Generally, they were three of them in that category. One was Chief Odutola of the Odutola tyres fame. There was the late Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu. The third one has escaped the memory immediately. Those were the few who qualified to be called industrialists in those days or who were doing things that fit into the concept of industrialisation in any serious sense. In that sense, the governor of Plateau State, Mr. Simon Lalong must be right to ascribe to Ahmed Idris Nasreddin the status of a visionary in establishing the NASCO Group of companies in Jos in 1963 “as the first jute bag factory in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa, in response to the desire of the nation’s founding fathers to meet the challenges for the effective bagging, storage and export of the large agricultural products from the country”.
But that would be the broad vision and we have to look for the specific to that vision. It may not be farfetched. The British imagination of what later became Plateau State is that of the state of the future. This is what the late Liman Ciroma said repeatedly and the British came to that conclusion on the basis of the missionary schools in and around Jos, the weather condition and the prospects of healthy competition that its multi-cultural setting is supposed to embody. If the British left in 1960 and Ahmed Idris Nasreddin put together the company, the first of its kind even by African standard, then that cannot be divorced from a strategic reading of Jos.
It has turned out to be totally right, all the way down. As Governor Lalong noted in his condolence message, the company grew from its little beginnings to become a major conglomerate with successful companies in manufacturing, real estate, hospitality and logistics, trading among others. Not only has NASCO been a major employer of labour in the state, its tax profile corporate social responsibility were ranked high in terms of contribution to the economic prosperity of Plateau in particular and Nigeria as a whole. Above all, the company did not fold up nor pack out of Jos when the elite turned Jos into battle ground which continues up till today, the elite knowing only how to organise destruction but NEVER systematic reconstruction.
At 97, there was not much left in life for the patriarch of a monument to a successful step in industrialisation in Nigeria even as Nigeria itself truncated any hope of industrialisation by adopting hopeless, self-enslaving development strategies, particularly since 1986 to this very moment.
Again, as the Plateau State governor noted, it must be gratifying that Ahmed Idris Nasreddin had in place a successor in Dr Attia Nasreddin and other members of the family. A groomed successor is not the same thing as a convenience appointee in a space where agency can quickly unmake the past. To that extent, it is probably not condolence but congratulations to the NASCO group of companies because, all things being equal, its future appears secure in the changing, more competitive and challenging world of merchandising and manufacturing in the digital phase of capitalism.