PHOTO L-R: DISGRACED AND CONVICTED FORMER MANAGING DIRECTOR OF OCEANIC BANK PLC, CECILIA IBRU AND MICROSOFT FOUNDER AND PHILANTHROPIST, MR BILL GATES.
This piece is not about the man and woman, not about the two persons but two people; it is not entirely about Cecilia Ibru and Bill Gate but about the society as personified by them. It is about selflessness against selfishness; altruism as opposed to egotism; and magnanimity versus self-centredness.
Cecilia and Bill both grew up in the middle class homes having lawyers as their fathers. Cecilia Ibru’s father, late Chief Edward Gbagbeke Sido was an educationist, a social entrepreneur and most especially an erudite lawyer while Bill Gate’s father, William Henry Gates, Sr is a retired American attorney, philanthropist and an author.
Cecilia and Bill both started the businesses that they become synonymous with. Cecilia Ibru dropped out of the main Ibru’s family business to start and head Oceanic bank with the family’s wealth. She succeeded in taking the bank to an enviable height nationally and even internationally. Oceanic Bank International was seemingly one of the fastest growing and most profitable banks in Nigeria until August 2009. Bill Gate also dropped out of Harvard to team up with his childhood friend, Paul Allen with whom he shared a passion in computer programming and on April 4, 1975, they started Microsoft with Gates as the CEO. Microsoft would later become the world’s biggest software maker.
They are also both married to spouses who were deeply involved in their businesses. Cecilia is the most prominent of the five wives of Olorogun Michael Ibru who served as the founding chairman of Oceanic bank from its inception on March 26, 1990 until he attained the mandatory retirement age. Gate is married to Melinda Ann Gate who was the General Manager of Information Products at Microsoft before she left the company to focus on starting and raising a family with Bill, together, they have three children.
The list of their similarities is long but their most notable common denominator is money. When you talk about money, they both have it and in abundance. As much as money is their commonest denominator so also it is their commonest divider.
They are apparently two rich persons who differ in how they made and spend their money.
Gates is undoubtedly the ‘Eze ego’ - the king of money - of our time. He was number one on the "Forbes 400" list from 1993 through to 2007 and number one on Forbes list of "The World's Richest People" until recently. In 1999, Gates's wealth briefly surpassed $101 billion, causing the media to call him the only "centibillionaire" ever. Since 2000, the nominal value of his Gate’s wealth has declined due to a fall in Microsoft's stock price after the dot-com bubble burst and the multi-billion dollar donations he has made to his charitable foundations. In March 2010 Bill Gates was marginally bumped down to the 2nd wealthiest man behind Carlos Slim, a Jewish Mexican telecom magnate. A 5% upward movement in the share price of Microsoft will thrust him back to the top position.
Though not listed by Forbes, Cecilia Ibru must have been making jest of Forbes in her closet when in March 2009, the financial magazine officially named Aliko Dangote and Femi Otedola as Nigeria’s wealthiest men with net worth of $2.5bn and $1.2bn respectively - Dangote’s net worth was revised downward to $2.1bn in 2010 while Otedola was dropped from the list of global billionaires. While being investigated for her role in running Oceanic bank to near collapse, EFCC’s investigation revealed that Cecilia’s assets value dwarfed the combined reported net worth of the two businessmen listed as purported richest men in Nigeria. The security agency unearthed assets that were in excess of N500bn out of which she would later give up a chunk valued at $191bn in a guilty bargain plea and she also received a 18 month prison sentence that will run concurrently for 6 months. She is currently serving her time at a N90,000 per night royal suite of Reddington multi-specialist hospital, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Ibru represents a typical Nigerian businessman/woman or a public office holder whose net worth can never be guessed correctly. Most top businessmen and public office holders are worth far beyond any logical reason. Not even in the wildest imagination could someone have appropriated such an astounding level of wealth to the innocent looking ‘God-fearing deaconness’ from Udu kingdom in Urhobo land. Most office holders live above what their legitimate income could possibly have guaranteed and most times launder money through established businessmen. Who knows if Ibru is holding some of their assets? Or how do you explain a civil servant having chains of properties, fleet of cars and children in expensive colleges abroad?
