There is no doubt that there is money in the transport business. It was one of the oldest methods of making money which is still working today. I attributed this to the fact that people are many in this world and we move from one place to another either for commercial or personal reasons. In as much as people are still breathing and moving in this world, there is money to be made in transportation. One best way to make money from transport business is driving the vehicle yourself as giving it someone else is one of the biggest challenges of the business.
You will notice that many people are into ‘Uber’ transport now because there is money there. What about Taxify? Even some people are quiting their paid or salary job to join these transport businesses.
The governtment are also not left behind. For instance, Lagos state government created Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), and are making lot of revenue from it. One day, when waiting for BRT, i told my friend that stood beside me that, the way to get money is look for people’s need and satisfy or meet the need. Lagos state government noticed that transport is one of the major challenges in the state and they meet the need of the people and make lots of money from it.
People are buying tricycle popularly known as ‘keke Marwa’ drive it by themselves or give it out as hire purchase and everyone is making money. Many graduates are driving motorcycle popularly known as ‘okada’ making money and taking care of themselves and their families.
I remember when Afrobeat singer and superstar Davido gave N1m to a guy that defended girls from sexual molestation in one of his shows, the guy used it to buy tricycle for transport business. Davido was happy that the guy use the money wisely.
All these show that there is money in the transport business especially if you have time to drive it yourself.
Also let us see what we can learn from the interview that inspired me to write the above article as that is what money247.com.ng stand for, to expose my readers to ideas that can make them money legitimately.
Let us see what we can learn from the interview granted by the DAILY SUN to Chief Dr. (Sir) Godwin Ubaka Okeke, popularly known as GUO, who is the Chairman, Board of Directors, GU Okeke & Sons Ltd; Chairman, Board of Directors, GU Okeke Transport Services Company Ltd; Chairman, Board of Directors, Anambra Motor Manufacturing Company Limited (ANAMMCO); Chairman, Board of Directors, Varaman Industries Ltd; Member, Board of Directors, Bhojsons Ltd; Chairman, Board of Trustees, Godwin & Patricia Okeke Foundation, and Member, Anambra State Security Advisory Council on how he started transport business at the age of 21, immediately after the civil war, with his father’s car, 404 Peugeot, from Onitsha to Enugu, which helped him to save money to buy his first vehicle for the transportation business he is doing till today. Though, the interview is fuller than this, i just picked the parts that concern transportation which my readers can really gain from.
Starting transportation business
You see, in my family we have never done transport business, and at the end of the war, I have told you that, the training I had with Man O’ War gave me the courage of moving into certain areas without being afraid of anything at the end of the war. So, on the second day the war ended, we trekked with some of my brothers, from Adazi Ani to Nnewi on foot, which is about 10 to 12 kilometres away from my hometown. We trekked to Nnewi, saw one or two things, came back, saw some of the military checkpoints; nobody molested us. They would just search you and if you were not having any arms, and you were not having anything with you, they let you go. So we went to Nnewi, no molestation, came back to Adazi, no molestation, and I now said, oh, it is true that the war has ended, having seen fierce looking northern troupes on the road without harming anybody, so that gave me encouragement.
So, the following day, I asked my parents to let me go to Onitsha and see if our building and property were safe, and they said okay, and gave me their Peugeot 404 vehicle and I drove down to Onitsha because during the war, I also got myself Biafran driving license, because we also helped the military in one way or the other. Even though I was very young, I drove. So I drove myself down to Onitsha, moved about; not much was happening. Most of my parents’ property were still intact. I said okay, let me go and see concentration of people around because I didn’t see people on the streets. They told me that people were at Fegge and I drove down to Fegge and very close to Fegge police station, I saw a very big market, makeshift market, attachment here and there and just saw things, saw some people, ate some rice and a very good stew, somebody coming out after three years of war without good food, so I enjoyed the food and went back to where I parked my car, only to see a lot of people hanging around my car. But because of the training, I had no fear about anything.
As I was entering the car, they said Oga, are you going to Enugu? And I said yes, jokingly asking them if they were ready to pay me one pound and I mean Nigerian pound not Biafran pound. They all jumped into the car. I carried them, eight of them, because 404 old model that time used to be very roomy. So I took them, collected eight pounds on the ground there, and went straight to Enugu. Then I saw bridges blown off, rebuilt with wood and every other thing with some iron, and I went to Enugu and ended up at Ogbete Enugu. I dropped them, and people were shouting Onitsha and I carried them, collected another one pound each, and they were also happy. I moved down to Onitsha, so I was having 16 pounds, the third day the war ended. Sixteen pounds was a very big money then.
And I was doubting myself, is this good money or were they playing on me. And I decided to go to the village and people started shouting, Enugu, and I said no, that I can’t go back to Enugu again today, maybe tomorrow. And I went back to the village. On getting to the village, my parents were so unhappy, they were panicking, waiting for me. You know that time there was no cell phone; even the land phone was not working in Biafra land. Until they heard the horn, they all came out asking what happened, where were you?
