NREH: You recently built a house?
NREH: Please tell us what the experience was like?
A: Being a landlord?
NREH: Yes! And how recent or how old is the “landlord-ship”?
A: Ah… ok…. I want you to define the landlord-ship? Is it when I packed in or when I bought the land?
NREH: What do you think? When do you become a landlord?
A: To me, I think when you become a landlord is when you buy your land and you obtain your title deed and all the required documents.
NREH: Without laying one block?
A: I believe if you achieve that, the zeal to build will come, so for me, you become a landlord when you secure the paper work and title document which is very important. Even if you build and you don’t have title on the land, omo onile can come up with anything.
NREH: So, according to the definition of “landlord-ship” that you have given us, when did you become a landlord? When was this land purchased?
A: I purchased this land July, 2011.
NREH: Wow! When did you move in?
A: I moved in first week of February 2013, I can’t remember.
NREH: Can you tell us the kind of structure that you put in place?
A: It’s a 4-bedroom duplex.
NREH: (Chuckles) Oh! You are a big man o! Congratulations sir!
A: Thank you.
NREH: That means you built the place in two years?
A: Less than two years.
NREH: Wow! So what’s the experience of just having your own house like?
A: I feel the people that enjoy the most are my family; my kids because each time we go there during construction, they’ll tell me, “Daddy, it’s okay like this, let’s move in. We are tired of where we are.” You know, moving from a 2-bedroom apartment boys quarters, not even the main house to a 4-bedroom has its advantages
NREH: Everyone has a room to themselves?
A: Yes, everybody! We are a family of five; I have three kids.
NREH: That means there’s no room for guests?
A: There is because my kids are still very young so there’s a spare room downstairs for guests and then the other rooms upstairs.
NREH: So everybody is quite comfortable and it’s a dream come true?
NREH: So what is it like waking up and entering your house? I mean the whole experience of just being a landlord like going to bed, packing into the house etc.
A: The first night we slept here… (Chuckles) I don’t even know how to describe the experience. It was beautiful even though there was no light. Although I’d done everything but PHCN took light and there were mosquitoes because we did not prepare but we just slept off, we did not care. Even till now, we are still arranging things. Basically, general aesthetics but every other thing that should make a house is in place.
NREH: And all of those things are to your taste
A: Yes! In fact to be honest, I had landed properties in so many places; in some of these estates that I work for. I have in Prime Estate Igbesa too. I needed a place where I could live immediately.
You see, I owed the man I rented a place from I think from June maybe June 2nd or 3rd because I remember my last child was born May 31st and I was thinking will I have the third child in the house I was living then? The answer was no, not to mention I wasn’t finding it easy with my landlord. We were having issues. There was always one complain or the other and I promised that I was going to leave by the end of December that year.
Even though I had no land, I just believed that for me to go and rent another apartment for 2 million or so because what I searched for, that I knew was okay for my status then was not less than 1.8 million for two years rent so I decided if I can get a land, with little additional money, I should be able to build something. I decided that even if the time I gave lapsed and I had not finished, I would talk to the landlord.
When I had my baby, my wife was still in the hospital, somebody just called me to congratulate me and at the same time he told me he saw one plot somewhere and can we go and look at it. When we got there, I told him it’s not possible, that I don’t think this is genuine and it looked like 419 to me. I have an in-law who is into lands so I called him and he investigated the land and told me it was open but I still had to pay ratification fee to Lagos State Government and the man was asking for 2.5 million.
NREH: For the land?
A: Yes! It’s just a small price and it’s in a choice area. It was later I got to know that the man was a distress seller and he needed to use the money for something but I still didn’t have that 2.5 million, I didn’t! What I remember is that I kept 1million in the bank for the past one year as a fixed deposit and I had another 500, 000 in my account which still didn’t amount to the asking price but I had a project at hand at that time I was handling that could take care of the balance. However, I asked myself, if I purchase this land, how am I going to build?
NREH: That’s a good question. Usually a lot of people who get these lands don’t do anything
A: Well, I said if not for anything, let me buy the land; thank God the land is fenced so I gambled. I decided to call the bank and instruct them not to roll over the fixed deposit to the next month, then I withdrew the 500, 000 and issued a cheque of 1.5 million with the promise to pay the balance after one month but the man said no but you know agents now, because he wanted his commission, he convinced the man to go for it. The man collected his cheque and the agent said I should give him his own commission and I did.
