SUJIMOTO IN KADUNA: MY EXPERIENCE IN A CITY I CALL HOME
“For us in Kaduna, what makes us happy is not just to have a positive media coverage of the developments happening in the state, but that the people of Kaduna feel the impact of such development. This is what makes me fulfilled as a governor” – Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai.
These words from the master himself, Mallam El-Rufai, did not come as a surprise, even though I do not totally agree with him as I am a strong believer in showcasing the good works of your institutions. I am of the school of thought that the public deserves to see the dedication you put into delivering great achievements. History will not quickly forget Mallam, as his antecedents speak for themselves. How can anyone forget his past exploits and unrivalled achievements in Abuja where he instituted discipline and brought development to the capital city?
It was a chilled evening, after having a discussion with Bello and Hafeez about their vision for Kaduna state. It was at this point that I realised I had met with the engine room of Kaduna state. I was more than pleased to be on board. It was a pleasant surprise to me that young men – in their mid-30’s, with such creative minds, have the vision that could transcend our generation. Their mission is not only about profits and benefits, but they are committed to bringing an Organisation that is creating a global trend in Real Estate that will influence generations to come.
I sat in admiration, listening to the profound projects achieved in the last 5 years by the Kaduna state government, the calibre of the executives – one that has no colouration of religion, age, gender or tribe, but respects hard work and the capacity to deliver. We discussed insecurity, the most delicate challenge to the peace and unity of our great nation. The effort the Kaduna State Government has invested in proffering not only possible solutions, but also transforming the lives of the minority, while providing them with food, shelter, hope and sustenance through the hard times – especially during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
The Kaduna State Government has concluded an arrangement with ARLA – a Dutch company that will be the first off-takers to manage and support the milk production initiative for herdsmen within the state and environs. ‘‘As at today we have 1,562 families who will be given species of cows that will produce 10 times the quality of milk that were previously produced, making them 10 times more effective and easily distributed for commercial purposes. We are not only stopping there, but we are providing education and healthcare, which is one of the things we in Kaduna are doing, aside from infrastructure and education, to mention a few of the things that are being done at the state level.
The Government did more by providing standard educational material in public schools, better healthcare facilities, top tier quality of roads, affordable mass housing units and an outstanding presence of security operatives in the state. Today Kaduna is one of the safest places to do business in the whole of Nigeria’’ Hafeez Bayero added.
When I was between the ages of 2 to 7, my Dad worked in the North, so growing up in Zaria for me is a blessing. It gave me the opportunity to learn the Hausa dialect and also gave me first-hand exposure to learn about numerous historical leaders at such a young age. People like the great Shehu Usman Dan Fodio of Sokoto Caliphate, and my hero, the Late Emir of Zaria – Alhaji Shehu Idris, in whose palace we go to watch horse riders and the beauty of cultural activities in the North.
It also gave me the opportunity to learn about the exploits and achievements of the great Queen Amina of Zaria – her strength gave me and the Sujimoto team the inspiration behind our first project in the North which is called QueenAminaBySujimoto in Maitama. This epic project is designed to conquer and disrupt the status quo of the luxury real estate market in Abuja. It will be the first of its kind experience in the North! So, returning back to Kaduna rejuvenated my memories and gave hope to our project.
Before this trip, the last time I was in Kaduna was when I was honoured with an invitation by my royal father the Ooni of Ife, in 2019, and I spent only 7 hours in Kaduna to attend Mallam El-rufai’s 60th birthday, where the former Emir of Kano Sanusi Lamido, made an incredible speech that still resonates with me till date. The last time I visited Kaduna before then was in 1988 when I left my home at the age of 7 and ran away to Lagos. From the tender age of 2 – 7 my family lived in Zaria and Plateau respectively but mostly in Zaria.
One day, I missed my mum so dearly and I ran away from home. It was a Sunday, I took a backpack and told my immediate sister Tope that I was leaving. She asked ‘To where?’ I didn’t say anything. I took a bus from Sabon Gari Motor Park in Zaria to Lagos Park in Kaduna and from there, I took a Station Wagon directly to Lagos. Upon my arrival in Lagos the next day around 2am, I slept at the park till it was dawn and took a bus to see my mum. She was in so much shock to see me that she came down and poured sand on me, just to be sure I was not a ghost, after which she welcomed me with a bowl of Amala and Ewedu. I was afraid and at the same time excited but the chopping I received the next day is one I will never forget.
