The Coordinator General of Mandilas Business Owners Association (MALBOA), Lagos Island, Mr Ogbuefi Akoma Ikebude, has said that he has solution to the spate of market inferno across the country.
The Chief Executive Officer of Sabev Investments Nig. Ltd, in this interview also disclosed how he rose to prominence from a humble beginning to the top of his career.
You have been Coordinator General for four years. How did you become the Coordinator General?
I am a businessman. I trade in garments. I am the Coordinator General, MANBOA. Over four years ago we had an association called Mandilas United Traders Association (MUTA). Later on, the association left to Lagos International Trade Fair Complex along Lagos-Badagry Expressway, and we were left unattended to, but because nature abhors vacuum, those of us who remained here saw the need to have a central coordinating body and that was what gave birth to our association. Some of us were appointed and my humble self was made Coordinator General.
Why did they choose to move to Trade Fair?
As far as I know, the Igbo man is very enterprising by nature. The association acquired land by themselves at trade fair and they developed it and some of them who felt they needed to leave left; they left on their own volition.
What were your challenges managing this vast market after they left?
It was not really easy, but by the corporation of the traders, the work has been made easier. The biggest challenge was that the departure of the old association created low apathy among the traders because they felt the way and manner the association left was not fair so they felt abandoned. The new executive felt there was need to explain to them and bring them together and by the special grace of God, we have been moving on. Just like in any human endeavour, when you want to bring people together, there must be challenges like trust. They felt that since the old association had abandoned them, there was no guarantee we would not do the same. It took time for them to see reason. We had to meet them one by one, including all the chairmen of the plazas in order to convince them that the new leadership had their interests at heart and are committed to their welfare.
Four years after, we understand that elections are around the corner, could you shed light?
If all things go as planned, by the first quarter of 2020 we intend to have elections. We are putting every necessary mechanism in place. The association is fully registered with CAC. We have a Board of Trustees and a constitution so everything for successful elections is in place.
Are you running for office?
Well…though people have been earnestly pressuring me to contest, but for now, my interest is giving my all to the association. I don’t want to be distracted. However, if they insist, I may take a look into it, but for now I am concentrating on running the affairs of the association.
Elections are very sensitive in Nigeria, what are you putting in place to make sure that there is a free and fair election?
Election in this market has been peaceful even under the old association. The crop of people in this market are civil so issues of elections have never resulted into problems, even though we know that we must have security in place for the smooth conduct of the elections.
There have been numerous tales of harassment of both traders and customers alike in this market. What have you been able to do to resolve the problem?
There have been issues of harassment of customers and traders alike. But with the advent of this leadership, we have been able to reduce to the barest minimum, the menace and other vices. From time to time we consult with stakeholders and let them see reasons there should be peace in the environment because business thrives when there is peace.
How did you start your business 20 years ago?
As an Igbo man, once you finish your basic schooling, if you don’t want to further your education, you can learn a trade or become an apprentice where you serve your master for a number of years and after that your master settles you and you start on your own. I worked under my master and he settled me. It was a gradual process. I started by traveling to Onitsha to buy stuff before graduating to traveling overseas as my business expanded.
What is the secret to your success?
It is having faith in God and being open minded. Do unto others what you will like others to do to you.
Igbo are very aggressive in business and they are achievers. What is that thing that sets them apart?
From time immemorial, the likes of Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu and his likes were very enterprising and that spirit is in every Igbo man. So, the apprenticeship culture in Igbo land is helping our youths. Four or five years, if you are obedient to your master and you play by the rules, you can become your own master. Your master will give you money, pray for you and bless you. And mark you, it is not the money that your master gives you that matters, but the knowledge you acquired.
There was fire incident that destroyed millions of naira worth of goods and property. How are you dealing with the aftermath?
That fire was an unfortunate incident. It happened close to my office. It could have been anybody and I feel the pain of my brothers and friends who lost unquantifiable amount of money. Some of our members were very much affected. I’m using this opportunity to appeal to well-meaning Nigerians and government to come to their aid.
First it was Onitsha and now it is Balogun Market. What steps have you taken to checkmate any such development again?
In civilised climes, government needs to provide fire-fighting equipment which should be very close to markets for unforeseen circumstances. We need to organize seminars on safety for stakeholders. Fire extinguishers and other fire-fighting equipment should be made available even as the need for safety and awareness is being created. This could be held on a quarterly basis in conjunction with the state governments. If this is done, such incidents would be curbed.