1997 Ebutte-Metta, Lagos
‘Who is the owner of this shop?’ a Policeman asked as he gazed at the crowd waiting in front of a food stall.
Tunde ran immediately in fright to inform his mother at the back of the building.
‘Mummy! Mummy!!’ he panted as he spoke.
‘What is it, Tunde?’ Iya Yunde dropped her wooden spoon on a bowl as she shot her son a worried look, ‘I hope you’ve not been playing your usual pranks again?’
‘No, mummy,’ he replied, breathing heavily, ‘a Policeman is asking after you.’
‘Olopa? What business do I have with the Police?’ a thousand and one thoughts ran through her mind.
‘Ah, so Iya Bisola has finally succeeded in carrying out her threats?’ Iya Tunde shook her head sadly, ‘but what have I done to warrant a police arrest?’
‘Mummy, what are you going to do now?’
‘I don’t know my son; I will go and see him,’ she wiped her wet arms on her wrapper, ‘God knows that my hands are clean.’
‘Good morning sir,’ she trembled as she stood before the police officer.
‘Good morning madam,’ he responded, ‘are you the owner of this shop?’
‘Yes, but Oga, police, I’m innocent,’ Iya Tunde fell on her kneels, ‘please don’t believe whatever anyone…’
‘Madam, please be on your feet; except of course, if you’re a criminal,’ he scolded her.
‘Oh, no sir!’ she quickly got up.
‘Relax, madam,’ he continued, ‘the police is your friend; it is only the guilty that should be afraid. Well, that’s just by the way; a colleague of mine told me about your delicious Jollof-rice…’
Iya Tunde heaved a sigh of relief as she placed her arm on her chest.
‘But why do people describe your jollof- rice as, ‘Jollof-rice alafia?’ the curious Policeman asked.
‘That’s my motto,’ Iya Tunde laughed, ‘I always tell my customers that anyone who eats my jollof-rice rice doesn’t end up with a running stomach.’
‘Interesting!’ the Policeman beamed, ‘since they say that the taste of the pudding is in the eating, can you serve me a plate, then?’
‘Oga Police, please exercise a little patience, let me bring it down from the fire.’
The Policeman ran his eyes at the crowd, and then back to the lady.
‘So you mean this crowd too is waiting for the same rice?’
‘Yes sir. But don’t worry; I would serve you first before any other person here.’ She excused herself.
‘I would have concluded that an election is taking place here if not that we’re in the military regime,’ the Policeman muttered to no one in particular.
‘Are you sure that woman is not using juju to sell her food?’ Iya Bisola expressed her anxiety to her friend, as they both watched the crowd at Iya Tunde’s shop.
‘Maybe,’ her friend responded.
And while they spoke, a 505 Peugeot car pulled in front of them and a young man alighted, and walked towards them.
‘Iya Bisola, that’s a big fish coming your way,’ her friend remarked, ‘that young man works with NITEL…’
‘Good morning,’ the young man greeted as he drew closer.
‘Good morning sir. I have delicious Jollof-rice,’ Iya Bisola uttered all in one breathe.
‘Please, I’m looking for Iya Tunde’s shop…’
The two ladies exchanged glances and hissed; and as the man left in frustration, a little girl who overheard him, came to the rescue.
‘Uncle,’ the girl began innocently, ‘we have three women around here bearing that name; that also sells jollof-rice. Which one in particular are you looking for?’
‘She has a nick-name that has a Yoruba word…I can’t remember…’
‘Sir, is it Jollof-rice Alafia?’
‘Oh yes, Jollof-rice Alafia…please where is her shop?’
‘Check that other shop,’ the little girl pointed at Iya Tunde’s shop…
Tunde watched with joy each day as his mother’s business thrived. But amidst his excitement, he noticed a tinge of worry on her face one day.
‘Mummy, what’s the problem?’
‘I need to create an identity for my business, to distinguish my food business from the other women also bearing Iya Tunde.’
Although the ten year old boy appeared puzzled, yet he trusted his mother so well.
Iya Tunde hired a painter who inscribed the caption: JOLLOF RICE ALAFIA, on a small wooden material. And afterwards, she hung it proudly by the side of her shop. That inscription, henceforth became her unique identity.
Ironically, the stress associated with the increased demand for her jollof-rice, began to take its toll on the poor woman’s health, until she could no longer cope anymore.
While on her sick bed, one of her friends visited her.
‘How are you doing today?’ her friend asked with a genuine concern written all over her.
‘At least, I’m better better than three days ago,’ the sick woman replied.
‘Iya Tunde, your absence from your shop these past few days has been a cause of concern, especially for your customers,’ her friend continued, ‘just yesterday, two gentlemen came with a very big car; and could you guess what brought them all the way from Bariga to Ebute-metta? It was nothing other than Jollof Rice Alafia.’
‘It…is… not my… making,’ Iya Tunde coughed as she spoke, ‘it is…is…God’s gift.’
‘We all know that very well, Iya Tunde,’ she continued, ‘that is one of the reasons that brought me here. As a way to retain your numerous customers, I want you to do me just a little favour…’
‘What is it?’ Iya Tunde asked innocently.
‘I don’t need intend to take over your shop,’ she explained, ‘but what I need from you, is just your signboard with the inscription: JOLLOF RICE ALAFIA, that’s all, o tan!’
