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Abdullahi Sule: From the private sector to Nasarawa Government House

Abdullahi Sule
Abdullahi Sule

Come May 29, 2019, new set of leaders will take over the affairs of states across the country while others would renew their oath for another four years.

Nasarawa is one of the states where a new helmsman will take charge.

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The identity of the incoming governor is one that resonates with a lot of stakeholders and keen watchers of economic activities, both from home and abroad.

Born on December 26, 1959 in Gudi Station, Akwanga-West Development Area of Nasarawa State. Abdullahi A. Sule, an engineer, was brought up in the small but multi-ethnic and multi-religious village.

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His father, Alhaji Sule is the current traditional ruler (Hakimi) while his grandfather, Abdullahi Angulu was the first traditional ruler of Gudi Station. His mother, Hajiya Hauwa, was brought up in Bokono and Keffi.

He started primary education in the Roman Catholic Mission (RCM) Primary School, Gudi Station in 1968. Upon completion, he passed the Common Entrance examination into Zang Secondary Commercial School, Bukuru in 1974.

In 1977, he passed out from Bukuru and proceeded to the Plateau State Polytechnic, Barkin Ladi, and later, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Indiana, USA towards the end of 1980.

Sule has over a 30-year experience in the oil and gas sector, steel production, machine shop operations and sugar industry, both in Nigeria and the United States of America.

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and a master’s in Industrial Technology from Indiana State University, United States.

He did the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme in the Plateau Utilities Board, Jos and later joined the Jos Steel Rolling Company Limited in 1985 as a production engineer. He left the company as a principal production engineer in 1989 and left for USA.

He returned to Nigeria in 2000 and started a company called Sadiq Petroleum Nigeria Limited in Lagos, along with some friends. He was made the pioneer managing director and chief executive officer of the company.  That year, Sadiq Petroleum Company participated in the privatisation of African Petroleum Plc and won the bid. Upon acquisition of the 30per cent ownership of AP by Sadiq Petroleum, he was appointed the executive director, operations in November 2000. On April 2, 2001, he was appointed by the board of AP Plc as the fourth managing director and chief executive officer.

He inherited a highly indebted African Petroleum Plc, which was running as a government parastatal. The company had its share capital eroded with a balance sheet of N22 million, but he and his colleagues worked tirelessly to turn the company around. By the time he resigned from the company in July, 2006, its balance sheet was N5 billion.

While in the USA, he was the director of Business Development for Africa at Osyka Corporation in Houston, Texas. He was the country manager for Nigeria at Tetra Technologies Inc, Houston, Texas.

He later joined Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc in 2007 as managing director, and later, the country director of Fairport Process Equipment, United Kingdom (UK).

He re-joined Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc as managing director and chief executive in December 2011, a position he held until his appointment as the deputy group managing director in November 2013 and acting group managing director in 2015.

It is, therefore, not surprising that private sector players in the country are exited at his emergence as the governor-elect of Nasarawa State.

Speaking to Daily Trust on Sunday, the immediate past director-general of the West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management (WAIFEM), Prof. Akpan Ekpo, said, “The quality of leadership is very important. States have no option than to strive towards economic diversification. However, for the economy to be diversified, there must be good governance.’’

A management staff of the Dangote Sugar, who would not want his name mentioned, also said, “We have no doubt in our minds that he will succeed because of his dedication to pursuing set goals and the professionalism he brings to bear.

“You know that running a company as big and complex as Dangote Sugar, with all the hassles and environmental challenges, is no mean feat. If he can succeed here, he will succeed in Nasarawa because the buck will most times stop at his table.

“Most of the hindrances we have seen as private sector players are so because governments do not understanding that if they aid companies to succeed, they will also succeed. So Sule, who has seen it all at various levels, will now bring that experience to bear in making Nasarawa State a destination for investors.”

Another staff of the company who did not have the permission to speak with the Press said: “He is a man who does not disrespect anyone on account of their statuses. He treated us as equal partners in progress and commanded everyone’s respect and cooperation in building the Dangote Sugar brand. The various positions he held here is a simple testimony.”

Sule joined partisan politics in 2000 as a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but resigned in 2006 to join the Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD), and later the Action Congress (AC), on which platform he contested for the governorship of Nasarawa State in 2007.

Following the outcome of the 2007 governorship race, he continued to be active in politics while still in business. He participated in various developmental projects in the state, including construction and renovation of schools, clinics, security posts, houses of worship, among others.

In one of his media interviews, he noted that he also invited and funded visits by many investors to explore the investment opportunities in the state.

He said: “My vision is anchored on industrialisation of Nasarawa State. I would like to make it the industrial and economic hub of the North-Central zone in Nigeria. We are convinced that this policy is capable of addressing the challenges of unemployment of youth and women, wealth creation, as well as boost economic activities in the state.

Given my background in the private sector, I will leverage on my net worth of investors, local and foreign, to attract their capital for the industrialisation of Nasarawa State.”

Speaking further on how he would administer the state when he assumes duty, the governor-elect said, “Relying on our natural endowment, which forms the four pillars of Nasarawa State: land, solid minerals, location and labour, an economic development plan will be established to create employment and lay foundation for increased internally generated revenue to augment federal allocation. We will also establish a state development council, which will meet periodically to advise government on topical issues.

“We will establish small and medium scale enterprise to empower 3,000 women, youths and physically challenged persons annually by identifying and attracting intervention funds to support them.

“Government will partner with foreign urban-based development companies to create industrial zones in each of the three senatorial districts of the state. Similarly, we will partner with both local and foreign ventures to embark on owner-occupier mass housing schemes in each of the senatorial districts.

“In partnership with cooperative societies, cottage industries will be established under a small business assistance scheme for local communities. We will establish a Diaspora desk in the state capital, Lafia, to encourage Nasarawa State indigenes to invest in the state.

“Nasarawa State is predominantly an agrarian state. About 80per cent of the population engage in agricultural activities, so our focus shall be on agriculture to boost job creation and food security.

“We will take appropriate measures to boost agriculture through the provision of improved technology and agricultural credit financing scheme for the benefit of rural farmers through various cooperative societies.”

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