HOW I MADE FORTUNE AS A STREET ENTREPRENEUR IN LAGOS
Last week, the Board, management and students of Southern Atlantic Polytechnic (SAPOLY), located along Airport Road, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, rolled out drums to celebrate the fledging institution during her first matriculation ceremony.
It was a colourful outing that raised hope for a brighter future for the matriculated students and a boost to Akwa Ibom State’s economy, as SAPOLY showcased her uniqueness with exhibition of branded products it produced in commercial quantity.
This attracted QuestNews 24 as IMA NKANTA brings to you the vision and motivation of the proprietor, PASTOR BASSEY JAMES. In this interview, he also refuted a newspaper erroneous report of the event.
Let me congratulate you for the success of first matriculation of Southern Atlantic Polytechnic students. So, what vision gave birth to this Polytechnic?
So many experiences I have had gave birth to this dream but the motivation was to contribute my quota to the development of my State, Akwa Ibom. I thought of how I can support the vision of Governor Udom Emmanuel in the promotion of enterprise culture and to achieve this, I thought of quality entrepreneurship-focused education that will produce skilled workforce for the state.
So, in conceiving the dream of a polytechnic, we decided that it must add value to education by equipping our students with different cutting-edge skills that will enable them contribute to the economic development of their communities.
We applied to National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) for approval and accreditation, we thanked God that approval and accreditation of courses were given. Our matriculation was a very huge success for an institution that began in 2020.
We are moving away from the conventional polytechnic education into productivity processes. Consequently, we have our brands in fashion designs, shoe making, food processing, etc. We sold out all our products during the matric event.
Akwa Ibom State is a very rich land, from our study, we discovered that most food items produced in Akwa Ibom State are packaged and exported to other parts of the country and abroad. This is why Southern Atlantic Polytechnic decided to encourage our students in acquiring skills that will enable them add value and also to create wealth for our people.
Many dignitaries, including clergymen, professors and public office holders and a representative of the Governor of Akwa Ibom State attended our matriculation ceremony.
Just as the philosophy of the Udom Emmanuel is Dakkada; telling us rise to greatness through enterprise, Southern Atlantic Polytechnic’s vision identifies with this underlying philosophy of personal and collective greatness.
Where did you get the idea of operating a different polytechnic from?
We got the idea from research, we did a study and found out that many products imported into the country are of less quality. So, we decided that we can do better, we got some machines. For the food item like garri, we found out that we have the best quality of garri in Nigeria from Akwa Ibom State, the same with palm oil and crayfish production.
So, we are adding value to polytechnic education by going into commercial production of these goods. We don’t want to just run a polytechnic but a productivity-driven institution. For instance, most of the chairs and doors used in the structure are produced in the polytechnic. The goal is to build entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is the main deal now all over the world, because, Government alone cannot create wealth without the support of the private enterprise. It is unfortunate that a lot of people hold onto Government for jobs but we are building a new vision and creating new ideas that will create jobs. While we appreciate the efforts of Government, we must do something to improve the quality of lives of our people.
Did you get support for equipment, research and development of the institution?
I have been a business man and have seen people who went into production making it bigger than those in Government. I have also seen how countries like China, Singapore and India which went into production, turned around their economies faster. Our dream is to encourage productivity but so far, there has been no support from any quarter. We funded our research and brought in the machineries.
You said you’ve been in business before establishing the polytechnic. Can we know what business you were doing and where?
I grew up in Ajegunle, Lagos and that made me pass through pain and suffering. But from the suffering, I learned faster. One day, I decided to trek from Ajegunle to Idumota, a distant of about 10 kilometres, then I started visiting Idumota more frequently. Why Idumota? I wanted to get closer to the Igbo business community in Idumota, understudy their business model and how I can fit myself into it. At Idumota, you will find millions of people who specialized in trading. That was where I learnt the art of marketing and salesmanship. It was not long I started taking goods from importers to sell to supermarkets and make returns.
In Idumota you do not need to be a billionaire to make money, you just needed ideas, honesty and resilience. I was so good in selling goods that I became middleman; working between importers and retailers, and that was how my major breakthrough came. At some point, major importers were relying on me for distribution of their products.
I later went into telecommunications and security business. That was another big break that connected me to people at the upper rung of life. So, the Idumota experience changed my entire perspective about life and success. Creative thinking as key to entreprenurial development.
