Nigerian Millionaires Embrace Polo
May. 23 2011 - 12:14 pm |
Lagos, Nigeria-Extremely wealthy folks often have to deal with a major predicament: How to subtly demonstrate their pre-eminence and superiority over the merely rich.
It’s a serious problem. These days, so many new millionaires are springing up. Just about anyone with a high-flying executive job and a decent monthly income can afford all the trappings of wealth- from new BMWs to country club memberships, first-class trips around the world, and a cozy home fueled by an alternative energy source, complete with a butler at the front door.
These upper middle-class folks are enjoying what used to be the exclusive preserve of the very wealthy. Irritated, Nigeria’s wealthiest have upped the ante. Rather than fly first class in commercial airlines, they’ve taken to chartering airplanes, while some have even acquired their own private jets. Rather than driving to work and encountering the frustrating traffic of the metropolis, a few of them actually fly helicopters to and from work. And rather than sit down in front of the television and loudly cheer for their soccer teams like you and I do, these ridiculously affluent people have taken fancy to an exclusive, different kind of sport- polo.
Yes, polo is the new favorite pastime for Nigeria’s wealthiest folks. And no, the upper middle-classes cannot easily afford it.
Some of Nigeria’s wealthiest individuals are setting up their own polo teams, and becoming patrons of the beautiful sport.
Often referred to as the ‘Sport of Kings’, polo is a seriously expensive game. The horse is critical to success, and since local ponies are not flexible enough, most Nigerian polo patrons usually prefer to import their horses from Argentina- widely considered the home of polo. The importation of Argentine ponies – believed to be the best suited for the game, costs a tidy fortune. Some patrons pay as much as $30,000 for a pony, and they tend to have as many as 15 ponies in their kitty for their teams. They also have to bear costs of salaries for two or three high handicap players, grooms, trainers, vets and fitness experts. The entire kit of the polo player- the helmets, sticks, gloves and boots also cost quite a bit.
Today, leaders and titans of Nigeria’s industry have spearheaded the movement. The Nigerian polo circuit is gaining a newly found popularity, and the Lagos Polo Club – the premier polo club in the country – is usually brimming with the crème de la crème of eager enthusiasts. It is now the unofficial social spot for Nigeria’s most affluent individuals. For those who are not skilled enough to play, you must be rich enough to be let in. Membership of the club is extremely exclusive-almost like a high-end secret society. Successful business tycoons, idle trust fund babies and wealthy, paranoid heiresses searching for true love all throng to the club in much the same way fanatical Christians flock to the church.
But polo is not new to Nigeria. The game was birthed in the country in 1930 with the formation of the Lagos Polo Club, which, set on an old British Army Parade ground, served as an entertainment hotspot for colonial officials who had previously played the sport in England. The only Nigerians who were ever spotted in the club were the groomsmen and other servants.
Nigerians started picking up the game in 1958 when Dr. Oladele da Rochas Afoda, a prominent businessman, became the first Nigerian member of the club. Before long, several of the country’s industrial elites became drawn to, and embraced the game. The game enjoyed modest popularity among successful people ever since then, but its recent attractiveness to Nigeria’s richest class is unprecedented.
Who exactly is playing? Here are some of the leading lights of Nigerian polo:
The Polo Patrons
Easily Nigeria’s most revered high-goal Polo patron, Sayyu Dantata is a half-brother to Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote. Sayyu heads MRS Holdings, a leading West-African oil marketing firm which acquired Chevron-Texaco’s downstream assets in 2007. At the moment, Sayyu Dantata ranks as one of the best Polo players in the country with a handicap of +5. He sponsors the MRS Polo club.
A wealthy oil trader, Mustapha is the CEO of Linetrale, a leading petroleum products supplier in Nigeria. His company, Linetrale has a working partnership with French commodities giant, Trafigura. He is the patron of the Linetrale/Trafigura Polo team which recently won the MTN Polo championship in Nigeria. The MTN Polo championship is the highest ranking Polo tournament in the country.
Bode & Rotimi Makanjuola
The two silver spoon brothers are heirs to the Caverton Group, a $1 billion Nigerian conglomerate with operations in gas distribution, offshore support vessels and aviation services. The brothers are the patrons of the Caverton Polo team. Their father, Remi Makanjuola, ranks as one of Nigeria’s wealthiest businessmen. Bode and Rotimi are patrons of the Caverton Polo club.
Selected by the World Economic Forum as a Global Young Leader in 2007, Kola Karim is one of the most popular Polo players in Nigeria. At 41, he is the CEO of Shoreline Energy group, one of Nigeria’s most storied conglomerates with interests in everything from construction to oil servicing and trading. He is one of the low-handicap patrons, ranking at -1. He sponsors the Shoreline Polo club.