Why so late and I told them I went to Onitsha, saw people going to Enugu and I took them to Enugu. My mum started beating me and I had to run away to my father and my father protected me. I started bringing the money and putting it on the table, and after some time, I pleaded with my father to go and talk to my mum, and my mum was not interested in the money, but concerned with our safety and like every other mother, she listened to my father, and I told my father that the next day I will be going to Onitsha. And the next day I went back to Onitsha and started doing ‘kabu kabu’ transportation business, moving from Onitsha to Enugu, collecting good money, making three to four trips in a day. It was not easy. So, that was where I had the experience that there was money in transportation business. Then, after some time, I combined it with trading, buying one or two things and selling because a lot of people were so much into trading. I saw money within that first three months. We were paying it into the bank; there was no counting machine then. They will ask how much? They will just write receipt for you, any amount you pay, they will give you one receipt.
The Federal Government announced that all Biafran currency should be deposited in banks. I went to the bank to make enquiries on the modalities of the pronouncement and found out that irrespective of the amount of money deposited, a uniform receipt was issued. Therefore, I suggested to my family that they should split whatever amount they had and took it to bank separately.
That was to increase the number of receipts that will be issued. This idea helped my family as each member of my family had receipts in their respective names. The Federal Government paid £20.00 for each receipt redeemed. We started a poultry farm with the proceeds with my parents at Adazi-Ani and this complemented a shop for merchandise that operated from Ogbete, Enugu. I was barely 21 years old.
Glory be to God, by the time they started announcing that everybody with one receipt, should go and collect 20 Nigerian pounds from the bank, I said okay, but I didn’t know that it will be so low. I thought they could have given us 1,000 pounds or 100 pounds each but I said glory be to God, they gave something, and counted the money into twenty-something receipts and I added it to what I was using in transportation and trading.
So, that was how I took off without borrowing from the bank, and they were not ready to give anybody one pound in that 1970, although by 1971 we started getting some incentive, loans from the bank on trust. I bought some vehicles and I also bought some Volkswagen combi buses because that was what was in vogue that time, running from Onitsha to Lagos.
I graduated from running from Enugu to Onitsha to going from Onitsha to Lagos with combi buses, and by that time I had started employing drivers doing that for me because I also saw money in trading. I had to combine the two, and also looking after my parents in the village. They were interested in agriculture, so we developed local farming and poultrybusiness. We had over 1,000 birds as at 1971 and were supplying eggs to Enugu campus that time because I had already opened a branch in Enugu, trading in Onitsha and Enugu. At the same time, I was running about every week, I was here and there; that helped me a lot. It gave me a very solid foundation and my parents were very helpful to me.
Challenges of transportation business in Nigeria
What we are suffering in Nigeria today is a lot of people moving into business, especially transportation business, without proper calculation, without endurance, without experience. You see money flowing in; if you don’t know how to control that money, the money will come in and will disappear again. The transport business in Nigeria gave a lot of contact opportunity because banks were seeing us doing good turn over and they were giving us facilities and unfortunately for us, some of us were not doing proper calculation until the money fizzled away. The money was misused. They used the money in buying properties, taking so many titles, some married three to four wives, so the money was lost, and they were carried away with the money flowing. So, it is one problem people suffered not only in transportation business but in every other business. It misled people without proper foundation, and also without education.
One of the greatest problems we are facing is bad roads and insecurity because these criminals block the roads, search everybody, destroy our vehicles, break all the glasses, collect any available money and even kill people. The roads are so bad, so that they will mount their checkpoints, block the bad areas of the road all over the country, so that is why a lot of transporters are losing their money, and losing their passengers up till today. So, bad roads and insecurity are the greatest problems we are facing. Another problem is high cost of borrowing, which is also what every businessman is suffering today.
What government can do to boost transport sector
The government should start with the security, making sure that the people are not killed along the highways. You hear the government crying over Abuja-Kaduna-Kano Road; you hear police and the press talking about Onitsha-Benin bypass; it is one of the worst roads you can talk of. Then, from Benin to Ijebu-Ode is too bad, road kidnappers are everywhere.
Then you talk of Okene-Abuja, it is also very bad. Criminals are now messing everybody up along all these routes, then Makurdi to Jos is another terrible area, so every corner of our highway is in trouble. The government must do something security-wise. If they invite some of us in the field, we can give them ideas on how to solve some of these problems. By the grace of God, Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, is doing a lot of good job and some of us are giving him ideas and he is making use of them. So, if the Federal Government can invite some of us who are in the field, we can also give them ideas…
Lesson for young entrepreneurs:
After the civil war, sometimes people will ask me, GUO, why are you still using this car. If you go to the market you see different cars, just try and get the ones you can afford. You don’t allow yourself to be carried away. In the early 80s, people were buying Mercedes car at N8,000 while Peugeot was sold at N5,000 something, but some of us were buying it like Ekenedilichukwu, Engr Iweka, GMO, SMO, Izuchukwu; all these big people had Mercedes. I now told myself, I have not got to one third of all these people, in age, experience and in business, even in the field, and I resolved within myself to buy a Peugeot Pick-up before I graduated to 504. But all these small boys now want to start with big cars like Volvo, Mercedes, heavy heavy cars. They don’t want to reduce their ambition to their level. It is one of the things that is killing our today’s youths and businessmen. When you start reducing your ambition to your level, you will live long. Don’t eat whatever you see, especially all these packaged foods, especially when you eat them without exercise.
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