February 21, 2024

Generally, when the art of creating happiness and deriving happiness from human activities is tied to building a legacy, human life becomes meaningful for living. Building a legacy practically involves creating enduring tangible and intangible things which can be passed on to future generations long after the wealth owner is gone. – Conversation with my Billionaire Friend
Building a legacy is all about living and not about death. It is about how not to live for only now and about living now for the benefit of others, tomorrow. It is about thinking of one’s life and what must be done today for the benefit of others in the future. It is about leaving today’s footprints for tomorrow’s legacyConversation with my Billionaire Friend
Building a legacy is not limited to only the wealthy, … There are indeed many non-wealth builders and owners who have created and left a legacy for the benefit of humanity. Such examples include Albert Einstein, the German physicist who developed the theory of relativity. He was not wealthy but created wealth for others in the world long after his death with his theory of relativity.- Conversation with my Billionaire Friend
I am happy to announce that we have netted another impactful billionaire, who has gracefully agreed to be our guest on the hot seat. He will be sharing with us his wealth-building principles just as my first billionaire friend did, impactfully. I have known and related with this noiseless billionaire since 1993. He is not an entrepreneur, just like my first billionaire friend, and he is also not an aggressive investor. His strategies for building wealth are so simple that you wonder why many of us are not engaging in them. I was in his office two weeks ago for preliminary discussions, and I was blown away by the few principles of wealth building he shared with me. But hold your breath! We are not bringing him to the hot seat immediately; we must wait for another few weeks before we start featuring his series. While we await his debut, I shall be sharing some interesting notes from my diary I have been documenting for quite some while, tracking some wealth builders, most of whom are billionaires.
In this edition, I will share with you how the seed that germinated into my adventure of tracking billionaires and other wealth builders started. I started my journalism career in 1989 with a newspaper publishing company owned by a late flamboyant billionaire. I had read about his exploits which covered aviation, publishing, communication business, oil and gas, and so on, years before I joined his company. He introduced glamour and panache into journalism as he showered his leading editors with unbelievable comfort and gave many of them international exposure through regular foreign trips. He rarely showed up at the publishing house, but when he did, he always left great memories. He was very generous. 
I tasted a bit of his generosity in an interesting way. One late night, the president of an African country was visiting Nigeria at the invitation of a the billionaire. I suspected he had called one of our top persons on duty in his publishing house to send a photographer to the airport to cover the scene of the arriving president. No photographer was around. I was in the proofreading department of the newspaper then, and the personnel department had just sold to willing staff some Nikon cameras, which we were to pay back from our salaries in instalments.  Fortunately, I was one of the lucky ones who purchased the camera. I had done some personal photography training, and I had just used the camera to take shots of some monkeys which were programmed to do acrobatic displays by their handlers. I did a story around it, and the weekend edition of the paper published it along with the shots I took. So, the  senior officer was yelling all over the place: “where are the photographers” (no mobile phone then)? No show. I was on night duty. My head of department (late), who knew I had a camera, asked me if I could step in. I rushed to my apartment, which was just a five-minute walk from the office. I showed up a few minutes later, and pronto, I was driven to the international airport. I did my best and took some shots, which were used in the newspaper the following day. When I was about to leave after taking the photographs, the billionaire said in Yoruba, “thank you o… what shall we give you”. I was dumbfounded. I wasn’t expecting anything from the exercise, but to my surprise, he dipped his hands into his flowing agbada and brought out some new naira notes and handed them over to me. Should I say floated back to my house? When I counted the money, it was four times more than my monthly salary, which was just N400. Expectedly, my admiration for the billionaire hit the rooftop. As Peter in the Bible had said to Jesus after a transforming mountain-top experience, I said in my heart, it is good to build my journalism tabernacle here! I dreamt of the day I would also be like one of our celebrity editors.
