THEOPHILUS DANJUMA: Quintessential Administrator, Creative Industrialist


Eric Elezuo

When you talk about a man who is an all rounder, there is the tendency to remember a man of many parts; a man who seems to have seen and participated in almost every life endeavour. He is an achiever, and someone anybody can easily say I want to be like you when I grow up. He is Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma GCON FSS psc

Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, a retired Army General was born on December 9, 1938 in Takum, a farming community, Taraba State (formally Gongola, to Kuru Danjuma and Rufkatu Asibi.

Among many things he has been are soldier, politician and multi-millionaire businessman and philanthropist. He was Nigerian Army Chief of Army Staff from July 1975 to October 1979. He was also Minister of Defence under Olusegun Obasanjo, and presently the chairman of South Atlantic Petroleum (SAPETRO)

His enterprising nature was more like hereditary as his father was a hardworking peasant whose ancestors were all highly respected members of the community. Apart from farming, he also traded in metal parts for farming implements and tools.


Danjuma started his education at St Bartholomew’s Primary School in Wusasa and moved on to the Benue Provincial Secondary School in Katsina-Ala where he was the captain of the school cricket 1st XI team. He received his Higher School Certificate in 1958, and in 1959, enrolled at the Nigerian College of Arts Science and Technology in Zaria, present day Ahmadu Bello University to study History on a Northern Nigeria Scholarship. However, by the end of 1960, had left university education to enrol with the Nigerian Army where he excelled.

He chose his passion, having known by hindsight what the future holds, and so he was commissioned into the Nigerian Army as Second Lieutenant and Platoon Commander in the Congo.  In 1963, he joined a UN Peace-keeping force in Sante, Kataga Province in Congo when he was promoted to Captain three years later. In 1966, he was involved in the Nigerian Counter-Coup of 1966 with the 4th Battalion in Mokola, Ibadan.

His military prowess continued to come to the fore, and so  in 1967, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel at the start of the civil war campaign towards Enugu, which was captured later in that year. Towards the end of the Nigerian Civil War, Danjuma led a battalion that freed Jaja Wachuku from detention by the Ojukwu government.


Danjuma continued to exhibit versatility, and in 1970, he attended the International Court Martial in Trinidad and Tobago as Nigeria’s representative, when he was appointed President of the Tribunal in a case brought against members of a failed coup attempt in Trinidad and Tobago. Following his promotion to Colonel in 1971 he spent next two years with responsibility for court-martialling Army officers proven guilty of corruption and indiscipline.

In 1975 he was promoted to Brigadier and the position of General Officer Commanding (GOC) and in the following year he became the Chief of Army Staff to the Head of State Olusegun Obasanjo. He retired from the Nigerian army in 1979.

Having retired from the army, thereby closing the chapter of militarism, Danjuma, who was not tired, picked up immediately forming the Nigeria America Line (NAL).the company went on to  win patronage from Nigeria’s National Supply Company (NNSC) to bring in government goods from. NAL’s list of growing clients included DICON Salt (Nigeria) and project cargoes for Iwopin Paper Mill, ANNAMCO and Volkswagen Nigeria. NAL became a member of AWAFC (American West African Freight Conference), Brazil-Nigeria Freight Conference and the Mediterranean Line (MEWAC). With the formation of the National Maritime Authority (NMA) IN 1987/88, the profile of NAL increased as NMA encouraged indigenous operators to claim their share of internationally traded cargo involving Nigeria. NAL began with a core indigenous staff of about 12 in 1979. In 2009 staff in NAL-COMET moved closer to 250 including approximately 12 expatriate staff members.

The General as he is fondly called, could not rest on his oars, and went ahead to establish COMET Shipping Agencies Nigeria Ltd in 1984, primarily to act as an agent for Nigeria American Line (NAL). COMET grew and by the late nineties became one of the largest independent agents operating in Nigeria with experience in handling many types of vessels and cargo. In 2009 Comet handled over 200 vessels at the ports of Lagos, Port Harcourt, Calabar and Warri.

In 1995, he established the South Atlantic Petroleum Limited (SAPETRO) South Atlantic Petroleum (SAPETRO), an oil exploration and production company. The ministry of Petroleum Resources in Nigeria awarded the Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 246 to SAPETRO in February 1998. The block covers a total area of 2,590km2 (1,000 sq. miles). SAPETRO partnered with Total Upstream Nigeria Ltd (TUPNI) and Brasoil Oil Services Company Nigeria Ltd (Petrobras) to start prospecting on OPL246.

In 2004, SAPETRO’s subsidiary in Benin won through a competitive tender process an oil exploration contract covering 550 square kilometres offshore from the Republic of Benin. In February 2005, SAPETRO was granted Oil Mining Lease (OML) 130 and thereafter the Federal government backed in through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). In June 2006, SAPETRO divested part of its contractor rights and obligations to China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC). SAPETRO produced its “first oil” (condensate) on 4 March 2009. In December 2009 SAPETRO donated a new state of the art medical centre to the Nasarawa State University. The medical centre, to be known as South Atlantic Petroleum Medical Centre would be available to serve the University, the local and neighbouring communities.

Since 1999, Danjuma has performed politically appointed roles such as:

  • Minister of Defence 1999
  • Chairperson for investigative committee on the Warri conflict 2003
  • Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council by Acting President Goodluck Jonathan 2010

While in Office, Gen TY Danjuma sought to curb the politicisation of the military, and was a firm supporter of democracy and the Rule of Law. He also oversaw the renaming of all Nigerian barracks and cantons from those of civilian or living persons. He was also widely known to be an avid opponent of President Obasanjo’s attempts in 2006 to engineer a way that would enable him and state governors to serve more than two consecutive terms in what was known as the Third Term Agenda.

Danjuma serves as Chairman of the Victims’ Support Fund Committee, supporting the victims of terror such as the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping. On 16 July 2014, in a speech at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, Danjuma “told President Jonathan that Boko Haram insurgents appear to be having the upper hand, as they choose where to strike and capture territory … Danjuma said the battle to win the insurgency war has already taken too long.”

In December 2008, the TY Danjuma Foundation was created in Nigeria.

The Foundation’s principal aims are to provide durable advantages through the implementation of development programs. The Foundation plans to operate more as a philanthropic organisation rather than simply as a charity. This would allow for the foundation to seek out other deserving causes and Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to partner with and make grants available.

The TY Danjuma Foundation seeks to alleviate poverty in communities by providing basic amenities, education for children and young adults while also providing free medical care for indigent people. Currently, USD500,000 has been given out as grants to NGOs working to relieve suffering in Danjuma’s home state of Taraba. Taraba is historically one of Nigeria’s most impoverished states, compounded by the absence of a health service which catered for the masses. Furthermore, the state has the highest case of river blindness and other debilitating illnesses.[8]

The TY Danjuma Foundation is currently partnering with over 50 NGOs throughout Nigeria, and with the support and co-operation of 36 state governors. One of the many NGOs which is being supported by the Foundation is CASVI working in Takum, Wukari and Donga. CASVI’s main area of expertise is on the provision of free eye care services such as the treatment of river blindness in Wukari, Ibi and Donga

The 77 year old who would turn 78 in a few months is married to Senator Daisy Danjuma, and they are blessed with Yuki, Omenai.

Sir for your ability to affect the business world so positively, you deserve this week’s Boss of the Week. Congrats!


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