Koleso. It’s Awolowo Government that developed all those places by Ikeja Club, down, down, down, where you have Nigerite and all those small buildings. In fact, if you go inside, you will see the Housing Corporation Estate. It is Western Nigeria; Awolowo’s Government that did all those and that opened up Ikeja. People were passing through the airport road to all those places
NREH: When did the Airport become functional or has it always been?
A: The Airport Hotel?
NREH: No sir. The Airport
A: It’s been there for a long time
NREH: But the local airport came later?
A: They have acquired the place for a long, long time. We all met it there; a long, long time before Independence. They built the Airport but the Airport Hotel was owned by a Syrian
NREH: So it wasn’t the Government’s?
A: No…No…A Syrianuse to own it but he later sold it tothe Government of Western Region when he was about to leave. It was not government owned. It was established by a foreigner and it was all rounded by bush at the time.That’s why he was able to get that large area otherwise he couldn’t get that expanse of land for investment.
NREH: What was security like or were there any challenges in security in those days?
A: There was no security problem at all. Everything was okay. You can drive your car and leave it by the roadside and go anywhere you want to go.
NREH: That’s interesting! So what was life like?
A: Well, it wasn’t like it is now. We used to have one Masco supermarket then. It’s now closed down near where you have eh…this pharmacy now…
NREH: Jully Pharmacy?
A: Yes! That was the only Supermarket in Ikeja then. Later we had another one within GRA and then later on Leventis but it’s been closed down now. Leventis is no longer a supermarket
NREH: What about Infrastructure sir, what was it like? You mentioned roads, how about light?
A: Ehn…you know…it’s an under-developed place. There were not many infrastructures
NREH: So you had to make most of your own provisions?
A: Of course but we had water because there was a big pipe that used to pass through this place to Lagos so we tapped that water when we came here in 1970. There was also electricity. Light and water were regular because there were not many people consuming it. In fact, I had no need for any generator between 1970 and 1976. Nobody needed any generator. We always had regular supply of electricity. Later, I had a hotel which was established in 1982 and that was the first time I bought a generator. Although, light was regular but for a hotel, you cannot afford not to have 24hour regular supply so occasionally, we put it on. That’s the way things were then
NREH: So from this initial experience, you went on into other real estate investment?
A: Yes, I did a few things on investment but it was about education too. I wanted to establish another commercial school at Iyana Ipaja so I acquired someacres there. The place was bush by that time
NREH: When was that sir?
A: This was in the 1970s. I actually acquired the place around 1972 for investment but when we were opening the Science lab, Ogunsanya said takeover of schools is a matter of time so I said well, I’m not building another secondary school again. I converted it to a layout and then made it into a residential investment – place. It was about 10acres too so I made it into about 40 something plots. The Otedola Olaniyan layout, Town Planning approved it as a residential area in 1972
NREH: How was Iyana Ipaja?
A:They had built the market then but it was still bush. The road was barely passable at that time and when we acquired the land, we were selling a plot of land for N2,000, N3,000 at that time. The year it was approved is 1974, we started selling 1974, 1975. Money had value. It had a lot of value.A whole ton of iron was N250.Cement was, I think about N5 per bag. When I was building my house, cement was N2 per bag (laughs) which is about N2,000 now. That was the time of cementamaga; plenty of cement at the port. That was when Gowon said,
“Money is not our problem, it is how to spend it that is the problem”(laughs) we had a lot of money in the country. In spite of the fact that it was after the Civil war,yet the country was very prosperous. Naira was not devalued.It was almost at par with dollar so nobody had any cause to check out. Foreigners were coming in large numbers; they were coming to do business here. Everybody was happy, they were establishing industries; all those industries in Ikeja, Apapa, everywhere. Nigeria was booming. Everything was fine
NREH: As part of what you experienced at that time and giving somebody like us advice on real estate investment, which area will you be looking at now that you can say that Ikeja used to be likein those days?
A: Well, you know the city of Lagos is expanding,
NREH: Yes sir
A: Everything has been expanding and at a very fast rate. We still have large expanse of land and people who are ready to invest for the future because landed properties is about the best type of investment you can have. If you have landed properties, it will always appreciate. It’s not like other forms of investments that can depreciate. Landed property is the best form of investment especially in a developing country like Nigeria. You can never have enough building for the people.Anybody who can invest in landed property is a very sound person. That’s the advice I give to my children; that they invest in landed properties
NREH: They can’t even have experienced this and not know that
A:(Laughs) E…ehn! I seized the investment opportunity at my own time and the opportunities are still there in their own time too if they are ready.
NREH: What was Island like at that time?
A:Island too was not as congested as it is now. Although people wanted to be in Lagos Island but still, it wasn’t as congested as it is now. Then, there were so many areas you could still get land for investment; places like Ebute meta, Yaba. Even at the time when Igbobi College was founded, it was bush. They called it Igboobi Plantations; Kolanut Plantations. Congestion came because as we developed, people were leaving their homes and villages and coming to Lagos. Back then, coming to Lagos was like going to a foreign country. Some people believed that when they get to Lagos, they will make it and the cost to emigrate from the villages wasn’t much. The young people flocked the cities and deserted farming leaving only the old people.
