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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Meet Young Graduate and Mathematician Who Hawks Palm Oil As Means of Livelihood in Anambra

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By Izunna Okafor, Awka

Awka, the capital city of Anambra State, is a place of many prospects, a feature it has continued to breathe out daily on its residents whose number increases on daily basis as the city itself advances towards a facelift. The city is also a place where dreams are bought and sold, as well as a melting pot of ambitions and aspirations. Amidst these throngs of traders, workers and other hustlers who make the capital city bustling, emerges a story that challenges one’s perception of dreams and realities of life. This is the story of a young graduate, and a gifted mathematician, who circumstances of the day forced to resort to hawking palm oil as a means of livelihood.

The 32-year-old graduate of Electronic and Computer Technology from the University of Calabar, who hails from Umuahia in Abia State, has his story reflect and encapsulate the aspirations, struggles and the conditions of many young Nigerians today.

This reporter, Izunna Okafor, bumped into a young man around the popular UNIZIK Junction (also known as the UNIZIK Temp. Site) in Awka, where he was seen running to hand over a can of palm oil to a female passenger in a tricycle (Keke), who eventually threw out a cash of N1000 for him, as the tricycle continued its journey. A close observation shows the well-dressed young man as he returned to a spot where other cans of palm oil were also seen, loaded in a white bucket, which he then settled on his head and began to trek down the axis. This moved this reporter to approach him for inquiries regarding what had just transpired and his destination with the bucket of oil on his head.

It was through the interaction that this reporter gathered that the young man, named Ugochukwu Friday Ebubedike, was actually carrying his stock and engaging in his struggle from which he makes a daily living. He hawks palm oil to survive, and he was actually trekking down to deliver some cans of palm oil to a customer who ordered them, alongside additional cans of the stock he might also sell to lucky buyers.

During the interaction, it was observed that Ebubedike was speaking good English, which made this reporter to inquire his educational background. And, surprisingly, he is a graduate of the University of Calabar, where he earned his degree in Electronic and Computer Technology in 2019.

This quite-unravelling conversation made this reporter to buy off the remaining two cans of oil Ebubedike had in his bucket (even when he had no immediate need for oil) for a continued and more relaxed discussion, after he accompanied him to supply the other cans of oil to the person who placed the order.

Further inquiries into Ebubedike’s life and background revealed that he came from a family where education was a privilege, and not a right; hence, he clawed his way through school, juggling studies with odd jobs like selling shoes and other footwears, to make up life; and which he sustained till his graduation in 2019. He is the first son in the family of a local bus driver and a caterer, and had to begin early to struggle, so as to pave way for his two younger siblings, having understood the condition of the family better than everyone of them. However, upon graduation, the unfortunate situation of Nigeria hit him, as he found no better job to do.

In 2020, during the COVID-19 lockdown, a search for greener pasture forced him to relocate to Awka, to seek his fortune in Anambra. Upon his arrival in the city, he resumed his hustle by joining and assisting his friend who then newly launched a shoemaking brand, and from where he also began to sell footwears. He also used the opportunity to learn the skill and craft of shoemaking, but has no capital to venture into it.

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When asked other hustles or opportunities he had ventured into to make the ends meet since he came to Awka, Ebubedike, who is also a gifted mathematician, said he had taught mathematics in some private schools, but ended up quiting after some time, because he was being paid a peanut, which did not match his input or reflect the changing economic realities of the country.

“I have taught in two different private schools, but the salaries could not even solve my basic needs, so I decided to quit. Currently, I teach JAMB aspirants at a JAMB lesson centre and also do private/home lessons for students and pupils, most of whom knew me from the private schools where I earlier taught.

“I love molding young ones, and, to me, teaching is a gift. I also teach mathematics online. You can also visit my Facebook page and YouTube page @solving mathematics with ease, for more information,” he said.

When asked how he ended up hawking palm oil, Ebubedike, who said he does his own palm oil business in a very decent, mature, and classic way, further explained that he launched into the business after a woman in Awka sought his assistance to get palm oil for her from his State, Abia, where she heard the price was cheaper.

