Chief Sam Maduka Onyishi, an Enugu State-born business mogul, has over the past 20 years, revolutionalized the Nigerian road transport system. His company, Peace Mass Transit, PMT, ferries over 30,000 passengers daily across their destinations nationwide with 3,000 buses in its fleet. Onyishi, believes that safety measures are on important catalyst for growth in the transport sector. In this interview, he disclosed the secret the success of his business as well as its prospects.
By Francis Igata,Enugu
As a popular businessman, running a big transport company like Peace Mass Transit could you tell us who Sam Maduka is?
I am the Chairman/Managing Director of Peace Mass Transit Limited. I would like to say that I am a hard working Nigerian who likes working for every kobo that he earns. I don’t play the lottery, I don’t gamble, I don’t play pool, and I am not planning to start tomorrow. I am not a contractor. I am just a man that works under the sun 24/7 and God has been blessing my efforts. I believe in Nigeria, I believe in spending my money here in Nigeria and I don’t own any house elsewhere, apart from Nigeria. Everything I have is in Nigeria. I believe in using my money here to develop my country. I believe in creating jobs and by the grace of God, I employed over 4,000 people in my different businesses. It is not because Nigeria is the safest place to invest but because this is my country and if I can’t use my money to develop Nigeria, who am I expecting to do that for me?
How were you able to create 4,000 jobs?
I started business the moment I left secondary school, although I did some apprenticeship after leaving school. I have been in business for 31 years. I am a professional. I started as a bus conductor, bus driver, a labourer in a company and a motor spare parts dealer, and today, a bus operator by God’s grace. You know a bus has one driver, so when you have 3,000 buses that is 3,000 drivers and 3000 jobs. We also have workers who are on the field at the bus terminals and I have other businesses that I employed quite a number of people, making it over 4,000 jobs.
What drives you as a businessman or as an entrepreneur?
As a road transporter by divine guidance, it is not like I sat down and wrote a business plan or said I wanted to go into road transport. I came into road transport out of hardship. I was a bus operator, bus driver, motor spare part dealer, but didn’t know God was preparing me for a big operation. I thought I was undergoing hardship. I thought I was working to help my mother because I am the first out of seven children and my father died early when I was in class one. After secondary school, I couldn’t go to the university immediately so I went into business to support my mother and I didn’t know God had a project for me. I came into this business by divine providence and since I realised that it was a calling from God, I see it as a ministry and I approached it from the point of view of service to God and humanity. I see transport as my ministry and I use it for service delivery.
How old is Peace Mass Transit?
Peace Mass Transit is 21 years now.
So, for the past 21 years now that you have been plying your trade as a transport company, what would you say commuters know your company for?
For us, our passengers see and, I think, know us as a transport company that uses the best of buses, the newest buses, all the time; the best quality brand new tyres and our fares are affordable. We are among the best because we take safety very seriously and I am proud of what I am doing.
How do you manage the competitive nature of the sector?
I am an ethical operator in the sense that I mind my business. I don’t do anything to undermine other people’s businesses. I do my competition by working on the road worthiness of my vehicles by making my firm friendly and I believe in making money through turnover. That is when my profit is low and my turnover is high. I do my competition on the road while some people do theirs on the social media. When your vehicle is involved in an accident, they go and edit it ten times and use it as breaking news. Every day, they post our vehicles as being involved in accidents.
Are you saying all the accidents we often see posted on social media platforms carrying your company’s name are fabricated?
I didn’t know that was happening all along. I only found out on WhatsApp. I am telling you that I found out on 7th of July 2016, just about a month ago. It is a sponsored social media campaign. I saw our bus that had an accident, over eight months ago, posted on 7th of July, 2016; whereas, that accident occurred months back. Let me tell you something, a vehicle owned by a different company had an accident in Enugu and another person blotted out the name of the company and put Peace Mass Transit in its place posting it on the net again but luckily for us, somebody who saw that accident replied that the accident was not Peace Mass Transit and people followed up from there. We have suffered from such things. It was a campaign to bring down our business and despite all that, God helped us scale those hurdles. If this company was instituted by man, they would have brought us down but because it was instituted by God, no one can bring us down.
What edge do you have above others in the transport sector?
The edge I have is that my customers believe in us, despite all these campaigns. It is because these people have tested our service for many years and they know who we are. We are the largest flight operator in Nigeria. It can be investigated. By the time you check Lagos, Port Harcourt, Onitsha, Ibadan, Kano, Kaduna, Abuja, then you know who is who in Nigeria. All this while, our company has been lashing out on us and we just kept quiet because I have so much respect for my colleagues in this business. That is why I am encouraging the Federal Road Safety Corps to come up with a clear term of assessing safety of transport companies and publish it yearly.
What do you think the FRSC should do to curb incessant road accidents?
The road safety officials are trying but I want them to do more by coming out with a clear way of assessing transport companies. Let’s know who is safer and who is not. I delivered 30,000 passengers safely everyday and out of our 30,000 buses, we have over 2,000 everyday on the highway. Each bus carries 15 passengers and 15 passengers multiplied by 2,000 buses gives you 30, 000. That is simple arithmetic. I deliver 60, 000 trips every month and we are still the safest. There are ways that these things can be checked. Anybody that cannot guarantee safety should leave the business.