Two weeks later, the man called me that he had an issue. He said, “Mr Ojo, I look at you as a complete gentleman but the people that brought you are not gentle at all because somebody has already paid for the land, the same 1.5 million you paid for deposit and they are the ones that brought the person.” Because they added 500, 000 on my payment, mine was 2.5 million while the other buyer was supposed to pay 2million.
Now, the other buyer was threatening him to return his 1.5 million but he had already spent part of the money with the belief that I would pay 2.5 million. I asked him why he didn’t stop me and told him he shouldn’t have collected the cheque from me but I believe God destined the place to be mine. He said what I could do for him was get him 300, 000 because he still had 1.2 million with him so he can pay back the other buyer because he wants me to buy the land but if I couldn’t, he would have to return my money and later pay the balance.
When I heard that, I was like, wow! I prayed over this land, that I didn’t want double payment on whatever transaction I was doing which is why I prefer to buy from estate developers like Realty Point instead of going to omo onile but there was nothing I could do, I had to look for the money. As God will have it, somebody was owing me 900, 000 and as we were talking, I got the alert for the 900, 000 so instead of paying 300, 000, I paid him 500, 000
NREH: So you gave him extra 200, 000 as compared to what he asked for?
A: Yes so I had 500, 000 balance to pay. When I gave the man the money, he looked at me and said something kept telling him he had the right buyer for the land and I should go and start the documentation anywhere I want to do it, that I’ve convinced him enough and any paper I want him to sign, he’ll sign and when I have the balance, I should come and pay.
However, I refused to do anything and before the end of the month, I was paid the money I was expecting. I paid him the balance and he signed all the papers and I moved to Alausa for documentation.
NREH: So you still paid the original N2.5 million
NREH: Even though he offered to give you at N2 million?
A: No! He offered the other person 2 million and returned 1.5 million deposit made by the person back but I paid the original price just to avoid issues and made sure I took possession of the land
NREH: So much work for just one plot of land
A: Yes! And that was just the beginning. I needed building approval but before I can get that, I have to get the C of O and before I can get my C of O, I had to pay ratification fee. That is the new process now. I was charged N1.2 million
NREH: For ratification alone?!
A: Yes! And then I was charged N350, 000 before I could get building approval because of the structure I wanted to erect so everything was running to 1.8 million.
NREH: So that means the value of the land went up because of all those things?
A: Yes because when the Quantity Surveyor estimated the value at present with the building on it, it is about 14 million
NREH: Wow! Okay, so how did it go with getting the proper documentation?
A: I started the process at Alausa and gave them the initial deposit of 500, 000. I told them I wanted to start building because I want to live in the house by December 2012.
NREH: You mean you told the people at Alausa this?
A: Yes. I told them I wanted the documentation fast-tracked because I don’t want them to demolish my house
NREH: They can demolish your house?
A: Yes. They can if you don’t pay and get due approval.
NREH: Within what duration? If they demolish it, what offence have you committed?
A: You are building without approval
NREH: That means they are as good as omo-oniles?
A: Yes and you will pay demolition fee
NREH: That’s professional omo onile
A: (Chuckles) Anyway, I already promised myself that the kind of documents I’ll get is what I will be able to use to obtain anything I want.
NREH: You mean like an investment for anything; e.g. a loan?
A: Yes, that’s it. I wanted to get the proper documents and didn’t want to move in before I do that so after I started, I was given papers but the drawing was pushed to Town Planning. One of the papers I was given showed that the C of O was on-going and in the process we got file number around early October, I can’t remember the exact date now but by 23rd of that same month in 2011, we had laid the foundation.
At this time, I had not gotten the building approval but at least we had a file number we could write on the wall so even if their officials came, all I had to do was explain myself and they can’t demolish my house at that level.
When we started, I gave myself the deadline of December 2011 to do the lintel and if possible do the decking and by the first quarter of 2012, I will start the next part and God helped me. I saw a block industry inside the estate I was living before and talked to the guy. He is a young guy like me and I asked him if he can supply me the blocks and put me through.
