Nigeria’s first millionaire

Candido da Rocha

Believed to be Nigeria’s First Millionaire, Candido da Rocha (1860–1959) was so rich that he frequently sent his dirty clothes from Lagos to be washed by a laundry man in the United Kingdom.

Da Rocha was a rich entrepreneur, businessman, landowner and creditor who owned Water House or Casa d’Agua on Kakawa Street, Lagos Island, Lagos. It was named Water House because it was the first and only house in Lagos in those days to have a borehole and in turn sell water to the residents.

Candido Da Rocha, a native of Ilesha, present-day Osun State, was born to the family of Joao Esan Da Rocha, who was captured as a slave when he was 10 years old on his way to school in Ilesha. Candido was born in the Bahia region of Brazil. His mother was Angelica Josephina Da Rocha. His father returned to Lagos, Nigeria in the 1870s where he built his wealth and passed it to his son, Candido.

Due to his wealth, his friend, Herbert Macaulay (1864–1946) nominated him as a candidate in one of the elections of the time. And when Da Rocha met the electorate, he told them:

“I am Candido da Rocha, your candidate for the House. Vote for me if you like. And if you don’t, all well and good.”

That statement ended his sojourn in politics as he lost the elections by acquiring just 20 votes.

Indeed, Da Rocha was a very modest and generous capitalist.

During the Second World War (1939–1945), when the authorities of Kings College were looking 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 gynaecologists; Adenekan Ademola, son of Nigeria’s first indigenous Chief Justice, Adetokunbo Ademola; Dapo Aderemi, son of Sir Adesoji Aderemi, the legendary Ooni of Ile-Ife – Da Rocha volunteered his Bonanza Hotel on Customs Street, Lagos, and did not collect a dime for the period it was used.

Even after the war, when the colonial government asked influential Nigerians to contribute to the rehabilitation fund, Da Rocha made substantial donations and he instructed that the amount should not be disclosed to the public.

Despite his wealth and political clout, no major street nor monument is named after him in Lagos. Candido da Rocha died at the ripe old age of 99 in 1959 and he was buried at the Ikoyi Cemetery. #HistoryVille

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