“My experience in the City that stole my heart. Kano tunbingiwa Kode maakazo anfika”
For over 25 years, I have been reading about different powerful industrialists, notable billionaires who have set the antecedent for what has today become a linage of generational wealth. A special breed of individuals who rose to the challenge of creating vast social-economic impacts while providing jobs for an astounding number of families worldwide.
From the ancestral linage of Madugu Abdullahi, the first generation of the ‘Dantata Dynasty’, to his son Alhaji Alhassan Dantata, including Alhaji Aminu Dantata (uncle to the richest black man in the world, Alhaji Aliko Dangote), a common attribute among these affluent family members is the level of tenacity they apply to their visions and their belief in the principle of generosity. One will most likely conclude that they all derive tremendous pleasure from giving.
All from the humble origin of Kano State, a city that has produced the highest number of billionaires in Nigeria, the center of commerce that pulses in a continuous cacophony of noise and economic activities, where the smallest boy in Sabon Gari has mastered the rudiments of trade while teaching adults how to turn their one naira into two naira, a justifiable reason why this big city is referred to as “Kano ta Dabo tunbingiwa Kode maakazo anfika ” (Kano, the city of Dabo, the Elephant’s belly, whatever you are up to, you will more than meet your match.
As part of my itinerary to pay a visit to the iconic city of Kano and also to discuss other business opportunities with the Deputy Governor of the state, I flew with an entourage of His Royal Majesty Alh. Aminu Ado Bayero, my royal father and mentor, who never stops commanding the respect and adoration of the people of Kano. On the flight, people couldn’t stop coming to say Rankadede to him, and in the most humble way, he accepted their greetings through a show of humility in the presence of royalty.
I was also excited to have come in contact with my venture mentor and friend, Dahiru Mangal, the founder and CEO of Max Air, as his business interests across different sectors is what inspire me as an entrepreneur. It was really an honor to have flown with people of such caliber.
After a very smooth trip on Max Air with a host of amazing hospitality, upon arrival at the city of commerce, I called my very good friend Honourable Bashir, who was on ground to receive us at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport. We met a team of people with all shades of paparazzi skills and received a beautiful reception from the Kanawas as we exchanged pleasantries.
I was amazed and honored that even in Kano, a high number of people recognise the feats of achievement Sujimoto has accomplished in the real estate sector. While the airport staff, including cleaners, approached me to take selfie images, I couldn’t forget this young airport assistant called Aisha, a graduate of architecture from Bayero University, who mentioned to me how eager she is to work with Sujimoto Group, as she has been studying the growth of the brand over the years. I have assured her that we will contact her immediately we extend our footprint to Kano State, where she can work and learn about the vision of architecture in the 21st century.
A visit to the Patriarch of the Dantata Dynasty
One of the reasons why I was so excited about this trip was my plan to visit the 92-year old Alhaji Aminu Dantata (uncle to Aliko Dangote) to gather some wealth of knowledge and blessings from the enviable legacy of the iconic stateman. I reached out to my big brother and friend, ‘bros T.J.” Tajudeen Dantata (Chairman of Dantata Conglomerate), who is also the son of Alhaji Aminu Dantata, and we paid a courtesy visit to the astute technocrat and businessman, Alhaji Aminu Dantata, at his Koki residence in Kano.
A drive through the bustling metropolis of Kano will invite you to buy or sell from its numerous markets, with streets and alleyways filled with descriptions. It is evident that the spirit of commerce and great business-minded individuals dwell here.
It was a sunny Friday Jummah, and as we approached the house of Aminu Dantata, one of the greatest philanthropists in Nigeria, we met the presence of over 300 people outside the residence of the Elder Statesman. Apparently, every day for the past 50 years, hundreds of people have come to pay homage to him and eat at his residence, making the Koki Quarters just like their own local Mecca.
Dressed in his trademark white babban riga with matching white cap and a pair of socks, sartorially relaxed while sitting on a golden-colored settee in a big room, Alhaji Dantata spoke proudly of the “laudable projects” they oversaw during their time in government through his combination of native intelligence, wit, and business acumen.
Throughout our chat, Alhaji Dantata would often expertly quote bits of religious teachings to support his conclusions on some issues. He expressed how happy he was to have received us. In his words, “Thank God you came before I left”, he also bestowed his prayers and blessings on me, which within his presence felt like a touch of Jesus Christ’s garment.
It is crystal clear that the nonagenarian has touched several lives and institutions with his generosity and acts of munificence. He is noted for his several acts of charity, which have helped turn several hopeless situations into joy and happiness for a lot of people.
