As the saying goes there is a time to live and there is also a time to leave! Such is the story of every human being. When I received the sad news of the passing away of a dear friend and boss, it was to say the least, devastating, painful and indeed extremely difficult to come to terms with. However, as Muslims, we say From Him; Allah, we all came from and to Him we shall all return! I also remembered the adage stated above.
It was in 1987 while working with a Merchant Bank I came to know Alhaji Sani Dangote as a customer of the Bank. Himself and his two brothers; Alhaji Aliko and late Alhaji Bello were running the then family business and were coming to transact businesses with the bank. As a young banker, I was saddled with the responsibilities of managing the relationship as an Account Officer.
The relationship between the bank and the customers, involved funding of imports and exports. Export of Cocoa, Gum Arabic, Cotton Lint etc and Imports of items such as Sugar, Flour, Salt etc. It was an excellent relationship as the customer was regular in timely repayment of facilities extended. Businesses were expanding and the relationship became even more personal beyond Banker, customer relationship.
Sani Gote as he was fondly called by friends and associates would come to the bank, full of energy, dynamism and passion. He made meticulous presentation of transactions requiring either financial support or simply advise. In most instances we seldom had little, very little indeed to add to the ideas and thought processes brought by Alhaji Sani. The level of intellectual pedigree, the researching of materials on subject matter and the support documents usually prepared and submitted by Alhaji Sani amazed many.
Sani, although by any standards a silver spoon personality, moved about and around with gentility, humbleness and esteem. Sani moved with grace, poise, humility and dignity. Yet he would greet everyone he came across irrespective of age or knowledge of the person. He would wave or say hello to all persons even those he did not know, if he came across them on his way! Pomposity? Nope, Never, certainly not from Sani Gote. Even his enemies, if at all he had any would attest to this fact. Sani could not walk into any gathering without being noticed despite being quiet, humble and soft spoken. The aura and the magnificence of the way he walked gave one the chance to see class, taste, opulence and quintessence in the man Sani. Sani electrified any environment with his appearance. Honestly even Presidents respected Sani and this was God given!
Alhaji Sani, a devout Muslim, consummate family man, bridge builder, a glue that stitches ties and a peace maker at all times never engaged in any unnecessary arguments. You would have discussions with Sani but not arguments. He would insist on his view point with reasons and never yield ground until you saw reasons with his position. Such was Alhaji Sani’s way of life. Often times in the face of superior position of facts, he yielded only after sufficiently being convinced about reasons adduced. His ways of reasoning can best be described as that of an inquisitive researcher or natural/pure science expert. Methodological, persuasive, somewhat an introvert of a sort, Sani seldom raised his voice, kind hearted and tolerant, extremely tolerant indeed. I can claim to be one of the few subordinates of Alhaji Sani that he listened to often. I had a measure of influence on him as my suggestions were almost always considered by him. Sometimes even against his wish because of the respect I earned from him over the years.
We related extremely well, were fairly close while I was with the bank and even after I left banking. A transaction that brought us even closer was while with the bank I was assigned the responsibility to sell a delinquent asset(a textile factory) and I suggested to the family to buy the textile company located in Kano that was distressed. After several efforts to convince the brother Alhaji Aliko Dangote to buy the company(he was happy with his trading business then!) and venture into Industrial Production, the family agreed to buy the plant which signalled their foray into the manufacturing business. Alhaji Aliko; the elder brother and Zion of the business empire, left the running of the textile firm to Alhaji Sani and he would come regularly for one thing or another from the bank. This transaction and the running of the textile factory brought us so close that we were seeing each other almost daily! We were visiting Kano regularly and this afforded us an opportunity to visit his mum often together and as such I became an “adopted member” of the family.
Somehow, in 2002 after several efforts to get me to work for their company, I agreed to work for the Dangote Group. He was elated and happy that although I had not joined them earlier on, after a couple of offers either in the company or in Liberty Bank, a bank they used own, I finally join the family to add my bit to the development of an African giant.
Few years after joining the Group, there was a need to post me to his office as Special Adviser/Assistance. While in that capacity, I helped raise funds to set up Dansa Juice, Alsan Insurance Brokerage Company and a host of other factories. I also enjoyed his benevolence as Alhaji Sani made me a Member of the Board of Directors of some of these companies, such as Alsan Insurance Brokers, Nasal Insurance etc.
Alhaji Sani, a true Nigerian, detribalised, international and intercontinental, touched several lives by his ways of dealing with individuals. Sani was always ready to help, he listened to people, offered alternative solutions and views, interrogated issues and formed opinion. Sani intervened in matters relating to family, business, government and anything that was brought to his attention.
