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Aminu Dantata: A peace builder turns 90

The Chairman of Dantata Group of Companies, Alhaji Aminu Alhassan Dantata, has joined the revered nonagenarian club, having turned 90 today. From a modest childhood…

The Chairman of Dantata Group of Companies, Alhaji Aminu Alhassan Dantata, has joined the revered nonagenarian club, having turned 90 today.

From a modest childhood to becoming a top business tycoon and a reputable philanthropist, Alhaji Aminu was born on May 19, 1931, into  the family of Alhassan Dantata.

On April 15, 2021, Alhaji Aminu was among the prominent Kano notables, including the state governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, who reconciled Alhaji Aliko Dangote, President of Dangote Group, and Abdussamad Isyaka Rabi’u, Chairman of BUA Group.

Such a remarkable gesture, about a month before turning 90 years, patently proved him as a notable peace builder.

The nonagenarian had his early education from 1938 to 1945 at Dala Primary School, and attended the Dantata English and Arabic School between 1945 and 1949.

His father, Alhassan Dantata, born in 1877 and died August 17, 1955, was a trader in agricultural produce, who marketed his merchandise beyond the shores of Nigeria.

The junior Dantata quickly learnt from the business acumen of his father and excelled immensely in the business world as well.

Business career

He began his career as produce buyer in 1949 in the family business of Alhassan Dantata and Sons Limited, rising to become the Chairman and Managing Director of the Company in 1960.

He was a member of the Steering Committee of the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank (now Bank of Industry), and served as a Director of the Bank between 1962 and 1966.

Alhaji Aminu Dantata is the founder of Express Petroleum and Gas Company Limited and one of the people who spearheaded Jaiz Bank in Nigeria.

The widely travelled businessman told Daily Trust last year when he turned 89 years that as far back as 1956, he had visited every major country in the world, including the likes of Australia, India, China, Brazil, Yugoslavia, Russia and all the Arab countries and Israel.

Importantly, he has led many trade missions to several countries across the world.

“Anytime we travelled to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage in the early 1950s and 1960s, the Saudi authorities would do everything possible to delay our return journey because they wanted us to spend more days in their country. The logic here was that the longer we stayed, the more we would spend, and that would add value to their income,” he recalled.

As someone with both feet firmly planted in the business world, Alhaji Aminu Dantata believes that commerce has the solution for instability and unemployment and he articulated this in his past utterances.

“From commerce you will get industries and people will have stability in doing their businesses, and leaders will have control over their subjects and develop the society at all levels,” he told Daily Trust.

Dantata in Politics

While Alhaji Aminu is known more for his huge achievements in the business world, he also stamped his feet on the sand of politics in Nigeria as not only a one-time member of the House of Representatives in Kaduna during the First Republic, but also an executive member of Kano Provincial Council.

He also served as an executive member of the newly formed Kano State in 1967, where he served as the state commissioner of Trade and Industry under the late Audu Bako, the governor of Kano during the General Yakubu Gowon military administration.

In the run-up to the Second Republic, which produced the late Alhaji Shehu Shagari as president, Dantata recalled rebuffing calls by some notable people to contest for the position of president.

A man of high moral grounds explained his rationale for rejecting the calls: “My reason for rejecting these offers was simple. As a businessman with huge responsibilities, I believed Allah had already chosen a career for me, through which I would play my role in the progress of my state, country and humanity in general.”

The father of many children and grandchildren, Dantata believes that a combination of Islamic and western education should be considered in Northern Nigeria to not only educate the youth, but to check moral decadence in the society.

Fighting decadence is a responsibility of all, especially the government, Islamic scholars, traditional rulers, the business class and community leaders, who he advised to come on board to salvage the country before it is too late.

Views in addressing moral decadence

To address declining moral values in the society today, he said, “the change has to start from our homes, schools, places of work and markets. It is quite unfortunate that good virtues are gradually going extinct, especially among our youth. And until we address this, we will never produce qualitative future leaders”.

The nonagenarian is concerned with the dipping standards of the Nigerian educational system and has spoken about the need to improve the country’s system of education.

“If you assess the products of our universities today you would believe that we are breeding half-baked graduates. Most of them have the knowledge but do not have good virtues,” he told Daily Trust in an interview.

One other problem troubling the businessman is the closure of   industries between Kano and Kaduna, which led to loss of hundreds of jobs.

The businessman’s philanthropic disposition manifested even recently when he announced a donation of N300 million to the Fund Raising Committee on COVID-19 in Kano State set up by Governor Ganduje.

Some years ago, he donated the sum of N500 million for the completion of the National Mosque in Abuja.

Community service

A former Kano State governor, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, once  disclosed that Alhaji Aminu Dantata had completed projects worth N400 million across Kano State.

At 90, while it is obvious that Alhaji Aminu has started to reduce his speed in the business world by allowing his children to take up more responsibilities in the family business empire, the experienced businessman is unlikely to leave the scene completely for the time being.

He is widely considered as one of the most generous philanthropists in Nigeria, whose benevolence has transformed lives.

During his investiture as Chancellor of the Katsina Islamic University, he explained what drives his philanthropic gestures in life: “Dear brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of a very important responsibility assigned us by Almighty Allah. This responsibility is the feeding and general welfare of the needy.”

On the riches he has acquired in life over the years, he said, “Allah has ordained the wealthy individuals to give assistance to the needy by categorically directing that they should give from what he (Allah) has given them in accordance with Islamic injunctions.”

Despite his age, Alhaji Aminu disclosed in a chat with Daily Trust last year that he is still considering new business ventures and it may not be surprising to see more businesses springing up in his name in the coming weeks, months and years as he continues to enjoy life going forward.

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