Today, Alhaji Aminu Dantata bestrides the business firmament like a giant iroko tree, and even the President elect Ahmed Bola Tinubu bows before ‘the northern Don,” – the Chairman of the Dantata Organization Limited, whose precursor was Alhassan Dantata and Sons, an institution that is practically inseparable from the country’s own economic evolution.
No doubt, the commercial and industrial progress of Kano State and Nigeria will not be complete without the mention of the Dantatas. Wherever the name Dantata is mentioned, it conjures industrialists, lands, and businesses, reminding us of the image of tons of money cascading and colliding to form the famous groundnut pyramids of Kano. A clan that has gone from being a simple kolanut trader to a dynasty that sits atop various sectors with companies worth billions of dollars across the world.
I also visited a very good friend of mine, Engineer Abubakar, who is also a real estate professional. I couldn’t help but marvel at the architectural prowess of the northerners. Kano people love compounds, no matter how small their houses are. The northerner derives a sense of pride in the capacity to own a home in his own compound, popularly called ‘Zaure’, an age-long lobby designed for privacy and the Islamic culture to receive guests or visitors.
As part of Sujimoto’s plan to diversify into other major economic sectors, including agriculture, we also visited Gerawa Rice Mill, one of the biggest plants that currently produces a capacity of 16tonnes of rice per hour. although plans are underway for setting up an automated plant to drive more efficiency to produce 24tonne/hour. What I realized was that 95% of the workers at the plant are Nigerians—over 5000 amazing and high-grade workers who have garnered the vast experience of operating a standard mill.
Alhaji Isa Muhammed Gerawa is an inspiring story of a young Almajiri boy who created a business empire spawned out of humility and sheer hard work to become the Chairman of Gerawa Group of Companies, also owning one of the most integrated oil mills, a wholly indigenous plant expanding the soybean processing and vegetable oil production in Kano with a production capacity of 1,200-tonnes-per-day / about 400,000 tonnes-per-year.
Equipped with world-class facilities, one thing I also noticed was that the Gerawa Mills are focused on high-quality materials and machinery, as some of their plants are directly from the stables of the same Rolls Royce manufacturers.
Still in the warm company of my very good friend and astute leader, Hon. Abdul Bashir, we also visited Honourable Ahmed Rabiu, the Managing Director of Kano Inland Port, an automated port service that helps manufacturers, importers, and exporters create a centralized system where items can arrive and go back without hassles. Their mission is to ensure that containers at the port don’t last more than 24 hours.
When you look at great people doing innovative things, you are inspired to create more opportunities for society, which, most importantly, will help accelerate the growth of the economy.
This is an integral part of our quest at Sujimoto to continue to explore more opportunities while creating businesses that will provide jobs to millions of Nigerians, cutting across the real estate sector, agriculture, FMCG, tech, and retail.
During my visit, I also had an extensive conversation with the Chairman of A.Y. Mai Kifi Oil and Gas Company, Alhaji Adamu Yahaya Mai Alhaji Mai Kifi, the fish seller, as we discussed the opportunity for Sujimoto’s expansion to cover the northern region while extending a footprint to Kano.
Before departing the beautiful city of Kano, we also attended a dinner with the deputy governor, Dr. Nasir Yusuf Gawuna, after which we proceeded to an event where Alhaji Kabiru Bayero (the Emir of Kano’s brother) bagged the chieftaincy title of Dan Turaki’n Kano. The occasion, which had many government officials in attendance, was a portrayal of the fine heritage of the Hausa Royalty, the alluring beauty of the women, and the rich culture of the city of commerce.
The entrepreneurial spirit in Kano is worthy of emulation, for it resonates across all the spectrums of the state, not forgetting the Almajiris, who throw away their begging plates to earn a place in society.
Dr. Olasijibomi Ogundele is the Managing Director of Sujimoto Group, the Czar of Luxury Real Estate Development, and the mastermind developer behind the renowned Giuliano. Our other audacious projects, such as; the most sophisticated building in Banana Island, LucreziaBySujimoto, the grandiose Sujimoto Twin Tower, -the tallest twin towers in Africa; the regal Queen Amina by Sujimoto, a monument to royal affluence; the magnificent high-rise LeonardoBySujimoto; Nigeria’s No. 1 most affordable luxury housing – Ìlú Titun, and Africa’s most exclusive waterfront townhouses GiovanniBySujimoto, some of which have etched an indelible imprint on Nigeria’s skylines, a testament to their unrivalled mastery of modern day engineering.