When it came to loyalty, respect and obedience, Alhaji Sani was a shining example and a role model. He respected elders and the level of obedience he gave may not be common these days, even among our children. He was unashamedly proud to flaunt and speak about his obedience and loyalty to his elders, even at public functions. Sani did speak truth to power whenever there was a need to so do! To family members and friends, Sani was loyal to a fault. He provides support, assistance and accommodation whenever and wherever possible and, or requested. Sometimes even at his discomfort. Sani could hand deliver a business idea he conceived, nurtured and developed to a relation and move on without any ill feelings. In fact Sani was an encyclopedia of business ideas! He could allow a family member to take his staff without rancor or any acrimony because he cherished family bond. In all these, Sani would neither look back or expect anything in return from the relation! He often interceded between persons(workplace colleagues) and his brothers (particularly the younger ones), or amongst family members because of the respect he commanded within the family, as a result of being just, fair and equitable. He had listening ears to all, powerful, mighty and the not so mighty or powerful as long you had the chance to meet him. Sani could be stopped while on the road to be approached for assistance and he would wait to listen to the complain or the request. Yet he did not listen to gossip, nor did he tolerate or encourage side talk from any quarters. Yet he encouraged people to speak their minds. Sani’s attention to details was extraordinary despite being busy, very busy indeed. He was organised, structured and process driven and this earned him the nickname of “Bakin Bature” or “Nisara” meaning English man. Such qualities are extremely rare and in short supply today, at least not from people of his calibre.
Even after I left the services of Dangote Group, we remained closed and on several occasions he would invite me for discussions on issues pertaining to business and other matters.
I served as a Technical Person when Alhaji Sani and Mr Emmanuel Ijewere midwifed the setting up of Nigeria Agri Business Group (NABG) which served as adviser to governments on agricultural issues. This was to under score his desire, passion and enthusiasm for Nigeria to feed itself. I recall when Dr Adesina the then Minister of Agriculture wanted a decent and competent person to be appointed as Managing Director of Bank of Agriculture, he requested Alhaji Sani Dangote to help source the candidate. Alhaji Sani reached out to me to help with the head hunting exercise. I got candidates and Alhaji Sani without seeing or speaking with any of the candidates gave the names to the Honourable Minister. He never asked me where the candidates were from, language they spoke or the religion they practiced! One of them got the job. Several months after the appointment, the person neither called on, nor paid a visit to Alhaji Sani as a mark of appreciation. Yet when I would meet Alhaji Sani and the matter was brought up, I would
inquire if the person had called or visited him. He said no while adding that he felt it was not necessary that the person did so. He said to me, “my concerns are, he is happy with the job and that he is delivering as expected! Such was the life of Alhaji Sani Dangote. Expecting nothing from anyone, not even a thank you! In this regards and in so many ways, Sani was a role model, a mentor and a coach in business and sports, such as Polo which he loved and cherished most.
As an entrepreneur, Sani’s foray into so many businesses is a testimony of his business acumen. Sani and I went to Ghana to explore Tomato Puree business, we went to Guinea Bissau for oil related businesses. He sent us to Sudan in 2008 to explore the possibility of setting up Cement Plant in Sudan! Niger Republic, Togo and Benin Republics to mention but a few all enjoyed Sani’s business acumen in one way or another. One can write a book on this matter alone!
The death of Alhaji Sani Dangote is a personal loss to me,
it is certainly not a loss to his immediate family alone, but a loss to mankind nay humanity. We never ever brought death so near even with the ailment he suffered for years. I spoke to him a few weeks to his death and we were full of hope, as one of the companies under his management had a change of Directors and he retained me as one of the Directors of the company!
It has taken me such a long time to write these few lines
because every time I sit by my computer, I feel sad, down and in pains for our loss! We lost a rare gem, a peace maker, a pillar and supporter of the family. No doubts many misunderstood Sani, mistook him for what he was not and treated him unfairly. He persevered in the face of torrent from several quarters and yet never held grudges, even when we had cause to discuss people’s actions towards him, he would say leave them with their thoughts! He knew people who refused to see reason with his position, despite obvious facts and yet never would he say something negative talk less of making a move against them. He also did realise and recognise mischievous people around him and his brother. Yet Sani would rather leave the sleeping dogs to sleep well! He had a large heart as he forgave people easily. His network of friends and associates is diverse and wide, local and international, etc. Such was the life of Alhaji Sani Dangote.
May Allah in His infinite mercies forgive Alhaji Sani Dangote all his sins and grant him aljannah firdaus amin. I will forever pray for your eternal rest in perfect peace amin.
Shuaibu Idris Miqati mni