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The bread king of Gumel

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  • How Auwalu Manager’s bakeries transformed lives in Jigawa

In Gumel Emirate of Jigawa State, Auwalu Hussain, 44, better known as Auwalu Manager, is hailed everywhere he turns. The 44 year-old mogul has a chain of bakeries that employs 1,000 people and caters to thousands of their dependants. How did a secondary school dropout build a bakery empire and transform the lives of an entire emirate?

 

When Alhaji Auwalu Manager started as a messenger at a bakery in 1991, he had no idea that 29 years later, lives of thousands of residents of Gumel Emirate Council in Jigawa State and its surroundings would depend on that decision.

Born Auwalu Hussaini in 1976, but now better known as Auwalu Manager because of his managerial skills.

His quest for formal education was short lived because he believed he was “not destined to go along that line.”

“I abandoned the school and returned home to struggle for survival. It was during Abacha’s regime and things were really tough. So, I began to work with a local bakery here in Gumel, which belonged to one Alhaji Nuhu Karami, just to get what to eat. At that time, they didn’t pay us with money, At the end of a day’s work, you were given what we called baker (damaged bread), just to have what to eat,” he said.

Due to his hard work, the bakery manager made him his assistant and he eventually became the acting manager when the then manager left.

For Manager, that was an opportunity to gather the knowledge needed to own and run his own bakery but the capital was not forthcoming.

One of his uncles, Alhaji Hussaini Mai Zabbi, who also had a bakery, invited him to work for him.

Manager would later save and acquire a plot of land behind Motor Park, where he built his own bakery and named it Lautai Bread, which now has 10 other branches (two in Dutse and eight in Gumel) with at least 100 people working in each.

“What we usually do is that when we make someone head of our main bakery, by the time we’re convinced that he can handle a whole bakery, we would just open another branch and take him there. We then employ other young people to work under him. That’s how we are able to expand the business and employ many people,” he said.

Manager takes great pride in the number of people in his employ.

“It is a source joy and pride for us, having helped many families to earn a living,” Manager said with a smile.

This has made him one of the most popular persons in Gumel Emirate and moving around the town, the warm attention he gets, according to him, is second to none.

“I feel really great due to the way people treat me here. I don’t think there is any other individual that receives such warm treatment and the only reason is that everywhere we go, you’ll find one or more members of the family being assisted either through employment or other means.

“What makes me happy is the number of lives that I am able to touch positively. Sometimes I get angry or feel sad as a result of something, but if I remember that achievement, the sadness quickly disappears,” he said.

Sometimes, Manager said, some of his employees have done things that would warrant the closure of some branches, but he is always put off doing that by considering the number of persons who earn a living there.

“We just exercise patience and forget about the matter,” he said.

Some employees of Manager told Daily Trust how his entrepreneurship changed their lives.

Alhaji Ashiru Muhammad Gumel, one of the branch managers of Lautai Bakery, said he manages two branches where at least 65 bags of flour are used daily.

“I have achieved a lot through this business. I have wives and children. I have built my personal house. I have two private cars, I have performed Hajj and sponsored my parents, and God willing, my sister will be going for her Hajj as soon as it is allowed. So I am grateful to God and thankful to my boss as well,” he said.

Also, Abubakar Idris, popularly known as Danladi Chairman, said he has been working with Manager for the past 16 years during which he had achieved a lot.

“Alhamdulillah, by the time I started working with this factory, I was nothing because I had nothing. But with this business, I have achieved so many things including building my own house, having my private car and raising my family,” he said.

Danladi, who said he lacked the appropriate words to thank his employer, called on other wealthy individuals to emulate his boss by investing their wealth so as to be able to employ others, especially young people, in order to have a peaceful and secure society.

Some residents of Gumel also said Manager is a philanthropist who has raised many people out of poverty.

Touching lives through other ventures

While his fortune has grown in the eyes of everyone in his community, he said because of the nature of his business, he cannot quantify his wealth based on cash or capital but based on properties that he has been able to acquire.

“For instance, about two months ago, I built one bakery in Dutse, where I spent at least N15m in building the place. Therefore, I can’t say this is what I am trading with in terms of capital, because it is only during Zakkat, that one has to sit and calculate to know what to give out as Zakkat.”

Apart from bakeries, Auwalu Manager also has his hands in other ventures. He has a table water factory, called Lautai Table Water.

“We have this big store where we sell flour and other commodities from where our bakeries, and others around this area, come to buy their raw materials,” he said while pointing at a trailer truck where about 50 young men where offloading bags of flours.

“We also trade in beans, sesame, chaff, cement and other commodities into and out of Niger Republic, because we are just a few kilometres away from there. Equally, we export Klin Detergent and Spring Noodles also to Niger Republic,” he said.

On what motivated him to diversify into other businesses when he is already a household name with his Lautai Bakery, adding, “In business, once you are in, it is through interaction with other businessmen that you will learn other things. For instance, we have friends in Maigatari, we are always with them and we see how they always buy these commodities and export them into Niger Republic, and it’s just a matter of capital, and since we have it, we did not hesitate to join the business.”

While his staffers are paid daily wages, Auwalu Manager said, a lot of them are degree and NCE holders and his very competitive wages cause them to turn down white collar jobs, except the most lucrative offers.

“Most of these young men have their own families. There are also others, who are not married, but instead of them to disturb their parents or engage in one social vice or the other, they are occupied here and they are happy with what they earn.”

As an employer of labour with over 1, 000 employees, an achievement he acknowledges some local governments in the country cannot boast of, he has never sought for received any support from the government.

And like every phase of the economy that has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, his business, especially the trans-border aspect, has suffered.

“Before the lockdown, we used to take at least 1, 000 cartons of the noodles, 500 bags of grains and other commodities to Maigatari, pay our legal duties and cross them to the other side of the border. But when the lockdown started, everything came to a standstill,” he said.

The father of nine advised young people not to “think because you have completed your studies, you will fold your arms and wait for government to offer jobs to you, or worse still, wait for their parents to die so that they would inherit their wealth. Young men should stand up and do something for themselves. They should not look down on any lawful means of livelihood.

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