Candido Da Rocha: Meet The Nigeria's First Millionaire Who Sent His Dirty Clothes To Britain For Laundry

Candido Da Rocha was born in 1860 in Brazil and was the son of Joan Esan Da Rocha.

At the age of 10, Senior Da Rocha who happened to be from Yoruba sub-group Ilesha, (South Western Nigeria) was caught and sold into slavery in Brazil, this was in 1840.

After getting back his freedom, Esan returned to Nigeria in 1871 when most of the freed slaves in Brazil trailed their roots back to the Yoruba tribe Ilesha.

Esan started a business empire when he came back to Nigeria. The report has it that he bought two houses in Lagos – the popular Water house and one other.

The Torch Bearers or Old Brazilian Colony confirmed that Esan was a very rich merchant.

Candido Da Rocha, who was born in Brazil spoke just two languages (Portuguese and Ilesha).

When Candido Da Rocha returned to Nigeria, he attended CMS Grammer School with some popular Nigerians like Olayinka Herbert Samuel Heelas Badmus Macaulay, who was a Nigerian nationalist, politician, surveyor, engineer, architect, journalist, and singer and is called by many Nigerians as the founder of Nigerian nationalism.

After the demise of Senior Da Rocha on December 31, 1891, Candido continued the administration of his father’s estates. This was in 1893 at the age of 25.

According to reports, He grew his father’s business after taking control of it into a big empire.

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Candido started a water business that served the whole of Lagos in the 20s. The colonial administrators were reported to be paying Da Rocha for the water supply to Lagos State and also because his house built the first borehole and water fountain.

He made a lot of good money from the water business. However, his first real “limelight” came in 1894 when a British gold prospector sold gold bars worthing the sum of £6,000 to him.

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Candido Da Rocha: Meet The Nigeria's First Millionaire Who Sent His Dirty Clothes To Britain For Laundry

Multiple reports say Candido transformed the gold bars into gold dust and sold it to the goldsmiths, having a profit of 200%.

He collaborated with J.H Doherty and Sedu Williams in 1907 to set up Lagos Native Bank. The bank was reported to have given other notable banks a comfortable competition until Candido was scammed.

Despite that, He still went further to establish the Lagos Finance Company which lent out money to people.

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In an interview with The Punch in 2017, Angelica Oyediran, granddaughter of Candido Da Rocha said that:

“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 learned 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 dozen shirts, five dozens vests, five dozens pants, and everything they could afford.”

Even though Candido was not officially married, he still had three women who also had children for him – a son and four daughters.

In 1920, He had a serious disagreement with Alexander and never saw again till he died.

Alexander later relocated to Ghana to be with his mother after the fall. This explains why there is a noticeable presence of the Da Rocha family today in Ghana.

The popular Lagos businessman later died in 1959 and was buried at Ikoyi Cemetery.




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