Mining is one of the plans of government to wean Nigeria from her dependence on oil. One of the major players in that industry is Otunba Wale Adesina affectionately called Zaranda by his friends, who owns Western Quarry in Abeokuta.
In this interview with Mayor Akinpelu, Wale Zaranda revealed why Western Quarry is very successful. He also explained how power can shift to Yewa this time around in Ogun State.
How did you get into quarry business?
First of all, I have been selling cars for about 25 years. It got to a point that I discovered you don’t need a special skill to be a car dealer and you can’t determine your expansion, you can’t determine who your customers are and competition in car business will not take you anywhere. So, the market became so saturated and I discovered I couldn’t go far. In car business, you can’t say you want to push for more customers because people have to consider a lot of things like food, shelter, education and so on before they think of buying cars. So, you have to be in a strong comfort zone. I just felt like doing something that I can determine my own growth, something that I can do and be able to sit with my bank manager. Since I’m from Abeokuta, I looked at my area and decided that quarry business is good because you can use it to negotiate, you can determine your own expansion depending on the funds available. So, I put all these into consideration and being a native of Abeokuta, I decided to come into quarry business 11 years ago.
Your Western Quarry is one of the biggest around. How come you are able to get the lion share of the market?
Whatever you want to do in life, the success depends on you. The market depends on you, the drive depends on you. I had been a good businessman in car sales and I knew that if I put that same zeal into quarry business too I would grow. We combine logistics with our services. The end users; that is the construction companies, they want you to deliver. So, our ability to deliver makes us the number one choice. For any big construction company like Julius Berger that is a higher consumer of granites, the highest it can consume in a day is 1,500 tons. But Western Quarry can effectively deliver up to 2,000 tons within 24 hours. We leverage on our logistics combined with our production to operate effectively. We produce and supply, we don’t wait for the middlemen to do the job for us. We had a contract directly from PW to construct a 107 kilometer road in Ogun West and we performed creditably well. If you had an LPO from a reputable company like PW, every bank will be ready to dance with you. This is how we stamped our authority on the market and our growth knows no bounds.
In your view, is the government doing the right thing to develop the mining industry?
Well, the government will always be doing its best but whatever its best is, it can only be limited to its exposure. Most times, in the ministry of mining, you have medical doctor, you have civil engineer, and you have career officers who know about mining, as subordinates. Even when critical decisions are being made, they have little to contribute. That means we don’t take mining very serious in Nigeria. That is my judgment because it is my job and it is what I know very well. Aside petroleum, mining is enough for Nigeria to drive her economy. But governments at all levels need to tap into the potentials in the mining industry. Mining is controlled by the federal but if state governments invite people like us that have the expertise in mining, we can work out how they can generate large revenues from there. What I have observed about Nigeria is that we are just doing mining because we have the resources, we are not serious about generating revenues from it. Mining in Nigeria is being controlled 85 percent by foreigners. If a Chinese comes into Nigeria, he comes with his own machines and spare parts and attaches them to your natural resources. He now gets a Nigerian to front for him by giving him probably N500,000. He brings his workers like mechanics, machine operator, electrician and what have you into your own economy. He taps into your resources and even sells the product locally in your own currency. After that, he makes transfers to his own country. Now what do you stand to gain?. It is a shortage to your own country’s foreign reserves.
We have the minister of mines and solid minerals, who is a former governor; what is the government doing?
Like I said earlier, they have limited exposure of the area. They don’t want to call meetings; they want people that will tell them yes sir. Anyone that says yes sir to you tells you only what you want to hear. There should be a stakeholder meeting where someone can stand up and say let’s investigate, not only in mining but in other aspect of the business too. A lot of mining is going on in Jos, here and there. The real problem with us is the poor management of our own economy. Our economy needs to be managed the same way we manage our home. If this is done, all our youths that are joining cult groups, Boko Haram and the rest, we would have an economy that can accommodate and assist them. Banks can be mandated to have quarries and push our graduates to work there. Our students that are studying geology and related course, they will be employed to man the job. And they will live better life.
What is your dream for Western Quarry in the nearest future?
Every man is born to be successful. What only stands between us and success is the ability to develop our ideas and dreams. If you remove all the bureaucratic challenges, the dream of Western Quarry that has been on successfully for 10 years is to remain at the top. We have done this for 10 years and we do not owe any bank or individual. So, we have the confidence to face any challenge and come out successful. But the major challenge is the bureaucracy. There is nothing stopping us from securing a cement production license and partner with others since we are familiar with the terrain. But the issuing the licence has been monopolized. What we need to do to be the leader is not by expanding our quarry, no. We need to just tap into other resources to see who we can partner with. Even government can come in and ask what do we know about mining and how can they invest. But what we have is that just a few people have the access to the cement licence against the majority. You can imagine just about five companies producing cement for over 250 million Nigerians. The five companies only determine what the cement price is, no one can question them. Nobody can ask what is their production cost is. The end users’ choice is limited to Lafarge and Dangote. We only have Dangote of recent. Lafarge has been dominating for so long.
What is your view about Ogun State government concerning business generally?
