By Etim Etim
There are growing concerns that the long-running feud between Dangote Industries Limited and BUA Group – two of the nation’s biggest conglomerates – has degenerated into enmity between their founders, Aliko Dangote and Abdulsamad Rabiu. The fact that both men are from Kano, and of the same generation (Dangote is 66 and Rabiu, 63) has further fueled apprehensions that there is more to this than business competition.
DIL and BUA have been engaging in press wars for over three decades now. DIL accuses BUA of envy, while BUA alleges that DIL is involved in wrong doing, unethical practices and underhand dealings. Both parties have recently removed their gloves and thrown away caution as they have been publishing lurid allegations against each other. DIL blames BUA for instigating allegations of fraudulent foreign exchange transactions against the Dangote, while BUA responded by publishing a long list of allegations and grievances against DIL, stating that Dangote had always wanted to frustrate it out of business. Its allegations against DIL are many, ranging from issuance of dud cheques to attempting to close down its cement factory in Edo.
But what exactly is behind this media war? People in the Dangote Group I have spoken to claim that Mr. Rabiu has been instigating noxious publications against DIL because he is overwhelmed with personal envy against Aliko Dangote. ‘’There is nothing other than envy. They can’t stand our success. We control about 70 per cent of the cement market, and they don’t want to live with that. It is sheer envy’’, said a senior executive.
I have also spoken to some persons in the BUA Group who maintain that BUA is only driven by the need for probity and transparency. They believe that DIL has only thrived by being spoon-fed by the Federal Government and ‘’taking advantage of political connections and closeness to the corridors of power’’, as one of them put it. ‘’We have nothing against Aliko, but we believe that he should play by the rules so that the competition would be fair. We are not afraid of fair competitions, but we just want a level-playing field for everybody’’.
Meanwhile, the two companies are unrelenting in dishing out accusations against one another. Journalists are daily inundated with all sorts of publications. Just the other day, a director at DIL forwarded a publication with a screaming headline ‘’FG gives BUA Deadline to submit Tax Documents Days After Reducing Cement Price’’ to me. In a war game, any piece of negative news on one party will excite the other.
DIL has been greatly hurt by allegations of foreign exchange round tripping leveled against it. Mr Dangote has worked hard all his life to build an enviable reputation and a track record of astuteness in business. He guards it jealously. To counter the smear, DIL announced over the weekend that it has been a good corporate citizen, stating that it has even repatriated N575. 009 million from its operations in other African countries into Nigeria, in addition to a N111.968 million cash swap deal with between Dangote Cement PlC and Ethiopian Airlines. But the statement did not state exactly when these repatriations and swaps were made. ‘’We believe in Nigeria, and we believe in Africa. We are genuine and authentic about our investments, and we call on all relevant agencies to investigate our FX transactions in the past ten years and make public any infraction discovered or noticed’’, a statement from the company said. This should be music in the ears of our monetary authorities.
Although business competitions are good because they engender innovations, enhance product or service quality and drive; Holly up efficiency, which could eventually lead to price reductions, they could be destructive if they degenerate into conflicts. In our country, fierce competition among businesses and healthy rivalries among competitive brands are not new. I can easily recall the fights between Nigerian Breweries and Guinness and the tussle between Cadbury and Nestle (Bournvita and Milo).
We’ve also seen stiff competitions in banking, media and advertising and aviation. But I can’t easily recall that these competitions had ever devolved into quarrels and vicious personal acrimonies. This is why the feud between Dangote and Rabiu is so worrisome. Sociologists believe that a shift in social context can turn dispassionate competitors into warring enemies. This is common in the sporting world of boxing (Michael Tyson and Evander Holyfield); entertainment (the assassination of Tupac Shakur) and among Formular 1 drivers. Experts have also theorized that emotions which are related to past encounters can also lead to conflicts between competing parties to the extent of devolving into unproductive behaviours like exchanging insults and unethical conducts like sabotaging the business or work of the other person. Both Aliko Dangote Abdul Samad Rabiu are of distinguished parentage whose fathers were wealthy Kano businessmen. Could there be anything in their ancestry that is fueling these conflicts?
No matter the causes of the quarrel between DIL and BUA, there is no doubt that it has run long enough and Nigerians will like it stop. If this were a soap opera, it would have long been rested. Nobody has benefitted from this bitter fight and so, there is a strong need for BUA and DIL to sheathe their swords for the benefit of their personal integrity and the Nigerian economy. I am proud of the two of them for their huge investments in our economy. They, and indeed, all other Nigerians who have worked hard to invest in the economy, create good products and services, generate thousands of jobs, are our true icons. Instead of throwing insults at each other, DIL and BUA should rather engage in price wars that would benefit the Nigerian consumer. Two weeks ago, BUA announced plans to cut cement price to N3, 500 per bag. That’s quite commendable. DIL should follow suit.
Good enough, the two gentlemen have common friends in business, banking and government who could help to bring them into amicability. I suggest that President Tinubu who knows both men very well invite them for dinner one Sunday evening and have a word with them. In addition, important personalities like Kano State governor; Emir of Kano and the Sultan should wade in and bring peace to these eminent Nigerians. I understand that the former Kano governor had two years ago made efforts to settle the rift. But they were not successful. The current governor should take it up also. This bad blood cannot go on forever. We have nothing to gain from it.