The Group Managing Director of Lakesin Motors and the Babalaje of Ogun meat sellers, Oluwagbenga Ayoola Ogunbunmi , is a young and successful businessman who has thrived amidst harsh economic and social challenge
4 years ago, the business mogul, became the Babalaje of meat sellers in the entire Gateway state, Ogun, being a worthy ambassador with matching philanthropic attributes and gestures of a social crusader, in the cow business.
The installation ceremony was well attended by royal fathers and eminent personalities in the Ogun community, and he was overwhelmed by the priceless recognition given to him by the community, where his grandmother coincidentally came from.
Speaking with City People GM Production, WAHAB BASHIR and Online Editor, SEUN JOSEPH the young chief lauds the peaceful and coordinated way of life of the meat sellers association in Abeokuta and the gesture towards him as the Babalaje.
He also gave an insight on his journey in the meat selling business and how he has grown amidst tough times to become a revered authority in the meat selling business in the State.
Congratulations on your title, Babalaje. Why do you think you were given the Babalaje title?
I want to thank the living God first of all for all his mercies over the years. I am sure it is the grace of God that made the leaders saw the qualities of the Babalaje in me, and amidst all my contemporaries in the butchery profession, God singled me out. I also believe in the peaceful coexistence that exists amidst all the butcher and meat sellers in Ogun, we don’t hate, we don’t envy. We love ourselves unconditionally.
And also humility. Humility is a very rare virtue that every man should strive to imbibe, because it opens doors to so many opportunities that you can never imagine.
How come you are JP as the profession of meat selling has a lot of muslims?
You are correct. It is no doubt that there are so many Muslims in the business. In fact, some of the customers will call me Alhaji so as to negotiate differently with me. This is why I strive to ensure that I travel to Jerusalem in Israel
May we run through your bacground?
My father had so much responsibility and he is not really committed to raising kids. My mother is a concerned woman, but he has no money. I grew up with my grandmother, who took care of me very well. In fact, she groomed me with soft hands. I was going to school like a king; some of my mates will come to my house to carry my bag for me.
My grandmother used to put beverage in my water bottle. I was so carefree that I used to repeat a class three times. Even some of my younger ones met me and left me in school. By the time I left primary school, I was already overgrown. So I decided that I won’t further with academics. I decided that I wanted to go and learn vocational work. My parents were worried and they wept bitterly. It was worse when I told them that my choice of vocation was butchery. She cried more bitterly (laughs). I told them that my mind is already made up and that was what I would do.
I now thank God today, that I did not regret the decision I made. I am the first person in my family that will do the job in my family. Yes. No one was ever in the butchery business. I was the first. And I’m grateful that the journey has been smooth for me so far and my decision was my destiny.
How did your people respond when you started meat selling business?
When I started, they noticed that I participate in almost every event in the family. I will invest my time and money in all the family projects and events, and some of the wise ones in the family noticed that I am a child of destiny. They began to support me in everything I do within and outside the family. Whatever anybody wants to do, they always put me in consideration, despite that we have lawyers, doctors, nurses, engineers in my family, they will still insist I am co-opted in whatever they propose to do.
Can you tell us about the bosses who trained you in the business?
Thank you and God bless you for that question. I had so many bosses, but I will mention the ones that impacted on me most among them. The first time I joined the butchery business as an apprentice. I was handed over to Musibau Adebowale who was fondly called Baboosa. He was very popular throughout Ogun State. He is late now, but he was very famous.
For How Long Did You Serve As Apprentice?
I spent a long time. Like about 10 years.
Thank you. I wanted to learn every part of the business because the butchery business varies in many ways; some will learn how to butcher the meat, some will learn how kill the cow, some will learn how to sell, some will learn how to go and buy the cows across the country. Some focus on the skin, some focus on cow legs, and so on. But I got in to learn how to kill the cows. I did it for 2 years. I told my boss after my graduation, that I want learn how to go to the market and buy the cows.
