Thursday 6 June 2024


Yoruba and Nigeria's first millonnaire. The life of Candido da Rocha is a complex read.

He was an entrepreneur whose activities did not follow the trend of popular economic theories. He was a celebrated capitalist, with property and estates running into billions of naira.

He was a businessman with old-fashioned-idiosyncrasies, yet he accumulated properties in every nook and cranny of Lagos. He had no apologies for being rich, and enjoyed showing off. One of his habits, according to one of his grand-daughters, Chief (Mrs) Yewande Oyediran, was throwing coins to children from the balcony of his one-storey building – christened ‘Casa d’Agua’ in English ‘Water House’ – at Kakawa street.

Candido da Rocha was arrogant and ostentatious; at the same time he was not one who played to the popular masses. He was rarely seen in public. When he was nominated as a candidate for an election by his bosom friend Herbert Macaulay, he began his address to the party faithful thus: “I am Candido da Rocha, your candidate into the House, vote for me if you like, and if you don’t, all well and good.” Immediately after the ‘speech’ he vanished. He did not need their votes and therefore he did not get them. The people of Lagos ‘dashed’ him some 20 votes.

while in captivity in Brazil:

The adoption was to demonstrate his emotional attachment to his master and possibly a way of expressing his desire to identify with the name that had brought him some fame and luck. Although Candido was born in Brazil in 1869, his father never stopped dreaming of taking him and all his children back to their homeland in West Africa. However by the time John Esan found his way back to ‘Nigeria’, he did not go back to Ilesha. He decided to integrate his family into the new settlement that was taking shape in Lagos.

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