‘Is it just the name alone?’
‘Yes; I don’t need your shop; just the name.’
‘Okay, you can have it; but let them realize that I’m still coming back,’ Iya Tunde cautioned.
‘No problem; it’s all for your interest, in order to keep the business alive.’
‘Thank you, my friend, God bless you,’
Few days later, Iya Tunde resumed to her shop, and her friend gladly handed her signboard back to her.
But unknowing to her, her friend had already gone to print the same caption on her mobile shop and also went to the extent of rendering home services still using the name!
Iya Tunde, later found out about her friend’s trick. And unable to handle the shock, she went into depression and died afterwards, leaving her only survivor, Tunde, to mourn her loss.
2010 Lagos, Southwest Nigeria
Tunde is now twenty three years old, and in the University. He strolled by one day within the vicinity where his late mother once had a shop, and was impressed with the modern structures that had replaced the erstwhile shanty stalls. All of a sudden, a large signpost with the inscription: JOLLOF RICE ALAFIA caught his attention.
‘Please where can I get good food here?’ he heard a passerby asking a motorbike rider.
‘You can check that shop over there, JOllof Rice Alafia,’ the rice is very tasty.’
‘Oh, but I learnt the owner died a long time ago…’
‘Yes, over ten years now, but I think a member of the family now manages the business, and with better services…’
A cold chill ran through Tunde’s spine. His lips felt too heavy to utter a word, but somehow, he mustered enough courage.
‘That’s my mother’s business name!’ he roared in tears, ‘my mother did not transfer her business name to anyone…someone had stolen that name…’
‘Shut up!’ the biker hushed him, ‘what’s in a name?’
The question ‘what’s in a name?’ rang on his mind as he returned to the campus that day. He still believed that there was more to that name than meet the eye.
‘Sir is it an offence to use someone else’s business name?’ he asked one of his lecturers.
‘Yes, that’s only if it was registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission…’Mr. Ajetunmobi explained, ‘if on the other hand, it didn’t pass through the CAC, as it’s popularly called, then it becomes free for anyone to use.’
‘Ignorance is indeed a disease!’ Tunde uttered, ‘my semi-illiterate, late mother knew nothing about registration of a business name, when she managed her food business in the 90’s.’
‘Hmm! and that would have fetched you a fortune when you eventually decides to sell the brand name,’ Mr. Ajetunmobi added.
‘Knowledge is power,’ Tunde blurted, ‘thank you sir for the enlightenment.’
‘One more thing sir, I’d need your guidance to register my small graphics business.’
‘No, problem, Tunde; I’m at your service.’
Vantage Point Arts, Tunde’s business, which he managed alongside his part-time studies, thrived to the point that it caught the attention of a prominent business man in the neighbourhood.
‘Young man, I love your drive for business,’ Otunba Kolade, stated in a business-like manner.
‘Thank you, sir,’ Tunde nodded.
‘When I heard in the news that the CEO of Vantage Point Arts is just a young man, I said to myself, another Mark Zuckerberg is in the making,’ Otunba Kolade emphasized, as he patted the young man on the back.
‘Thank you, sir.’
‘Now, let’s move straight to business, Tunde. I want you to strike a deal with me; it would be my pleasure if you can drop your business name for me and pick another one…I would pay you…’
‘No sir!’ he insisted, ‘that name is very dear to me; I can’t exchange it for any other.’
‘That’s okay, I understand,’ Otunba Kolade beamed, ‘I admire your frankness.’
‘Thank you, sir.’
Two weeks later, Tunde was to learn that his business name Vantage Point Arts, had been used by another graphics company; on further enquiry, he discovered that the brain behind the scam was no other than Otunba Kolade!
Tunde immediately filed a lawsuit against him. Initially, the case appeared like it was going to be a wild goose chase; however, luck smiled on the young man, when a human rights lawyer took over his case. In the end, the court ruled the judgment in favour of Tunde.
Tears streamed down his eyes as he recalled a similar incidence which happened to his mother several years ago, but with an adverse consequence. As he left the court that day, he strengthened his resolve to always improve on himself by seeking knowledge.
‘Congratulations!’ his friends and lecturers shook hands with him after the case.
‘So where do you see Vantage Point Arts in the next ten years?’ a News Reporter interviewed him afterwards.
‘I see my brand spreading its tentacles all over the country and then selling its franchise to willing investors,’ he smiled.
‘Wow, that’s quite a tall dream,’ the Reporter continued, ‘could you please tell us who inspired you into doing business?’
‘I learnt commerce at a tender age from my mother; she also taught me the relevance of having a business name, but regrettably, the poor woman knew nothing about protecting the business name. The importance of registering a business name cannot be overemphasized. The ugly experience my mother had made me restless and I sought for a way out to protect my brand name.’
Tunde shifted his gaze from the camera as he tried to suppress every iota of emotion.
‘My advice to every youth at this point, is that no matter the asset or gift you have inherited, it won’t amount to much except you continue to work on improving it until you attain your best. My mantra is this, good, better, best!’
Raw gold is unattractive unless it is passed through the furnace. Don’t just settle for less, endeavour to continuously improve on yourself.
Until I come again your way next week, KEEP MOVING!