By Charles Kumolu, Deputy Editor, Sunday VanguardShehu Malami
SINCE today’s generation of Nigerians ignorantly regards virtually all successful people of his age as politicians, some may think he is one. That is certainly a misconception that reflects how today’s Nigeria sees being in politics as possibly the surest path to fame and wealth.
He is not, even though at some points, he had taken up assignments from some past political leaderships. The abortion of his chance to occupy a vacant House of Representatives seat in Lagos by the January coup of 1966 turned out a blessing. He went ahead to excel as a boardroom expert and administrator with a name that commands respects in the political space.
Today, the name, Shehu Mallami is synonymous with technocrat, entrepreneur, royalty and administrator. As a technocrat he was instrumental to the growth of the following companies: Costain West Africa, Nigeria Industrial Development Bank, NIDB, Tannery; Nigeria Pipes Ltd, Zaki Bottling Company; Shempat, Patterson Zachonis, PZ, Japan Petroleum Company, and Indo-Nigeria Merchant Bank.
He is a member, Executive Committee, Nigeria-USA Business Council and member, International Advisory Council and World Economic Forum Foundation.
He is also part of the success story of Ecobank, Union Bank, and Standard Chartered Bank.
Specifically, he is one of the founders of Ecobank, former Chairman of Union Bank, Director, Standard Chartered Bank and former Chairman of Costain West Africa. The administrative aspect of his fame lies in his involvement in public service. The octogenarian was the District Head of Wurno in 1973 and Chairman, Wurno Caretaker Local Government Area in 1976.
He served as a member of Endowment Foundation, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs and concurrently as Chairman, Endowment Fund. He was a member, Governing Council, and Tenders Board, University of Nigeria, Nsukka; member, Constitution Drafting Committee from 1975 to 1976, member of Constituent Assembly and Chairman, Assessment Committee of the Nigerian National Merit Award between 1981 and 1987.
On royalty, he has royal blood running in his veins having been fathered by Mohammed Bello Dan Usman, son of a former Sultan of Sokoto. Without that, he probably may not have been holding the title of Sarkin Sudan of Wurno, an esteemed title of the Sokoto Caliphate.
In Sokoto and beyond many mostly address him by the name, whose origin dates back to the time of Shehu Usmanu Dan Fodyo. In the beginning, the title was given to the late Sultan Bello, who who lived in Wurno before relocating to Sokoto.
His involvement in public and private sectors is reputed for marks of excellence. This is more evident in the top-notch companies Malami has been associated with ever since he embraced the private sector in 1964.
The longevity of the commercial firms he headed in different top capacities attests to his boardroom ingenuity.
It is this same shrewd reputation earned in his pursuits that informed his appointment as Nigeria’s High Commission to South Africa by the administration of the late General Sani Abacha.
Working closely with the late Nelson Mandela when the rainbow nation commenced majority rule, he ensured that the relationship between the two nations witnessed reengineering. This prince of the Sokoto Caliphate is a lesson in nobility, consistency in character, preservance, and excellence.
Lesson in nobility
Sarkin Sudan has shown that a Nigerian can be close to power, and achieve success outside the political space. As Nigeria grapples with the challenge of meaningful leadership at all levels, his life explains that power and fame are not tools for underdevelopment but the promotion of a better life.
It is in recognition of his distinction in private and public sectors that Vanguard found him a worthy recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.
He was born on November 14, 1937, in Sokoto. The former diplomat attended Waziri Ward Primary School, Sokoto, Sokoto Middle School, Kano Provincial Secondary School, Bida Provincial Secondary School, North Devon Technical College, Barnstaple, Southern-on-Sea Municipal College, England, Middle Temple, London and Wolfson College, Cambridge, England.
He is a recipient of the merit award of Commander Order of the Niger, CON. On two occasions, he was mentioned as one of the contenders to the position of Sultan of Sokoto.