One cannot achieve much as a womaniser — Olatunde Badmus - Punch Newspapers
The most widely read newspaper in Nigeria
1 August 2021Chief Olatunde Badmus, the Asiwaju Musulumi of Yorubaland, is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Tuns Group of Companies. Badmus, who holds two honorary doctoral degrees from Fountain University, Osun State, and Alex Ekwueme University, Ebonyi State, speaks to TOFARATI IGE about his business, the economy, life at 75 and other issues
At75, what are you most thankful for?My thanks go to the Almighty Allah for keeping me till this age. The average lifespan of Nigerians is believed to be about 60 years. For one to attain 75 years and still be agile without a major sickness is a feat. That is why anytime I pray, I thank the Almighty Allah for His grace.
Is there anything you would have loved to have done?I would have loved to take my company to the greatest height because I want it to outlive me. However, I thank God I have children and workers who are sustaining the legacy. The economy of Nigeria is not stable, so when one makes plans now, by the next month, such plans could be disrupted. This is coupled with the fact that my properties were vandalised during the #EndSARS protests (in October 2020) which made me lose almost N250m. That was a major setback. headtopics.com
How was the company able to bounce back from the loss?The figure I mentioned is in both physical assets and raw materials. But, when you think about the total loss in terms of goodwill and low production (it is staggering). We were on about 80 per cent production level and we had to go back to about 20 per cent after the loss. Right now, we are still struggling to get back to the level we were before the protests. We are at about 50 per cent (capacity) now, so we have still not been able to come back fully. We are in a situation where one can hardly get any help. So, one has to look inwards to survive.
What do you think the government can do to ensure that the #EndSARS protests are not repeated?We have to look at the origin of the protests, which was police brutality. That should have been the focus of the protests, but it was escalated it to other sectors. This was most painful. The organisers should have focused on eradicating police brutality. But, they committed all sorts of atrocities to the extent that policemen were killed. (At that stage), it was no longer a protest. In advanced countries, protesters focus on eradicating a particular menace. At the end of the day, they (#EndSARS protesters) started attacking everything. What does my company have to do with police brutality? Everything is not about the government. We should examine ourselves. Rather than focus on the reason for the protest, the protesters practically shut down the economy of the nation. Some of those people who are not in the production sector don’t know what people in that line are suffering. In comparison to providing services, any distortion of the economy has a negative effect on people in production.
As an elder statesman, have you forgiven those who vandalised your business?What can I do? If I don’t forgive, what power do I have? However, we lost a member of staff during the attack. Who am I to go to the family of the deceased to ask for forgiveness for his killers?
You are a known philanthropist. Is there any event that inspired you to start helping others?Iam a Muslim. The religion enjoins one to help others. It teaches one to be kind to one’s family, neighbours and others. I have two role models— Chief MKO Abiola, who I was very close to when he was alive; and the late Arisekola Alao. Those were the greatest philanthropists that influenced me. headtopics.com
Have you ever carried out a philanthropic act and the beneficiaries didn’t show appreciation?When one gives, one should not look back. One should do one’s bit, whether the person appreciates it or not. The issue you mentioned is very common among politicians. If one helps them and they eventually get into power, it is one they would even come after. But one should not stop helping (people) just because one beneficiary offended one.
You have a large organisation. How are you able to keep track of the company and are you still directly involved in the day-to-day running of the business?We directly employ about 500 people, so there is no way I can be directly involved in the day-to-day running of the company’s activities. However, there are hierarchies and they all give account of what they do daily. The General Manager will then summarise and send the report to me. I don’t have to be there physically to know what is going on. We are in the modern age. At my age, I only advise or correct, based on my experiences. At times, they take my advice and at other times, I submit to their will. If you don’t want your blood pressure to be on the high side, you have to overlook many things, but make sure they (staff) are on the right track.
With the benefit of hindsight, is there any business you regret going into and is there any business you wished you had gone into but didn’t?I can only say that one has to be very careful when dealing with banks, because they can falsify figures. However, once they know one knows, they would then be careful with one. Since I’m still alive, why do I have to regret (going into any business)? Life is full of ups and downs.
