THE 11TH NIGERIAN DREDGING
SUMMIT AND EXHIBITION 2017
Venue: Axari Hotel,
Calabar/Obudu Mountain Resort.
Date: Monday-Friday, October 23-27, 2017.
Time: 9am - 3pm daily.
Registration Fee: N100,000.00
Registration Fee plus Obudu Tour:
Group Delegates (5 or more): Discount apply.
Certificates of Attendance Available.
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Designer Lifestyle to Legacy Quest: Musa Danjuma, Still Surging at 67.
Chief Musa Danjuma is the executive chairman of the
Comet Group of Companies whose activities range from maritime to terminal
operations, fishing, oilfield services and electricity production equipment.
Additionally, he runs a vibrant chain of other concerns in stocks, real
estate and associated businesses. With activities concentrated mainly
at the coastal towns of Lagos, Port Harcourt and Calabar and administrative
liaison offices elsewhere in Nigeria and overseas, he maintains a very
busy travelling schedule. However, the occasion of his birthday has,
over the years, attained the status of an annual reunion which brings
together family, friends and business associates. When the time came
this year, in November, he made allowance for a few media interactions,
including this exclusive interview with the magazine. The themes of
our interaction were based on the concepts of his experiences in life,
social change vis-à-vis the outlook of the millennial generation,
his style of pleasure and relaxation and the glaring misfortune of the
Apapa traffic gridlock which threatens the normal routine of maritime
business in Lagos and the country as a whole. Excerpts:
DDH: Can you tell us a bit about your childhood?
Chief Danjuma: I was the last child of my father and
mother. My brother was already a young man in college and he came home
and discovered that the mother was pregnant. He said that am an accident
because I was not expected. Like all last children and by the fact that
I was alone due to the gap, I was a favoured child. I had first cousins
that I grew up with, went to primary school in Takum (Taraba State).
My father was a farmer and a trader in commodities such as soyabeans,
beniseed and salt; some sourced from his farm and from others. He would
stock them and then send them to Makurdi for sale at higher price. Meanwhile
I was in school, very young and not ordinarily involved in his business
per se but I would oversee the stock, count them and make sure they
were what he ordered. Also, when they were sold, I ensured that proper
accounting was done. However, this phase of my life did not last very
long because my brother was in the Nigerian Army, I think he was a lieutenant
at this time based in Kaduna. He took me to St Batholomew’s Primary
school in Wusasa Zaria which was the school he attended. I was about
13 at this time.
DDH: Were you close to your mother?
Chief Danjuma: Oh yes, very close, I was my mother’s
boy. I would go to school, come back and help her. My father was already
old when I was a boy and he needed assistance to send me here and there,
to do chores. And I was also taking extra lessons at school which took
my time too. They wanted to make sure I did well in school. Then there
was a lot of discipline and corporal punishment if you don’t do
your home work. Some of my school mates were withdrawn from school because
their father would not tolerate them being disciplined. Many of those
regretted later on. You see, you must do your home work and you must
not be late or absent from school. In those days, corporal punishment
was allowed and parents were expected not to interfere. But while some
parents interfered and withdrew their children, some of the children
refused to go to school because they would not take the discipline.
DDH: Who has played a major role in making you the person you are today?
Chief Danjuma: Of course, it’s my brother. You know people have
role models that they only know from afar. They know them as a big figure
whom they admire because they have achieved greatness in official capacities.
But this is a man I know both in official capacity, what he achieved
for the nation, and also personally, in private as a family figure because
I lived with him as a child. To me, he is larger than life. He’s
a biological brother but he’s actually a father. He’s wearing
a very big shoe which I cannot even attempt to wear. He’s a mentor,
a role model, very passionate and connected to his family.
DDH: What did you enjoy most whilst growing up that you feel is missing
in today's generation?
Chief Danjuma: Discipline, privacy, you don’t have it now. Now
we have Facebook and Twitter, etc. In fact, you can be undressed very
easily; it’s very easy for you to be destroyed. Morality is gone.
I have people sending me virtually naked pictures. You see all sorts
of things now. My son would tell me, why don’t you want us to
watch TV in the night? Is it because of sex? I have seen it all. This
boy is about five or six.
DDH: You can never imagine telling that to your father during your
Chief Danjuma: Never. Never. My son went to school and the school put
him on discipline. He was toasting the girls about sex in the school.
