LAND OF ‘PIGS AND MONEY’
As Nigeria celebrates her 52nd independence anniversary, the usual circus of opinions on the pro and cons of Nigeria will rule the airwaves for the next couple of days. The very vocal minority will tell you that there’s nothing to celebrate about Nigeria, making reference to our huge basket of problems ranging from corruption, insecurity, poverty, electricity etc. The majority will most likely have an indifferent mixed attitude; some will display unusual optimistic-patriotic zeal wishing Nigeria well, while others, a host of others are more concerned about the price of Garri, Bread, Petrol or Pork.
Yes, PORK. Many Nigerians don’t see any reason to celebrate Nigeria at 52 but for Tochukwu Ikpegbu, there is no place like Nigeria. Nigeria is land of opportunities, a land flowing with ‘Pigs and Money’.
The story of Tochukwu Ikpegbu starts with that of an Abia based unemployed mechanical engineering graduate who took his CV to the nooks and cranny of urban Nigeria, yet no job. Like many frustrated young men, visiting beer parlours periodically helped in cooling the nerves. On this fateful evening, Tochukwu went for his regular dose of beer with ‘Asun’ (spiced goat meat) but was surprisingly served with spiced barbecued pork instead. The bar woman appealed to Tochukwu to give it a try, he did and he was hooked.
Tochukwu’s business acumen began to tick as he made further enquiries as to the supply source of his customer’s pork meat. Tochukwu was astonished when he discovered that a large percentage of pork being sold at the bar and in most parts of Eastern Nigeria came from the North of the country, a largely Muslim region. He was even told that most of the major pig farmers where Muslims too, they don’t eat pork but they raise pigs and ship it all down South. Tochukwu saw this as a huge business opportunity; he quickly converted part of his father’s village compound in Umuahia-Abia State into a pig farm starting off with twenty five pigs.
This was about six years ago. Today, Tochukwu’s farm in Abia State boasts of over five hundred pigs, and he has become a formidable supplier of pork in Eastern Nigeria. Of course he’s seriously smiling to the bank too. Tochukwu Ikpegbu is on the verge of launching a product line of packaged processed pork called Prime Pork. With the growth of large retail stores in Nigeria and the impending onslaught of Wal-Mart and Shoprite in most Nigerian cities, Tochukwu is certainly on the road to adding more zeros to his account balance.
My first encounter with Tochukwu Ikpegbu was inspiring; his patriotic zeal is infectious. This guy believes in Nigeria like no mans business, he also believes in Agriculture. As far as Tochukwu is concerned, Agriculture is the easiest way out of poverty; “the market is constant”, he said, “People MUST eat, no story.”
Tochukwu Ikpegbu won the award for ‘Entrepreneur of the year’ at the just concluded Nigeria Future awards 2012.