As a notable Muslim, do you pray before starting a new business or do you only look at things from a business angle?One has to put everything before the Almighty Allah. As a Muslim, the first thing one you should do every morning is to say the morning salat (prayer). When one does that, one would have put whatever is in one’s mind into the hands of God. Prayer should come first before one does anything. headtopics.com
What were the challenges you faced when you wanted to start Tuns Farm?I faced a lot of challenges.When was the farm established?It was started about 40 years ago. The farm was not my first business though. I was initially involved in electronics trading. I used to supply most television stations with cameras. However, at a stage (a former military head of state, Ibrahim) Babangida, made a decree that if one did not have a farm, one would not get a license to import electronics or any other thing into the country. That was what led me to start the farm. I then acquired land and planted maize. However, instead of giving me the license to import broadcasting equipment, I was given the license to import disinfectants, and that was not related to my vision. That was why I had to import those items (disinfectants) but I could not get a market for them. Someone then advised that I could mix the animal concentrate, which I had bought, with the maize I had harvested, and start producing animal feed.
So, that was how we started. However, some of the farmers refused to pay, claiming that the feed was not good. That then led us to rearing our own animals that would be consuming the feed. After some time, we took the animals to the slaughterhouse in Ibadan, and they were the ones that determined how much they wanted to pay. That led me to having my own slaughterhouse. Basically, the farm was a child of necessity because, from one attempt to solve a problem to the other, the farm became up to standard.
What changes would you like to see in the agricultural sector?The Central Bank of Nigeria is trying its best. They recently released maize to all the important (big) farmers in the country at the market rate. We use an average of about N50m worth of maize every month and it constitutes about 70 per cent of what we do.
Do you think the poultry farming sector is better off without the influx of chicken from neighbouring countries even when we cannot meet local demands?Our neighbours don’t produce chicken. They take them there illegally from South Africa and South America. And, they are not good for human consumption. Local producers can meet up with Nigeria’s demands.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), recently said graduates were leaving white-collar jobs for farming. Do you agree with that assertion?The President depends on statistics given to him but as far as we (farmers) are concerned in our local farming environment, I don’t think so. Hardly does any graduate want to stay on the farm. When you employ them, they would hardly spend a year before quitting. However, I know the president has his statistics because the government has so many programmes for youth empowerment. But, I’m yet to see the effect.
How can more youths be encouraged to participate in agriculture?I don’t have an answer because the youths of today want high-profile jobs and quick money. What I discovered from my experience is a lack of home training (for some youths). I am very proud of the way I brought up my children. With the little training we gave them at home, they are doing well wherever they are today. I believe home training and religion should play better roles in educating the youth. These days, they are more interested in politics because there is a lot of money there. What a local government councillor takes home every month, a graduate cannot get it. The majority of our graduates are into politics. They see the way politicians live and that influences them. If the money in politics is invested in farming, we would see a lot of people going into it.
Are you saying the government needs to do more to encourage the youth to go into farming?What can the government do? The work has to be done from the home front. We must look for a way to make politics less attractive, so that people can focus on other sectors.
At a time, you were the National President of the Poultry Association of Nigeria. What would you consider your greatest contribution to that sector during that period?When I came into the office, there were a lot of imported chickens (in the country), but within four years, we were able to stabilise the poultry industry in Nigeria. I can tell you authoritatively that we can export millions of feed from Nigeria today. We are also very good in terms of egg production. Also, there are enough slaughterhouses in the country to meet up with the demand for chicken in Nigeria.
In our case, we are supposed to slaughter about eighty thousand birds in a week. It is a small capacity when you compare it to some countries that slaughter about one million chickens in a day. We don’t have enough birds because people are not willing to join the sector. We started a programme whereby farmers would get the birds and feed for free, raise them and sell the birds back to us at an agreed price. Based on how well a farmer raised their birds, they could make enough money. Unfortunately, some farmers defaulted, thinking it was a government project.
Have you had any experience of herdsmen destroying your farm?In Osun State, we have a way of managing herdsmen. This is a ‘business’ they have been doing for many years and if we decide to suddenly send them away, they would fight back. Therefore, we interact with the farmers and herdsmen. The government set up a committee and we hold regular meetings. If there is an attack anywhere or a foreign herdsman comes into the state, it is the committee that would quickly handle that. So, we don’t have that problem. Why are people saying they cannot release land for grazing reserves? The beneficiaries would be the people in that area (where the reserves are located).
Perhaps, indigenes are scared of herdsmen completely taking over their lands. What do you think about that?One cannot be too sure about that. It has never happened in Osun. There was a time I was grazing cows. I had about 100 cows and I put four Fulani herdsmen there to graze them for me. My land was about 500 hectares. How would they (herdsmen) then turn around to say they are the owners of the land when I have the Certificate of Occupancy? I am using myself as a practical example. When the place was a bush, they were there. And now that it is becoming a town, they are still there. How can they claim my land? Being a private landowner, the FG would not take your land, but they can take community lands. The state government would donate the land and it would be managed by people in the state.
Cattle rearing is a private business. Why should the federal government invest in it? Read more: The Punch Newspapers »
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