“Suji, what’s 1+1+=11? Oya sit down here and explain it to me.” “Oga it’s Motomatics and that’s the same reason why I am in Sokoto”.
This was my conversation with the ace administrator, astute politician, and leader, executive governor of Sokoto State – Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal CFR, after a long and interesting meeting as part of my visit to the great Historical SEAT OF THE CALIPHATE, a city which will now be home to me in the coming years.
It was a long-expected delay from the Lagos Airport with Max Air, which was followed by a 4-hour delay in Abuja, but we finally boarded. Shortly before we landed, as I look out of the window, I was mesmerized by the large expanse of green scenery that caught my view, reminiscent of the forest of the east and also a rebuttal to the widely perceived notion that Sokoto is a complete desert. I’d never expected Sokoto to be this green with incredible fertile land for mass farming.
While on the plane, I had an amazing and seamless time as I spent it with my longtime friend and partner – Buhari Dasuki; who never stopped talking about the numerous business opportunities in Sokoto. Upon landing, we had lots of security, bulletproof cars and escorts littered the airport, my good friend and big brother – Dahiru, was there waiting for me, dressed in a cream ‘babariga’. He had been waiting at the airport for more than 4-hours. He hugged me dearly and led us to the car.
“Welcome to the caliphate Chairman, I’m delighted to see you here.” As we drove, I can’t help but remember Zaria, a city where I grew up as a child. Sokoto has lots of trees along the pathway. The environment looks very clean and serene, and it has an incredibly generous population of people who never stopped smiling.
“Sujimoto, these trees were planted by Sir Ahmadu Bello KBE – the Sardauna of Sokoto and the Premier of Northern Nigeria. He brought the neem trees to Nigeria in the late 50s and planted over 30,000 trees all over Northern Nigeria”. We drove to the Red Camel Restaurant Kalambaina in Sokoto, where I was treated to lots of food and assorted fishes. I also had the opportunity to once again taste my favourite Northern dish – Dawo, a local delicacy made from Millet, known as Fura in other parts of the North. As I stepped out of the restaurant after I have had my fill, 2 young guys shouted; “Sujimoto, you inspire us, welcome to the Caliphate”.
I was amazed that even in the corners of Sokoto, we have people who appreciate what we are doing, a testament to the fact that hard work knows no tribe, religion, or race!
It was almost nightfall (just the way I like it) when we had the opportunity to meet with commissioners, directors of different ministries to discuss the opportunities that lie in this great city. I was blown away by the efficiency of everyone, their mastery of prudence and the spirit of doing things immediately. Their level of optimism and attitude of possibility is very fascinating. Not once did I get a ‘No! ‘Anything you want Mr. Suji, we will find a way to make it work for you’.
After the meeting, we drove to meet the one I call my friend, the young and slim dogo Commissioner for Commerce; an extremely pleasant human with an incredible entrepreneurial spirit. One who can sell sand even in a desert. “Suji, with Sokoto’s population of 6 million people, Zamfara’s 5 million and Kebbi’s 5 million, we also have a 3-state international border with Niger, giving us a combined population of about 20 million people and a fast developing middle class. One of the beauties of Governor Aminu Tambuwal’s administration and why I work for his Excellency is his drive to develop and tap into our numerous mineral resources and encourage innovative investors like you to Sokoto. We have in abundance Kaolin, Limestone, Gypsum, Phosphate rock, Gold, Potash, Clay, Copper, Iron ore, Coal and biggest cattle rearing in the whole of West Africa! We are the largest producer of onions, with about 80% of vast land, a capable and affordable workforce, an underground sea with the best natural water…currently, we generate billions as revenue annually. Imagine what happens when we are able to maximize the full potential of our numerous mineral resources? With all of this Mr. Suji, there’s no way anyone can be doing business in today’s Nigeria without considering Sokoto.”
I was over-impressed by the commitment and passion from the commissioner, young vibrant and passionate about the opportunities that await anyone willing to do business in the great Seat of the Caliphate. Thinking about all he has said, I am not surprised that fate brought me to Sokoto.
