THE BIOGRAPHY OF THE RICHEST BLACK PERSON IN THE WORLD NOW RELEASED ON EBOOK
The much awaited and publicized biography of the richest black man in the world, Aliko Mohammad Dangote co-authored by Dr. Moshood Fayemiwo and Dr. Margie Marie Neal is ready and would be on sale through E-Book anytime soon. The authors spoke with this female journalist from their base in Chicago, USA.
Interview by Kikelomo Iwajomo of City People Magazine
QUESTION-Is the biography authorized or unauthorized? Why Dangote?
MOSHOOD FAYEMIWO: It depends on what you mean by “authorized”. If you are talking about receiving the go-ahead from Dangote as a person, we don't need that. No one wants to read any book about Dangote that is commissioned by him or his henchmen, that is not the mission of the biography but if you say “authoritative,” then this is authoritative biography. Aliko Dangote may not like some of the things in the book, but that is his problem but we have authoritatively researched him and have succeeded in presenting him as he is (interjection by Dr Margie Marie Neal, the co-author)
MARGIE MARIE NEAL: We were in Nigeria for 14 months to conduct research on this book and here in America, when you are writing a biography about public people and great personalities-of which Mr. Dangote is one-you want to give your readers as much information as possible and also present a balanced picture of your subject and that was what we did in this book. For your information, I had never been to Nigeria before in my life and this book which took me to Kano, Abuja, Lagos, Kaduna, Jos and Bayelsa , the president's home town was an eye opener for me as an American. As we told Mr. Joseph Makoju, Mr. Oladeinde Brown and others working for Mr. Dangote in Nigeria, we don't need any authorization to write the book. That would compromise our objectivity and so like Dr Moshood said, it is not an “authorized” biography, but an “” authoritative” biography of Mr. Dangote. Of course, we chose Mr. Dangote because he is the richest black person in the world.
QUESTION-What was it like finding a publisher?
MOSHOOD: Do you know this is my fifth book in the United States? The Dangote book is my second co-authored book so getting a publisher for this book was easy. As a matter of fact, we had to reject some agents and publicists from some publishing companies who wanted the contract after they went through our initial manuscript. We have signed contracts with a European publishing outfit to take care of the European book market, in other words, we have the North American edition and European edition, and last week, a publishing company in far-away Hong Kong approached us for proprietary rights. Similarly, we are currently negotiating with a publishing company in South Africa to take care of the South African market. In Germany, a business partner is currently translating the book into German Language and we are translating the book into Hausa, French, Arabic, Spanish, Russian and Swahili Languages.
MARGIE MARIE NEAL: What do you mean by finding publishers? We are Americans. This is not Nigeria where ideas are either shut down or censored. This is the type of books Americans want to read, are you kidding me? God bless America! This is the land of open discourse; no body shuts people down because they don't like what is written about some people. Do you know how many books have been written about our president since 2008 and most of the books are critical of President Obama, but you know what; People read all the books whether complimentary or otherwise about the US president. You don't have that culture in Nigeria. Don't get wrong, I met a lot of nice and friendly people in Nigeria during our field work for this book but you can't do business with a lot of Nigerians. Many of them are like the willow tree that goes here and there with the wind. Many Nigerians cannot be trusted; there is a dearth of integrity and honesty in that country; at least going by the people I met.
-How involved is Dangote in this project? Is it a ghost-writing?
MARGIE MARIE NEAL: Mr. Dangote is not involved and we didn't set out to attract his involvement and as I said, we wanted an objective portrayal of the richest black person in the world to the world that is all. Ghost writing? Oh no, we don't believe in ghosts (laughing)
MOSHOOD FAYEMIWO: Exactly! We are not amanuenses of Mr. Dangote, we are scholars and as two endorsers of the book; professors actually wrote in the book, it is a book they will be recommending for their undergraduate students in the fall of 2012 as a text book in African Studies in the US. Even though we didn't set out to write the book in an academic genre because we want to reach a large audience around the world, academicians and intellectuals know the worth of the book. For example, while we were looking for a way to triangulate the intersections between purely academic, literary and general/journalistic genres for the book, one of our earlier book reviewers suggested we combined the three literary styles by using The New York Times Style Guide and Usage which gives the book an eclectic appeal. A professor can read the book just as a high school student.
-When is the release date? And where will it first be released officially? Do you plan a launch in Nigeria?
MARGIE MARIE NEAL: As far as I know, that is a Nigerian tradition and I found that out during my first visit in 2010. A work of art is supposed to be informative, educative and entertaining as well but beyond that, it should contribute to people's knowledge and awareness of their environment and the personalities that shaped events in that environment. We don't launch books in America the way you do in Nigeria. If you have written a very good book; it will sell itself, period. What writers do here are book signings, interviews and talks.
