The look on Baba Femi’s face really convinced me that he’d love to have me come over to his farm house later in the day for the interview I promised him. Peter had advised we go to his pig farm after returning from the point of no return (located on Gberefu island), and I obeyed him.
* * *
Baba Femi’s home has all the qualities of a typical historical farm house- the only thing missing was a sign post indicating that the place was one.
He wasn’t inside but on hearing our voice, he directed us to come to the backyard, and to my greatest surprise, Baba Femi was stark naked in the open, scrubbing his soapy body like he was going to rip it off. We wanted to rush back but he shouted at us to stand there and continue looking at him till he’s done.
When he finished, He told us to take a tour around so as to have a feel of his farm while he gets dressed.
About 10 minutes later, he called out and on getting to where he was seated; he had already been joined by an elderly woman whom he introduced to us as his sister.
When next you see me naked, never run away because you are still the ones that will bury me whenever I stop breathing. I nodded like I was going to be there when he gives up the ghost. “do I even know who’d go first?” I asked within me as I wore a mischievous smile.
With the look of things, Baba Femi sure is a talkative. Knowing this, I decided to dive straight into why I had come instead of giving him further opportunity to tell another tale.
I quickly greeted him once again to Shut him up and also declare the beginning of the interview.
So we started.
The method I applied for this interview was asking multiple related questions at once.
Even though we conversed in Yoruba all through, I had fun interrogating this cheerful farmer.
Q: I shouldn’t be wrong to call you a farmer… have you been doing this all your life? If no, what were you doing before and why did you decide to opt into farming?
A: I left the village for Lagos immediately I finished learning how to sew. I got into Lagos with my family to become a very popular tailor. Bariga was my home while my workshop was in Ebute Meta.
On why he decided to leave this tailoring for farming:
It got to a stage when i started having issues with Customers who wouldn’t want to pay for the services been rendered to them. It grw so worse that when I ask them for money after making wears for them. They start calling me unku unku– to remind me that i’m like their big brother. If I persist, they’d change it to fight/quarrel and stop greeting me. This continued until the debts ran close to hundred thousand.
Since I didn’t come to Lagos to count the number of bridges inside of it, I decided it was time to opt out.
How he came across animal rearing
Q: Daddy, tailoring and farming aren’t at all related. How did you do it?
A: My first encounter with animal rearing happened during a time I usually help a rich chief take care of his his goats. People usually dash these chief lots of goats (but all were females), so one day, I suggested that he should buy few males so that they can start reproducing.
He listened to my advice and bought few males to make the total number equal 15. So when they started given birth, at a point in time their number increased to 50. Chief was so happy that he dashed me 22 while he took the rest.
That marked the beginning of my journey into the animal world.
And like what he earlier did wasn’t enough, he allowed me use 2 out of his 6 plots of vacant land for rearing my own share.
Q: With your breakthrough, why did you now have to leave Lagos?
A: You are actually correct. You see, whenever life seems to favour you, please, I beg you not to flaunt your wealth- no matter how small.
I hated my condition over there. Especially during a period when I was constantly getting jobs with good pay from outside Lagos. During this period, I would use some of the money I made to buy loads of foodstuffs down to Lagos for my family- Where we lived together in a rented face-me-I-face-you apartment.
But one awkward thing I discovered later was that the more I do this, the more my landlord keeps increasing the house rent. That was what sealed my home coming decision finally because I was at a crossroad- thorn between either coming home to restart a new life I believe might work, or staying back in the city to hopelessly wait on God while I continued to live from hand to mouth.
Q: Settling in a new place is difficult enough not to talk of trying to live a sustainable life there. How was your settling experience like in Ajido?
A: Ha! Tunde, it wasn’t funny o!
We did one burial in 1996 in Ajido which I was really involved in. So I seized the opportunity to review my chances (should I relocate back to the village). I packed my properties down here in 1998 with my family but I begged my wife to allow me continue to shuttle between Lagos and Ajido for another six years so as to balance things which she agreed.
By then I had finally left our house in Bariga, meaning I slept in my shop all through this 6-year period.
In 2003, it consciously dawned on me that I needed to up my game one sunny afternoon after listening to one of Barister’s track which the lyrics emphasized that a fool at 40 will be a fool forever. This triggered the tripling of my hustle spirit. Therefore, I came home to Ajido to build a shop with wood and thatch.
My mind was already made- it’s either I achieve something in life or die while at it.
I was 41 years old at this time.
Q: What happened afterwards?
A: I laid the foundation of my home on the 9th of November 2007
Q: seriously! Just within 4years of returning back to the village? How did you do it?
A: it wasn’t easy though because while at it, there was a time I got so broke that I almost mistook sand for garri. That period will pass as one of the most horrific of my time on earth.
How he got the money
While in my shop one idle but sunny afternoon, I reasoned within me that since Ajido and Badagry at large are blessed with excess sand, why can’t I start bagging the sand for sale? That was how I started going to construction sites in search of empty bags of cement which I sold 200 bags for ₦10,000. I did this continuously until I was able to save up to buy materials for laying the foundation of this house except sand.
check out @nomadic_negro on instagram to see a short video I recorded with the pigs
Q: do you mean you built this house just through packing and selling sand?