My conversation with the Commissioner, opened my eyes to the potentials in Sokoto and the North in general, for me the North seems to be richer than the South in terms of natural deposits and I am very optimistic that very soon, institutional investors will come and take advantage of the vast potential in this hidden part of our nation. This trip gave me more reasons to think globally, Yes, Sokoto might be in the corners of Nigeria but I see it as a strategic hub seating in the middle of West Africa, which is an amazing location for trading and taking advantage of not only the 200 million Nigerian population but also, expanding our trading potential to the 650 million West African markets waiting for us.
I SAW OPPORTUNITIES IN SOKOTO, WHERE MANY SAW CALAMITIES! This is the best location for Sujimoto Industrial City, where we shall not only build a luxury city but a 21st-century commercial hub, that will house 2000 families; over 22 Mega factories, religious centers; international standard schools; a 300-bed hospital that will drive medical tourism to Sokoto; Industrial and Agricultural University – 1st of its kind in Africa; helipad to fly you to the nearest international airport and a sophisticated security system that takes into consideration modern technological advancement such as drones and high-end CCTV cameras with motion detectors; a proposed independent power plant of 100megawatts, which will provide 365 days of the uninterrupted power supply!
One thing that excites me about the Sujimoto Industrial City (SIC) is the partnership with our Asian Allies who have designed a complete smart city with electric cars, bikes and a 250-kilometer tram rail, exposing residence to one of the most sophisticated cities in Africa. This city will be one of the first green city in Africa!
‘What you are looking for in Sokoto is right there in your ṣòkòtò’.’ While this is mostly used to mean there are opportunities near you, I have always wondered the reason for the reference to Sokoto, but my visit to Sokoto has made me understand that the proverb is a symbolic reference to the underlying resources, massive agricultural wealth and natural deposits that have been left untapped. Sokoto is indeed a land of abundance but to see it, you have to see beyond the surface! For someone like me who is a pan-Nigerian, I believe that Nigeria as a whole island of opportunity, and Africa is our market!
We ended our meeting with the best homemade local Suya with my brother and friend – Buhari and dashed to the best hotel in town. The next day, I had breakfast at my friend’s home where I was given a warm welcome by his wife – Fatima, and their beautiful daughter – Hamra, whose golden smile can brighten the saddest soul. Hardly had I taken my seat when he said to his wife, ‘Fatima, we have to find chairman a beautiful Sokoto Princess as wife’. We all busted into laughter. We had fresh homemade Masara, lots of fruits and had a brief meeting on our plan and target for the day.
We drove around town and stopped by at different places. I was amazed at how people sold limestone on the street. I am not surprised that BUA cement is making tremendous progress in Sokoto, with a capacity of over 5 million tonnes, they have not only shown that they are a pan Nigerian brand but their impact in human development, massive employment and exceptional leadership of BUA is evident in the progress the organization is making.
It was also exciting to see a rice paddy – an irrigated or flooded field where rice is grown, for the first time. We also had the opportunity to visit some mega-farms and later dashed to His Eminence Palace – the Sultan of Sokoto.
“Suji my son, you can’t be in Sokoto without visiting His Eminence. Go there now he is expecting you”. This was the instruction from my royal father, his Royal Majesty the Ooni of Ife. It was a great drive on my way to the palace, the huge structure that symbolizes the caliphate, and the breathtaking palace was an inspiration for me. Not less than 1000 people were in the compound. The PA to His Eminence walked up to me. “Welcome Mr. Sujimoto, welcome to the Caliphate”. He ushered me to a room where I waited to see His Eminence. It was a room filled with greatness as exemplified from the pictures hanging on the wall dating back to the early 50s. From a picture of the Sarduana who was the premier in the 50s, to the Queen Elisabeth’s visit to Nigeria, to the incredible pictures of the Ooni Aderemi; our father and leader Asiwaju Bola Ahmed, Tinubu, and so many more! It was the real hall of fame!
