Selling my products at Okpala Square: an experience

Selling  my products at Okpala square is a story that describes how the fast-paced life of the city can affect your business and lifestyle.

Life in the city can be tough, and fast-paced. The life of a marketer in the city is dreadfully busy, filled with deadlines and thousands of meetings. Naturally many luxuries have to be given up in order to make ends meet. For many years, I regarded exercises as expensive leisure.

A luxury for those who have worked long enough to afford it and a necessity for those who have enjoyed it without moderation and now had to pay dearly with their time. When outdoor jugging started to become a fad in Enugu, I considered the state crazy. Nothing could help me understand why on Saturdays a good number of people would jog to Okpala square [1] and squander a good chunk of the day.

This changed when I got a contract to sell a household product for a new company coming into the state. Our strategy was straightforward, find where the targeted population aggregated and go and meet them. Our research showed that this will be the Churches and shopping malls. Initial attempts were discouraging, we discovered that in these places, while the numbers were expectedly high, the people we met were often in a hurry and unlikely to stay to see our demonstrations. It was then that we discovered the Okpala square club.

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My Experience at Okpala Square

At first, we felt that the reports were too good to be true. Not only did you have a lot of people available, but they were also in no hurry to leave. Then I decided to join this open access club to try to market my product with my team. So far it has been a worthwhile adventure.

While I came initially for business possibilities, my ideas about exercise have been radically transformed. Now I am a strict adherent of regular exercise and this is thanks to Okpala square but I feel that I got much more than a healthy lifestyle from here. These other values are what I would attempt to share below.  

For the first time, I truly became part of society. This square set a stage for proper societal interaction. I was surprised by the diversity of people that came weekly. The various age grades and professional classes were sufficiently represented.

There were groups of children who would mostly hover around the improvised amusement spots, trying out the different swings and jangle-overs; groups of adolescents blowing the latest raps on portable speakers as they did daredevil stunts on their bicycles and skateboards; groups of young ladies often in the company of young men, each motivating the other to jug an extra mile before they settled down to heart to heart conversations.

There were the middle-aged men and women who would start out with serious attempts to exercise when they arrive but after a few laps would inevitably be drawn to corners where their mates were seriously debating whatever topic was on the table with all sorts of soft drinks and alcoholic brands to keep them focused.

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Then there were the older fellows, who strolled leisurely but would also eventually settle at their own corners and would proceed to solve the countries innumerable problems. There were the professional entertainers, usual bands of traditional praise singers going from group to group and remaining wherever they were most welcomed.

There were also traders with all sorts of wares and occasionally zealous preachers with their loudspeakers. These different groups helped me to see how the problems of the city affected each in different ways and the different approaches to tackling them that would be more all-encompassing.

One striking lesson however was that we all shared the core human values. Sometimes solutions proposed to problems discussed even sparked an immediate social response as it happened on one occasion when the group decided immediately to raise money for a certain orphanage home after someone talked about the dismal state of some of these homes.

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 Another good illustration of the societal touch are the moral debates that would often arise in the various group typically triggered by an event from the preceding week. Following the introduction of the topic, the facts are laid on the table and then sides are taken, and a lot of convincing done by the leading voices of each side.

In the end, the reason is the judge and a judgment based on the moral quality of the action is cast and often all would agree. In a few difficult cases when there is a failure to resolve the case within the group, a sage from the older groups is invited to be the arbiter and all would accept his judgment and the accompanying enlightenment with gratitude.

I also discovered the joy of celebrating with others. I saw that the fact that we were strangers did not at all remove from the fact that we share similar aspirations and rejoice when we attain them.

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I was a part of a number of such celebrations, some impromptu – maybe when someone casually discloses to another some good fortune such as the arrival of another child, then the matter is often immediately thrown to the whole group and soon following a clamor, drinks will arrive and the jubilation will continue till the end of the day. Other times the celebrants would come prepared.

I remember a particular occasion that the celebrant even paid the music band ahead of time to remain with our group.  I learned to value gratitude which was the motivation for the celebrations and on a few occasions I was the subject of some celebrations.

One other area that made a huge impact on me was how much I learned from the various groups ranging from practical information to answers to deep philosophical questions. From the teenagers, I rediscovered the best rap songs of the day and the new hot spots of the city. From the younger adults, the latest event centers and restaurants with a good and affordable menu.

The middle age groups groomed me on life tricks to cope with the constantly rising cost of living, best schools for the kids, and the latest investment crazes. I think I drank occasionally from the legendary calabash of wisdom possessed by the elderly who with their keen insights into the important things in life were ever ready to help us younger ones with words of wisdom. In what eventually became my own clan there at the square, we specialized in dissecting books of all sorts. Here I learned to refine my opinions in arguments after coming out in tatters several times.

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I came initially to Okpala square with the intention to find a market, sell my product and disappear but I got much more. Luckily, I found a good number of people who would go on to become serous clients but I think that it is the friends that I made that mattered the most. I have come to enjoy these pals that I share similar interests and aspirations. I started to come back partly because I missed the experience and partly because some friends I made took to harassing me every time that I wasn’t there.

Many times after a long period of absence, I will be welcomed back to my clan with great hailing followed by a demand that I appease the group with refreshments, and over the entertainment, some will advise me on the benefits of regular exercise. And when I pointed out that they were not doing any better than myself, I would get the maxim that at all at all na im bad pass.  

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Nb: Okpala Square is located in Enugu, Nigeria. It has become a converging point for those who exercise on weekends in city. You could also discover the converging point(s) in your own city and try out the experience.
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Dr. Lee
Medical Student, Blogger, I.C.T Geek.

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