This is a nine-year-old boy. All in all, in as much as technology has
advanced, it’s of benefit to us. You can pick up this phone and
send message on message on WhatsApp, pictures across the globe or messages
tweeting, texting. Communication is awesome. It comes with its drawbacks.
You just have to manage your children and accept that things have changed.
The respect and honour we used to give our parents, now we don’t
get them. In those days, you could leave your car or your house closed
without locking them but now we are barricaded. There was nothing like
kidnapping and people were more sincere, no 419. People were contented
with their lot. Now people are discontented, greedy, corrupt and stealing
money that they cannot spend. People now take leadership of an agency,
on coming out they are richer than the government. They buy justice
through plea bargain, etc. Now people have no shame. Before if you do
something wrong, you will even go into hiding, exclude yourself from
the public eye. Now, it’s even the thieves that are being hailed.
They buy the press, they rent followers. If they are coming out of prison,
there’s a celebration and partying.
DDH: With the harshness of today's economy, many youths are disillusioned
with what the future holds for them. Given the opportunity to speak
with them, what advice will you give them to boost their morale?
Chief Danjuma: It’s a very big problem for the nation because
they are the future of the country. Success without a successor is a
failure. If the country has oil and is wealthy and the youths are not
employed, let alone become successful, the country has no future. We,
in the shipping, oil and gas industry have tried our best not to retrench.
Even at the height of the recession, people had their salaries reviewed
maybe 20% to 40% to save the job because it was a very harsh situation
where the earning capacity of the business was not able to sustain transactional
expenses. We are now beginning to see trickles of improvement, which
is a good sign. We hope this is maintained and that the youths are employed.
This accounts for all the wrong things happening in the country, be
it kidnapping, robberies, stealing, because the young people are pushed
to the wall. This is the problem in the Niger Delta. Oil is produced
there, the people are not seeing the proceeds. They can’t fish,
they can’t farm. They are hopeless. We’re not saying that
armed militancy is the solution but they have a case. It’s not
something that can be solved by the military but politically. So government
should go into dialogue to come up with policies to inject hope and
ameliorate the situation, clean up the oil spill sites and build institutions
to provide jobs and improve all the facilities on ground.
DDH: When you are not working what things do you enjoy most doing?
Chief Danjuma: I love to keep fit. I go to my gym to work out, I have
a gym here. Sometimes I swim or I go to the beach on Saturday or Sunday.
I have a boat, so when I go to the beach, I take a walk on the sand
and also swim. I go with friends or family. I am also a strong member
of the boat club. I usually go to Ilashe Beach, an island off Lagos,
where I have a beach house. I go there to rest and sleep, take in the
sea breeze. I put the phones on silence because, you know, people’s
business never ends. But you have to find time for yourself. The problem
is that we go after business so much that we forget about ourselves.
We don’t find time for ourselves and that is why sometimes you
find sudden health problems. We work and we don’t play. We don’t
relax or unwind. That is not good. People tell me that I look younger
than my age. I tell them am not a magician, it’s by the grace
of God but God helps those who help themselves. So, I try as much as
possible to make sure that I keep a regime and take time to relax.
DDH: Don’t you think it’s because you can afford it? Many
Nigerians may not afford it.
Chief Danjuma: Yes and no. But they have to live to look for a living.
As I said before, people go for business so much that they forget themselves.
Fine, maybe we don’t have the facilities here, maybe the situation
here is so harsh. You find that in the civilized world, in Europe and
North America, even the lowly paid, they have parks; there’s provision
for all classes.
DDH: Are there other people or public figures you see as good role
Chief Danjuma: I would say, if you want to talk about President Nelson
Mandela, what he endured; the fact that he came out of prison and appealed
to the blacks to forgive the whites. Those are policies which you admire.
Or you want to admire President Goodluck Jonathan for accepting defeat
and giving up power willingly to the opposition in what some would call
the first time in Africa? I would admire that. Am not saying his government
was good but this very aspect is laudable. It’s new in Africa
and that is what I would ask our leaders to emulate.
DDH: Would you consider yourself a romantic at heart or a pragmatic
man when it comes to women? Do you want to say one or two things about
the women you have dated or married?
Chief Danjuma: Of course, am very romantic. I am a straight man and
I consider women a weakness. I love beautiful women and women too love
me. I respect them and I value them and I think they are essential in
life. As per your question about the women I married, they are beautiful
women, good women but it’s just that like all marriages, there
are good days and bad days, there are ups and downs. So even though
there may be disagreements, I am proud of them. You have to have a large
heart. All the women that I married, we are still very good friends.