The guy looked at me and said, “Why not?” He said he will give me the cement and anything that I need but for granite, he will introduce somebody to me because it’s not his line. He also told me he doesn’t want to be the contractor to the house and advised me to do the direct labour and thereby save cost and not let anybody deceive me whatsoever. He said I have to get the granite direct from quarry and as for the cement, he will get me the same price from the people that supply him.
The first set of 1000 blocks, he gave me. I just gave him like 100, 000 or so and he supplied about 100 bags of cement
As God will have it, by November 2011, we had gotten to lintel. We finished the German floor within a week or two weeks and as small as the house is, we have 16 columns or 17 columns so even if I want to put four storey building, I can on what is there now and go to any length.
NREH: Because of the foundation you put in place?
A: Yes. The foundation is very solid because I told myself that in the house I want to live in, I don’t want to compromise materials. So, that November, we did the lintel and to the glory of God, we handled the decking. The man helping me told me not to worry, we can get granite and he supplied me another set of blocks and we passed decking. We got to the roof level that same year and did the lintel of the last floor by December that same year
NREH: That means business was good too?
A: Yes. Jobs came in little by little and of course I had to make sacrifices. Usually I travel for holidays outside Nigeria and go for seminars with my wife and kids at least once a year but I already told them in the beginning of January 2011 that there will be no holiday this year and also didn’t go for any seminar. I just believed God and at the time I told them, I had not even gotten the land.
NREH: So that helped save some cost?
A: Yes. I saved over one million and by December 2011, I just relaxed and went for Christmas. Every Sunday, we will drive from church to the site and then go home. Even before the house had a roof, we will just go there and play as a family. I don’t know, something just kept pushing me to go for it so if I have N10, I spend N9 on the house
NREH: And how was the family coping with other expenses?
A: Oh, we all had to adjust. One thing I made sure of is that I set aside my kids’ school fees because I pay their school fees before they resume and I don’t want pressure. If that one is out of it, food won’t be a problem at all.
NREH: That’s a good plan
A: Yes, because I was able to concentrate on the building. After we roofed, that was when I got to know that I just started building. I thought I’d finished the building but the finishing aspect of it delayed us because as an artist, my taste is quite high
NREH: But that’s impressive because by January you had roofed. That’s about a year?
A: Less than six months actually. We started building in October and by January, I had roofed. By February, I told myself I needed rest and travelled with my wife only. We left the kids because school was still on. When I came back, I now faced the plastering. I was thinking that since my rent lapsed in August, 2012, I should be able to meet up but despite the fact that I spent a lot of money on finishing, I couldn’t even though I was favoured in terms of tiles and other things.
People supplied me and asked me to pay in instalments. For example, I used almost N700, 000 on tiles but paid three times. As for the plumbing, even though it was a family member that was helping me, I had to look for money for that because he doesn’t have money. It was direct labour. We bought the things together so August, I couldn’t meet up.
NREH: Because of the fittings and every other thing needed to finish the house?
A: Yes! I even bought my doors from Realty Point, because I remember the day I saw the doors at the reception, I made up my mind that when I build my house, I would get my doors from Realty Point. I also made up my mind that all the chairs in my former house will not go with me to the new house and I was going to give it out, not sell it. I wanted 65% of the property in my former house to be given to people.
NREH: So you needed money for fresh furniture and interior decoration?
A: Yes. In fact I moved in without having chairs but everywhere was tiled, there was electricity and the interior was painted but I wasn’t ready to paint the exterior because of the structure of the house.
NREH: Well the structure of the house is fantastic!
A: Yes, thank you
NREH: And you think painting it would have brought too much attention?
A: Exactly and I didn’t want that
NREH: (Smiling) Don’t you deserve building a house like that?
A: I deserve it but I’m not ready to do it
NREH: So up till now you’ve not painted the exterior of the house?
A: Yes but when you enter inside, it is lovely
NREH: Is it because you don’t want to give people the real picture of what is happening inside? Is that why you’ve not painted it till now?
A: Yes, exactly! I don’t want to
NREH: But the inside is like a palace?
A: (Smiling) At least to my taste.
NREH: So did you do a house-warming party?
A: No! I just did some prayers and moved in.
NREH: Okay, so can you tell us how much it took you to build? Because of your sense of aesthetics, it must have cost you more than the regular person?
A: Well, yes
NREH: So at that point, how much would it have cost you to just have a roof over your head and a place your family can stay without all of the other aesthetic things that you were looking out for?
