Before You Buy Arsenal, Buy Me! Ben Ajayi Writes Dangote

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“Is your full name Anthony or Antonio?” I asked my
struggling Italian friend. “Neither,” Tony replied and went on to explain how
he got the name. “I was christened Sergio. My father died when I was nine years
old leaving nothing for the family.
My mother, with no income of her own, had the arduous task
of looking after me and my four siblings, all below the age of 12. We had to
fend for ourselves doing odd jobs and living from hand to mouth. There were
days we went without a single meal.
“Having heard several stories of how Italians were making it
real big in the USA, my mother hatched a plan for me to stow away to New York.
But there was one major challenge. I could not speak a word of English. My
mother solved the problem by writing TO-NY with an indelible felt pen on my
forehead.

When I asked her what she had written, she said, “I have
written your destination, ‘To NY.’ If anyone asks you any question, just point
at your forehead.” I did exactly that. To my amazement everyone started calling
me Tony. I have been stuck with it since then. ”
Tony is now a billionaire and as we say in common parlance,
“level has changed.” I doubt if he would remember my name or recollect having
had such an animated discussion with me.
But he set me thinking about your name and its origin.
Unlike Tony, my research shows you were born into a wealthy family. You have
not, however, rested on your oars but worked hard to build a bigger empire than
you met it. That is why you have achieved the unique position of the richest
man in Africa and the 67th wealthiest man in the world.
Tony is yet to make the Forbes Magazine’s list! I also found
out that Dangote was initially the nickname of your father, Aliko Muhammad, aka
Aliko Gote. The word “Dan” is used by the Hausa man to associate one thing with
another, be it person, place, trade or activity. So a wild guess would suggest
your name as Dan, son of the great Gote.
You share one thing in common with Tony – a passion for
football. This letter is also for Tony. I can’t reach him but if and when you
run into him in your circle, kindly pass this message to him.
There are two types of balls. One is a round leather ball
called football. The game evokes such interest and passion that nations have
gone to war and people have been killed on account of it. The other type of
ball is round and natural. It is called the eyeball. You must cultivate
interest and become passionate about it because without your two eyeballs you
cannot read this letter; your work would suffer and your world would change.
Sadly, according to estimates from the World Health
Organisation, there are about 285 million people worldwide whose eyeballs are
not functioning properly. They can neither play football nor enjoy watching it
on the television because they are blind or visually impaired. About four
million of these are Nigerians!
In about 60 to 80 per cent, the blindness is either
preventable or can be reversed by simple intervention. Unfortunately the
available centres are few and far between, not accessible and the cost of
services unaffordable for many.
I read in the dailies recently that you broached the idea of
buying Arsenal Football Club. Tony had a similar idea several years ago. I
don’t know why he gave up. We all have desires and like feelings, they could be
overpowering. But I also read where you stated, “Let me tell you this and I
want to really emphasise it…nothing is going to help Nigeria like Nigerians
bringing back their money. If you give me $5 billion today, I will invest
everything here in Nigeria. Let us put our heads together and work.” That is
precisely why I am writing this letter to you. I am up for sale. Before you buy
Arsenal buy me!
But I am no use to you. As an astute business man, you know
I wouldn’t be a good buy! So instead, I am making an offer of something more
rewarding – enlisting you as a partner for sight. Partnership for Sight
Initiative of Nigeria (PASSION) needs patriotic, progressive, outstanding,
persuasive, intelligent, influential and devoted citizens to work with us to
improve the quality of our society and eliminate avoidable blindness.
Joining the group is free and there are no hidden financial
obligations. There will also be very little demand on your precious time and no
formal meetings. You will however be expected to make a personal commitment
(binding in honour only) that you will not inadvertently contribute to the
millions of the blind and visually impaired in our society by ensuring that you
have an eye examination once a year and encouraging all members of your family
and friends to do the same.
I see a smile on your face and I can hear you say, “The
‘eyes’ have it.”  Thanks.

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