But something happened from about 1991 that shattered my dreams, and I believe, the dreams of several others. The billionaire joined the presidential race as one of the aspirants ; he won the election but the results were annulled  and what happened thereafter was  a series of events that read like a movie script. He ultimately lost his life. More devastating was that a few years after his death, all the visible evidence of his wealth started to disappear one after the other such that one can no longer trace any of them. Virtually all of us found our way out of the publishing house, but for me, it was the beginning of a series of reflective questions. Why would such humongous wealth vanish just like that? Was there no system installed that could sustain it? I looked around and discovered that it was not peculiar to him. There were many billionaires I had read about but whose exhibits of affluence evaporated shortly after their death.
A seed had been sown and I was not ready to let go. In 1996, I was privileged to be sponsored on a trip to the United States of America by the US government, where I joined 21 others from developing countries. They took us on a tour of seven states in the country. There was something I observed. I saw some companies that wrote something like since 1909, since 1890 on their signboards or walls of their buildings . That is, they were companies that survived their owners and were still profitable long after the owners were gone. Why can’t we have many of such in Africa?
In 2015, a year after I returned to THISDAY on my second missionary journey, I drew up an ambitious plan: I planned to travel to the US during a two-week leave to visit some of the states where those billionaires I had read about (both dead and alive) resided. On my list were: John D. Rockefeller, Michael Bloomberg, the owner of Bloomberg Financial Services, whose fascinating book BLOOMBERG by Bloomberg I had read, Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, who I had also read his fascinating autobiography, Kenneth Copeland (who I read had given out over 10  private planes as gifts-now more than 20 planes). I contacted my travel agent, and we both drew up a plan he believed was practicable. I started my journey from Santa Clara, where I attended an Expert Academy conference by a young guy called Brendon Burchard, who reported to be consultant to an American president.  It was an exciting event as many people flew from different parts of the world to attend the seminar, which focused on how experts from different fields of endeavours could create streams of income from their expertise. 
I met two Nigerians there. From there I flew to Boston and visited Harvard Business School, where I was introduced to their image maker . I was interested in learning how Harvard Business Review conduct their case studies. I had planned to travel to Fort Worth, Texas, where I had worked out a strategy for meeting Kenneth Copeland . How? Mike Murdock a popular American evangelist is close to Copeland, and I thought that if got Mike Murdock, I would get Copeland. Mike Murdock had been invited by a general overseer of a leading Pentecostal church in Nigeria as a guest speaker. I had read about him with total fascination and had imagined in my mind that one day, I could meet him physically. And it happened. Mysteriously, I was invited by the media department of the church that invited him to join a panel of pastors who would interview Mike Murdock. I was in the studio of that church directly in front of the evangelist, firing questions some of which originated from some of the tips I got from his  tapes I had listened to. I believed he was impressed. He asked for my business card, and I gave it to him and instantly he gave me his private email which he said only 14 people in the world had access to at that time. 
We started to relate, and once, when he was in Nigeria after that encounter at another function, I went to the venue. Surprisingly, once he saw me in the hall, he called me by the name of the newspaper I was managing then and said, your business card is still in my study. I figured out that once I met Mike Murdock, he should be able to link me with  Kenneth Copeland Just in case, I had also informed another of his close friend, a popular Nigerian-born but UK-based pastor who had told me to call him once I was in Fort Worth to speak to Mike Murdock. My plan was altered. 
While still in Boston, Massachusetts refining my plans, I got a text from my boss, who was in New York and then asked me to join him in New York to attend an education conference organised by Sarah Brown, the wife of the former British Prime Minister. It was a well-attended event with Dr Akinwumi Adesina and Dr Ngozi Okonji-Iweala in attendance. I was able to interview Mrs Brown with her husband in attendance , who shared their experience after leaving office. Mission accomplished, I decided to stay for two days in New York and seized the opportunity to visit the JD Rockefeller centre. The Rockefeller Center is a large complex consisting of 19 commercial buildings covering 32 acres between 48th Street and 51st street in Midtown, Manhattan, New York City. I spent one day and a half there. It is a tourist centre as many tourists flood the place to behold the assets left by the man: his tomb, towers, etc. I paid to be conducted around the centre, including riding to the 46th floor of his tower. As I was on the 46th floor, the questions started to flood my mind again. Why can’t we have similar monuments in Africa?
