A corporately dressed male fish hawker has become the centre of attraction in Makurdi, the Benue State capital.
Unongu Kelvin, a graduate of the Joseph Sarwaaun Tarka University Makurdi (JOSTUM) formerly known as Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi (FUAM) carries a basin of dried fishes on his head as he hawks daily around Makurdi metropolis.
Ordinarily, there’s nothing new about his trade, but the fact that he wears a suit or dresses in neatly ironed shirts and ties to attract patronage distinguishes him from others doing the same business.
He also does so without being ashamed, which sets him as an example to young people languishing in self-pity over thriving unemployment in the country.
- ADC denies endorsing gov’ship candidate in Kaduna
- Internet has given entertainment sector opportunity to thrive – Captain Arewa
Kelvin in a chat with our correspondent in Makurdi disclosed that the unavailability of a white-collar job pushed him into the fish trade mostly considered a trade for females, while the idea to take after his mother’s vocation rather than stay idle motivated him to become a professional fish monger.
“I’m from a humble polygamous background. I lost my dad in 2010 immediately after my secondary school education and since then, it’s been my mother – a peasant farmer and local fish vendor, fending for me and the rest of my siblings. However, we are a big happy family.
“I have tried so hard in search of a white-collar job but none seem to be coming forth. I also have tried many things like laundry and dry cleaning services, baking and even a security job all combined, but wasn’t having a quick turnover so I decided to go back to my roots, where I first belonged. This is a basic product every household makes use of – whether rich or poor – and I also know I was going to have the support of my mom, so I deduced it was going to be easier as a business for me,” he said.
For this 30-year-old, “The idea was birthed this year and commenced in earnest by February. I have always liked to look corporately dressed from my university days till now because of the experience I got as a 100-level student. Also, in the fish business, people might think I’m not learned and that’s why I’m selling fish so I decided to change the narrative and of course, this has attracted many clients, just like it also caught your (Daily Trust correspondent) attention.”
He said the need for a better life for himself and his family further propelled his decision to sell fish as the little stipends he was taking from his employers was barely enough for him to take care of his poor mother in the village.
The quest to earn better wages in his estimation formed the basis to quit job hunting for fish trading, especially as the challenges for him are not extreme because he has come a long way with that as a family business.
However, physical cash in recent times seemed the greatest challenge for the young man to grow his business as he explained that despite the availability of capital, having access to real cash has become an obstacle.
And that’s because the local folks don’t have bank accounts such that transacting business with them has been very difficult. Most times, he uses his profits to buy raw cash to take to them. He nevertheless exudes confidence that he is filling a gap in society positively.
Though Kelvin does his business unashamedly, there are times he, however, wishes some of his folks or friends with negative feedbacks don’t come his way. But he has managed to keep distractions at bay.
He said, “Truly, it took me courage to stand some people with bad energy but because I know what I wanted and had made up my mind to do it, it hasn’t been a hard nut to crack; you know why? I wasn’t looking bad so they thought I was doing it not really for the money but for fun or passion. I hawked pure water and bones during my university days so when they see me, we will make fun of it and I move on.
“I ran into a school mate who dropped out of the university but is doing well for himself, he has a car and all that, he made me believe school was a scam but well, it was just his thoughts so I moved.
“It’s not been easy but God has been faithful to me so I’m proud doing this business. I’m so focused and determined that I basically don’t give room for distractions.”
Besides being a fish trader, the young graduate is a trained chef so he bakes too. He also works for an organisation as a security personnel and whenever he was not on duty, he goes hawking fish or bakes cake and even do people’s laundry.
Kelvin admitted that the fish business is lucrative except for the momentary difficulties of getting cash to buy product from local harvesters. He would usually contact his mother who buys directly from the local fish harvesters, then she would process it and waybill to him while on his part, he uses his oven to further preserve the fishes or dry them manually before hitting the streets to sell.
Meanwhile, the young graduate appeared to be overwhelmed by the popularity the fish trade had brought him.
“I never thought of becoming popular through this fish business; I never saw it coming but I’m amazed how popular I am now. Everywhere, people know me now as a cooperate fish seller,” he added.
He believed that if things continue to work for better as planned, then, he will resign from his current security job to focus on the fish selling business.
While advising unemployed youths to look inwards for what they can do passionately and engage in same, Kelvin disclosed that, “I never thought of doing this (fish selling), in fact, I dreamed of having my kitchen but not to hawk, not even fish, but truly unemployment brought me this way.
“There is an adage in Tiv dialect, ‘ka afu gbilin ga yo u soor u yav’ meaning, ‘when you are not laid to sleep properly, you can change your sleeping posture’. So, to many whom the government has not given a good sleeping posture, it’s time they change their sleeping posture by finding what they can do without shame or fear of any kind.”
As for what the future might hold for him, the 30-year-old graduate of Fishery summed up this way, “This reminded me of the article I wrote during my service year for publication in the NYSC magazine of that year 2019/2020, titled, ‘Agriculture, The Only Bridge To The Future Of Nigerian Youths.’ That article was published and everyone liked it but to me today, maybe I will like to rephrase it; ‘Aquaculture, the new gold in town.’ If I’m to delve into the importance of fish, we won’t find enough space. However, I’m looking forward to getting a space where I can raise fishes and to be the highest producer of fish and fish products in the near future.”