When Mr. Udom Emmanuel became the Governor and came up with the idea of industrialization, I knew it was going change the face of business in the state. And truly, this government has added value to the lives of Akwa Ibomites. The DAKKADA philosophy changed the mindset of the people, making them to think more creatively on how to add value to their potential and explore the resources available in the State.
This is the goal we are pursuing with this institution, it is to let you as a youth dare to be different from others, by engaging deep thinking on how to change your life through enterprise.
In fact for the last fifteen years of my life I don’t sleep for more than three hours in the night. I spend the remaining hours thinking and planning on how I can add value to life. Remember I grew up from Ajegunle, there was no decent house to live, eight people crammed into a room. So, you cannot sleep well in that deplorable condition, rather it made me to think creatively on how to be different from others.
Unfortunately, some persons who see my success today, have no any idea of where I’m coming from. They don’t understand the journey of a great man, they don’t know that every great man has to go through a journey, just like the biblical Joseph and David who went through a process. You can never be great if you don’t go through a process. If you don’t pay the price, if you haven’t been rejected, you cannot get near the crown.
Our polytechnic is established to raise our youths to greatness through enterprise, and this is why we do not just teach them theories, we pass them through practical orientation in different trades. Our motive is to have students who, while undergoing training in the polytechnic, can understand and embrace entrepreneurship culture. Also, we have embarked on real production of goods that are used on daily basis such as garri, palm oil, grey fish, etc., in commercial quantity.
The Board of Southern Atlantic Polytechnic thought of an institution that can produce graduates that will be enterprise-driven, because there are millions of people with certificates that cannot be put to use in workplaces, these are graduates who are unemployable; they have certificates without employable skills.
Many people with good qualifications come to Southern Atlantic Polytechnic for employment but what we need is productivity abilities, not certificate. Look at what is happening in China now, most places have been turned into productivity shops, manufacturing one thing or the other for exports.
Some of our students went for excursion in Oron and we showed them the Atlantic ocean and the wealth that people make from it on daily basis. The students were surprised of the wealth in Oron which are yet to be and exploited and create wealth for themselves.
At the Southern Altantic Polytechnic, we teach our students various productivity skills and all they needed to know about starting a business.
INTERNALIZING ENTERPRISE CULTURE
One thing about success in life is that you must be willing to do something before you can do it. For us at the polytechnic, we have made it mandatory that our students should put their hands in doing one thing or the other that has commercial value. This is the same culture we need in this state. Our youths must be encouraged from post primary level to see business and entrepreneurship as the foundation for a brighter future. This culture should be inculcated into our children.
Our universities and polytechnics should review their curricula to suit the enterprise-driven economy the developed world is doing now. Our students should have information that will make them be productivity-conscious. This is because paper qualification is no longer valued in workplace but what you can offer, that will improve the fortune of the place.
If you go to Araria market in Abia State or Idumota in Lagos, you will observe different productivity processes going on each minute; there is no way your mentality towards success and life will not change. The productivity gap is where Southern Atlantic Polytechnic has come to fill.
WE MUST SUPPORT EACH OTHER
Akwa Ibom is peaceful, stable and secured. We can take an advantage of the security and peace we enjoy and attract more investments here. I decided to support what the governor is doing in the school system, by mobilizing to start the Southern Atlantic Polytechnic. It was not about money-making, because if you want to make money, the worst investment you could ever do is the Polytechnic education, because it would take a while before seeing returns on investments. In years to come, you will need to continue to buy equipment, source out money to pay staffs, build hostels, etc.
CULT INITIATION STORY UNTRUE
We need to encourage people, rather than run them and their investments down. How can a newspaper falsely report that in a matric ceremony attended by representative of the governor, professors, traditional rulers and several dignitaries, IT was used to initiate students into cult?
That was the highest form of stupidity, foolishness and total madness. I think the authorities should investigate the motive of the reporter for such unprofessional job. That tabloid is the kind of elements that want to destroy what the state government is doing, by discouraging private sector participation in economic development of the state. Such attack on institutions can discourage investors and slow down development.
I have petitioned NUJ on this and hoping the reporter would be appropriately sanctioned, to serve as a deterrent against such misleading reports.