It is not strange to see a man peeling orange and selling pine apple in the northern part of the country, but a young and healthy Ibo man peeling and selling pine apple for a living in Lagos would raise eyebrows. OVIE DANIEL spotted one recently and talked with him. His report.
In the Southern states of Nigeria, housewives, single parents and girls are the promoters of roadside grocery trade, but 35 years old Emmanuel Chinonso Maduga, from Ezinochi, in Okigwe Local Government Area of Imo State didn’t fit into these categories. Between peeling and selling at his duty post at the busy and dusty Iyana-Ejigbo bus stop, along the Mushin-Ikotun road, he told his to our correspondent.
“After I finished secondary school at home, I saw that there was nothing to look forward to in Aba, so I came to Lagos. That was ten years ago.
“I started some little business to survive, and eventually I secured a shop at Yaba where I was selling shoes I used to buy from Kutonou and Togo. Business was good for some years until Tejuoso market caught fire and everything we had went with the fire.”
Emmanuel gathered the physical cash he had at the time and attempted to check out of the country, but ran into a problem. “I was deported the same day I travelled. I didn’t have money to start anything again and I didn’t even have any place to stay. That was the point an old friend introduced me to the pine apple business.
“I didn’t know anything about fruits before but anything was better than just hanging around with nothing to do, so I brazed myself and started the business.”
About six years on in the business now, Emmanuel looks back and has cause to thank God and rejoice in His mercy.
“Business is good for me, and I really thank God. After one year, it got better, by the second year after I started, I got married, and as I am talking to you, God has blessed me with two children – all from this business. I did my traditional marriage in 2009 and you know what amount of money is involved when an Ibo man does his traditional marriage.”
With young men from the Eastern part of the country dominating the auto spare parts markets nationwide, it’s a wonder Emmanuel found grocery comfortable, but he says he weighed the pros and cons before delving into the business.
“Everybody cannot be selling motor parts. Apart from the competition, one needs to do apprenticeship for many years, sometimes up to six years before he gains his freedom to trade in it, and there is some risk that the master may not settle him at the end of the agreement. Then again, you know that six or seven years is a long time to take that kind of risk, so that was why I preferred this business.
“Of course some people mocked me when I started; they said pine apple is a common thing for women and not for young men like me, but I know what God has done for me inside this business.”
He said of the seasons and species of pine apple.
“I go all the way to Kutonou to buy my pine apple, not because we don’t have this fruit in Nigeria, but because customers prefer the Kutonou pine apple; they say it is sweeter than our local ones, and after many days, even one week, it will still be sweet and good, not like our own that will spoil after a few days.”
Emmanuel puts the capital cost of starting a fruit business at N25,000, stressing that it could be more or a little less because of the rising cost of fruits generally, according to its season.
“Although pine apple is a fruit of all seasons, but we have a period of sales boom, especially during the hot and dry season. Also when Muslims are in their fasting period, fruits sell very well.
“On the other hand, even without the fasting period, the constant rains don’t allow the fruit to grow well, so the much we can get to buy does not come cheap. Either way, fasting or no fasting and rain or no rain, we are in business.”
Emmanuel is a man of vision like most Ibo young men. Looking into the future he says he is looking beyond fruits and apples business.
“Although the business is doing me a lot of good so far, I am not settling down to sell fruits forever. Some people advised me to look for a shop so I can add other fruits to the pine apple, but that is not my plan.
“Gradually I am making progress and making plans. As soon as I get what I want from this business I want to return back to my former business, that is the shoes and bags market; so what I’m doing now is just to gather enough money to set up my normal business then I will leave this line, may be for my wife.”
The story of Emmanuel Chinonso Maduga just goes to confirm that where there is a will, there certainly is a way.