MOSHOOD FAYEMIWO: Yes Margie is right, book launching in Nigeria devalues scholastic works and as someone with Nigerian background, I am sure writers launch books in Nigeria because of the culture of philistinism pervading the entire Nigerian landscape. Nigerian leaders don't read and many young men and women too do not read because of the debased intellectual ambience in Nigeria. When you tell a publishing firm in America that you want to launch a book, they interpret it to mean book signings, author's talk or interview but in Nigeria, it means assembling rogue politicians, former military tyrants and other shady characters, who are so academically lazy they don't even read the book they have come to launch, which is sad. So to answer your question, we don't launch books. The release date is July 04, 2012 which is our independence anniversary celebrations here in the United States.
-How many pages is it? Is it hard cover or paper back?
MOSHOOD FAYEMIWO: We have 500 pages of the book both in hard cover and paperback. We have editions in other languages as well.
MARGIE MARIE NEAL: (Cuts in) …And we will release the EBook first in a matter of weeks and the Audio version as well.
-How long did it take you to research on the biography?
MOSHOOD FAYEMIWO: We began collecting materials on the biography in 2008 when Aliko Dangote was first listed on the Forbes magazine as the richest black person in the world worth $3.3 billion and we thought it would be a mere flicker in the pan but when he maintained that position for five consecutive years, we knew we must tell the world about him, both the good, the bad and the ugly about the richest man in Nigeria, the richest person in West Africa, the richest African and the richest black person in the world.
MARGIE MARIE NEAL: Actually it started in 2008 as Moshood has said then the real field work and research began in the fall of 2010 when Moshood left here for Nigeria after almost 12 years and in the winter of 2011, I joined Moshood in Nigeria, which was my first trip to Africa. In mid-March, 2011 we both returned back to the US. Moshood returned back to Nigeria again. He was in Nigeria for nearly a year and I joined him in the fall of 2011 again when we traveled to Kano, Jos, Lagos and other places for interviews for the book. So I will say it took us more than 14 months of actual field and research works on the biography. We returned in the winter this year and our publishers were already waiting.
-What is the involvement of the co-author? Did she make visits to Nigeria with you on the project?(Please send a bio of the co-author)?
MARGIE MARIE NEAL: I was involved all along and isn't what a co-author is so-called? (Laughter) SEE THE BIOS OF BOTH AUTHORS BELOW
-Expecting the book to be pictorial, did you have trouble finding pictures? And how did you get them?
MOSHOOD FAYEMIWO: We obtained rare family photographs from our sources in Kano dating back to the 1880s when Mr. Dangote's maternal great grandfather, Alhaji Alhassan Abdullahi Dantata was born, then the other family members of his both sides of his family. Yes, we have photographs that traced the maternal lineage of Dangote family, although we encountered difficulties in finding the photographs of all his previous wives. You know the Dantata family in Kano is an expansive one but we got all their photographs, at least thirty of the large family that Aliko was related to in Kano.
-What was the best part of putting the book together?
MOSHOOD FAYEMIWO: Tracing the origin of Mr. Dangote's wealth and his many business deals with both past and current Nigerian leaders and other African leaders was …
MARGIE MARIE NEAL: (Cuts in). Why can't they wait until the biography is out? You will read more when the book is out.
-What were the challenges faced?
MARGIE MARIE NEAL: As in any biography written by someone else, it's very difficult to be objective when you're writing about other peoples' lives. You know it's also difficult to piece together the different puzzles of another person's life and how they fit together which define the person's life. These were the challenges I faced as a co-author.
MOSHOOD FAYEMIWO: You know I have known Mr. Aliko Dangote for more than 30 years as far back as 1980 when I worked at his uncle's farm, Anadariya Farm in Tiga near Kano. You should also know that I had lived in Kano before and in most part of Northern Nigeria and I hear/speak Hausa Language, kanda kanda, (laughing) and I had a Moslem background but I never knew that one day, Aliko would be celebrated as the first globally-acknowledged richest Nigerian and African and now the richest black person in the world. You know, at a time, few people thought that Aliko was one of the Dantatas and he, as a young man had his own identity crisis because he wanted to be known more as one of the Dantatas than a Dangote but as Destiny and Providence would have it, his achievements have surpassed that of the Dantatas now and any Nigerian for that matter and so the young man who once wrestled with his personality can now stay as a Dangote rather than a Dantata- wannabe. Balancing these different nuances and interlocking trajectories of a 55-year old man were the challenges I faced personally as a co-author of the book as we put the 500-page book into a coherent whole.
-What can you say about Dangote as a person?
MARGIE MARIE NEAL: He is a very rich and savvy business man that is all I can say for now. Read the book.
MOSHOOD FAYEMIWO: You know my co-author is an American but I am a Nigerian-American so if you want my personal opinion, I won't volunteer it now but you know my journalism background while I was a publisher and an editor in Nigeria. But my personal opinion has nothing to do with the biography of Mr. Dangote so what I will say is, you wait until the book is out.
