DA ROCHA Candido




The Generous Capitalist by(Dapo Thomas). The life of Candido da Rocha is a complex read. He was an entrepreneur whose ac tivities did not follow the trend of popular economic theories. He was a celebrated capitalist, with property and estates running into bil lions of naira. He was a businessman with old-fash ioned idiosyncracies, yet he accumulated properties in every nook and cranny of Lagos. He had no apolo gies 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 build ing, - 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 faithfuls 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." Imme diately 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 some analysts believe that Da Rocha's at titude at the rally was audacious, Mrs. Oyediran disa greed: "No, Papa was not a very proud fellow. He surely did not mean it the way people had interpreted it. He was only saying that judging from his back ground as a serviceman, a man who had shown so much interest in the welfare of the people, the peo ple should vote for him. Papa was a very modest man." Indeed, Da Rocha was a very modest and gener ous capitalist. During the Second World War, when the authorities of King's College were jooking for a place to relocate the students in the boarding house - among whom were Tiamiyu Bello-Osagie, who would become one of Nigeria's most celebrated gy naecologist; Adenekan Ademola, son of Nigeria's first indigenous Chief Justice, Adetokunbo Ademola; Dapo Aderemi, son of Sir Adesoji Aderemi, the leg endary Ooni of Ife; - da Rocha volunteered his Bo nanza Hotel on Customs Street, Lagos, and did not collect a dime for the period it was used. Even after the war, when government asked influential Nigeri ans to contribute to the rehabilitation fund, he made substantial donations and he instructed that the amount should not be disclosed to the public. Because of his wealth, a lot of people assumed that he built the 'Water House' where he lived most of his life. The house, which even by the standards of modern architecture, stands out as a formidable edifice, was built by his father, Esan. The structure is fortified by massive pillars, reminiscent ofthe pil lars of Gibraltar; and it can compete favourably with ancient temples and synagogues. It is a masterpiece with some figurative decora'tions symbolic of: the hardwork of the past; the honesty of ancient man; the affordability of things; the vision of a peaceful man; the quality of things of old; the opulence of a blessed man; a lesson for the moderm man; and a monument of virtue. A reconstruction of da Rocha's history shows that his family was originally from Ilesha. His father, John Esan, adopted the name da Rocha while in captivity in Brazil. The adoption was to demonstrate his emo tional 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 'Nigeria1, he did not go back to Ilesha. He decided to integrate his family into the new settlement that was taking shape in Lagos. Together with other settlers and returnees from Brazil, they led a delegation to the representative of the Queen of England, who was the symbolic head of the colonial administration. They requested for parcels of land on which they could settle so that they, too, could start to contrib ute their own quota to the economic growth of La gos colony. Their request was granted. They were given an expanse of land in present day Lagos which stretches from the Central Bank to Moloney Street. The area -was christened Popo Aguda (Brazilian Quarters) and it became the settlement for the returnees and their families. Some names of other notable returnees include: Agusto, Rodrigues, Vaughan, da Rocha, Salvador, the Pereiras, Pedro, da Silva and Gomez. On the two plots allocated to Esan da Rocha on Kakawa Street he built the 'Water House'. On his death, Candido, the eldest son, moved into the house. It was saidthathepaid offhisothersiblings before takingover the entire complex. Thefirstborehole inLagos, fittedwithanmported ironmechanism to pumpupwater,was installed in the da Rocha house. People in the neighbourhood came to fetch water. He sold waterto some, to oth ershegavefree. From thecommercialization ofthis essentialcommodity,da Rochamadeaconsiderable percentage of hiswealth. Apart from sellingwater, Candido da Rocha operated a small shop at 12 Kakawa Street where he traded in general merchan dise whichincludedgoldbrass,golddust, imported shoes, brass fittings, textiles, andjewellery. He ex ported kolanuts, alligator pepper, bitterkolaand adire tye-and-dye toBrazil.Withtheprofit from histrade, he embarked on a number of capital projects. He also saw the value ofowning property, and report edlyacquiredlargetractsoflandin