Alhaji Alhasan Dantata: Entrepreneur par excellence
Alhaji Alhasan Dantata was an entrepreneur and a philanthropist. He motivated and financed many people, especially in northern Nigeria to go into business. He was a prominent importer and exporter of cash products into Nigeria and other West African countries.
Born in 1880 at Bebedji, Kano State, to a woman trader, Dantata grew up to toe his mother’s footsteps and began to sell kola. He later moved to Kumasi, Ghana, known then as Gold Coast and by 1912, had developed a flourishing business empire along the Hausa kola nut route. He began to ship kola nuts from Ghana to Nigeria by sea. His flourishing business empire was noted for providing jobs for young Nigerians, including Europeans who were dominant than in the local import and export business.
He returned to Kano during the groundnut boom and began to buy from local farmers to sell to other middlemen and by 1917, he became the main supplier of groundnut to the Royal Niger Company. He steadily built his business empire based on groundnut and kola nut. His role in the purchase of kola nuts from forest areas of Nigeria for sale in the North and other parts of the West Africa was so great that a whole kola train from the Western Region, then, were filled with his nuts alone.
Through hard work and diligence, he rose to be the second in importance among the licensed buying agents of the then Marketing Board for groundnut.
Dantata alongside other Northern merchants referred to as Attajirai founded the Kano Citizens Trading Company. The company’s main aim was to drive the region’s industrialisation. The company started the first textile mill in the country in 1950.
Dantata extended his good gesture to other businessmen, including young people by giving them interest free loans in line with Moslem precepts. He also gave some money to start their own businesses, which encouraged a lot of people in Kano to take to trading, aside creating jobs and opening up the city’s economy.
Due to his business acumen, he was appointed director of the Nigeria Railway Corporation, NRC. He was also a member of the Emir of Kano’s Council.
Dantata mentored many young people to be great businessmen, and at the time of his death in October 1955, he was reputed to be the wealthiest person in Nigeria.
Some of his children and grandchildren are also great businessmen. His mentoring process is legendary, especially as some of those he mentored and helped to come up are still flying the flag.
Many streets are named after him, while some of his children have named their business organisations after him as a mark of honour.
• Compiled by Omiko Awa