Munzali Ahmadu Dantata
By Okechukwu Uwaezuoke
Munzali Ahmadu Dantata, the light-complexioned man in white caftan called himself. Yeah, maybe he might need an introduction but not his family. This part-Hausa-part-Fulani man, sitting in this Abuja-based hotel, is indeed a scion of the Kano-born business mogul Alhaji Aminu Dantata.
Then, he was the Allstates Travel Group’s chief executive officer. His visitor from Lagos, who had heard about his poetry and efforts in visual arts, had come to interview him. Of course, he wouldn’t be the first lawyer who loves the arts! Nor would he be the last... Yet, it would be interesting to read the poems of this silver-spoon scion of the Dantata business dynasty. About his paintings: what would his draughtsmanship look like?
A few hours later and less than a 15-minute drive from his office, the visitor had an opportunity to see both. Surprise: this lawyer cum businessman has more than a passing interest in the arts. So far, the visitor had been afforded a rare glimpse into his world.
This Dantata was the president of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) from 2003 to 2006 as well as a trustee of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agents (NANTA), which he had served as president from 1991 to 1993. Between 1999 and 2001, he had served the Federation of Travel and Tourism Associations of West Africa and Central Africa (FISAVET) as vice-president. Before then, he was a trustee of the National of Tourism Operators of Nigeria (NATOP) from 1994 to 1997.
On the culture scene, he was the trustee of National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP) from 2004 to 2007. This information did not surprise his visitor, who had perused the MS of his drama piece, Citizen X. It is his take on the national question and tolerance.
Somewhere in the Federal Capital Territory, he has a site which could pass for Nigeria’s answer to Disneyland. The site, which is very close to the imposing landmark Zuma Rock, is a mini-Nigeria. Besides efforts at recreating the defunct Kano groundnut pyramids as well as the economic activities of the old regions, there are deliberate efforts at constructing mini-villages in the traditional styles of the various Nigerian ethnic groups.
Fast-forward to several months after this encounter: Dantata was regularly spotted in several cultural events in Lagos. A member of the Visual Arts Society of Nigeria (VASON), he was fêted by the organisation at the National Museum in Onikan, Lagos when he turned 50 in 2007. By then, he had already been appointed the director-general of the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOURS).
Dantata, a tireless cultural icon, has previously launched several projects. Currently, he is planning another of such projects with likeminded personalities to commemorate Nigeria’s centenary celebrations in 2014.
A chat with this charming personality, who looked almost a decade younger than his 50 years, revealed that he was not just a 1980 Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria graduate of law but also a 1984 LL. M. in international finance law holder from the American University in Washington D.C.
For a man, who nurses the bohemian whim of touring Nigeria with Fulani herdsmen, this academic record was already impressive. But few people among his acquaintances would have guessed that he was quietly working on a Ph. D programme with the Ahmadu Bello University, which he successfully completed last year. Yesterday, Dantata was conferred with the doctorate degree at a convocation ceremony held at the Zaria-based institution. For his friends and well-wishers in the Lagos cultural circuit – especially Chief Frank Okonta, Sammy Olagbaju and Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi – this occasion is an opportunity to pay him glowing tributes.
Chief Okonta extolled Dantata cultural activism, which he said had impacted positively in the national cultural landscape. According to him, he is a widely-travelled and knowledgeable asset for the cultural sector.
Flashback to two years ago... Nigeria was seething with expectations swirling around its golden jubilee celebrations. A group of cultural stakeholders converged at one of the Abuja-based Transcorp Hilton Hotel’s conference rooms under the umbrella body called PACT – an acronym for Peace, Arts, Culture and Tourism.
Dantata was present at that meeting, which was graced by Alhaji Yusuff Maitama Sule (the Dan Maisanim Kano), Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi (a former Minister of National Planning), Chief Frank Okonta (the president of the Art Galleries Association of Nigeria), the late Chief Segun Olusola (Nigeria’s one-time ambassador to Ethiopia), Hajia Maryam Dada Ibrahim (the vice president, National Association of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, North-east zone) and Alhaji Ismaila Shuaibu (an executive director of the defunct Afribank Nigeria PLC). Dr Bamanga Tukur (the current Peoples Democratic Party national chairman and president of the African Business Roundtable) was expected at the meeting but was unavoidably absent. But there were other personalities like Chief Senas Ukpanah (former Minister of Tourism and Commerce), Hasib Moukarim (the chairman of the Mouka Group of Companies) and Chief Romeo Barberopoulos (the chairman of Nigerian Foundries PLC).