Coscharis Farm targets 20% of Nigeria’s $3bn rice import bill –Dr. Maduka

0
1361

A couple of months ago, the video of billionaire industrialists and farmer, Dr. Cosmas Maduaburochukwu Maduka, President of Coscharis Group of Companies, preaching on the street in Lagos went viral on social media, leaving people wondering how such a man of such extraordinary means could take such risks at this time Nigeria is battling with serious security challenges. However, in this no holds bared interview with select journalists, Maduka says, “I have just one life to live, and I am not afraid of death, but take this from me: Nobody can do anything to me until God finishes with me.” PAUL OGBUOKIRI brings you the excepts

viral video of you out on the street preaching the gospel with a megaphone has elicited diverse reactions, particularly on social media. What informed the decision to embark on street evangelism?

Well. I didn’t know why people were surprised. For me and my family, we were surprised when we saw how that thing went viral in the social media. My children were like ‘what’s the big deal? This is our daddy’s life, and we have been living like this.’ It is just that somebody that knows me recorded it and put it up there. I have been doing this since when I was 14. If I don’t have a wedding on Saturday, you will see me in the street preaching. I do that from church to church, but it is our mandate to preach the gospel. I never stayed a week without talking to someone about Jesus Christ. But, going to the street is what I do on Saturdays. We were shocked it meant a lot to a many people. A lot of people believe that, it is not something that is in vogue anymore, but it is fundamental to people like me.

What is the name of your church? I ask because people who do what you are doing usually have their own churches?

I used to worship with the Upper Room Mission here in Kirikiri (Lagos) some years ago. After some years, I left Upper Room Mission and joined the Christian Pentecostal Mission (CPM) in Ajao Estate. When I left CPM, I joined Local Christian Assembly in Ebute-Meta. I was a deacon in that church until this year that I felt my calling is becoming too demanding on me. If I share the programme of my activities in the last two months with you, you will realise that I am about making my exit (from running my business).

The two boys are here and I told them that I am giving them a notice of additional four years for me to quit finally. I now spend more of my time in ministration than I do in the business. I will basically hand Coscharis over to them, giving them authority and responsibility and also trying possibly to take one of the companies to the public in the next five years before I finally quit, so that I can take some money for my retirement. This is really what my life is. I have given the business aspect its best.

I am 61. I am going to be 62 by December. And, I just want to see what I can do with the next 20 years of my life. There are not much you can do at 80 and 85. So, I wanted to focus with the gospel and try to make presentations at universities.

I spoke in the University of Lagos last year. I am speaking in the Obafemi University on September 23. I have done it in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and I have done it in Kogi. Of course, I was invited by the United Nations in 2014 to speak on youth entrepreneurship. That was my first time at the UN and about 163 countries were represented in that gathering. I was explaining practical experiences, not theory. I speak on things they don’t teach you in Harvard that we meet in our day-to-day businesses.

People are concerned that by preaching in the open you are taking a big risk at a time crime cases, like kidnapping, are rife all over the country. Don’t you fear for your life?

We have one life to live, not two lives. In the book of Acts of Apostle, chapter 14, Apostle Paul said: “I have heard prophecies; there is a balm over me, Jerusalem. What do I care anymore about my life? Where is the best place to die?” I will like to be shot speaking the word of God. I have one life and I am not afraid of death, but take this from me: Nobody can do anything to me until God finishes with me. And that is where people make mistake.

Life is not how long you lived but how much impact you made in life. Jesus died at 33 and we have not stopped talking about him. Peter James, John, none of them lived up to 70 years. We still talk about them today. But, in only one verse we read in the bible, Methuselah was 999 before he died. Nothing more was said about Methuselah. Life is about how impactfully and how effectively you have lived, and not how long you have lived.

Would you have been so close to God and preaching in the street as you are doing now if you were a poor man or a struggling man?

So many struggling people do this. The unfortunate thing there is that a lot of struggling people did it sincerely with devotion, but they think, because they do this, they are closer to God. And they think it is because they do it that they are not wealthy. God used me to demystify some mysteries about people’s lives: For instance, that a rich man cannot serve God. And that you cannot serve God being rich. It is a national norm. People are very comfortable to believe that if you want to be right with God, forget about money – that money is another god; that it is a mammon, and so, don’t serve it.

They believe that if you want to serve God, accept poverty as a way of life and you will never be able to put food on the table. Some have even jumped into ministration because of their stomach. That is why they cannot preach their heart. They can preach for their stomach. They want to say something that will give them daily bread. But somebody like me, if I stand talking with you today, I don’t have any form of financial crisis in my mind. Money never crosses my mind. I will tell you the truth without any reservation, because I don’t have any offering box for you to drop money in. Rather, if you need some, I will drop mine. I also don’t want to start church. If I start a church, my church will be full.

