WHY I WENT INTO TOILET BUSINESS- DUROJAIYE
Out of the very close personal aides responsible for the orderly day-to-day activities of the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola, very few learnt a handful of secrets from the mogul's business savvy and were able to run away with equally a few wands from the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election's bag of tricks. One such lucky 'relative' is the Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of DMT Mobile Toilets, Chief Isaac Durojaiye (aka Otunba Gadaffi).
At a time when those who took the late chief's presence for granted, including his blood relatives, were 'dying', Otunba Gadaffi was planning to immortalize the name of his great benefactor. Where most were eyeing and claiming rights to the late maestro's estates (home and abroad), Durojaiye saw a need to show what he had gained serving MKO, in the establishment of an outfit, the least the modern day businessman would dream of…shit carrying, a vocation formerly identified with particular clans in Nigeria.
And, yes, he's had a resounding success where 'no Eagle dares', picking up international and local honours and awards through 20 years of commendable service. And he's delving again into the 'magic box' for another 'trick' that would extend his credibility and expand his horizon…the conversion of shit into bio-fuel, and other related by-products. The Otunba lays it all open in this one-on-one with The Sun, including a few national issues begging for attention.
Why 'shit' business?
Everybody shits. Yes, it started like an idea, a child's play. In 1992 I was in charge of a big society wedding, where we had about 10,000 guests and only two toilets were available. That was when the idea of mobile toilets came to me, and in 1996, it became a business. I expanded the idea; we constructed the toilets locally and today it's working! But if you look at it before now, Nigerians celebrate anything, especially in the south. And when they are celebrating, there are no conveniences. But, today, if not for the fact that we have entered into that area, Lagos, with a population of about 18 million, couldn't boast of 500 functional clean public toilets.
I beg to be challenged by anybody. They equip the toilets but they are not properly maintained; they were dilapidated, dirty and stinking. Not until we went into that sector. So, you can imagine if Lagos is populated by about 15 to 18 million people and you have about 2,500 functional toilets, indirectly 2,500 people are employed and are there to maintain. Therefore, shit carrying has now become a business. So we tell people not to see construction and provision of toilets as a social service anymore, but as a business!
Gone are the days when the public toilet is seen as a municipal council business. Today it has become a business and attracts creativity and passion. Now, we have just introduced a set of toilets that are fully air-conditioned with MP-3 player, red-carpet reception and satellite TV…giving you the glamour you may not be able to provide for yourself. Apart from when you make love to your wife - or your lover - when you're naked, the only other time you're naked is when you're in the toilet. And if you don't empty your bowels, it becomes health hazard to you; and that means you could do it in a nice, convenient environment. We should glamorize the way people answer the call of nature. There is no big man in the bathroom, it's only the soap the individual uses that might be different.
You see, pride is a disease, a barrier. It is what does not allow people to see business opportunities open in an environment where there is so much suffering and so much problems. It is only pride that would make a graduate to say; 'I am a graduate; I have a degree in so and so, therefore, I cannot go and learn tailoring; I cannot go and learn carpentary; I cannot go and learn welding; I cannot go and acquire a skill'. It all boils down to pride. You see, the moment we can learn to take pride out of our lives, we'll see so many business opportunities open to us. Listen, when we were young, we had people coming to do washings in our homes; we called them Alagbafo (contract dry-cleaners) or Washerman. They will wash and dry, and mostly return the second day to iron the dried clothes…and they get paid. Apart from the well-established dry-cleaning companies, how many people still do that today? Forgetting that they can start from that small Alagbafo and become the biggest dry-cleaning company in town.
Yes, we say 'Shit business is serious business'. If you're not serious, how can people defecate on the ground and we'll say we want to go and pack it? Shit is not what anybody wants to tamper with anyhow. And we don't discriminate against any shit, regardless of race, sex, religion, language, creed or distance. But against all odds, we have been able to prove to doubting 'Thomases' that it is possible. Even some members of my family think that after my long sojourn abroad, this might not the right thing for me to do. But today, I'm Senior 'Agbepo' of Nigeria (SAN).
Creativity / Integrity
But, you see, people have attached some notion or sentiment to certain jobs. Nobody wants to sweep the streets of Lagos anymore; they want to leave such jobs to those old men and women, forgetting that you can sweep the streets of Lagos and be creative about it, and be passionate about it, and you can make a statement. They are talking about keeping Lagos clean; let some people organize themselves and begin to clean the streets and gutters. Before you know it, they would have attracted attention.
And they would appeal to passersby and get N100 here and N200 there, and that is how it all starts. You see, one way or the other, indirectly, whether you like it or not, you are contributing your own quota to the development of the country because when the country is neat, it will attract foreign investments and the economy will boom. It's not all about oil, and it's not all about banking. It is about creativity and entrepreneurship. You see, all these micro and small businesses are the things that build an economy.
We ventured into 'shit' (excrement) business having realized that people will hire canopies, tables and chairs; they will provide good food, good music, and every other thing that goes with a party. And when they are pressed for nature, where would they go to ease themselves? That was what brought about the idea of Mobile Toilets and, today, it has become an industry. We now have public toilets and private conveniences everywhere, so that when people are organizing functions, they have toilets to use. And, you see, waste must be created - solid, liquid or shit - and they must be managed, and if the onions fall on us to manage human waste, we want to do it with all sense of pride and dignity. I don't want to cover my face because I pack 'shit', as was obtainable in the past. It's my job and I dignify it. And when Nigerians begin to dignify and introduce integrity in what they do, all these Boko Haram, whatsoever, would not be there.
