Monday, 15 July 2013

Nigeria: From Journalism, I'm Now Into Sachet Water Business - Inuwa Bwala

Maiduguri — Mr Inuwa Bwala is the Borno State Commissioner for Home Affairs, Information and Culture. As a journalist turned politician, Bwala is an entrepreneur who is actively into farming, poultry, hotel and block making businesses. He also declared that he sells sachet water, pointing out that all the businesses are in his village, Marama, in southern Borno. Excerpts:

You are a journalist-turned-politician and now actively into farming. How are you managing these three difficult areas?
Honestly, I don't know. I am first and famous a journalist and then turned into a politician who also ventured into entrepreneurship. I started my journalism career with the defunct Reed Newspaper in Maiduguri and later joined the Today newspaper in Kaduna. I also joined the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) African Service, after which I joined The Punch. I left The Punch and went to Tell news magazine. While with Tell, I was appointed Special Adviser (Media) to late governor of Borno State, Alhaji Mala Kachalla. Thereafter, I was asked to serve in the same capacity in Nasarawa State under Senator Abdullahi Adamu.

From there, I joined the Leadership newspaper as an Associate Editor and left shortly after. I was planning to set up my own publication before I was asked to come and serve as commissioner in Borno State under Senator Ali Modu Sheriff. We finished the tenure with him and just when I was about settling again to continue with my publication, I was asked to come over and join Honourable Kashim Shettima's cabinet on the same capacity as commissioner for home affairs, information and culture.

This means you are now a full time politician?
I have always said that I am a circumstantial politician in the sense that by the circumstances of my appointments, the offices I held and the duties I performed, makes me a politician. But I always see myself as a reporter and perhaps, my experiences as a reporter gave me an edge over others in politics; having been reporting politics for a very long time. As such, I am a journalist-cum-politician but I am more of a journalist than a politician.

How did you become an entrepreneur?
I think the problem we have been having with our politicians in the past is that they don't invest and engage people to help build the society that made them what they are. This is exactly why I ventured into entrepreneurship: to give the younger ones the opportunity to manifest their potentials especially in some of the industries that I established with what God blessed me with. But, I did not start entrepreneurship at the point I became a politician. Since I was a journalist, I have been planning on how to set up enterprises.

What are some of the areas that you invested in?
First and famous, I started my own newspaper before I became a commissioner. I am the publisher of the National Trail newspaper. I have 10,000 birds in my poultry. I started a hotel business as far back as 2001 and I'm still building it gradually. I am a farmer because this year alone, I have cultivated over 67 hectares of land which I want to use as a value chain in my poultry business. I mould blocks and I sell sachet water. I am doing all these because I believe politics alone will not give me the kind of future I want to live in; I want to retire into productive entrepreneurship.

Can you shed more light on your farm?
It is very profitable to farm even though it is very tasking, very challenging and very risky but it is very profitable. As it is, if you have 10,000 birds that are in production, you can be guaranteed of getting close to N200,000 everyday on sales of eggs alone. If you sell dressed chicken and you sell a hundred birds a day, you are guaranteed of getting good money. And so, depending upon the input you made on the feeds and other sundry activities that keep the poultry moving, I assure that it is very profitable and I want to encourage people to go into it.

I also have my feed mill. You see, before you start a business, it is always good to do a feasibility study on the environment to find out if it is conducive for the birds. Secondly, you should do feasibility on the market. Thirdly, you have to do a study on how you intend to keep the place running. What makes poultry farming more expensive is the feed because it sells for about N2,200 or more in the market. However, if you learn the formula, all you need to do is to fabricate the mill as I have done, put together all the necessary ingredients that you need in the feed, engage experts and then they formulate the mill for you locally. The result has been very excellent in my poultry so far. Here in Marama (southern Borno) farming thrives very well because we have a weather that is similar to what you have in Plateau State.

On the market, I did not even envisage what we are having now because people are always booking ahead. Some book 700 or 800 crates, though we raise about 150 crates per day. As such, if you want 600 crates, you will have to wait for, at least, five days because we also have local patronage and we have to keep some crates aside to sell to local consumers. We give dates to major consumers on when they should come and pick their supplies.

I also have quela birds and they are unique in our area. Besides being profitable, farming gives you satisfaction. I have recently acquired an orchard which is about five hectares where I want to do fish farming. I am planning to raise one million fingerlings in the pond because we have natural water coming from the underground in the vast plantation as such I do not need any borehole. All I need to do is to construct dams where I would put the fingerlings.

How difficult is it to start business?
As I told you earlier, the positions I hold gave me opportunity to get loans. I use some of my property as collateral to take the loans. And when you have a business strategy, it will be very easy for you to succeed.

Talking about retirement, what advise do you have for young journalists in Nigeria?
Whatever opportunity God provides for them, I want to encourage them to venture into productive entrepreneurship especially in some modest businesses like the ones I am doing. As low scale as they were, they will always give you returns after your retirement. It is not good for one to waste whatever he gets at this moment, in today's world. I would rather invest gradually so that one can have something to fall back unto tomorrow when he retires.

What is your impression about Governor Kashim Shettima in respect of job creation?
Giving the challenges this government encountered even at inception, I have to confess that the government of Kashim Shettima is doing excellently well. Some people may say that I am not being charitable by evaluating the government in which I serve but even our enemies acknowledge that we are doing our best and Kashim Shettima can beat his chest anywhere and say he has done more than some of those (governors) that are not facing the challenges we are facing. You know, and you can see the modest achievements that have been made in the area of agriculture.

We have virtually revolutionized agriculture in Borno State and we are still taking inputs on how to improve the agricultural yield for our farmers in Borno State. Government is engaging itself in farming activities generally. You know how we have done in the area of healthcare services and you must have seen the schools we have renovated across the state. You must have seen the teeming youths which we have engaged under the poverty alleviation scheme and the much we have done in curving the insurgency we are witnessing in the state.

Despite challenges, we have improved in the provision of water in Maiduguri metropolis. The governor has done excellently well because even his enemies are giving him a pass mark. He has a passion for development and is committed to the turnaround of the fortunes of Borno State for the better. He has put together, a team that is helping him to achieve and I am sure history will judge him positively by the time he ends his eight year tenure as governor of Borno State.

Source: Daily Trust

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