We have children and I look after the children. The children are very
happy, they themselves are quite impressed. I may be a bad husband but
am a good father. (General laughter).
DDH: What do women do to touch a soft spot in you and what do they
do to turn you off?
Chief Danjuma: That’s a tough one. I don’t like a woman
to chase me. I like to chase a woman and for her to be difficult to
get. I like a woman who is reserved, not marketing herself, too forward.
At the same time, I don’t like women who snub. I like those who
give respect. I respect women and expect them to respect me too. I also
spoil them, to a fault; it’s my weakness. This is some of the
problems I have with them. Sometimes, not only is the expectation too
high but they abuse the favours and don’t deserve it. It’s
okay if they feel entitled but at least let them prove they deserve
it and appreciate it. Many don’t.
DDH: You come across as a very shy and reserved person but you have
friends that are very popular. Are you one of those people who are initially
reserved until you get to know the person better?
Chief Danjuma: I am not shy, am not. I may be reserved but am not shy.
In this country, the empty vessels make the loudest noise. Everybody
is making noise, somebody must listen. The fault with us is that we
are not good listeners. You go to a restaurant or a community, you find
so many people talking at the same time. Nobody is listening to the
other. And this is the problem we have in the country. Somebody somewhere
must listen and then once in a while he comes and talks and then you
find credibility in the person. But here we are all talking and most
of us are deaf because nobody is hearing the other. Now, to your question;
yes, I have many friends who are loud. I have them as friends to complement
me. It’s deliberate. I don’t like to be like them but I
have them to complement me. But I am not shy. People see me from a distance.
They think I am arrogant and proud, until they come close to me. I am
down-to-earth, friendly, loving, and I have a soft kind heart. I help
a lot of people of the lower level and I have many friends that are
downtrodden. But because I am not on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram
and am not an actor or celebrity, I believe I am misunderstood. I am
just a businessman, an executive. Yes, I may be a product of silver
spoon or gold spoon or whatever but I work very hard and I work every
day. I am a quiet operator. Only people who work close to me appreciate
what I produce.
DDH: Are you a firm believer in raising your children to join you in
your business when they are adults or do you prefer them to take their
own course and follow their own dreams if that is their choice?
Chief Danjuma: At the moment, two of my children work with me. One is
with Fivestar Logistics Ltd, the terminal operations company; the second
is managing my trading company, Best Trade Nigeria Ltd. So my first
son and first daughter work with me. My brother’s children also
work with us. It’s a policy because we are hoping that the businesses
will outgrow us. And to do that, we bring in the young ones. As I said,
a success without a successor is a failure. And you want that while
you are alive for them to know the business and know what you are doing.
On the other hand, I have two daughters in the UK who are working on
their own, they are not in the shipping or maritime business.
DDH: You must have travelled to various places all over the world.
Till date, where is your best destination holiday and why?
Chief Danjuma: I love the sea. I love destinations that have beaches
and water. And there are various places for that where I can swim, go
on boat, go on the beach, wear shorts, where the weather is warm. I
can name several places such as Saint Tropez in France, Mabella in Spain,
the Seychelles in the Caribbean, Rio in Brazil, Miami. I love cities
by the sea such as Rio in Brazil, San Francisco in the US, and Cape
Town. They are very similar cities. They are by the sea, so they have
water, beaches and they have mountains and also civilization in terms
of quality development. Those are my favorite cities. What I try to
do really, I like to go to destinations I have never visited before.
Now, am exploring places like Australia, New Zealand and Asia.
DDH: Do you find that your taste is changing as you age?
Chief Danjuma: Yes. I used to love cars, for instance. Now I realize
it is a wasting asset. Now I love property and quality life. And I try
to take less risks, to be wiser.
DDH: Are you involved in any charitable ventures and if so can you
tell us about it?
Chief Danjuma: Yes. This is ongoing. My focus now is to set up a foundation
for the less privileged for my locality and beyond, so as to be able
to give back for what God has done for me. I have already incorporated
a foundation and established a management for the foundation. In intend
to go into operation in the new year. You have people who are fatherless
children, disabled people, people with disabilities, those are my focus.
There will be locations to be considered. Obviously, I want to go back
to basis, to my roots, Takum, Jalingo my state capital and also here
in Lagos. The managers will be coming up with a strategy and framework
and how it will function. And am going to set aside funds for that.
