In Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, a 2018 graduate of Aquaculture Fisheries Management from the University of Ibadan, Mr Amachi Tommy Okechukwu, is the cynosure of the gobsmacked eyes of the locals with his bush meat business.
Okechukwu, 31, an indigene of Ebonyi State, had concluded his youth service in Edo State in 2019 and, for want of an immediate occupation, decided to visit his elder brother who works at the Federal Teaching Hospital, Ido-Ekiti.
He had sought for white collar jobs after graduation. In one instance, he was invited for an interview in Ilorin but, as he spoke, he was still awaiting a response from there.
The young graduate was not oblivious of the difficulties of securing jobs, which even hundreds of graduates in Nigeria before him had been experiencing. So rather than laze away as a guest in his brother’s home, he decided to undertake a feasibility study on what business(es) he could engage in in Ado-Ekiti and the many Ekiti towns that dot the state.
Okechukwu told Eko Trust that after traversing the long Ado Ekiti-Iworoko stretch, and up to Ifaki and Ido, he discovered there was no visible set-up involved in the sale of bush meat.
This discovery startled the researcher. The Ekiti people, no matter how educated, flaunt a reputation of not losing touch with their Yoruba and, especially, Ekiti culture. The Ekiti man or woman, boy or girl, will exhilaratingly consume pounded yam, well equipped with bush meat, especially the grasscutter, five times a day.
The thought of that lacuna immediately sowed in Okechukwu a germ of a business idea. And as he said, the fear of wallowing in joblessness for a long while quickly gave that idea some germination.
So the university graduate found a small site on the Ado-Iworoko road, near the Ekiti State University, stuck four poles in the ground, covered them with dry raffia palm leaves, and provided two benches for his customers to perch their behind on while they savour his bush meat.
Getting the seed capital was no problem. “I had managed to save about N60,000 during my youth service and that I used to establish this joint. I feel a lot happy doing this business for now. And that is because being engaged in a business, whatever business it is so long it is legitimate and keeps body and soul together, is a lot better that being unemployed. With this, I have avoided staying at home,” he said.
Okechukwu, who started the business two months ago, described it as “very stressful” but quickly added it was better than being idle.
He said he sources his bush meat from Ora-Ekiti, and, of course, procures ingredients like pepper, vegetable oil and seasonings from a nearby market.
The young graduate noted that he usually comes to his ‘shop’ at 10am and sells till 6pm when he closes for the day.
Okechukwu expressed confidence on how lucrative the business is and optimism that customer patronage would grow appreciably with time.
He added he was not shutting out good salary jobs. For now, however, he intends to concentrate on his bush meat business and grow it to respectable heights.
He also hopes to get enough funds at a point to diversify into fishery and poultry farming to live his degree certificate.
The former youth corps member told graduates they can venture into any legitimate business, too, and earn good money that will not only keep them alive conveniently, it can also serve as capital to go into bigger businesses.
“Graduates in Nigeria should start doing something lawful and legitimate fast. They can’t be sleeping at home. They should forget the notion that the bush meat business belongs to the illiterate class and, instead, apply their education to bring creativity.
“People will eventually respect you as a graduate making a difference in your business. You will also grow from there,” he said.
Okechukwu appealed to governments at all levels to address the ills confronting Nigeria, especially unemployment, “so young graduates can get jobs and would not be tempted, or pushed by hunger, to go into crimes.”