During my trip in the city of KD, I noticed numerous infrastructure development, good road networks, and lot of cars below 10 years old. From my observation I noticed that Kaduna has a high quality work force which is a strength for any company looking to set up a manufacturing plant or a head office in the state. This trip has helped to debunk all fake rumours and negativity about the opportunities in the Kaduna state.
One of the things that caught my attention, not only as a developer but as a guest, was the infrastructural development (expansion of roads) the calmness and serenity of the city, the cultural beauty, despite being a state known for being conservative. Each and every single person I came across was more than welcoming with an enchanting smile.
That night, I was in the company of Bello El-Rufai and Biggy (Sadiq Yusuf) who both took me round that night. We had the opportunity to visit a few spots, where we enjoyed variety of some quick snacks at MUFFINS AND BROWNIES. At this point Mallam has returned to the Government House, and we rushed to pay him a courtesy visit. It was late but I could see a crowd waiting to see “Sarkin aiki” – the hero of the people. Something I will never forget was not only the hospitality of the staff but the sense of urgency with which they attended to everything. Everyone was on their toes; attending to things swiftly without any form of hesitation. Last time I saw this level of efficiency at display was during my visit to China.
We sat patiently enjoying the nice tea served by the aides while waiting on our appointment. The ambiance and reception from His Excellency was next to none. I also had the opportunity to meet the speaker of House of Assembly – Honourable Yusuf Zailani, a true politician, who seized the opportunity and offered that Sujimoto builds their next House of Assembly quarters. In his words, “this might not be the Sujimoto standard but we will be happy to have you here in our state”.
We spoke at length, and at this point I got the opportunity to meet His Excellency, a charismatic man with the kindest of hearts, exactly how he looks in the pictures and most decent in behaviours, very punctual in character, factual, diligent and straight to the point. I watched how he applied prudence in his actions. He attended to all documents that needed his attention in an efficient way, doing it himself, at same time multitasking and receiving calls. With Mallam I saw leadership – true leadership.
“Young man, welcome to Kaduna, what can we do for you?” I made my presentation on the Kaduna Sujimoto Resort and also our capacity for infrastructure. He listened carefully and I will never forget what he said “When I see presentations like this made by young people, it give me hope that our nation will be in the hands of champions, Sujimoto I am very impressed. Please continue being a pride to your generation and the Kaduna State Government will support you with all you need”. It was a great meeting, one I will not forget quickly.
Castle De White House, which is the best hotel in Kaduna, has an amazing exterior, a not too bad interior, with nice and incredible service. I will not quickly forget the Ilesha lady that speaks Hausa better than the Kaduna man who was so excited to meet me at the reception. “Are you Sujimotors?” she queried in excitement.
The hotel is okay, but of course wasn’t the best I have stayed in my lifetime. However, this experience also gave me an insight into opportunities in the great state of Kaduna. Kaduna was known to be the social and entertainment hub of the North. I will never forget growing up in Zaria and everyone who lived in Kaduna had this sense of pride. It was as if they came from New York City. “I’m from Kaduna” was a bragging right! My father enjoyed visiting Kaduna almost every weekend with his friends and I remember numerous tourist and entertainment attraction spots that gave Kaduna the glow it once had.
The next morning, we had the opportunity to tour the Investment Company of Kaduna State, led by its Managing Director – Mr. HAFEEZ BAYERO, a person whom I will describe as a technocrat at the age of 36, with an exceptional composure and an uncommon level of professionalism. I could see the level of productivity His Excellency saw in a young man of this age to deserve an appointment to manage and overseeing the completion of over 26 projects in the state. It got even better when the manager of CCEC, the Chinese construction company, with presence in the state for having constructed over 350 kilometres of road network in Kaduna state; walked in and in his words “Mr. Suji welcome to my state, I have lived in Kaduna for over 2 years and I bet that my Hausa language sounds better than yours (we laughed), I go hunting whenever I am free, I go out at my own time and without any security presence with me. I think I have to find myself a beautiful Fulani wife at this point”. I was wowed by the Chinese expatriate who has found solace in the beautiful city of Kaduna State.
We had the opportunity of visiting the Muritala Mohammed Square Project with Hafeez, the young energetic Project Director who had an incredible understanding of every detail of the project, a 20-acre land under construction, which will feature so many amenities that the people of Kaduna can enjoy upon completion, such as a professional swimming pool, tennis court, 26 room hotel, 3 star restaurant, 4 standard football pitches, event centre, horse tracks, volleyball centres, and many more.