Yes. Integrity has been bastardized. People want to get rich quick. Members of the National Assembly and all those in government are stealing and embezzling the people's money. So, the young graduate who is supposed to imbibe the culture of integrity, patience and build some business wants to get rich overnight…and when that happens, what happens? The machine that drives the society is broken down. So, nobody wants to do certain jobs. I was talking to a young lady very recently; she just graduated last year.
She was telling me categorically that she couldn't take a job that pays less than N100,000 a month. It means that she might end up a prostitute, because she has registered it in her psyche that she would not accept any job that pays less than N100,000 a month. And when her type gets to the position of authority tomorrow with her thinking, she'll start embezzling. You must start from somewhere, building experience and establishing yourself. And when you start your own business, you need a minimum of about five years for it to stabilize.
What we are saying is we found ourselves in doing this business and we are proud about it; we've built integrity around it and I'm passionate about it. I'll talk about shit anywhere. People are complaining about problems in Nigeria. If there are no problems, where would the opportunities come from? So, I see no problem; I see only opportunities. Tell me, where has it being said that a vulcaniser should be sweating it out in the sun while mending tyres? Can't we be innovative, create a decent environment and when motorists develop flat tyres, they'll sit in a cossy atmosphere, while they are being attended to.
You could even offer them a bottle of Coke or a cup of tea and you can indirectly build the cost into their charges. That's creativity. Even to be a prostitute, you need creativity to succeed. That's why you'll see some call girls in skimpy, tight skirts and body hugs; they'll now apply so much 'oil' on there legs, so that when motorists are driving past at nights, the headlamps pick up their images and they become attractive. If they don't expose their breasts and parts of their 'yansh', how would people notice the compliments of their bodies? But they are being creative in a negative way. So, you see, in anything legitimate that you do, you need creativity, you need passion, and you need commitment.
We all love 'Booli'. Don't you eat 'Booli' (roasted plantain). Most of the time you patronize those women on the roadside when you want to buy 'Booli'. Where is it written that it is only those women that must roast 'Booli'…in a dirty environment? People should be creative. Get a shop, a nice oven, and introduce packaging. If you've traveled towards Ife a few times, there is a place called Kosu, where they sell 'Akara' (beans cake). They wrap them in papers and sell to buyers. What stops them from being a little creative? They could make a nice box and put the 'akara' in it. The quantity you want can determine the size of the box…so when a buyer comes, you fold it up like the take-away box and hand it over neatly. Creativity!
It is not compulsory that you must invent a new process; you can develop on a process and improve on it without compromising quality. In those days, when you want to go to interview someone, you take a writing pad and a midget recorder, but with the improvement in technology, virtually everything is inside your phone. Formerly, when I'm driving and I remember something, I pick up my tape and talk into it…but today I record such information inside my phone, and play back whenever I need to make references or notes. Somebody has introduced a process; now you can record whatever you want and you can take photographs with your phone. That's creativity.
The Bio-fuel idea
I always ask this question of people that 'where did God deposit crude oil?' Inside the earth - gold, diamond and other mineral resources that mankind will need to survive are deposited therein. And when God wanted to create you and I, He took us from the ground, so inside me and inside of you sitting here, there's an element of gold, there's an element of diamond, there's an element of precious stones and so many other wonderful things. So, all we need to do is to discover that thing that God has deposited inside of us. We can turn our passion to business, we can turn our talents to business; things that we do naturally could be turned into businesses.
Ever since people have been evacuating 'soak-away', they have all ended up inside the lagoon, whereas this thing can be a source of material. We've been talking about lack of electricity, lack of energy. This thing can be converted into electricity, and you can imagine if, today, we decide to convert all the shit that end up in the lagoon into electricity, we would not be talking about lack of electricity in Nigeria by now. Again, this is creativity.
Thinking big, thinking out of the 'box'. So, no waste is wasted. Government has been talking about 'Waste-to-Wealth'. This is nonsence because, to me, there is nothing like waste-to-wealth. I see it as 'waste to job opportunities'. That is why all these so called waste-to-wealth programmes have not succeeded. It is not compulsory that when you go to waste, you get wealth; but when you create a job opportunity for yourself and it is properly handled, then you get wealth.
Inspiration from MKO
In terms of financial gains, I would say I did not make much. But I learnt some virtues in him. When you are so close to a man like that, you shouldn't look at what you gain from him financially. You should avail yourself of the ability to learn what makes him tick. Chief was humble; he commands humility and respect. He never forgot that he came from a very poor background and, in so doing, he always remembered the poor. That was why he was making all those philanthropic gesture, and there is no way you do that and not succeed. God Almighty Himself set the law: 'The more you give, the more you get! Another thing I learnt from that man was that he doesn't give up; he never believes in impossibility. He was hardworking and passionate about it.
I want to be the Bill Gates of shit in Nigeria; the Dangote of shit. There is success and failure in everything, as much as there is time for everything. Sometimes we try to outrun God, but He'll withhold His Glory when it is not time. For every success made, there is the hand of God in it.