Education became rampant and you don’t get well-educated and still go back to farming. You want to go and look for work in urban centres so people rushed to urban centres. As more people got educated, secondary schools started becoming many. At the time I was attending my own school at Oduduwa College, Oduduwa College was the only school in the whole of Ife division, Ilesha Grammar School was the only school in Ilesha and Ondo Western School was the only secondary school within Ondo.
Even Abeokuta Grammar School was the only Grammar school in Abeokuta and Baptist Western School; I think they were only two originally. All those schools were founded by the Anglican Mission in the 40s but see the number of schools now. Even when I established Victory Grammar School in Ikeja here, we established at the same time with Marylamd Comprehensive High School in 1969
NREH: Was Maryland Comprehensive High School a private school?
A: No, Catholic! It was Catholic, ours is private. You have only Oshodi Grammar School in the whole of Ikeja; no other one but now we have more than 50 in Ikeja. Schools are now everywhere. Even GRA, there was not a single secondary school there when we moved here. It was not even permitted because it was supposed to be residential not an investment area.
There was no school there at all except Grange and it was owned by the Ewekoro Cement people at that time.It was restricted to very few people and was a primary school but now, it’s a secondary school and we have so many secondary schools in GRA
NREH: But sir, I used to think Grange is a private school
A: It’s still a private school but is now a secondary school. It was a primary school before.
NREH: But you said it was owned by Ewekoro
A: Yes! Those are the people that started it. Those are the owners! It’s not owned by an individual. They founded it and used to bring their children from…you know Ewekoro had residential area and quarters
NREH: Yes! So they bring their children from that place to this place?
A: Of course! It’s their school! They founded it because of their own children. At that time they used to, but I don’t know whether they still do o!They didn’t build their school where they were resident and where their factories were located. Maybe they have another school there now, I don’t know.
NREH: How come you did not em… now that you…or are you probably working on a university licence?
A: Yes we tried it! We tried it! We wanted to use the compound of Victory High School because there were so many classrooms there and they were eventually under-utilized. However, when we applied, some of the conditions we were given is to get landed property and I couldn’t get land for investment in Lagos.
I got some landed properties near my hometown which is at Wasimi and about 250 acres. They said I should go ahead and develop the Wasimi site before approval can be granted but to develop a place like that for university investment, you need some bank support and since I’m not ready to go into that type of debt at my old age, I let it go. I’ll be 80 in October2012.
NREH: Wow! Congratulations sir!
A:Thank you! Anyway, I told them the compound of Victory High School has about 100 classrooms and it’s on 10 acres of land, that If they could accept it as a take-off site and allow us to use it for maybe five years, we will be able to develop the permanent site gradually. They disagreed with the reason that the set of people they’ve been giving that kind of approval have refused to move and being in Lagos, we will not like to move again. (Chuckles)
NREH: Why do they think so?
A: Well, many people like to work in Lagos so there will be no shortage of staff and there will be no shortage of students. I told them it will not be easy to get this type of land in Lagos for investment; that we can put up high rise buildings of about four, four storey by demolishing the current buildings which are mostly bungalows. We told them that but they were not convinced.That is why we couldn’t start the University even though we have it down in our plans. In the meantime, we’re putting to use the land we acquired for that purpose by rearing chickens and planting things on it. if our children can build later and achieve that vision, great. At least we attempted to do it.
NREH: So your children are in the management of the school with you right now?
A: Well…it’s a family affair. Very soon, I will retire (Laughs)
NREH: Retire? But you have a passion for it?
A:(Laughs) Yes! It’s because I love doing it, that’s why I’m still here
NREH: The politics that made you step out on your own was a good thing eventually.
A: Yes! Yes! Yes!
NREH: Action Group versus NPP
A: Agoup joined Action Group against Akintola’s NPP. You know Akintola’s NPP was a faction of Action Group so he broke from them when he had quarrel with Awolowo and then had his own faction. The remaining faction now joined with another group and then their own was a minority government, more or less so they wanted em…and then even in Ibadan at that time, the number of secondary schools were not up to ten, maybe about five and my own school that was just established then was about to get Grant in Christ Apostolic Church. It was in the 5th year. We had gotten all the approval, all the inspection and all. We were going to get Government Grant then they said the Principal is not playing the type of politics that he should play(Chuckles)
NREH: So this thing has always been therewith us?
A: It has always been there. It was really worse at that time and you know, those of us that were in the university were very few and very proud of our status. At that time, you can’t just force somebody in the university who had become the principal of a school at the age of 25 to come and join your party before you build a school; …and then I had to resign. I left it but it has always been there. Nigerians can never stop victimizing people.
They still do it even now and they do it frontally. Victimization has always been there. They can have a way of…if you don’t join their party, you’re in trouble. That’s why this cry of state police, to those who never experienced it, they’ll say it’s good to have local police. We had it when I was in politics and then the party in power always used itagainst others and to the own advantage.
NREH: Thank you so much sir! Thank you so much! It has been a very, very informative time with you. END.