“Sujimoto! Sujimoto” was what I kept hearing from the people who saw us touring the Murtala project. “Baba they call me the Sujimoto of Kaduna, I’m so happy to see you. My wife will not believe what I have seen today. Please let’s have a selfie.” These were some of the words I heard and it came to me as a pleasant surprise to be known and loved in a city I call home. I was amazed to have been recognized in the heart of Northern Nigeria and could find people who know our brand and are pleased to associate with us. We are grateful to the Almighty but above all it is a reminder that we should never settle for less and we shall not stop until we redefine luxury living in Nigeria at large.
In my journey of life I have met various politicians, but I will like to state clearly that politicians come in different personalities. I have never met a politician so passionate about his state and his people like distinguished Senator Uba Sani. Anytime I speak with him or visit him in Abuja, he will always speak about his state – Kaduna, his people and the works he is doing. So for once, I will like to state clearly that the bragging didn’t lie as I had the opportunity to visit his office and some of his projects. In one of those projects, we found about 50 ladies receiving some entrepreneurship relief funds and raw materials for Small and Medium Scale Enterprise. In the last 10 years he has sponsored 450 students to write WAEC and NECO yearly, just to encourage and further push the children in his state to go to school. His love and commitment to his state is unexplainable.
For us at Sujimoto, the Kaduna Sujimoto Resort is beyond a project, it is an opportunity to bring the best of the world to the beautiful city of Kaduna. The location will be where the historic champion of Dambe (Hausa wrestlers) is being held. This location is significant and symbolic to us as it depicts the capacity to create champions and the ability to bring only the best to Kaduna.
Our intention is simple, to transform Kaduna into the Dubai of Africa, by bringing the height of Burj Khalifa, features and amenities of Burj al Arab, the exquisite feel and comfort of the Palm Dubai hotel that will open up Kaduna’s tourism opportunities and leveraging its inherent potentialities.
For the first time in the continent, we are bringing the Disney experience to Africa. The Kaduna Sujimoto resort will be the go-to place for local tourisms in Africa. The resort will borrow from the best in the world and merge with the rich culture of the North to create the finest in terms of architecture, world class recreational facilities, luxury hotels, shopping centre, and lots more.
The Kaduna Sujimoto resort, will be the first option for tourism for families in the North, Nigeria and Africa, where they can experience the finest in terms of contemporary architecture, beautiful landscaping, serene ambience for picnics, exciting sport games and lots more. After the completion of the Kaduna Sujimoto resort, it will put Kaduna state on the map of the world tourism destination, letting everyone know that luxury has a new home and the address is Kaduna state!
These trips to Kaduna wouldn’t have been possible without my half Hausa and half Yoruba business development manager – Hafsat. She has been with the company for just a short period of time. But her dedication, passion, love and zeal to get a job done has created an opportunity for us at Sujimoto to stamp our mark in every part of the North. As an organisation, we can’t express our gratitude enough and we will definitely compensate her for her commitment.
Stuck with me is the memory of this young vibrant, energetic architect – Khadija. She hails from Katsina but her parents and grandparents have lived in Kaduna for years, Khadija gave us a good talk about the history and culture of Kaduna. I was delighted to find such an eloquent Queens-English-Speaking lady living in such a beautiful city. I see talent in her and we at Sujimoto will be pleased to have her as part of our world class team.
I was very pleased to meet Abdul Kwankwaso and he insisted I visit his sports and games centre – a beautiful eatery and beautiful pool arena. You can find me at Pluto’s anytime I am in Kaduna, either in the gym or enjoying the Shisha at the poolside. Abdul now has one more member and the whole Sujimoto team. He has brought luxury to Kaduna and introduced the same Kwankwasiyya philosophy of independence and diligence to the Kaduna community.
I will not forget my experience at this little local restaurant in Wharf Road, where I met Aisha, a beautiful 22 year old, whose face was half covered but her mouth was as sharp as anything, extremely articulate with her mixture of Hausa and English. ‘Walahi Gaskia, Mallam is doing exceptionally well!’ She had a strong passion for her state, and was delighted to see someone from Lagos coming to do some work in KD. With less than 500 naira, I enjoyed a nice dish of local Tuwo shinkafa and downed it with cold Kunu. It was the best I have ever had. Only if I wasn’t married, I would have found a princess for myself in KD.