One of the most uncertain but decisive decisions I have ever made all my life was the day I finally made up my mind to serve the Traditional Igbo Apprenticeship.
It was uncertain because, every year, during those days while I was still in the village, I see a lot of people being brought home by their masters, owing to either one of the many prevalent issues of Umuboyi (Stewardship) or all.
For that reason, I listed out all their weaknesses as many as I could remember and made it a life long commitment never to indulge in any of those errs; no matter what it may cost or how stupid and foolish it may make me look.
3. Being blissfully Lazy
4. Keeping Bad Friends.
5. Money Saving
First, I bridged the gap of WOMANISM by adopting a motto:
“Never Date Your Female Customers, They Will Either Devalue Your Valuables or Make You An Apprentist In Your Own Shop”…with that enshrined in my mind, I treaded very careful with all those robust Abuja ladies.
It happened that I still don’t feel comfortable extending my friendship with any lady who is above 25 years beyond business level. Even now that I’m established on my own. I always try as much as I can to keep those nubile young ladies on an arms length.
Secondly, I had a very strong resentment for ALCOHOL and every other fermented drink that I never bothered about working on that again. And minus alcohol on my list, it became so easy for me to edit my friends list.
I kept only one FRIEND and that very one stuck till this moment. He has been an invaluable type from the outset. All I needed in a friend I found in him, we share the same dream, the same aspiration but have different political views. He’s a passionate member of KOWA Party while I believed so much on Alliance For New Nigeria(ANN)
Talk about LAZINESS, it’s sth that I abhor even when I was still in the village. I gets so busy that I predominantly got accustomed to the name “Nwokezuike”(i.e Man No Rest) Most of our customers and suppliers address me by that name. And funny enough, that’s my dad’s nickname… Lol. We sale both on Sundays, Sallah days, Christmas and New Year days. We never closed our shop all through my years of Apprenticeship. And I have never gone to bed before 12am for the past 7years..Even till this moment, I can’t remember the last time I slept before 12am. It was as serious as that.
MONEY SAVING is another very sensitive part of this our stewardship that I need to write extensively about. It’s very delicate that a lot of people have been expelled with regards to that. Some are consciously guilty of it while some were misled into it by the wrong folks who deceived them, on the pretext of being genuinely concerned and interested in their future.
On my own note, what I did was that I first secured TRUST from my boss that my settlement will be guaranteed if I’m always being very sincere with all that I do. And with that, I didn’t need anyone to preach to me about getting serious with the business. I was so diligent and transparent with my works that I later became my boss inner eye in his company.
It got to a point where things turn out as it did, that some Tribalistic, Mundane and Overzealous, Low-impact and sub optimal set of people( my interim subordinates) alleged me of having made away with my boss money and he told them “Even if I did, that I deserved it. And if any of them (the accusers) could reach one tenth of my abilities and productivity, he wouldn’t mind even if they saved money too”
To me, It was a very serious but careless talk. I would have advised him against using such approach to address the issue but then, the deeds had been done. But then, that’s what happened when you are truely overwhelmed by something that you trusted it so much. When you are trusted, you can be entrusted but never allow question mark to hang around you and what is entrusted in your hands.
So, during my SSCE examination, I had already enrolled for Joint Admission and Maticulation Board Examination, sat for the exams and made an impressive JAMB score (270) that could have fetched me admission into any of my preferred choice of University to study Civil Engineering.(FUTO, EBSU or NEKEDE)
By all standard, I was certain I could have made it to the school even though it was going to be an uphill task. But seeing myself through the University with little or no financial help from anyone gave me a reason to undertake a very serious reconsideration. With regards to this effect, I decided to go for this service. I reached out to one of my extramoral class teacher who had helped prepared and taught us basically Science subjects during the eve of our WAEC and NECO exams.
Initially, he had obliged me to help scout for people among my peers who are very humble from a very good family, he would send over to Abuja to work with one of his in-laws. With the money they realize from the service they render, my school fees will be well taken care of.
