A PHONE CALL AND A LESSON ON HOW TO PROSPER WITH NO HELPER
When my old time friend, whom I will name Olukoni, put a call across to my phone with a strange number, earlier in the week around 7.30 pm, I answered without knowing the caller. He spoke in an unusual low and slow tone to disguise his identity. I replied in same style, saying Olukoni. He laughed, asking, when did you become a psychologist, how did you manage to identify me? I replied, 'you cannot hide behind a finger." But I was oblivious of the bundle of information and insight that would follow.
As public servants, we spoke about our ordeal over salary (he said teachers had not been paid) and the way things are going on in the state and country. We delved into issues of cryptocurrency, farming and other things we have done in the past and what we engage in, currently to better our lot. We equally rekindled the unresolved issue of my interest in farming. In our earlier dialogue, he said animal husbandry is not a bad idea but it was too unpredictable. His preference was food and cash crops. Both of us agreed that our background did not give us a good foundation to know or love farming. His father was a cleric in Akure while his mother was a church worker. Mine were traders. My first farmnng experience took place at 24 when I followed some neighbours to their settlement at Adofure.
It got to a stage that he literally took over the discussion and i listened attentively as the contents of his words hit the right cord in my heart.
He was of the opinion that an individual must not dabble into a business he is not familiar with, saying such is laden with landmines that would result in losses and attendant pains. As a civil servant billed to leave the service in a few years time, he could not but plan ahead. He has become a full time farmer with four men taking care of his 20 acres farmland comprising of cocoa, palm trees and plantain. I asked him a few questions, which led him to open up. His response detailed the journey of his life, which I had never heard.
After losing his parents before twenty years of age (father in 1979 and mother in 1985), he had no choice than to re-arrange his life and get his priorities right. His case was worsened by the fact that there were no relatives ready to offer help and assistance. With only WASC qualification, he needed to act fast as the vicissitudes of life had made him a man to face the realities of life and the daunting task ahead. This made him to marry his more qualified heartthrob (NCE holder) to partner him in the journey of life. Part of the responsibility was his desire to further his education, an idea which his wife agreed with. The woman knew that her work was cut out and that without serious hardwork, poverty and failure would be their lot. To avoid that doom, she put aside her qualification and started selling crayfish and smoked fish in the market in the midst of hustling "uncertificated" ladies and girls. As the years roll on, the business became the source of wealth and payment of Olukoni's school fees and some sisters was no longer a burden.
After graduation, my friend got employed as teacher with the State government. By this time, madam had grown big in the art of selling, though she was still doing it in the market. The husband was posted to a rural, agrarian community in one of the towns linking Ondo with one of our neighbouring states. He had to stop madam from selling in the market. She graduated to buying and selling of bags of rice. This helped as payment of their own children and others school fees was done without hassles.
Meanwhile, they had acquired some properties (land, buildings and others) along the way. And promotion in the civil service had been coming as at when due. On getting to level 16 and realising that his days in the service were numbered, he enlarged and expanded his farm, by selling a property in Akure to pay over N1m price for 20 acres of land in the community, where he is a school teacher.
He would not be compelled, hoodwinked or teleguided to dabble into any business or venture he is not familiar with. As he put it, "I know if I plant a seed of maize and rain falls on it, all things being equal I will eat maize in three months time. I went into agriculture because i studied agriculture in school and it's a subject i have been teaching for decades. If there is any grey area, i will consult the books. If I cannot find it there, I will seek advice from farmers."
This revelation was brought to the fore by my questiin on how he manages to settle his 4 workers to the tune of N12,000.00 on a weekly basis. Olukoni said he was paying them with the salary of his domestic staff. Truly, if you see my friend for the first time you would not need to be told that he is into farming.The interesting aspect of his life is that he once sought help to get transferred from the "bush" where he had been for about fifteen years to the city.
But then, life can be interesting and amusing at times. Success and achievement mean different things to different people. Recently, I had course to visit the Southern part of the state. After seeing the achievements (the guy has a university) of a stark illiterate, (yes I understand the guy does not know the meaning of come and see), a politician smiled and blurted, "definitely anybody can become great anywhere; location is neither a reason nor a barrier."
My friend, Olukoni has been teaching young people and also learning from life in the process. Life is full of lessons, various ones for all who use their eyes to see, ears to hear and head to think. It does not end there, your destiny is in your hand, my destiny is in mine. There are opportunities everywhere for those who open their eyes. As Daewoo founder said: every street is paved with gold. The day an individual stops deceiving himself and face reality is the day his emancipation begins. It is up to you. It is up to me.