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ThrowBack: Candido Da Rocha,First Nigerian Millionaire Was An Entrepreneur

Its Thursday and we are updating you about Candido Da Rocha, a man referenced as the first Nigerian millionaire who lived from 1860 to 1959.

Da Rocha was a serial businessman. He invested in landed properties and was a creditor. He owned Water House on Kakawa Street, Lagos Island. He also owned the inoperative Bonanza Hotel in Lagos.

Da Rocha, a native of Ilesha, who died at age 100 was born to the family of  Esan Da Rocha. His father was 10 years old when he was captured as a slave in 1840 (Circa). He was shipped to Brazil where young Da Rocha was born.

When his father, Esan Da Rocha regained freedom, he came back to Nigeria. On reaching Lagos, he approached Queen Victoria for a space for him and the freed for settlement in Lagos. They were given an area between the Central Bank of Nigeria on Broad Street up to Kam Salem. He built his water house around this region.

After Esan died, young Da Rocha, took over his father’s empire and expanded it to a multi-million one. The beginning of their family wealth was ascribed to a gold deal with an English merchant. It is reported that young Da Rocha never dabbled into politics. Although, he supported his politician friends.

Speaking on his generosity, his 99-year old grand daughter was reported to have said-

“Candido Da Rocha was quite close to the British and the western world then. He was highly respected and highly disciplined. He didn’t like dishonesty and lying. I stayed with him in this house for about three years when my mother moved in here to look after him. I was very close to him. He loved me and I was very fond of him. I learnt a lot from him. During the Second World War, Da Rocha offered one of his properties, Bonanza Hotel, to the British government to protect some Nigerian students at King’s College, who were initially in a boarding house at Race Course.

The school was run there until the war was over. Among his close friends was Herbert Macaulay. Da Rocha refused to be a politician. When he was nominated to contest an election and people approached him requesting money to support his electioneering, he said, ‘If you want Da Rocha you vote for him, and if you want Da Rocha’s money don’t vote for me.’ Twice, when Macaulay was arrested by the British colonial government for speaking out against them, Da Rocha paid (a fine) on his behalf to prevent Macaulay from going to jail and warned that he would not come to his rescue the third time. Da Rocha was a staunch catholic. He respected God. He was very rich – he was a millionaire in those days and very generous. The elite in those days sent their dirty clothes to Britain for laundry. The Da Rochas, Johnsons, Dohertys and the Olowus, were foremost wealthy people. They didn’t wash their clothes in Nigeria. They sent them abroad for laundry. Some of them had about five dozens shirts, five dozens vests, five dozens pants, and everything they could afford.”

Candido attended CMS Grammar School, Lagos where he was peers with Isaac Oluwole and Herbert Macaulay.

Candido is the brother of Moses Da Rocha, one of the earliest Western-trained Nigerian doctors. He lived in Water House on Kakawa Street, Lagos, a house built by his father. The home was revered  in literature by a novel, The Water House, written by Antonio Olinto. The house had a borehole and the first water fountain in Lagos Island; water was sold from his house to consumers.

Some of his business interests included a restaurant called The Restaurant Da Rocha and Sierra Leone Deep Sea Fishing Industries Ltd. He collaborated with Lagos businessmen J. H. Doherty and Sedu Williams on a money lending business established under the name of the Lagos Native Bank.

Candido was a founding member of the Lagos auxiliary to the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines Right Society which was headed by James Johnson and had Samuel Pearse and Sapara Williams as members.

Although, there were no Rolls Royce then, Candido was reported to have moved in his fancy horse chariot.

He died in 1959 and was buried at Ikoyi Cemetery. Among his children were Alexander Da Rocha, Adenike Afodu, Angelica Folashade Thomas and Louissa Turton.


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