MARGIE MARIE NEAL:- (Cuts in). We are not judging anyone that is not what a well-written biography is supposed to be. We leave that to our readers.
-What kind of information should people expect in the biography?
MOSHOOD FAYEMIWO: Kike, this is a biography for Pete's sake! What does a biographical book contain? When you write about a great personality in a biographical piece, you write EVERYTHING; the good, the bad and the ugly.
MARGIE MARIE NEAL: A good and well-written biography is about the life and time of the person, so all the information people should expect is about the life and time of the richest black person in the world.
-What is the aim of the book? And who are the target audience?
MARGIE MARIE NEAL: Who is this man, this rich Nigerian, rich African and how did he make his money? These are the things people want to know. These and more are what you will read in the biography
MOSHOOD FAYEMIWO: First, this is a work of art which is commended to all. Second, this is a worldwide book that has been endorsed by more than 15 academic professors around the world, from here in the US, the UK, South Africa, Germany, Russia and of course Nigeria. Second, we expect the book to make the New York Times best sellers list and other book retailing outlets in the world. You know, this is my greatest co-authored book in my more than 30-year writing career. What most Nigerians don't know is that, Aliko's achievement is beyond Nigeria. This man is a global personality; he is an industrial icon and you will be amazed at the interest of non-Nigerians and non-Africans alike on this man. It is no mean achievement for a Nigerian to be adjudged by the Forbes magazine as the richest black person in the world. Mr. Ibrahim Al-Moundi would have taken that position but he doesn't claim Ethiopian citizenship and at any rate, only one of his parents is an Ethiopian while his father is Arab so our own Aliko has maintained that distinguished and enviable spot for five consecutive years. That is big news considering the sclerotic corruption going on in Nigeria and the country's reputation around the world as a place for easy money and scams. I will give you an example; we sent a press release out to major universities here in the US few weeks ago and we were surprised at the reception of many African Student's Association and organizations that are interested in inviting us for book signings in their campuses because they are proud that at least, another Wole Soyinka or Chinua Achebe has come out of Nigeria. Even our African-American brothers and sisters here in the United States are elated and want to know about this richest black person in the world. A Jamaican-Irish lady who lives in London was so elated about the book that she is ready to market and sell copies in the UK while three Congress men representing our State of Illinois are ready to endorse the book. Why am I telling you this about the book? So that you will know that Aliko is a larger-than-life personality who is well respected, even more respected than the Nigerian president each time his name is mentioned anywhere in the world. You know why? Because Mr. Dangote is an industrialist who is doing more for the development of Nigeria and Africa than the thieving politicians diminishing Nigeria and Africa. So back to your question; the world is our target audience; and all peoples of the world, of all races; black, white, are interested in this book.
MOSHOOD ADEMOLA FAYEMIWO is a former publisher and editor-in-chief of popular Razor magazine and Evening News in Nigeria between 1992 and 1998. A former reporter with the defunct National Concord newspapers; senior reporter, The Herald newspaper, Ilorin; staff writer, with the defunct New breed magazine; staff writer, Sunday Champion newspapers; special project staff writer, the defunct African Guardian; and senior special project writer/reporter, the defunct Times Week (Daily Times).
Moshood Fayemiwo, a National Scholar Honor Society of America is an alumnus of the University of Lagos, Nigeria (BA-Education); University of South Florida, and State University of New York (SUNY)-Albany where he earned an MA in Mass Communication, MS in Information Science and Combined MA Degree in African-American History & English Studies respectively. His PhD is in Public Administration and Policy. He is author of Who's Who of Africans in USA and three published books in the United States. He was contributing editor for The Informed Constituent newspaper in Albany, New York. He has written for newspapers in Tampa, St Petersburg in Florida, New York and has authored academic articles for scholarly journals in the United States and the UK.
He is a member of several professional organizations including the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and National Association of Black Journalists (NBAJ) among several others. Listed in Stanford Who's Who and Worldwide Who's Who, He is a writer, author, commentator on local and international events and a businessman. He is the managing director of Alternative Lifestyle Communication, Inc, and lives in Chicago in the United States of America.
MARGIE MARIE NEAL is a former university professor, an education consultant, and a reading coach/classroom teacher with the Chicago Area School System in Illinois, United States. A graduate of State University of New York (SUNY)-Brockport, where she earned her BS in History, MS in Reading from Chicago State University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she earned her Ed.D –Doctorate in Educational Leadership. She was formerly, president, Chicago Area Reading Association (CARA), Phil Delta Kappan and committee member, International Reading Association, United States. She is a member of several professional organizations on reading and educational development in the USA. Member, Illinois Reading Council of the Obama Reading Award, and Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. She is the president of Alternative Lifestyle Communication Inc., Chicago, and lives in Chicago in the United States of America.
This interview was conducted by City People's Kikelomo Iwajomo with the authors of ALIKO MOHAMMAD DANGOTE, THE BIOGRAPHY OF THE RICHEST BLACK PERSON IN THE WORLD