It took a Bellview Airlines plane crash on 22 October 2005 and a family wrangling to uncover that a late financial director of INEC and RCCG Abuja area Pastor, Timothy Olufemi Akanni had embezzled more than 6 billion naira from INEC. He would never have disclosed such stupendous wealth being a career civil servant. Tafa Balogun would never have declared his assets to show the over N7bn he stole from the Police force and neither would Bode George have shown his stolen billions being a career public servant/retired military man. And neither would their tax records reflect such since they hardly pay.
Similarly and to the surprise of not a few, in the course of EFCC’s investigation, assets worth over N346 billion belonging to Erastus Akingbola, a pastor and the former Chief Executive Officer of Intercontinental Bank Plc were unearth and frozen. While as bank CEO of many years, reasonably, everyone would expect Erastus to be rich but not to that level. Only Heavens could explain while the affluent and respected banker from Oke Igbo in Ondo state would succumb to financial greed to the extent of causing the bank he built from zilch to be on the brink of collapse.
With the discovery of the vast assets of Ibru, Akingbola and Francis Atuche, the former CEO of Bank PHB, one could not help to be suspicious and even picture the worth of the other banks CEOs (present and past). This imagination could also be extended to the other businessmen.
If after Abacha’s death, it was discovered that he had stolen more than $5 billion from our national treasury, then one cannot help to think of the other big players before and after him. We may not know their worth but we know they flamboyantly flaunt a lifestyle and assets that their legitimate income could not have supported.
Gate knew there was time for everything; time to build portfolio and time to use it for mankind, time to acquire and time to disburse but Ibru never knew. For her and her likes, acquisition is for all season. While Gate is busy selling off his holdings in Microsoft to enable him finance his passion for helping mankind, Cecilia is known to be recklessly acquiring landed properties as if they were endangered species that would soon run out of supply or abscond from the surface of the earth. In the course of her insatiable acquisition, she almost bought up a whole street in the US and an entire estate in the Dubai, U.A.E.
Having being the world’s richest man longer than most teenagers have lived, Gate has long realised that there is more to life than material wealth, he needed to affect others, empower the powerless, support the weak, care for the less privileged and that is exactly what he has been doing in the last few years. Gates goes round the globe touching lives with his wealth. He is undoubtedly the most generous man ever having already spent over $28bn out of around $40bn of his personal money which he has committed to humanitarian causes through Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He goes from Asia to Africa fighting poverty, illiteracy and diseases ranging from malaria and polio to HIV/AIDS. He has spent over $120m in eradicating polio in Nigeria. He has also inspired other wealthy men around the world to be committed to giving back to the society. Warren Buffett, the world’s third richest man was one of the first to catch Gate’s drift when in June 2006 he pledged $30.7bn donation to Gates Foundation saying "I greatly admire what the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is accomplishing and want to materially expand its future capabilities."
Currently, Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffett are inspiring American billionaires to pledge to give at least half their net worth to charity, in their lifetimes or at death. The programme called ‘The Giving Pledge’ has 39 American billionaires (including Gate, Buffett, New York Mayor, Michel Bloomberg, Paul Allen, Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, George Lucas and Pierre Omidyar, the founder of EBay) as signatories. They have also recently taken the campaign to China where some wealthy Chinese were happy to pledge their wealth at death. Gate himself has promised that 99% of his assets will go to charity at his death.
Cecilia and her likes are hardly known to be involved in any significant humanitarian causes and neither do they plan to remember humanity at their death. They scarcely give back to the society while they live and more rarely when they die. They hardly affect lives outside their cocoon rather they enjoy oppressing people around them; suppressing the under-privileged and wrongly applying the world of God that says that “Whoever has will be given more, and he will have abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” – Matthew 13:12.
