Awwal Garba: I Was Born into Privilege, I Have Worked Hard to Maintain it


Awwal Garba is an Economist, who runs a chain of businesses under the Magma Group. He is a major player in the global oil and gas sector. Garba was born into privilege but that did not stop him from carving his own niche. He has worked very hard to maintain the privilege. Garba’s strict upbringing has helped him a great deal in navigating the murky business world. The Magma Group boss, who holds the traditional titles of Galadima Talban and Talban Dan Hausa Daura (Katsina State) shares the story of his life with Olaoluwakitan Babatunde

My education was in Nigeria and United Kingdom

attended the Bayero University Kano, Nigeria and the City University, London, United Kingdom, from which institutions I meritoriously obtained my first and second university degrees respectively. I am a Member of the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM) and a Member of the Chartered Institute of Business Management, UK.  Since gaining my Master’s in Business Economics from the Queen’s land, I have in practice majored in the oil and gas sector of the global business environment, particularly in Nigeria. I spent my formative years in Nigeria, United Kingdom and Europe. Later on, I settled in the United Arab Emirates. 

I was born into privilege

Yes, I can say that I was born into privilege but that did not stop me from finding my own niche. More importantly, I have worked hard to create and maintain it. And I am still working hard!

We were taught to respect our elders at all times

In my upbringing, especially coming from a strict home, adherence was the only rule. We were taught to respect our elders at all times.I mean my father’s friends had as much equal rights on me as my father did. Be it the Abiola’s (May their gentle souls continue to rest in peace), Maitama’s or going to the Babaginda’s. No matter where I was, I was always at home. My father, who is now late, was an astute businessman with wide spread interests in commodity trading, exports and imports. He was also a traditional title holder ‘Talban Kano’, one of the king makers. He was a good man.  While my father was alive, my mother was a full time house wife. However, she is still alive. Alhamdulillah. 

The best gift I remember receiving as a child

The best gift I received as a child was not entirely a tangible material gift but rather it was on shaping of my character. When I thought my parents were being hard on us as children, I have come to appreciate all those moments later in life. It actually made us humble, yet strong. You become acceptable and accessible, yet with a resolute and focus. I think the greatest gift is in character building. 

The most difficult thing that ever happened to me

I think the most difficult thing that ever happened to me was finding a balance by breaking away from my father’s umbrella in order to find myself. I call it the period of soul searching. It took time to find what makes me tick, and since then, it has become a passion to reach out to greater heights. The second time was when taking the decision of either taking the private sector or going into public service. In the long run, I have no regrets about going down this route of a business entrepreneurship. I get to enjoy both worlds, after all, as a private person, I can still engage in public service in my own capacity. 

I do not think I believe in mistakes

I do not think I believe in mistakes par say. The issue of considering anything as the biggest mistake I ever made does not arise. Maybe, when intentional recklessness is exhibited. Otherwise, all life experiences are processes of learning, because life itself is a beautiful school that teaches us how to bring out the best in us. It refines and brings out the sparkles in us. 

Put a smile on someone’s face and the picture stays with you permanently

My indelible marks in life are many but I can name a few. Like when I had my first child, or when I first signed my major oil deal, or even realise the possibility which others do not see or understand. There are just countless moments but what you can do is to create one every day. Most importantly, put a smile on someone’s face and the picture stays with you permanently. 

My biggest fear in life is not being able to meet up with the expectations of my family and my loved ones. I fear the day my heart will deceive me that I am anything different or special. I am an ordinary person. Ego is a recipe for failure in life. I feel fulfilled in life, all the time. Yet, life itself is like sweet nectar from the most beautiful thorny fruit bearing tree. Once you taste it, you cannot but go back for another bite. I am always setting new goals to conquer. 

Lessons life has taught me

Life has taught me to be absolutely humble. Life has taught me to be analytical as well as critical with myself in my everyday dealings. I mean, all you have to do is to look around you… The seven year old selling sachet water or moin moin on the streets of Lagos in the early morning rush hour could have been you. He, also given your opportunity, could perform as good or even better. There are always two sides of the coin. 

I enjoy building bridges through investments

I want to accomplish so much in good time from being an Entrepreneur to Ultrapreneur. Like the ‘Oracle of Omaha’, Warren Buffett, I enjoy building bridges through investments. I enjoy making deals in new frontiers. 

I love to sing the gospel of unity

My friends call me the preacher because I love to sing the gospel of unity at any given opportunity. I believe in the oneness of our country. You see, leadership is the ability to see beyond tomorrow and to commit to that vision totally. When those around you do not see what you see, but still follow you with absolute commitment. Those who do not remember history are certainly bound to be consumed by it. It has happened in many countries before. The Asian tigers, from Singapore to Malaysia, Thailand to China they have all gone through what we are going through. America’s democracy took over 200 years to get to where they are now. Ours is only 50+ and with such multi-ethnic groups, you can just imagine. But patience is the key. Mao Zedong closed up China for 50 years before opening up. President Buhari is replicating the same not minding religion or region. But when you have pseudo intellectuals whose pocus hocus idea is as shallow and self-grandeur beyond logic, then the progress will be slow and unappreciated by many. Modus Prophetica for the overcomer has won the hearts of the righteous. We shall certainly get there.

I believe in what life has dished out my way and believe me, when I say if I have to do it all over again, I would not change a thing.

 I used to be a gym fanatic

When I was in my 20’s, I used to be a gym fanatic and could not do without the gym. I also played polo. The pressure of work increased with growth and time for things like that shrank. So whatever time I can squeeze out now for personal issues, I spend it with my wife and two children. We take the children to game parks when they are on holidays and try to have a feel of their minds by coming down to their level and appreciating them.