At what point did you start trading on your own?

One fateful day after I had turned 14, we were having a camp meeting and it was our third day of fasting, and my uncle got to know that I locked up the shop for three days. That did not go down well with him; so he called me and my elder brother, and said he understood I was becoming a religious fanatic, but would not want to stand in my way. In fact, mine is a strong Catholic family, and my being a born-again Christian brought a lot of disaffection against me in the entire family. My boss counted N200 and gave it to me. That was in 1976. I was devastated, because frankly speaking, it wasn’t a big amount owing to the fact that you couldn’t even rent a shop with it. In fact, N200 could not buy one carton of spark plugs.

So, in the presence of my elder brother, I asked my boss to tell me what he wanted me to do with the money. He told me that whatever I wanted to do with it was entirely up to me. I said, ‘no, I served you for six years plus, and you could give me say a minimum of N10, 000 or N20, 000. At the worst, you can give me N5000, because I need to get a shop and stock merchandise there. Where do I go with this sum?’ And he instantly told me that whatever I wanted to do with it, I should do. My elder brother got angry and said I should forget it. He handed the money back to my uncle and said, ‘let’s go’. I turned to him and asked him if he kept any money to give me when we get home. He said ‘no.’

Did overcoming very daunting challenges so early in your life prepare you for the greatness that you have attained today?

Of course! After my encounter with my boss, I went back home to join my brother and together we formed a company known as Maduka Brothers. We worked together and within six months, we started to differ in ideology, and we agreed to part ways. With the profit we had made and what I got after I had settled with him, my money was either N316 or N346. So, he stayed on his own and I got another place where a friend of mine gave me free of charge for six months. I put my merchandise there. I was 15 then, but I already had clear goals of what I wanted for myself: I wanted to marry before 20. I wanted to own my car by 23. I wanted to have a son by 21. And, I wanted to be a millionaire by 25.

And, I also said, ‘write all these down, because it wasn’t a mere dream.’ But, that created problems for me, because people felt my mouth was too big. I was hated for saying those things. My mother even got irritated by these things I used to say. She thought that I should be a little bit cautious. In fact, she said I boasted too much. Eventually, I got married when I was 19 years plus. I have been married for 41 years now. My son didn’t come until I was 26. I bought my first car at 22, not 23. It was a Volkswagen Passat. I bought it from Mandilas with 3000 kilometers on the odometer. I recalled carrying my wife in that car and my mother was sitting behind. We were going to someone and like my usual self, I said, ‘I am 23; in the next two years, I will be a millionaire.’ My mother said ‘no, no!’ And I repeated, ‘in two more years, I will be a millionaire.’

My mother said my statement was turning her stomach. She told me not to say that again, and that if I did, she would come down from the car. I parked the car and I repeated it. I now asked her: ‘Do you want to come down, and she said ‘yes.’ I opened the door, she got out, and I closed the door and drove off, leaving her standing at that spot. It was like I was crazy, but it was my faith. But she was alive to see it all happen, because she drove a brand new Mercedes 190 from me

I think God also rewarded her through me. I had my first son at 26 and the second one at 30. I ended up having four boys or actually five boys {because one is late} and a girl. My daughter is a medical doctor. The two boys read Economics at the University of Lagos, and did their post-degree courses in the UK and Massachusetts (in the United States). They are all back to join the company. My third son is also a graduate. The last boy just graduated with 4.0 GPA, and is currently studying for his Masters degree in Cincinnati University, Ohio (also in the United States). He did that at no cost to me, because he is an athlete. He runs and jumps for the school. So he studies under scholarship.

He is good in sports and I think he took after my wife who she used to run 400 meters when she was in school.

Coscahris has also ventured into rice farming in Anambra State. Do you see Nigeria being self sufficient in rice production?

We (Nigeria) will be self-sufficient in rice, because Coscharis alone has about 3,000 hectares of land for rice production that used to yield four tonnes per hectare. Now that we have developed the seed, we are getting eight tonnes per hectare. In other words, we have had another 3,000 hectares of land. For now, irrigation is finished and we are going to start next season. That means we have multiplied our supply. We used to have 4,000. We are having 8, 000 now, and we are going to have 16, 000, by the dimension of the farm, and if we succeed to do three crop seasons, we will have 24,000 tonnes on that same piece of property. Before, we only did one crop season in a year. But with irrigation now, we will do two crop seasons. We have Nigerian seed that only yields us four tons, but we have gotten seeds imported from elsewhere that yields us eight tonnes. If we take the hybrid type, we get 10 tons per hectare. That means we have to continue to import the hybrid. However, we are making arrangements with the hybrid type.