I am starting with N500m to erect structures and my intention is to
pump in money as it grows. People come and say they have so many millions
dollars of foundation, they make it sound big but when you go into it
you find that it is more of a political ego gambit. What I want to do
here is to touch lives and it’s going to grow with the funds.
DDH: Your brother has a foundation too?
Chief Danjuma: Yes, my brother’s foundation is his foundation.
My foundation will be mine. He’s blessed and I’m blessed.
I don’t feel that I should ride on his back to death. As I said,
the managers will strategize on the list of projects. It’s going
to be practical and touch lives. I’m not a politician, am a quiet
operator. But for this interview, I’m not going to put it in the
press that I’m doing this because I’m not looking for reward
and I’m not looking for praises.
DDH: Everyone has a bucket list of things they still will like to do
in future. For a man of your status, one would presume you have done
most of the things you desire to do but are there still some other things
you have in the pipeline that you will like to do in future?
Chief Danjuma: This foundation is one of them. God has been very kind
to me. I want to appreciate Him and also go into helping the church
for God’s work to go farther. I want to be kinder to the unfortunate,
friends, the less privileged, people who may be privileged but have
special needs. I have friends who are not well, who have ailments but
short of funds for their needs, friends who cannot pay their children’s
school fees, friends who used to be wealthy but now are in need. I have
a friend who used to be very wealthy but now down with cancer and went
to the hospital. He appealed to me. Ordinarily one would say when you
were wealthy what did you do for me. So as I said I want to be kinder
not just to the downtrodden but also for my contemporaries who are in
DDH: At this point in your life, you must have had your fair share
of triumphs and challenges as to be expected. What has given you the
most solace when faced with trying times?
Chief Danjuma: Well, am a believer and I pray. I fear God. I go to church.
Apart from that I try to be at peace with myself. I don’t panic
or allow things to bother me. God has given me the grace not to be too
bothered about trials and tribulations. This is why people do not see
much stress in me. As I said, am not a magician but it’s the grace
DDH: When we talk about trying times, what would be a trying time for
Chief Danjuma: Several issues. If you are going through divorce, if
you are flying and going through storms in an aircraft as if the plane
would crash. In that kind of time, there is nothing you can do, you
call on the Lord and say your last prayers and wait for the outcome.
On that occasion, the flight had to divert and we landed in Alaska.
DDH: We noticed you also embrace English wear more than native. In
fact we don't recall ever seeing you in native. Do you own any native
attire by any chance?
Chief Danjuma: Oh, I have lots of them. As a lawyer, by tradition, you
wear tie and the wig and gown. In law school, you wear tie and black
suit. This has propelled me, if I don’t have tie on my neck, I
don’t feel complete. But I love my traditional attires, I have
lots of them. I believe that occasions where you should appear in native
dresses, you won’t be complete unless you are in it. I would not
go to a traditional marriage or traditional ceremonies, I would not
go to greet my brother who is my father on a Sunday without being in
traditional wear. I would not go to the Villa (Aso Rock) wearing tie
on my neck, I would go with traditional dress. So, my attire really
depends on where I am going. I would not wear suit and tie in the North
but traditional dresses because that is what we wear. I would like to
blend with my society.
DDH: You are also famous for your colorful blazers. Is it safe to call
trademark? What key elements do you look out for when you shop for them?
Chief Danjuma: Well, I have favourite designers such as Angelo Galasso,
the Billionaire, Zilli and Versace. I go for quality and exclusivity.
These are top designers. In any case, every item you see in the shop,
they will tell you how many they made. They may tell you they made ten
pieces, 20 pieces in the world. So that you would not go to any occasion
and see somebody wearing what you are wearing.
DDH: What would be the average price of these items?
Chief Danjuma: It depends. Some, of course, very expensive others, reasonable
but they are top notch and the pacesetters. For price, you may be talking
of an average of about $5,000 for one. For things like shoes, if they
are crocs, you may be talking about $2,000.
DDH: How do you feel when you wear them? Do you feel completely separate
from other people?
Chief Danjuma: No, no. It all depends on the way you look at it. Everybody
has what they spend their money on. Where they have a soft spot, they
think too much about the price, whether it is jewelry or cars, houses
or even women. Everybody has passion and they don’t cut corners
when it comes to such items. Am talking about the rich, they don’t
cut corners. If I go in and see a blazer and try it on, sometimes I
order made-to-measure. They will make the piece for me. Sometimes, I
may go into a shop, they have it but they don’t have my size.
Or they say, ok we made only ten pieces in the world and we sold out.
Or, they’ve not sold out but the blazer there is not my size.