I had agreed to this juicy offer but on a hindsight, even though it was a very fatty offer, it doesn’t sound pleasant to my ears. It wasn’t appealing at all.. More like banking my future/career on people’s lives(sweat). What if it backfires? And by then, I may have been deeply immersed in the process? What will then happen to me; Drop out from school and which way forward??
Long story short…
After my reconsiderations..I landed an agreement that involved me going over to Abj to serve that his in-law who was operating a foodstuff business in one of the Abuja shopping complex informal sector. A five year stipulated service term was agreed which later protracted into 7yrs+ and that was it.
You see, initially I used to think such services are only meant for the less privileged; those who can’t afford to be enrolled into the university immediately after their secondary education.
But I was wrong!
The experience I got while undergoing my service proved me wrong. In short, I can categorically tell us that in as much as we want to own a business venture either now or later in the future, we need to start considering undergoing an Apprenticeship service; be it formal or informal. But it has to be under the auspice of someone who have a successful track record of the type of business we intend to build. Successful business track record isn’t enough though. You have to find someone who shares in your dream and aspiration. Someone who would like to see you grow. Give you time to try your skills. Someone who believes in your dream.
Recently, I discovered that most Apprentices works better and become more results oriented when they aren’t not being closely monitored being bombarded at any given time. Even though many master will disprove this but I can assure you, it’s helps better. Most especially when you intend building a business that will outlive you or operate even in your absence. It was one of the core secrets of my boss_giving an Apprentist the chance to explore, take initiative and do things on their own.
Reason why he has been able to house over twenty different boys under one roof. His work is to make sure those boys are working together. Even when they are not working at the same place; he always finds a way to harmonize them. One of the KEY leadership principles I learned from him.
To my non Igbo friends, who are not privy to most of our culture and societal creeds. In Igbo land, there’s a culture that frowns on children roaming the streets doing nothing, so if a child is unable to go to school, his relatives ensure that he learns a trade-usually it’s the type of trade that his family people have been involved in or look for a well to do business person and send their child to learn the business.
So boys and girls (usually those out of primary school or secondary school) would intern with the owner of the shop who runs either a foodstuff, a spare parts, second hand clothing or supermarkets business etc for a specific period of time (mostly 6-10years) to learn the trade.
It is an unpaid apprenticeship- but meals, clothing and t-fare are provided for. When the years are over and the boy is as good as his master, the master sets him up with some cash -and goods to start his own shop.
Sometimes, in order to prevent the apprentice graduate from squandering all that capital at once, the master tells him that at the end of one year, a certain percentage should be returned. The apprentice graduate also get his own boys who learn at his feet and on and on it goes.
Now, because the apprentice will go home with nothing if the business fails at the end of the day, the apprentice knows he has a stake in the business remaining successful and gives his all towards it.
This has been a system established by the Igbos immediately after the biafran War to help raise and proliferate smart business people and to pass wealth from generation to generation. It was on this platform that many great businessmen was formed. People like, Cosmas Maduka (Coscharis), Innocent Chukwwuma (Innoson Motors), Igwe James Mamah (Ifesunachi Motors), Bob Ugochukwu Ani (PAYFAIR™) to mention but a few.
Many more of these kind of people are yet to materialize in Nigeria, given that its a primordial concept that has been remarkably rewarding. It’s has helped built notable figures, it’s still helping so many people and will still be there in time to come. The paradigm can only change but the concept shall always be there.
Our dear graduates, undergraduate and working class ladies and gentlemen, when you see someone undergoing a stewardship, do not despise them. It’s true their life and career looks very bleak and uncertain. Please do not add salt to the injury. There’s an excruciating pains and emotional bornouts that goes with working on the tasks that you’re not overly in control of. Your resentments and disdainful words may trigger an emotional trauma.
Who knows?!…They may likely be the one to create the type of jobs that may employ your kids in the future. Why not give them chance through your words of encouragement?