In fact, we are already thinking of having a second mill now. I am sure, if what we are working on works out exactly the way we are planning it, in three years, we will solve 100 per cent rice demand in the eastern part of Nigeria. That is our goal. Nigeria spends $3 billion importing rice. We are targeting 20 per cent of that market and we will get it. We will then see how much further we can go. We are not in other industries, but 500 million people are going to eat. Coscharis Farms may as well be the mother parent company of Coscharis and not BMW and Rolls-Royce. That is my excitement and that is where I am retiring to. That is where I am going and that is where I am putting all my resources now. And that is where the future is. And we don’t use to advertise it because people are queuing up to buy. They are trucking rice every day. It is consumable because people eat it today, in the afternoon and night. However, it is capital intensive.

We are planning to buy an aircraft to do our seedling. You will be proud that something like that is happening across the Niger. The mill is in Igbariam, very close to the Igbariam University. I had planned this and purchased the land 29 years ago. I have always known that I am going to retire in the farm.

People were pushing me but I understood long ago that you cannot go into farming with borrowed money. I knew it was something that required a lot of investment. So, I didn’t want to go into it until I was prepared. But I was purchasing the property. This property I bought 330 hectares from some people. I took Life Brewery’s 600 hectares. I bought over 800 hectares from Bravo. I was buying land from different people and putting them together. So I had 3,000 hectares of land is about 11 miles square kilometers. People used to ask if such land exists in Anambra State? Again, they are bordered by rivers. It took me 29 years to acquire the land because I have always known that I would be a farmer. People don’t usually buy land for farming and they always want government to give them. But I bought the land and I have the certificate of occupancy. Now I am getting the villagers to teach them how to do modern farming, buy up their stuff and put them in our silos and mill them. The mill is working 24/7. We are planning to acquire a second mill. So, that is where the future of our organisation is.

What secrets of success would you give to any young man who approaches you with the question: How do I become a billionaire like Cosmas Maduka?

The first thing I would tell the person is to refer him to the Bible. One of the secrets of the kingdom that Jesus brought is about management. The difference between a garden and bush is that you organise the garden. You take away some wild plant from the garden, but there are still trees and other things in it. Once you stop maintaining it, the garden becomes a bush.

Management is one of the skills that churches are lacking. If a young man comes to me today and says he wants to enter the ministry and what should he study between geology and financial management, I will tell him to go and study financial management because you don’t learn God in school. The reason why churches are attracting poor people is because an average pastor cannot even spell the word management.

The first discipline you learn is how to manage resources because resources are not in plenty supply. God instituted tithe to teach you the ability to set aside and to keep something. If you can learn the discipline to keep something or set aside for God, you will set aside for yourself. I believe in tithe and I tithe, not only in my pocket but in my business. If I make a billion naira in my business, 100 million naira goes for my ministry.

Do you still ride power bikes? In terms of security and safety, is it not too risky for a man of status?

I go for evangelism on my bike. I cruise with my BMW 1600cc – one of the most expensive and powerful super motorcycles from BMW Motorrad. The sound alone draws the crowd before I drop my gadgets and Bible for the gospel to start. I started riding bike when I was 11 years. Bike is in our family. My grandfather rode a bike, my mother rode a bike, my three sisters riden bike and my two brothers riden bikes also. So we are bikers in my family. Many people didn’t believe I will live to see 20 years based on the crazy way I ride. I have riden motorcycle from Nnewi to Benin and also from Nnewi to Enugu and then Afikpo. And, I have a very unconventional style of riding it; by perching on the seat – rather than sitting normally on it – and delivering all kinds of breathtaking manoeuvres.

As an investor, have you ever burnt your fingers in business? Have you ever been frustrated to a point where you felt like giving up?

In business, we have situations where we feel like throwing in the towel. Like everything in life, many times in our most agonising period, we remain optimistic and keep hoping for a bright future without letting people know how weak we have become. The year 2016 brought one of the toughest times for Coscharis Group in our 46 years of existence. The warehouse opposite us (at Mazamaza) was completely burnt and billions of naira was lost and insurance did not pay anything to us. In that process, we undertook a liability of $300 million that somebody reneged upon. It was a test case for my integrity and the franchise called Coscharis to remain in existence. We bit the bullet and moved on.

SHARE
Previous articleCoscharis farms commissions N12bn rice mill to drive Nigeria’s self-sufficiency
Next articleWhy an “Uber for tailors” is gaining ground in Lagos
Godwin Okafor is a Financial Journalist, Internet Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Naija247news Media Limited. He has over 16 years experience in financial journalism. His experience cuts across traditional and digital media. He started his journalism career at Business Day, Nigeria and founded Naija247news Media in 2010. Godwin holds a Bachelors degree in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos. He is an alumni of Lagos Business School and a Fellow of the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists). Over the years, he has won a number of journalism awards. Godwin is the chairman of Emmerich Resources Limited, the publisher of Naija247news.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.