I did that also for about two years. After that I said I want to learn how to sell beef to final consumer. That was when I was handed over to Alhaji Ambaliu Adetona, popularly known as Istijaba. I now thank Isti-Jaba very much, because of those days if I could remember, he did not train me with a soft hand at all.
He is a principled and disciplined fellow. In fact we sell quality beef. If my boss could not buy quality beef, he’ll prefer not to work that day. As for him, it’s the best or nothing. He won’t just buy any beef. He will rather go home to sleep. I thank God for him also that he is also successful in all the he does. He now travels everywhere across the world. And I am his first apprentice. I endured till the end.
When we sell beef and it remained, Instead of stocking it in the fridge, I will fry the beef and hawk again in the morning across the butchery. I will hawk the whole fried beef and later go to work to sell the raw beef. It was tough but I endured. So many people advised me to leave him, but I knew he has hidden virtue that I know will help me. I am grateful that I endured because God has used Isti-Jaba to bless me today.
This shows you are a very patient man. Where did you get that from?
Yes. I am still patient till tomorrow. I believe I got that from my parents. I have learnt from them that Patience is a virtue that should be coveted.
What advise do you have for those who want to do the butchery business now?
Thank you. Remember in those days, some parents wouldn’t want their girls to marry meat sellers. But today, there are big men in the business. There are very successful people in the meat selling business. They build schools; they sell cars and are successful. I want to advise the people who are interested in the business to be dedicated and patient. Let them put their mind to it. Not all meat sellers are thugs. I don’t smoke and I don’t drink, and I am a meat seller.
It doesn’t mean that those who smoke or drink are bad or they don’t succeed. Afro beat legend, Fela smokes and drinks and he is very successful. My message is that we should not attach thuggery to meat selling business.
How is the relationship between the government and the meat sellers association?
Meat business is a risky business. If you buy a cow for, say ten thousand naira. Do you know you bought its blood, urine, and skin? Once you take the cow away from the place, all the blood, the hair, and the urine are already a waste. So it is God that puts the blessing on the remnants.
There are countries around Africa that are thriving well with Cow business. They have very healthy cows. Even in some countries like Mali, you will think there are more cows than human. Cow business is still imported to Nigeria. There are cows in Chad, Ghana, etc.
The government has the power to support us to do this business. The outgoing governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun for his lofty efforts so far, I am sure God will reward him for his good works. I also believe that the incoming governor, Dapo Abiodun will equally perform excellently well. So we appeal for more support and investment from the government.
We also implore the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Bank of Industry to invest in the beef business. A lot of people can benefit from the business. Even graduates have their place in the business. There are lots of ways where we can get help from the government that will make Nigeria compete across the world in the Agricultural sector.
Despite your pool of wealth and fame, why do you still chose to remain in the town of your birth?
Well, I believe God still wants me here. It is His Grace that has kept me thus far. I know he will still take me higher, but I am of the opinion that we develop our place of origin, rather than helping to develop other places.
Do you have any political ambition in mind?
As we speak, I am part of Ogun polity and politics. Directly or by proxy, I take part in the political activities of the state.
How do you manage your time as Babalaje, as a meat seller and a car dealer?
Well, it has been God all the way. In the morning by 6 am, I am at the market. I would have returned home by 12pm, I will also stop by at Lakesin Motors. By 4pm I will go to market and return home by 9pm. Most times also, when I go to market, I buy in bulk. So I don’t go to buy cow every day. Sometimes it takes 5 to 6 days before I go to market, so by that 4pm in those days, I would be at home with my family.
How do you unwind?
There is no time oooo. I relax at work, and you know I attend church program too in RCCG, as I am a worker.
What inspires your dress sense?
I am a simple person. I love whatever fits me. But I enjoyed being on native most times. I like my appearance to fit occasions. Sometimes I dress down, and sometime I pay attention to all details when I dress.