By CHARLES KUMOLU
MANAGING Director /Chief Executive Officer of Homes & Homes Real Estate Solutions, Dr. Ikem Ume-Ezeoke discusses his life and craft with emphasis on how well to create the future.
In the beginning:
I grew up in the eastern part of Nigeria in a strong and strict modest catholic family. My father was a businessman and my mother was a businesswoman, who was always there for her children. We were not special children. We were not given all we wanted, but we were taught respect and modest living. Education was the only thing on the lips of our parents. We were never treated specially. I attended public schools.
The major landmark experiences were when my daddy withdrew me from a school in the city and enrolled me in another secondary school in a village. He said my performance was dropping, adding that I needed to concentrate more.
I was taken to an aunt who would wake me up and strain my ears early in the morning. Anytime she did that, she said I had been spoilt in the town. I spent some time with her before I was sent back to the city. The second one was when my father insisted I had to work after secondary school before enrolling in the university. Both experiences were very significant in my life because I saw my young mind recreating itself and saw life differently and independently.
On real estate
I had my first degree in Estate Management (Bsc) in Enugu State University (ESUT). I had to practice what I studied. Although Estate Management was not my first choice because it was not very popular. I think there is a justification for spending five years doing the program that I never wanted. Through divine providence, I studied the course. I enjoyed studying it because the course modules associated with it touched on other areas that caught my interest, especially law, surveying, building construction, geography, urban design, and architecture. Estate Management gives an opportunity to be a guru in environmental sciences and building industry outside the core provisions of the course which are valuation and property management. It broadened my mind so well and it made it easy for me to be at home with other professionals.
Excelling in the industry
I haven’t seen myself as a leading name yet, but it feels good to hear that one is grouped as a leader in the field of his endeavour where there are veterans who have done so much.The awards we have received were God-given and we really appreciate that.
We haven’t even done 25 percent of what we intend to do.
On winning Leadership Awards for Excellence andBlack Caucus Award for Leadership
Those are man-made accolades billed to encourage one to strive for the best. They keep one on his toes. It feels good to realise that my little efforts on the sidelines are being recognised even when I am not in the limelight. I appreciate God so much and all those who felt I deserved such even when I know I haven’t done anything. I encourage everyone to do his or her best and never compromise excellence and integrity.
The world is watching whatever one does. I appreciate those who found time to recognise hard work and pray they are rewarded for rewarding people like me. The young minds shouldn’t be discouraged even in these difficult times in our nation. I suggest we all recreate and rethink our direction to be able to proffer useful solutions to our nation. Young people in this country have potentialities. It is so sad that we keep losing them because of hardship and crime.
Lessons in the industry
The lesson I have learnt in the industry which I think by extension applies to other industries is that integrity pays. I am referring to personal and professional integrity. People should be able to remember your name in your absence and give you credits. That is what everyone needs to forge ahead.
To a large extent, it expands the reach and success of any individual. One shouldn’t take anything for granted.
Whatever anyone decides to do, it should be done well because those are the things that speak in that person’s absence. They are personal legacies. I pity those, who focus on financial gains at the expense of integrity. The moment we start compromising on our integrity because of money, we start losing the divine purpose of life.
Challenges are part of life and one shouldn’t be afraid of them. They should be expected in every phase of life. The more an individual achieves or ascends in life, the more challenges he encounters. I think challenges make one more mature. It depends on how the person reels out solutions to solve whatever he encounters in life. When someone comes out of challenges, he should learn more.
It define who an individual is and make his future clearer. Challenges make someone have a better view of life and shape options for the person. Challenges are good for everyone, especially the young people.
On priority list
The housing sector is a huge sector and it defines to a great extent the success of a nation and by extension the government. Housing needs in Nigeria should be a great source of worry. The first critical thing to do is to realise this as a challenge and call on stakeholders in the sector to interface more and select the right people to draw up a roadmap on housing deficits. The major challenge that Nigeria has is appointing the wrong people to make decisions in critical sectors they don’t belong to. The problems in the housing sector do not require so much to resolve. The priority list should recognise funding, provision of land and mortgage.
Donating knowledge to help humanity
The purpose of life is to impact humanity in every little way. This is foremost to me. You don’t have to give money if you don’t have. Your knowledge is wealth and that can also be tapped or donated to help humanity. These, I have given in my little way and I am willing to share more with people who can find value in it. I think if my state requires my services in closing housing gap, I am available.
However, my state has enough and experienced professionals who handle their portfolios. The area I can make recommendations is on land allocations to people who have less experience to provide housing. People shouldn’t be given lands because they are financially adequate only.
New ideas should be sought. We should think of things to design that would take away the breath of any investor, no matter how lowly placed in order to make people think of saving to own a home. Most of the ideas we sell still discourage investors. I think this might be the fresh idea one might suggest.
Other areas I would suggest is for the government to get more involved in creating homes rather than giving out to investors or businessmen, who provide at a premium and it becomes difficult to acquire. The framework for such is what is lacking in the system. These areas would create more jobs and more revenue for the states. If someone wants to predict or see the future, he shouldstart creating it immediately.The housing shortage or gap we have in this country is a major challenge and this should make professionals in the industry come together more often to create contents and more alliances with the government.
to deal with the deficit.
for home subscribers. Apart from that, job security is another challenge because those houses should be subscribed by people who have jobs and viable businesses. Another area to look into is the creation of more urban centres and decongesting the cities.
The three major cities we have in this country outside Abuja are Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Kano. What are we doing to create additional mega cities and renew the existing ones to decongest these cities and reduce heavy cost of housing or property acquisition?
The plan should be made so that people can stay wherever they are and have an equal measure of lifestyle they think they lack in their communities.
We should improve our community infrastructure and amenities to reduce rural-urban migration. Lately, Lagos has been experiencing heavy migration of people and we fear for the future.
Further to this, we need to have a defined workable plan and only professionals who understand the housing gap can put it together. The state government and the federal government should look at the credibility of the people they allocate lands and partners to provide houses for the masses. Having a robust purse does not guarantee the developer would deliver. I feel the government should be the biggest player and only experienced people who understand the gaps should be allowed to run the show. I know we are plagued with the challenge of raising funds but that is not our major problem. Understanding the problem is the key which we obviously lack.
We need professionals who will come up with proper directions. This could happen when we constantly have frequent interactions to dissect the problems with clearer defined solutions. No government can tackle the housing gap without robust Private Mortage Insurance, PMI, who would be saddled with creating long-term loans. Although various licenses have been approved and grouped for various PMIs to play, they are also saddled with the responsibility of raising funds to provide to subscribers. The government has even gone forward to provide a mortgage refinancing company, but have the issues been resolved?
We need beyond those to resolve the matter and this is where we need experienced professionals to handle such critical issues. Further to the above, the government should rather be the biggest player. They should come out with a clearer blueprint where they should design a module and instill confidence in the masses to provide affordable houses on buy as you earn basis and within comfortable timelines. Land should n’t be given to people who show financial adequacy but keep those lands idle for a long time due to lack of knowledge or waiting for them to appreciate and sell-off.
Funding is not the only major setback. One of the setbacks is having experienced professionals design a proper framework to deal with the problem. Getting money to build houses might work against the system if the system is not properly planned. I think we should create an enabling environment to have more ideas on the table where various people in building environment can interact for more robust ideas.