In the course of Gates thrust to affluence, he carried so many people along with him in the wealth creation. His company, Microsoft made so many millionaires and even billionaire from investors and employers of the company. Steve Ballmer, an old friend of Bill at Harvard who is the current CEO and one of the richest people in the world with a personal wealth estimated at US$13.1 billion is a career Microsoft employee. Most employees of Microsoft during the Internet boom of the late 90s were worth several millions of dollars.
In contrast Cecilia Ibru and some like her are known to have amazed great wealth at the expense of people around them. Many underpay their workers, cheat their shareholders, collaborate with public officials to inflate contract values, get paid without executing contracts, embezzle fund entrusted to them and beat the government by evading taxes. It is a known fact that the richer they are the poorer they pay their private workers. Cecilia is also known to have directly wiped out the lifesavings of many shareholders of Oceanic bank by diverting the funds of the bank illegally and giving unsecured loans thereby causing the bank to turn to borrowing and featuring permanently at the Central Bank of Nigeria - CBN’s Expanded Discount window; and publishing false results to deceive innocent investors into buying her schemed scam. The investors who bought Oceanic bank shares when it was trading at a peak price of N45.00 in 2008 would have lost over 95% of the value of their investment as the stock now trades around N2.00. Many people, families, organisation and institutional investors and traders have lost all due to her financial gluttony.
As money is evidently the root of all evil, so is it the root of all good done by the likes of Bill Gate. Money has enabled him to touch lives all around the world from Asia to America and from North Korea to South Africa. The love of money enhances the greed of the likes of Cecilia.
Gate also knew that the best time to quit the stage is when the ovation is loudest. He resigned as the CEO of Microsoft at the age of 44 taking up a lower position of the chief software architect. He then disengaged from Microsoft as full time worker on 27 June 2008 at the age of 52 retaining only the position of the chairman. He did this so that he could dedicate the rest of his life to charitable causes. The likes of Cecilia do not quit the stage unless they are forced by law or circumstances beyond their control. And trust that whenever they quit, they leave for their children to take over regardless of their capabilities. Cecilia had been grooming her son, Oboden Ibru to succeed her whenever she attain the mandatory age but fate would not allow it to happen as she was disgraced out of office on 14 August 2010 at the age of 64 after 20 years as CEO in what was dubbed ‘Sanusi Tsunami’ in which the CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi fired Mrs. Ibru and four other banks CEOs and their executive directors. The other affected CEOs were Mr. Sebastian Adigwe (Afribank Nigeria Plc), Mr. Erastus Akingbola (Intercontinental Bank Plc), Dr. Bartholomew Ebong (Union Bank Plc), and Mr. Okey
Nwosu (Finbank Plc)...
Gate and Ibru are not unique in their ways; they only represent two groups in the society. The ones who want to live and let others live and the group who want to live and let others die.
How pleasant is it if we have more of Gates among us, the world will surely be a better place but it’s unfortunate that we have too many Ibrus and just a few Gates?
Must someone be billionaire before he can have the heart of Gate? No! Must someone even be millionaires before he can make a difference in the world? No! Mother Teresa was never a rich women and one of her popular quote is “If you can't feed a hundred people, then just feed one”
Everyone one has a God-given ability to make a difference in the life of somebody. If everyman touches a soul even in his/her little capacity, the world will surely be a healthier place.
After his unprecedented wealth, King Solomon summed it all by saying that “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher; vanity of vanities, all is vanity. What profit hath man of all his labour wherein he laboreth under the sun? One generation goeth, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth forever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to its place where it ariseth. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it turneth about continually in its course, and the wind returneth again to its circuits. All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; unto the place whither the rivers go, thither they go again.” - Ecclesiastes 1:2-7
At the end of it all, it will not matter how much you make but how you use it because we came here with nothing and we’d surely go with nothing.
What you give to yourself is a need and a treat, what you give to your family is your responsibility but what you give to others is liberality which will live with you in eternity. Charity starts but does not end at home.
Rufus Kayode Oteniya – firstname.lastname@example.org
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