Many Nigerians would have heard about Alhaji Sani Dangote only for first time when the news of his death broke last Sunday. For a man who was not only the vice president of Africa’s biggest conglomerate, the Dangote Group, and had been instrumental to its growth over the years; but also a successful business mogul by his right, that’s quite unusual.
But it spoke, not to the level of impact he had in the country’s corporate environment, but to the level-headedness that is the trademark of the Dangotes. All who knew him have spoken of his humility and gentleness, and there have been many since he passed away in the United States on Sunday last week, after a battle with colon cancer.
In a clime where being rich often goes with a whole lot of flamboyance, Africa’s richest family has proved to be an oddity, epitomising simplicity and humility. The leader of the family himself, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, President of the Dangote Group, is only a reluctant public figure; a publicity shy billionaire philanthropist whose simplicity changes one’s mental picture of an ideal “big man.”
Often in his simple native attire, and wearing his trademark smile, Dangote would ideally shun the limelight. But, for a man who is a household name in Africa, there is no escaping the headlines.
Sani, on the other hand, managed to shun the limelight. He was out of the news for almost his entire career despite establishing investments in several key sectors of the economy, including manufacturing, agriculture, banking, and oil services, in addition to serving vice president of the Dangote Group and playing strategic roles in the growth of the conglomerate.
He was a humble billionaire whose humility and gentleness, many say was unrivaled; a beautiful soul, as acknowledged by Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, who in a condolence message to his elder brother, Alhaji Aliko and Alhaji Aminu Dantata, the patriarch of the Dantata family – maternal family of the Dangotes – last week noted that, “Sani Dangote was reputed for his gentleness, loyalty and generosity.”
Buhari in the statement by his media aide, Mr. Femi Adesina, further noted that the late Sani had, over the y ears played a key role in the success of the family business, dedicating his time to ensure fairness and optimum result in all endeavours.
Until his death, Sani sat on the board of several other companies including Nigerian Textile MillsPlc, Nutra Sweet Limited, Gum Arabic Limited, Dangote Textile Mills Limited, Alsan Insurance Brokers, Dan-Hydro Company Limited, Dansa Food Processing Company Limited and Dangote Farms Limited.
He was also the Deputy Chairman of the African Gum Arabic Producers Association and a two-time President of Lagos Polo Club in addition to being a professional polo player.
He was also the Chairman of Dansa Holdings, a subsidiary of the Dangote Group, with a number of Strategic Business Units in key sectors of the economy: Agriculture, Oil and Gas, Food and Beverage. Some of this company includes Dansa Foods Limited, Borkir International Limited, Dansa Energy, Sagas Energy Limited, Bulk Pack Services Limited, Dansa Agro Allied Limited, Dangote Farms Limited to mention a few.
He was a member of the Alumni of the Harvard Business School, USA; a pioneer member of Nigerian Agri-business Forum driving the Federal Government’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda, who was also appointed as the Consul-General of the Romanian Embassy in Nigeria in recognition of his leadership qualities.
Yet, even with these accomplishments, he was a perfect gentleman who got about quietly. However, while Sani, who passed on at 61, maintained low profile throughout his lifetime, his death suddenly put him in the limelight.
When his remains were laid to rest at the family cemetery in Koki quarters of Kano Metrolink on Wednesday, after a funeral prayer at the palace of the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero on Wednesday, it was a Mecca of sorts.
Several dignitaries, comprising of captains of industries and politicians, including vice president, Yemi Osinbajo; senate president, Ahmad Lawan; Borno Governor, Babagana Zulum; former senate president, Bukola Saraki; Director General, Department of State Services, Yusuf Magaji-Bichi; BUA Group Chairman, Abdussamad Rabiu; Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, who led President Muhammadu’s delegation; Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu; Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje; Emir of Kano, Aminu Ado-Bayero, among others, were in Kano to witness the event.
Also in Kano were House Leader, Mr. Alhassan Ado Doguwa; former Cross Rvier State Governor, Donald Duke, Chairman/ CEO of THISDAY Newspapers/ ARISE News channel, Prince Nduka Obaigbena; founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank, Jim Ovia; businessman Femi Otedola, among others.
A man who touched lives quietly, many have continued to pay tribute to the deceased. President Buhari in another letter sent through his delegation to the burial led by Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, described him as “an exemplary person who, along with his brother, Aliko, demonstrated the power of human spirit and determination.”
The President thanked the Dangotes for spreading happiness and giving the country an appreciable identity before the world and also prayed Allah to grant fortitude to the Dantata and Dangote families to bear the loss.
On his part, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, has said the late Dangote was a good friend who was instrumental to the agricultural policies of the Federal Government.
“Sani was a good friend of mine and somebody who I consider a collaborator and was very instrumental in our tomato policy and several other agricultural policies and was part of government policies in so many ways,” Osinbajo said. “He has left behind a very excellent legacy and he was a man who was committed to his country, committed to his state and committed to his people.”
Similarly, former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, described the late Sani, in a statement by his media office, as a humble, diligent and hardworking. He worked closely with his brother to build the Dangote Group into a successful conglomerate it is today.”
Tinubu noted that, “Like his brother, he was also a successful industrialist with huge investments in manufacturing, agriculture, banking, and oil and gas. He contributed immensely to the development of this country particularly within that industrial sector.”
Kano governor, Ganduje, described him as a “gentleman” and “illustrious son” whose death is a great loss to the business community.
Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki said he was, “A thoroughbred businessman and pacesetting entrepreneur who had a knack for excellence, as is evident in the chains of businesses he set up and managed, ranging from agriculture to manufacturing, banking and oil services.”
House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, on his part, in a statement by his media aide, Lanre Lasisi, said Sani was perfect gentle man who gave his best to the growth and development of the Dangote Group.
According to the speaker, Sani’s contributions to the development of the Dangote Group and by extension, the private sector in Nigeria would remain indelible.
Other personalities such former governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Kalu; former deputy senate president, Senator Ike Ekweremadu; deputy house speaker, Idris Wase, among others, also commiserated with the Dangote family over Sani’s deat