A: you are too forward. Let me finish.
After the foundation, it seemed like the sand idea won’t be too sufficient in continuing the project, so I watched out for possible opportunities.
One finally crawled in when I was elected to oversee the activities of some people who wanted to be packing sand on my mum’s only land on an island across the lagoon. So I took this opportunity to amass more money by collecting royalty from them.
And just like my mates in the same business who delved into polygamy, I in turn married more blocks and cements till I was able to build my house to the roofing level, before the money stopped coming from this source.
Before long again, another opportunity came when I started advising my friends in Lagos to come and buy land here in Ajido due to the security and affordability.
I thence started helping those who have bought theirs to clear the weeds on their lands and also played a supervisory role for some of them. Though, this was somewhat difficult for me but the determination of not wanting to be a fool forever continued to give me the push I needed.
Things soon got tougher at a point when Femi gained admission into a college of education. Since I couldn’t afford the tuition, I had to make him join me on the labouring job before we could raise the fund.
My family celebrated the beginning of 2009 in this house because that was when we moved away from our family house.
On settling down in my new home, I started facing wahala from family members and friends it seemed as though they weren’t happy with my feat. They wanted me to still continue living in the family house.
Knowing full well that I couldn’t contend with them using charm, I went physical with some of them bearing in mind that its either I kill or I get killed.
There was even a time I was spiritually attacked at the back of my head- I spent close to 200k to treat myself far away in Benin republic.
*I asked if the attack was physical but he chuckled before telling me I can’t see it because its juju.
When they saw I hadn’t only recovered, but that my hustle spirit had tripled, they became more furious, especially on realizing I am not ready to join their alcoholic team (since I was always inside the forest either tapping wine or cutting logs of wood for sale). They did another charm which affected my leg but I also narrowly escaped amputation.
When I noticed weren’t ready to back out, and my physicality wasn’t enough, I approached a church to come establish beside my house but the church in no time got destroyed by storm. I knew they were still the ones behind it all, so I went to bring another church to replace it…
Q: Since your initial interest was in goats, why and how did you delve into pig farming?
A: That’s true, you see, I discovered along the line that pigs are more fertile than goats, thence; I decided to add pigs to my stock. I also added dogs and ducks too.
Q: Since you aren’t a vet doctor, how do you now take care of them during pregnancy and when they fall sick?
A: I practiced and took time and resources to study them. And with time I was able to take care of them. Though, it got to a point when I didn’t understand some things about them, so I went in search of a vet doctor who usually comes around to help me treat them.
Prime of those difficulties was my inability to safely bring out the placenta of the baby when any of them delivers. This usually kills them but the doctor knows better and since he started coming around, the death rate has reduced drastically.
Q: what can you tell me about these pigs?
A: One amazing thing about my pigs is that they eat up their placentas immediately after giving birth. Hahaha! You see, no one dares go near them (Not even me the owner) as they are most dangerous during this period.
As serious as it is, not even a snake can go near where they are, or have you ever heard where a snake eats a pig? *I shook my head in denial.
I love my pigs o… they don’t die easily. Their life is so tough that even when hit with a bullet, they can still survive or live very long afterward before giving up.
Q: Which do you do more? Selling or consuming them?
A: I do both but I sell more.
Q: Considering the cost of feeding and treating them. How profitable is rearing pigs?
A: Ha! It’s a very profitable business o. I at least sell an average adult pig for 50-60k since the agric ones go for around 70 thousand naira. What I do is buy just very few agric so they can mate with the local females which I have in abundance. Oya imagine what such outcome would be in 3-4 more years.
Q: So how do people get to know you sell pigs?
A: You see, in every business you find yourself doing, never stop shouting to the public about what you do until you succeed. Even after succeeding, don’t ever stop.
Q: What advice will you give people who are finding it difficult surviving in Lagos?
A: It’s simple. I’d first ask what the problem is. If it’s something I feel he shouldn’t stay in Lagos for, I’d tell him to come back to the village to start a life- Probably as a farmer.
Q: People see farming as a shameful job, what would you advise aspiring farmers?
A: You see, farming isn’t an easy job. Hence, I think the stress involved and not the dirty nature repels aspiring farmers. I’d advise them to delve into it, especially now that there is enough technology and many cooperative societies to give out cash. Not to even mention the fact that the country’s economy is in a critical situation.
Q: can you recall any unforgettable moment since you’ve started doing this?
A: hmmmm. There was a time I had to borrow money to sow seeds. So one day, on returning from a trip, I met about 6 cows belonging to Abu (one of the Fulanis in the area) had destroyed all my plants.
I got so infuriated that I ensured I dethatched one of the limbs of a cow. Abu tried retaliating as he charged towards me but I think he had a second thought on seeing how blood trickled down from the cutlass I used on his cow.
He was about mentioning another experience before peter signalled that it was high time we left him alone for home. So i quickly interrupted by thanking him.
I called a girl i guessed will be the youngest of his children, gave her ₦500.00 while peter set the car on motion.
The little girl was more than happy as she ran back to her father.
I smiled as I buckled the seatbelt.
It was indeed a day well spent.