Da DB Zang a top-ranking miner, politician, philanthropist and community leader died on May 29, 2008. Late Danboyi Gyel, as he was known at the dawn of his prominence, was born on 7th October 1927. He was one of the three males of seven siblings. Coming from a modest family background, he became his own breadwinner early in life by hunting birds in the rocky hills and valleys of his Gyel home, which he sold, at Bukuru market in the present Jos South in Plateau State of Nigeria. It was not long before he found a job at the Amalgamated Tins Mines of Nigeria (ATMN). His natural inclination to hard work saw him rising up to become a mine overseer within a very short period.
During the forties the Premier of the Northern Region, Sir Amadu Bello came up with an initiative to empower the people of the Northern Region by giving out financial support to selected persons to start up businesses. D B Zang’s experience of working at the mines marked him out. He thus benefited from the empowerment programme. The resulting company, D B Zang Limited started operations in the fifties eventually becoming incorporated in 1962.
The company played a big role in boosting the popularity of the now mining entrepreneur to the point where he considered contesting for a parliamentary position. He lost however. The Parliament of the time was made up of elected and non-elected members. He was lucky to find his way into the parliament of the Northern Region in Kaduna as a non-elected member of the parliament. There he headed the Parliament Committee on Mining. He added that role to one he had prior to becoming a parliamentarian, the President of the African Miners Association.
Da Zang who never had the privilege of formal education looked around his community to discover that if nothing is done generation after generation of his people will continue to remain in ignorance. This realization inspired Gyel Commercial College, which he founded in 1966. The institution later evolved to become Zang Secondary Commercial School in 1976.
The military coup of 1966 ended his parliamentary responsibilities. He turned his full attention to D B Zang Limited and the school he founded. By the twilight years of the military junta of the 1970s, he became the chairman of the Nigerians People Party, NPP, in Plateau State. During the 1979 general elections the party won and set up government in Plateau State with Chief Solomon Lar as Governor of the state. At the peak of his mining business he was said to have become so successful that he could be ranked among the fifty wealthiest Nigerians. The Presidency of the nation was however set up by the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) that considered NPP as a threat. States where NPP set up government were denied subvention. He was said to have shouldered the financial burden of the party at the state.
The relevance of Da D B Zang continued in successive governments. In 1995 he became a member of the National Board of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF). When the Plateau regional branch of the PTF was inaugurated in 1997 he became the Chairman until 1999 when the government of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo ended the PTF and its activities.
Da DB Zang lived to make obvious the fact that where there is a will there will always be a way. He remembered his modest educational background with a tinge of remorse but that never placed an insurmountable barrier in his journey towards greatness. He, no doubt, was one of the most outstanding Nigerians with four national honours to his name. The generation of youths of today can learn that education makes success easy but the lack of it does not stand in the way of big dreams.
When Sir Amadu Bello needed people to empower, he insisted on individuals who have past experience proved they can manage resources of the empowerment programme well. The late miner multiplied the resources in millions, benefiting many and the nation. This is a lesson that merit rather than nepotism works in the interest of the nation.
The secondary school he founded grew to become one of the most accomplished schools in size and quality of its products. The products of the school are found everywhere around the world and have played a remarkable role in shaping not just Nigeria but the world at large. The school, mining and other organizations he was involved in founded jobs for thousands of people.
Da D B Zang lived to be an octogenarian in a country where life expectancy is a mere 45. This in itself is an accomplishment in life. It is a mirror of the discipline that characterized his life. He married twelve wives with whom he had thirty-six children. He was able to sustain this huge family with great grand children and died of cancer in a London cancer clinic.