As I looked around the room in astonishment, still trying to take in the beauty of the place, I heard… ‘His Eminence will receive you now sir’. I was led into a premium quality, well luxuriously furnished room. The height dazed me and the luxury left me speechless. “Welcome to Sokoto my son.”
I went straight to dobale (Prostrate) which was more of a cultural practice of the Yoruba people but not theirs. His Eminence asked me to take my seat and I paid homage to the other chiefs who were happily seated on the floor as I took my seat directly opposite him
“I am happy to see you here. Kabiyesi, the Ooni of Ife has said a lot about you but I have known you for years, I have always followed your great work and your audacity. I have watched some of your interviews on TV, you are a pride of your generation Suji, keep it up.”
We shared pleasantries and he encouraged me to keep promoting the spirit of unity in Nigeria, and I should not be shy to ask for anything. The Eminence, Sultan of Sokoto is more than royalty, he is the spiritual leader of the people of Sokoto. I left the palace mesmerized and blessed, I could tell that the Almighty had blessed my mission.
We later had a meeting with the vibrant young governor who is a very generous, kind, intelligent, astute leader, goal-oriented and very passionate about bringing development to his people. After my presentation to his Excellency, he was extremely won over by the height of our vision, dreams, and our mission to transform Sokoto state. He was very supportive and welcoming.
Suji, you know why we will support you? It is because your vision is in line with our vision for the state, and our mission is simple, to encourage investors to come and dive into the great opportunities the Almighty has given us and promote the state while bringing value to the people of Sokoto.”
It was an amazing meeting and I am extremely impressed by the numerous accomplishments of the silent achiever, who just returned from commissioning 12 commuter buses donated by Dr. Said Alhassan, a citizen of Sokoto state resident in Germany, procured to subsidized transportation for the students and staff to and from the campus of Sokoto State University.
Afterward, I dashed to the airport, had a brief chat with the vibrant and diligent Deputy Governor and later had a long flight back to Abuja, where I sat next to the Governor for about 1 hour. We had a great conversation about Sokoto, Nigeria, politics, business and life, this was one of the best conversations I have ever had with a northern governor. It opened my eyes to see how extremely open, vibrant and forward-thinking Governor Aminu Tambuwal is. He didn’t speak like a Northerner, he spoke like a Nigerian! He was so jovial that we even did a Snapchat video.
I can’t forget Umar Hamzas, my political analyst whose love for photography supersedes the politics of the day. My trip would have been colourless without my talented new friend – Umar.
My trip to Sokoto was a success because the great people of Sokoto, showed me a side of African hospitality that I had never experienced before. It is said that true hospitality is giving the best of yourself to your guests, His Eminence, the Sarduana of Sokoto; my friend Dahiru and his beautiful family; My old friend MD Buhari; the Commissioner, the ever-enterprising Governor of Sokoto State and his Deputy Governor, the Usman Danfodio University, thank you for giving me the best of Sokoto. It was rather unfortunate that I wasn’t able to meet with the students of the great Usman Danfodio University, as a result of my tight schedule but to the over 43 students who have sent me a DM on Instagram, I promise to make it up to you.
If for anything, this journey has opened my eyes to see that either in Sokoto or under our ṣòkòtò, there are indeed oceans of wealth and resources in Nigeria, and if properly harnessed, will turn most states in the country to little Dubai in Africa. We need to wake up from our slumber and start harnessing the potentials in our great land.
Sijibomi Ogundele is the young, energetic and innovative MD/CEO of Sujimoto Group, the No.1 Luxury Real Estate Company in Nigeria and the Developer of GiulianoBySujimoto which is home to Nigerian-American singer, Davido; LucreziaBySujimoto which is set to be the most sophisticated high-rise in Africa, a 14-storey tower with incredible premium features and facilities; the LeonardoBySujimoto waterfront building – a 24 storey luxury tower with exceptional amenities; the QueenAminaBySujimoto, a first-of-its-kind luxury tower located in highbrow Abuja; and the developer of the proposed Sujimoto Tower in Downtown Dubai.