I would then order. Some people who are much wealthier than me don’t
care about all these things but they have other interests that may cost
a lot more money than what I spend on my blazer.
DDH: And lastly if you were to be remembered for something or you were
to describe yourself in a few words, what will it be?
Chief Danjuma: That is difficult because I don’t like to speak
about myself because you will be doing self-praise, which I find uncomfortable
to do. I don’t want to be remembered as somebody who wears good
blazers or who lived in a big house. I want to be remembered as somebody
who has helped the poor, somebody who is kind, somebody who has helped
others that are downtrodden, somebody who has employed people. My organization
employs so many people but nobody knows.
DDH: What are the major areas of your business today?
Chief Danjuma: We are into shipping and maritime trade through Nigeria-America
Line and Comet Shipping Agencies Nigeria Ltd. Then we have the port
terminal company, Fivestar Logistics Ltd, which is the concessionaire
managing the RoRo Port at Tin Can Island. There is Tarabaroz Nigeria
Ltd which is a fishing company. Others are the trading company, Best
Trade Nigeria Ltd, Plantgeria Ltd and Tethys-Plantgeria which operate
supply boats that go to the oil rigs and they also do electrical instrumentation.
And Danelec runs a factory in Calabar which produces electrical transformers.
Best Land and Sea Services brings in mud and chemicals used for drilling.
I’m also into real estate, I’ve got some houses in Banana
Island, Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Lekki, Abuja.
DDH: What are your thoughts on the state of the economy today?
Chief Danjuma: This government came to power on the premise of fighting
corruption and restoring security by limiting Boko Haram and degrading
their capacity to create instability. To some extent the government
did well in these two areas. I will give them maybe 50% on the two.
As we speak there is still corruption, even though it is not like business
as usual. Secondly, Boko Haram’s ability to capture territories
in the country has been checked. What we now have is attacks on soft
targets, such as attacking innocent people and sending suicide bombers.
However, an important aspect of governance as we all know is the economy.
The main source of revenue, crude oil was under strain by the activities
of militants in the Niger Delta. To my perception, the government did
not address the issue the way it should be. Instead of having dialogue
with the militants and addressing their main concerns, the government
sent in troops. We lost a lot of revenue in terms of production and
instability; Nigeria’s daily output declined. So, whatever was
gained in the fight against corruption was not equal to what we lost
in the Niger Delta crisis. This is a major setback for the government.
DDH: As a captain of the maritime industry, what is your view of the
Apapa traffic gridlock that has almost paralysed the city?
Chief Danjuma: You know, you have two ports in Apapa that serve not
just Nigeria but also neighbouring landlocked countries. They are also
a major revenue earner for government. Yet, Apapa has been ignored over
the years. The access roads have all been broken, destroyed, with trailers
and tankers going into the ports to lift containers and petroleum products.
There is no substantial rail service. In effect, the two ports have
been abused and abandoned, overstretched. This accounts for the present
gridlock in town, it is pathetic. So, government does not expect to
earn so much revenue, even a farthing, because of what is happening.
DDH: How does it affect your daily activities as an operator?
Chief Danjuma: Do I need to say it? There is a gridlock. I come to Apapa
by boat, go back by boat, the roads are all blocked. We have associate
businesses but people don’t want to come to Apapa. People prefer
to have meetings with us in Ikoyi or Victoria Island or other areas
of Lagos. Aside from the difficulties of operating outside your office
environment, these are ports where goods come in from abroad, how do
you clear the goods and deliver them? It is a very serious situation.
DDH: What are the possible solutions?
Chief Danjuma: Well, we have a government that is deaf. The Governor
has come and the Vice-President has also visited Apapa and nothing has
been done on the ground. The road works started but it is not given
the attention that it deserves. Government having earned so much from
the ports should have the capacity to address it and not subject it
to the Dangote Group.
DDH: As concessionaires, how do the terminal operators feel?
Chief Danjuma: This is why there is not much faith in governance because
it is very clear that there is a failure of leadership.
DDH: Some people have suggested that the tank farms should be relocated
to other ports such as Calabar?
Chief Danjuma: Yes, they have said so but as you can see the bridges
are still filled with petroleum tankers, stretching from Apapa to Surulere
and beyond, all the bridges. And this is a disaster waiting to happen
because the bridges were not built as parking lots for container trucks
and tankers. There are cases where containers fall on people and cars,
killing people, but it is not noticed because it is happening in Lagos
and not Abuja.