half of their net worth to philanthropy, during their lifetime or when they pass.

While no Nigerian billionaire is on the list, there are Nigerian billionaires who are acquitting themselves creditably when it comes to philanthropy but a distinction must be made. Is the giving truly philanthropic or driven by enlightened self –interest?

In considering those pointers one is reminded of Alhaji (Dr) Muhammadu Indimi, one of Nigeria’s richest men who has made philanthropy a defining attribute of his life. Born some 75 years ago in Maiduguri to the family of Alhaji Mamman Kurundu, the young Muhammadu was not afforded the privilege of formal education.

Aspirational and diligent, the young man, in the course of time, taught himself to read and write and speak English as well as 6 other languages making him not just an autodidact but a multi-linguist.

His diligence would manifest more and more as he got older. First apprenticed to his father in the family business, Muhammadu would strike out on his own after a £100 loan helped him set up a new business importing clothes from Chad and Cameroon. His business grew in leaps and bounds such that by the late 80s, Alhaji Indimi had established himself as one of the leading entrepreneurs in Nigeria.

His business acumen had got him such national prominence that he was a beneficiary of the 1991 discretionary bid round overseen by Professor Jubril Aminu in his capacity as minister of petroleum under the Babangida administration.

OPL 224 has translated into Oriental Energy which operates two fields OML 115 and OML 67.  In sweating those two assets over the past 30 years, Muhammadu Indimi has emerged one of Nigeria’s richest men with a personal fortune valued at over $500m (2015 estimates by Forbes).

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With his wealth has come an uncommon commitment to give but not in a tokenistic manner or with enlightened self-interest as the driving factor. Altruism is at the core of his giving because for a man who did not have the privilege of formal education, he has made the facilitation of that which he was denied a key plank of his philanthropic endeavors.

On December 23rd 2021, Indimi donated a world class and purpose built complex to the University of Maiduguri. The complex is the new home of the Centre for Distance Learning as well as the International Conference Centre and facilities include Exam Hall, conference room, e-Resources Centre, laboratory as well as staff offices and recreational areas.

Speaking during the commissioning of the complex by President Muhammadu Buhari, Indimi told the gathering that he built and donated the complex as “one of my token contributions to Education,”

While he can define his giving as a token it is never tokenistic nor ad hoc because he has set up the Muhammadu Indimi Foundation (MIF) as his vehicle for doing good with a clear focus on Education, Health, Social Enterprise Development & Support as well as Special Emergency Interventions based on urgent requirements.

Focusing on education, over 1,000 indigenes from his company’s host communities in Mbo and Effiat local government areas of Akwa Ibom state have benefited from scholarships provided by Alhaji Indimi since 2009 and Alhaji Indimi donated a Science Laboratory Complex to Community Grammar School, Ebughu to help facilitate STEM scholarship. Plans are underway to build a secure housing estate for the company’s host communities.

To help cushion the effect of the insurgency raging in the North- East, the generous man of means has donated N2 billion to support victims. He provides an annual food and cash support for over 30,000 IDPs in Borno where he has invested 600 million to build a fully equipped estate with 100 homes, school and medical centre in Bama to facilitate the resettlement of IDPs amongst others.

The clear definition of focus areas has made Alhaji Indimi’s giving not just strategic but impactful and a worthy example for others to follow.

* Akande is a Lagos based public affairs analyst

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