Mr. Femi Otedola has obviously taken to heart the advice of Britain’s wartime Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.
The billionaire has made a living that many can only dream of but he has begun to straddle that end of the spectrum that a large proportion of those in his income bracket rarely travel to. In so doing, he has not only written his name in the sands of time, he has carved it into the hearts of Nigerians.
Otedola, who is the founder and chairman of Geregu Energy Group, has emerged in recent time as the champion of the needy and the ailing. He has elevated the welfare of the human race particularly of his compatriots to a noble dimension.
His generosity and readiness to throw a lifeline to Nigerians of all walks of life – people who have no link with him except that they share the same geographical space – have come not only as something to cheer but a much-needed balm to a longsuffering and traumatised people.
Examples of his philanthropy are legion. They cut across tribe, religion and other affiliations, which only goes to highlight his love for humanity. When it emerged that a former Green Eagles Captain, Christian Chukwu, had taken seriously ill sometime in 2019, a huge dread descended on the land. Nigerians know too well how such situations often end.
But as the collective wringing of hands gradually gave way to despair, Otedola came to the rescue of the stricken ex-star, donating $50,000 for his surgery and travel costs in the United K i n g – down.
But that was just the initial sum as other incidental expenses were incurred during Chukwu’s treatment in London. And Nigerians heaved a collective sigh of relief. For those who know Chukwu’s place in Nigeria’s football folklore, the sigh can be fully appreciated. Otedola was modest in his rationale, saying it is second nature to him. “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.
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.
“So for me, it is just my nature to give back to society and these philanthropic gestures are just a tip of the iceberg. I am humbled by the gratitude expressed by Mr. Chukwu but I believe that all thanks belong to God and I thank God for putting me in a position to be able to be of assistance.” Inspiring sentiments! But the Chukwu gesture is just a tip of the iceberg like he alluded to.
Otedola has rendered assistance to many others in his ever-expanding philanthropic engagements. Not long ago, the billionaire businessman directed his Femi Otedola Foundation to take care of the medical expenses of a retired university lecturer, Dr. Inih Ebong, whose condition was diagnosed as congestive cardiac failure. Until his retirement in 2002, Dr. Ebong was an Associate Professor, Department of Theatre Arts, University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
As it has become his custom, Otedola only heard of Ebong’s travails in the media, but he swung into action.
Outstanding medical bills were defrayed and treatment commenced. It was also the case with a former Nigerian goalkeeper, Peter Fregene, who was part of country’s contingent to the football event of the Mexico Olympic Games in 1968. Fregene’s condition had deteriorated drastically when Otedola intervened. Similarly, Sadiq Daba, the star of NTA drama series Cock Crow at Dawn that thrilled Nigerians in the 1980s, was given a lifeline when he came down with a life-threatening ailment.
Otedola’s only acquaintance with the actor was through that series. He also assisted late Reggae musician Majek Fashek during his protracted illness. These humanitarian gestures also extended to another entertainer, Mr. Victor Olaotan, who was lead character in the soap opera, Tinsel. He was sent to Turkey for his medical rehabilitation.
To be sure, Otedola’s life changing activities are not restricted to helping sportsmen, entertainers and ordinary Nigerians alone, but cut across practically all facets of our national life.
Worthy of mention in this regard are his numerous interventions in various sectors that have touched countless lives, namely: Youth Empowerment, Developmental Projects, Efficient Healthcare Delivery, Affordable Qualitative Education, Agricultural Production and Industrialisation, Housing and Urban Renewal, Rural Infrastructural Development etc. Even more significant is the Otedola Foundation’s intervention in the intractable issue of insurgency, which continues to ravage the North-East.
The Save The Child Fund, an initiative of one of Otedola’s daughters, D J Cuppy, organised a fundraiser in 2019 directed at helping destitute children in the North-East. The Foundation donated $14 million that day. While making the donation, Otedola noted the Boko Haram conflict in the North- East had resulted in a humanitarian crisis with children the worst hit.
As compelling as these philanthropic activities are, they still don’t capture the full essence of the man, Otedola, as the impression is inescapable that he is only just beginning. Since philanthropy lies at the heart of human greatness as Patrick J Ryan has said, then Mr. Femi Otedola has more than earned that greatness.
For his philanthropic gestures, Mr. Femi Otedola is the recipient of New Telegraph’s Humanitarian Award.