Sincerely speaking, the tradition is, if you assess a government from your own point of view, some people will react abnormally. I have travelled wide, I’m exposed. I have deep knowledge of democracy. I know that we haven’t started practising democracy in Nigeria. What we are practising now is the process of democracy. In Ogun State, we have many companies. This is not sing-praising the Amosun government. But do we have more companies springing up? I would say yes. We have companies everywhere functioning. Now, if you want to set up a company, the first challenge you have to think of is electricity, which until we break into state value, we can never have stable electricity in Nigeria. The second major factor you consider is good road networks. In Ogun State, the roads are there. Even Lagos State doesn’t construct roads like Ogun State does. It is visible, it is there. Or perhaps it is more visible in Ogun State because it is not as big as Lagos. As regards good roads, security and good environment, Ogun State is okay, apart from the issue of electricity that I think is beyond the power of state alone. These are basic factors you have to consider when you are talking about setting up a factory.
So, in your judgment, Governor Ibikunle Amosun has done very well?
To me, yes. For people that have eyes, people that can see, to the best of judgment of reasonable people, Governor Amosun has done extremely well.
What is your take on the agitation that power should shift to Yewa in 2019?
It is very unfortunate that in a state like Ogun, we are begging for power. Some things are happening globally now. The world has been in the centre of oppression. For instance, the Whites believe they are superior to the Blacks and the Blacks are crying. In Nigeria, a lot of people are crying for restructuring. If I’m correct, Sokoto, Kano and Lagos States were created at the same time. Today, Sokoto and Kano States have about 80 local governments combined. They started with 20 local governments each. Besides, like seven states have even been created out of them. But Lagos State that started with them remains on the same spot. That is oppression. You don’t use landmass to make that kind of judgment, you use human population. And if you have to use human population, Lagos State doubles Sokoto and Kano States combined. If you want to do it the way it is supposed to be done, Ikeja alone is supposed to have about three local governments. The human density is so high. Everybody must come to Lagos. Lagos doesn’t go to anybody. Nobody will relocate to Kano; it is Kano or Sokoto indigene that will move to Lagos. Also, no rich Lagosian will say I must have a house in Sokoto. Now, we have a state for about 40 years, a Yewa has never been governor. Each time we had that opportunity, people would truncate it. And we are very good at that. Like I said earlier, we are not yet in full democracy. Just watch, we have a candidate from Remo and we have from Ijebu, you will see that at the end, one candidate will emerge from Remo with the financial clout to merge the whole state together and say I’m ready to do this job. Not that in our side, we don’t have money or clout but ego will always come to play. No candidate will want to step down for the other. At the end of the day, we will fight to the finish. And that is it. That is my fear. We have General Adetunji Olurin, he rose to become a general in the army, we have the vice chancellor of the most prestigious university in Nigeria, the University of Lagos; he is from Yewa. So, what other criteria you want to set that we don’t meet. We were not born inferior. By any standard, we are very qualified. We just need to take it easy. This is not the time to discriminate. If you monitor the social media, you can’t see any Ijebu group abusing another Ijebu group, it is only Yewa groups that fight each other. We don’t need all this. Our Kabiyesi, the Olu of Ilaro should encourage everybody to come together and not sleep. If we sleep, I’m afraid the governorship may slip from Yewa.
The Ijebus too are coming out for governorship…
…my fear is not for the Ijebus or Remos, my fear is based on their level of cooperation. If you look at the history of Egbas, once one of them comes up for a position and they know that he is strong, every other Egba in the race will withdraw for him. I know we are not going to lose this one but we must speak with one voice and find a common ground. See for instance, Dimeji Bankole is from Abeokuta, he too wants to be governor. The Ijebus too. But because of our own style, on paper, they stand a good chance. It is not by how much money they have, they don’t have the brain we have. We have everything in surplus but we don’t need three candidates in this election. Our own democracy should be redefined. We need what I call solocracy. What I mean by that is, once a candidate shows interest, people will come and say all of us let’s support this one. If we speak with one voice, the Egbas, The Ijebus will have no choice but to sympathize with us and say yes, it is Yewa’s turn.
As a very important person from Yewa, who among the candidates do you suggest people should file behind?
We know ourselves by our appearance and our appearance might not even define who exactly we are. It is when you give power to people that you know the kind of person they really are. I know all these individuals only by their appearance and by the words of their mouths not by what they have in their minds. So, I won’t judge anyone. My only suggestion is, we just don’t need crowd.
Are you by any chance interested in politics?
No I’m not. I want to be a business model. All of us cannot be politicians. I want a bar soap to bear my name. I want to drive an entity to the top. If you go to some remote villages in Nigeria and mention Buhari, they don’t know who Buhari is, but if you mention Dangote, almost everybody knows that name. They know Dangote either by the bag of cement they put their items or any other products. That has been my dream all my life. In America, we have past and present presidents but a product from America, Coca Cola is popular than all of them. That is my target. I want to be a business model.
When you are not doing business, what else do you do?
When I’m not working, I go on vacation. I socialize.
What are the things you enjoy doing?
I like to relax, mix with friends and meet intelligent people. I like to research and read. I read a lot. I’m a responsible family man, so I like being with my family whenever I’m free.
How do you relax?
There is something that is not in my concept. That is, rest. I have checked for the meaning of ‘rest’ everywhere but I still don’t get the meaning. The only meaning I got for ‘rest’ is, for the dead. Once you are still breathing you are not resting, you only debar yourself from activities. I only relax with friends, if that answers your question.
What is that thing that you desire but you don’t have?
The fact that I have come to know that, man would remain insatiable till death. With all the trucks and factories, Dangote is still chasing. God Himself says we must keep pursuing something. Once you are okay health wise, you are lucky. So, I’m lucky. There is nothing that I desire that God has not given to me.