Mission accomplished. I flew back to my base in Boston and a few days later flew to Atlanta to stay with a friend for my easy connection to Fort Worth. But that plan was truncated dramatically.
While I was working out reconfirmation protocols for my trip to Fort Worth, I got a call through my phone. My boss issued a short instruction: “Meet me at home (Nigeria) by 4 pm tomorrow.” I was startled. I tried without success several times to reach him on the phone, but he did respond. I sent an email intimating to him that I was still in the US, but there was no reply. The instruction was explicit. I called my travel agent and asked him to book my return flight to Nigeria. That was how the dream of meeting  Copeland evaporated. I learnt a big lesson: Only the boss has the handle on the rules, and he can change them even in the middle of the game. And your job? Fall in line!
In 2018, I contacted Professor Franca Ovadje of Lagos Business School, who I had related with in the past. She was noted for some of her case studies. I explained my mission to her, and she immediately fell in love with the topic but suggested we commission a researcher to do the initial field report and literature review. We eventually settled for Dr Taiwo Ojo, a leadership expert. We all agreed to work together as partners. In less than three weeks, Dr Taiwo turned in his initial research work, a detailed 20-page report that summarised why Africans don’t succeed in building generational wealth. I quote from the study:
“Reasons why African businesses don’t last across generations
“It is a known fact that most African businesses die prematurely immediately after the exit of the owner or founder. In places like Europe and America, you find many businesses that have lasted many generations, but in Africa, it is not so. Why? Below are some of the adjudged reasons for this:
“Unethical Practice, survival mentality, ungodly foundation, issues of corruption, greed and self-centeredness, lack of structures and systems, no or poor succession plan, lack of love and compassion, competitive and envious motives, indiscipline and lack of focus and grit.  
Others are disorderliness, high level of individualism (do it alone syndrome and me-first mentality), lack of preparation and capacity, inconsistent government policies, wrong traditional beliefs, cultural bias and prejudice, poorly run institutions, abysmal focus on human capital strength, disloyalty, and lack of patriotism”. 
“The list also includes a small thinking mindset, hostile and turbulent business environment, lack of collaboration and partnerships, blindness to business trends and disruptive changes, rigidity (refusal to adapt to change), poor value systems and family cohesion issues”.
In summary, according to Dr Ojo, “everything boils down to lack of ETHICS and Erosion of Values”.
Between 2017 and 2018, I interviewed over 30 wealth builders who shared their life lessons with me, some of which included their wealth-building experiences. I had asked one of my guests, a successful industrialist, about his succession plan for his group of companies, and his reply was: “don’t bother your head over who succeeds you.” He explained: 
“As far as I am concerned, only God knows who will succeed who. Many of us are worried about what will happen when we are no more. That is none of your business. What you need is simply to make sure your business is set on the right principles and values. It is not your duty to determine who succeeds you. What if the person you have in mind is not interested, as I have experienced? What if he pretends to be interested, and as soon as you die, he squanders everything? All I can do is tell God to show them where their talents are for success in life. These are my thinking and policy because only God knows tomorrow. He owns wealth and gives it to those to whom He wants to give. All that you can do is just to advise them and help them to live an honest life.”
But to my surprise, the more questions I asked, the more I discovered there were many unanswered questions. But interestingly, I am witnessing efforts by some billionaires in Nigeria, who are creating frames and structures to ensure that their wealth outlives them.
So that is the genesis and the journey. The conversation will continue. 
In the next few weeks, while we await our next mystery billionaire guest, I shall share with you a few insights, tips, field reports from my diary, and results of my interactions with many wealth builders over the past several years.
I can’t wait to catch up with you next week. Cheers!
As far as I am concerned, only God knows who will succeed who. A lot of us are worried about what will happen when we are no more. That is not your business. What you need is simply to make sure your business is set on the right principles and values. It is not your duty to determine who succeeds you. What if the person you have in mind is not interested, as I have experienced?
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