A: I think we should be looking at 13 million
NREH: 13 million? Without all the aesthetics?
A: Yes and with the documentation papers. The land and documentation papers alone cost me 5 million
NREH: So the cost of building materials is like 8 million besides all the other things that is now dependent on your own taste?
NREH: And it took you less than two years to build?
NREH: So how do you feel about being a landlord?
A: (Smiling) my first environmental Saturday, I had to have a meeting with the landlords and they welcomed me as the new landlord and they said I’m the youngest landlord in the vicinity.
NREH: So after staying as a tenant for so long, how did you feel going for a landlord’s meeting? You felt you belonged to the privileged class?
A: Yes it’s like a dream come true because after the meeting they told all the tenants to go and the landlords should wait.
NREH: Why? Was it to have a drink?
A: Actually we just discussed other issues like security in the compound for people that have tenants but I don’t because I’ve made up my mind I want to give myself peace.
NREH: So no tenants?
A: No! I just want it to be me and my family. When I build my next house, I can use that for commercial purposes but my first house, no. I don’t want to inconvenience anybody and don’t want to have problem of packing space; I don’t!
NREH: And even playground for the kids and for meetings and events
A: Yes. For example, when I park my car, I just leave it there and go in. I want that kind of freedom
NREH: So life does begin at 40 truly?
A: (Smiling) Yes!
NREH: So now, do you think it’s you against them which is usually a landlord-tenant thing?
A: Because I’ve passed through that stage, I was once a tenant, which is why I said I will rather have another house strictly for commercial purposes. I have the opportunity of having two bedrooms downstairs and three or four bedrooms upstairs and it has been suggested to me to rent the ground floor but I refused. Even during the course of building, a lot of people came to ask if it was for rent but I told them no because I know what I passed through.
NREH: Some people bought land for over five years and I’ve not even been able to pay for 1000 blocks or anything so do you have any words for people who have bought land and are striving to build because not everybody has this story?
A: My advice for people is that don’t wait until you have 10 million or 2 million in your account before you start something. At least once you’ve bought the land, you can do something and then try and look within you. This is what I tell people. When you dream, don’t let the dream remain inside you. Go for it! Make some move and don’t keep to yourself; discuss your issue with people.
You never know who will have information that can help. If I had told myself I want to wait until I have 5 million because the Quantity Surveyor gave me estimate of 21 million to build the house to my taste, I would not have started but somebody told me I can achieve it with 10 million
NREH: And of course, you may have gotten a good house at that price?
NREH: So the experience is a living, breathing thing for you?
NREH: That’s the experience of a first house. Other houses you build can’t be like the experience of this first house
A: At all. I read a book of one of my mentors. He’s late now. He is not a popular person but we are in the same industry. His name is Olujimi. I read one of his books and he said there’s always a dream house and the dream house is not always the first one.
A: Yes. You know you are just building the house to stop being a tenant because you are tired of all the stress but when you now relax and have a house, you can now build your dream house.
NREH: Hmmm… So for you, there’s even that dream house?
A: Yes o! I will live in Ikeja GRA
NREH: (Smiling) That’s the place for you?
A: Yes! Honestly, I’m sure of that; very sure
NREH: How about the documentation?
To the glory of God, I got the C of O December 2012, which is less than a year after I applied. I’ve heard people waiting for five years just to get the C of O after moving into their own house and I told myself I didn’t want that. I set my target and I even exceed my target even though I had only 2 million when I started the project.
NREH: But you had a job that was a source of income?
A: Yes, I did and still do. I worked for people and did extra jobs.
NREH: And you carried your family along?
A: Yes. My wife has been extremely wonderful. She got all the window blinds. I don’t know how, I just saw them.
NREH: So she bought it with her own money?
A: Yes. I think she spent close to 200, 000 and there was a time she gave me 500, 000 during the building process even though she said she will collect her money (smiling). She got a petty loan for me from the co-operative where she works because she’s a civil servant.
NREH: So anyone who has any place right now should just go ahead and do something about it?
A: Yes! Do something about it and don’t relent on sharing your ideas
NREH: That was what really helped you?
RP: (Smiling) So congratulations Sir! Thank you very much for your time. We appreciate you for telling the story and making it come alive. It’s something that can be shared with other people.
A: Its been my pleasure sharing it.