Lagos, especially on Broad Street, the Marina, Customs Street and Agege. The Agege land alone was over 55 acres, on whichstands a historicone-storeybuilding,the first of its kind. He built it as a relaxation hide-out when ever he went to farm, and to possibly make himself elusive to the throng ofhumanity loafingaround his Kakawa residence. Candido da Rochadid his banking in style. Sto ries with respect to his banking activities are woven in myths. What is real, however, is that he operated some accounts with the then Standard Bank ofNi geria, Marina, and Barclays Bank. He was reputed to be the most affluent depositor in both banks. It waspopularlybelievedthen,thatda Rocha'saccounts formed up to 80 per cent ofthe total deposits in the banks of all customers. His massive fortune earned him a large measure ofrespect and fear. One popu lar story which indicates the awe inwhich da Rocha was held goes thus: on a certain day, da Rocha went to the bank and joined other people on the queue. All ofa sudden, one ChiefJ. A. Ajao emerged from nowhere and dashed to the front of the line. The cash ier wasaboutto attendto him, when da Rochaflared up and threatened to close his account with the bank -National Bank, Marina. It was Ajao himselfwho tendered effusive apologies to da Rocha for his misdeamenour with the excuse that he never knew that 'a whole da Rocha was on the queue'. Mrs. Oyediran, by his daughter, believesthat this story was invented the British, although she wastoo youngat thetimethe incidentwas to have occurred, to confirm its veracity. She, however, stated that ei ther this particular episode or another similar inci dent caused the British to scamperto 'Water House' to tender an apology to da Rocha. This action was enough to send a signal to the public that 'da Rocha was annoyed' with the bank and had threatened to withdraw his money. Another account has it that da Rocha was in the habit oftaking a stroll toStandard Bank (now First Bank), every evening. On such occasions, he would go into the banking hall and have a short rest before returning tohishouse. Such outings kept thegossip mills rolling with thetalesofda Rocha goingtothe bank to threaten them with the withdrawal ofhis huge deposits which would have led toa monetary crisis in the bank. Despite allthemythsabouthis inviolability, da Rocha remained averymodestman.Heoncereacted to the claim that he was a millionaire in an unassum ingtone: "Don't mind theseLagos people. Theyare a poorpeople. When youhave2000pounds in La gos,youarecalleda millionaire. When you have a fewshillings,they say you are a rich man ... 1can tellyouthat Iam nota millionairebutGod hadonly blessed me because Iknow that only a very few peo ple in myclass have the money I have ... ." Da Rocha's flamboyance, and material wealth seemedto overshadow the religious qualities ofthe man. This does not suggest, however, that he was notreligious. Hewas a RomanCatholic; his parents were Roman Catholics. Most of his friends were Catholics: The Rodrigues*, the Pereiras, the Gomezs and the Sapara Williams. Indeed, he was active in the church. He practically financed the construction of about three prominent churches in Lagos. Nevertheless, despite his legendaryexploitsand his fabulous wealth; despite his father's pioneering efforts in the resettlement ofthe returnees in Popo Aguda; despite Candido da Rocha's overwhelming presence in the whole ofLagos and Agege; despite his imposing statureand intimidatingachievements; despite his magnanimity to the people ofLagos, to the college that he gave his building free ofcharge, to the government that he gave a huge amount for the rehabilitation ofWorld War II veterans; despite his sponsorship ofquite a number ofLagosians to school, and despite the numerous good things that hedid forthe development ofLagos; there isno sin gle street named after him on Lagos Island in par ticular and Lagos State in general. This, however, should not be a measure of his achievement. Indeed, da Rocha had so much land, that he could have named a dozen streets after him selfif, he had wanted tos His life was a symbol of contentment. Although he was not a self-mademan, heinheriteda largefortunefromhisfather,heworked hard to sustain the fame associated with the family. Da Rocha was a legend in his own time; his wealth was beyond the imagination ofthe common man, and this has given rise to a lot ofspeculation on how he could have possibly amassed such a vast fortune. However, as da Rocha himself has suggested, perhaps, he was not so rich as everyone believed, but in comparison with the masses around him who were very poor, he looked fabulously wealthy.
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