“A woman I see as a mentor in Awka here asked me if I could get palm oil from my state for her, and also asked how much it would cost to do that — a deal I ended up turning into an opportunity. I successfully transacted the business with her, and it ‘worked’, while I also made my profit. After that deal, she advised me to venture into the business. And that was how I began selling palm oil, till today. This happened early this year, 2024,” he narrated.

Concerning how he got the kick-off capital to launch into the business to the extent that he can now procure gallons of palm oil (though depending on his financial muscle) at once from Abia State and pay off, Ebubedike said it was a product of trust and agreement between him and one of his friends who saved her next session’s school fees in his (Ebubedike’s) account

According to him, “A very good friend of mine gave me her school fee for the next session to keep for her in my account. So, I saw it as an opportunity after my discussion with the woman who advised me to start selling palm oil. So, I informed the friend, and she said no problem, and even encouraged and prayed for me to succeed in the business. Then, I added that to the little savings I had, and began the business immediately.”

Despite his academic background, his mathematical expertise and his passion for teaching, Ebubedike, due to condition, has embraced palm oil hawking as current means of survival, recognizing its stability and demand in the market. While the palm oil business has been his major sustainer, he currently combines the business with his private and JAMB mathematical classes (both online and offline), which hold at scheduled hours in the day, without any of them causing a decay to the other.

Notwithstanding the challenges involved, he finds a way to balance his palm oil business with his love for teaching. It was also gathered that many of his regular customers buy palm oil by placing order for him to supply, both in retail and in wholesales. He said from the little proceeds he makes, he still takes care of himself and his family members, being the first son of the family.

When asked if he had applied for any of the government-provided opportunities that abound for people like him in Anambra State, such as the teachers recruitment exercise, the One Youth Two Skills initiative, and others; Ebubedike said he applied for the One Youth Two Skills, but his name was not shortlisted.

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“As for the teachers recruitment, I applied and wrote the exam, but before I knew that applicants needed to also check their result by themselves while waiting for the shortlist, the link wasn’t opening anymore. So, I am still hopeful that they will shortlist me when the names are out,” he said.

Still full of optimism, the UNICAL graduate said he had never been ashamed of doing his palm oil business, as, according to him, anybody who wants to succeed in Nigeria today must first get rid of shame in any good thing he is doing to succeed.

“I am not ashamed at all. This is what keeps me alive and going on daily basis. So, why would I be ashamed of doing it, since it is legit? That is what the situation of the country has brought forth. So, we are in it already. And we only hope it would get better.”

Ebubedike, however, disclosed that many people (especially women and young girls) look down on him and “rate” him low, judging by the way they talk to him, because he sells palm oil, including those he assumes may not have written JAMB for the first time in their lives, let alone gaining admission and graduating, with all the stress and the financial implication involved. He, however, blames nobody for his fate and condition, still expressing optimism that things would be better some day, as no condition is permanent.

When asked the nature of assistance or support he needs now, Ebubedike said he needed higher capital to expand the business, adding that he had, in countless occasions, lost some of his customers because he had no money to buy the quantity of the oil they ordered or to procure and deliver it at the time they needed it.

He also expressed his dire need for a gainful employment, to enjoy the full benefit of his education; even as he equally expressed interest to further his studies, harping on his urgent need for sponsorship to enable him realize his full potential.

“Any way or anyhow anybody wants to help or support, I am open and thankful. People can reach me through +2348167760374 . I believe in myself that I have something to offer for the betterment of the society. But I have not been able to do that because I am being retarded by issues of life, occasioned by the condition of the country. And even to travel out is not easy. So, we had to stay back, because this is our country. And I believe different people have something to contribute to make it better. My brother, that is why you see me hustling in my own little and legit way, rather than creating more problem for the country that is also full of problem.

“My fellow youths should also embrace spirit of hustle, for those who have not. That is the only thing that can save us in this country, instead of indulging in crime, tormenting others who are also suffering like you, or waiting for manner to fall from heaven. There’s always a humble beginning. With this kind of mindset, I believe we can get there someday, and our past will be a story to inspire others in the nearest future,” Ebubedike said, as he stood to go receive his pay for some cans of palm oil he earlier delivered to an eatery operator who has called him repeatedly all through the time of his interaction with this reporter, Izunna Okafor.

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