The Bodija Market Woman

By: Deji Yesufu

In April 2023, I visited Portharcourt, Rivers State, for my ordination into ministry. Over the ten days, I was to stay in the city, I had a few free days and so I reached out to Maple Dappa to come and take me out to see the town. The brief time I spent with Maple revealed to me that Nigeria still had hopes for her young people. Maple is a business consultant. He helps you to do business better. When I returned to Ibadan, I went to Maple’s website (Mapemond Brand Consulting) and I listened to all his podcasts on business strategies. I did this because I was going to be publishing my book HUMANITY later in the year and I was looking for ideas to make it sell. I would eventually get Maple on my team and he advised on a few tips on how to get the book into the Nigerian market. Any time you come to my website, watch my videos, or see me mention HUMANITY in my writing, all those ideas I gleaned from Maple. Maple will say “Continue to put your product in people’s eyes. One day they will remember you and they will patronize you”.

One other thing Maple teaches us is all the wrong business principles that people employ that make their businesses fail. Maple will say something like this: “…the purpose of business is to make a profit. Sell, sell, sell… is the heartbeat of every business…” It is some of these basic business principles that make our brothers in the Eastern parts of Nigeria thrive better in business than those of us from other parts of Nigeria. While I may not be able to speak authoritatively about people from northern Nigeria, I think I have some experiences around doing business in western Nigeria – particularly with the Bodija Market woman. Sincerely I cannot understand why a woman selling goods in Bodija, whose goods are competing with the very little resource in the Nigerian economic situation, will still resort to insulting her customers. 

I lived most of my life in northern Nigeria and never could understand why a market woman in the west, because I attempt to make a bargain with you, will begin to insult me. Do you realize that I have the liberty to walk away from you and possibly mark your space as a spot I should never venture to when I am in the market? Maple shows us in his business classes, that selling a product is not rocket science. However, certain things must be adhered to. The idea that the “customer is king” is a truism anywhere – you do not insult a king and expect to get any benefit from him. Education could indeed help many women in Bodija market, but I think good business sense can be learnt simply by observation. The other reality of life is that the Bodija market woman never goes beyond a certain state in life; she will continue to sell the same number of products and probably never grow her business. One day, sickness or old age will come knocking. She will retire into a life of penury, for those who do not have children to care for them, and die. The circle of poverty continues.

I am writing this essay today because I was broken-hearted yesterday. I live in an estate that permits for a few people to open stalls within the neighbourhood. These neighbourhood markets come in handy because rather than go to the main market for a little item, you buy them from these people. There is a particular woman whose shop is opposite my home, who tries to keep her store well stocked. The only problem, as you may be guessing, is that she has an extremely foul attitude. She appears to be continually bitter. She is never short of clap-backs – you wonder why she is always angry. When I discovered Maple’s website, especially some of his podcasts that warn against things that militate against business growth, I shared the link with her. From time to time, when I go to buy things from her, I try to counsel her to be friendlier. She would thank me for the counsel but repeat the mistakes the next time. Yesterday, however, things took a bad turn for our relationship.

Probably because of the discomfort from my leg that is still in a cast, I was not ready to entertain Madam Bitter’s attitude this time. After her characteristic clap back at me, I told madam that I could not understand why she would continually insult me when I was her customer. I told her that nobody does business this way and thrives. And then I said: “Madam, continue like this and very soon you will be out of business.” With that, madam lost it and the insults came down in torrents. Thanks to neighbourhood gossip, she even got hold of information on my family and used it as an occasion to drive a dagger into me. I had had enough – I left her. This morning I prayed for Madam Bitter. I asked that God will help her business remain and bless it. I understand now that the best that God will do for this woman is to keep that business running for a few more years. I noticed my neighbours do not patronize her. I suspect that she has alienated them also with her tongue. If Madam Bitter’s business will improve, her attitude toward people will also have to improve – no prayer or miracle would do this for her.

Business success is not rocket science. It only requires some humility; an ability to learn; doggedness; and then faith in God. There are people out there in desperate need of what you sell, but they have hundreds of options to buy those items from. What will make your store a success is the little edge you provide to your business that will bring customers your way. While Madam Bitter continues to be cranky, there is another lady down the road whose business is doing extremely well. Since my accident, and because I cannot walk long distances, I call this woman on the phone and tell her what I want. She gives my purchases to a bike man, who brings it to my doorstep at very little cost of delivery. And then I make a transfer to her. Probably what began to irk me with Madam Bitter yesterday was that at the onset of our meeting, she informed me, rather matter-of-factly, that she no longer collects transfers. And I was thinking: how in the world should a businesswoman stop collecting transfers when everyone today deals in digital money? Madam Bitter must have had one bad experience with transfers and used that to alienate all other customers who might want to transact with her that way. Sad. Things can be better for the Bodija Market woman. I do know who will tell her these truths. And even if they tell her, does she have the capacity to learn?

Deji Yesufu is the pastor of Providence Reformed Baptist Church Ibadan. He is the author of HUMANITY.

Posted by Deji Yesufu

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