Thursday, March 23

How BUA Group, A Northern Moslem – Owned Conglomerate Donated N1 Billion To UNIZIK

By Don Ebubeogu

…This Is The Biggest Single Individual Donation To Education In South East

I don’t usually love to travel for fun. Most of my trips outside the country are for business.

When a friend of mine convinced me to get an American visa in 2018 so that we can travel to the USA for holidays, I reluctantly applied and was given 2 years multiple visas. I kept postponing the trip until he got fed up and stopped asking.

I was lucky to be among the 12 Nigerians selected by U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) to attend the Nigeria Agribusiness Reverse Trade Mission in October 2019. I, therefore, found a good reason to use my American Visa before it expires.

It was a USA government fully funded program. We only have to pick few clothes, writing and recording gadgets and hop into Delta Airlines. We enjoyed the best of the American hospitality and spent a good but short time in hotels like The Ritz- Carlton in San Francisco and The Westin O’Hare in Chicago, among others.

One of the programs was a Business Briefing for U.S. companies in Omaha, NE. As part of the Briefing, we were asked to make a brief PowerPoint presentation (10 slides maximum) to the companies and government agencies. The presentation was majorly on the profile of your company and your strategic business plans. I spent 2 days with one of our staff to arrange a beautiful, graphics-filled presentation that will make Forbes flash Tiger Foods on the cover page of their magazine.

I was pencilled down as the second person to make my presentation. I didn’t like that. I wanted to be the 8th or 10th, when the audience will be too tired to notice my stage fright.

The first presenter added more to my anxiety when he went up there and spent more than 10 minutes rolling out statistics like Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. He made me look like a secondary school dropout among professors. I silently wished “this cup should pass away”. Incidentally, my wish was not the wish of the organizers. I was tapped to take the podium and make my presentation.

I opened the first slide that have pictures of the beautiful factory with a well-laid lawn and flowers amid chaotic landscapes, that of my brother and myself, describing us as Chairman and Managing Director respectively.

I glanced at the audience and immediately made up my mind to switch to myself and drop the borrowed rope that made me assume I can win an award here with a beautifully made presentation. I didn’t touch the slide again but rather started telling them our story, extemporaneous.

The story of Tiger Foods – how it evolved from our parents’ food vendor business (Mama Put) to become a leading spice processing company in West Africa will always make a best seller. I drew an analogy between Tiger Foods domestic market and McCormick Inc global market. McCormick is the largest spices processing company in the world. The audience became goose-pimpled when I informed them that McCormick Inc made $5 Billion turnovers the previous year without scratching the growing African market. And that Tiger Foods is poised to replicate that feat, in near future, as a major spice player in Africa, and with keen eyes on the diaspora markets in North America.

It was more like a Peter Obi than a scholarly presentation. The first-hand story from practical experience, laced with strong family values and company traditions.

Going back to my seat was fascinating. The ovation was loud and sincere. People related to my story and had few minutes to discuss the presentation among themselves. One of the Nigerian attendees slipped his complimentary card to me and whispered that my story is very similar to his. His card simply reads Kabiru Rabiu ( Executive Director) BUA Group.

During the tea break, I went into a deep discussion with Kabiru, and he shared their experiences on Cement, edible Oil and Sugar business. Their strategic plans and corporate outlook. I came to know that the family patriarch was the late Isyaku Rabiu who founded a major holding company in Kano State several decades ago.

He talked about his elder brother with fondness – Abdul Samad Isyaku Rabiu who is the founder and chairman of BUA Group, a Nigerian conglomerate concentrating on manufacturing, infrastructure and agriculture and producing revenue over $2.5 billion. He is also the chairman of the Nigerian Bank of Industry. On July 7, 2020, Forbes estimated Abdul Samad’s wealth at $3.2 billion

We talked about their strategic investment of over $300 million in Lafiagi Sugar Company to cover the plantation, sugar mill, its refinery, the ethanol and power plant as well as the complete agricultural aspects of the project.

He also added that upon full completion, the Lafiagi sugar mill with refinery will have the capacity to crush about 7,000 tons of cane per day and produce over 140,000 tons of pure refined white sugar, about 25 million litres of ethanol, generate 35 megawatts of electricity as well as generate employment opportunities for over 10,000 people.

My chance meeting with Kabiru was one of the highlights of my visit to the USA. I met a young Nigerian entrepreneur who is detribalized, energetic, a believer in great Nigeria who has visited South East a lot in the course of business, with friends and business relationships that span the length and breadth of the country.

It was, therefore, not surprising when I learnt that the BUA group made a donation of N1 Billion Naira to Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, to improve the school infrastructure for the teaming students. What was surprising was that the news didn’t trend on social media.

This is the biggest single individual donation to education in South East. Ironically it came from a Northern Moslem at the time the Nigerian landscape is rife with mistrust, violent incitement and mutual hatred among the various ethnic groups.

I won’t be honest with myself if I fail to acknowledge that the politically induced imbalance and lack of fairness in the Nigerian project created and is still creating an ocean of disaffection among Nigerians. Yet, in between the hues and cries about marginalization and economic strangulation, there are a whole lot of Nigerians across the divide that are doing more to create affection among us. And they are out there looking for reciprocal hands to join with theirs to rebuild a dying nation.

And while we spend so much energy highlighting the ills and injustice in our country, equity demands that we also highlight the positive things that made us humans.

It may be impossible to say precisely how Nigerian can rediscover itself and use the abundance of both human and material resources to become a great nation, but as the early development of the USA suggests, even a multicultural, multiethnic and multireligious society can develop a sense of nationality by doing things that unite than divide them. More importantly, the basic element in nation-building is a consensus among the citizens that they share a common commitment to constructing a national community through moderate and peaceful cooperation, just like the BUA group demonstrated.

While donating, Abdul Sammas Rabiu said, “ the project was borne out of the aspiration to contribute my quota to the growth and development of the country education sector”. That’s the Nigerian Spirit.

And may the country heal from within and stop our journey towards the road to perdition with love and justice, as demonstrated by my friend and his brother.

This is a shout-out to the BUA group.

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