•’Why I went for the least paying job after graduating from university’
By Ebun Sessou
Mr Bode Adediji, Chief Executive Officer of Bode Adediji Partnership, is a former President of the Nigerian Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers. Besides his professional calling, he has dedicated himself to mentoring the younger ones. In this interview, Adediji speaks on his rise to the peak of his career.
What are the projects in the pipeline?
All the projects are in the incubating stage especially the ones in Lagos and Abuja. As a real estate expert, it is not ideal to embark on any project during recession. The country just came out of recession and, now, the political atmosphere is tense. We can only draw a template for some of the projects. But, we are hopeful that by the first quarter of 2019, we should have rolled out some projects in Lagos and Abuja.
Does that suggest some financial imbalance in the real estate sector?
Of course! There is no willingness on the part of banks to invest in real estate and the banks cannot be blamed for that. There is economy downturn and it has affected the sector drastically. Besides, if you struggle to complete a particular housing project, there are no clients to either rent or buy houses due to economic recession that is just easing out.
In line with your explanation, where is the country heading?
Good destination I suppose. Although, it is assumed that the country has just come out of recession, I believe Nigeria is still passing through recession. And even if we are crawling out of recession, real estate is always the first to enter recession and the last sector to come out of it.
With your explanation, what is the future of Nigerian youths?
In the real estate sector, it is expected that anyone who is aspiring to be a professional must have a good understanding of what it entails. This implies that he or she must look critically at the challenges and the opportunities therein. We have a whopping population that explains why foreign investors prefer the Nigerian market. The real estate does not thrive where the population is stagnated but in a setting where the population is growing.
Compared to the Western world, the basic infrastructure in Nigeria is yet to be fully developed. But there are prospects. Nigeria has huge potentials as far as housing and real estate market are concerned. What we are encountering now are the challenges caused by our political and economical imbalance over the past 12 decades. For instance, if the challenge of access to land has been addressed effectively through the Land Use Act, we will not be faced with this crisis.
If successive governments had paid adequate attention to institutionalising the mortgage system such that the culture of cash and carry had been erased, for the past 30 years, our housing and property development sector would have blossomed. And other countries including South Africa would have been competing with Nigeria on housing.
But, rather than addressing the issues, we dwell on talking and doing nothing. And from one regime to another, governments roll out sustainable housing policies and programmes but if you scratch beyond the surface, you would see that those policies and programmes on housing are mere gimmick. No government policy is committed to housing projects in Nigeria.
Does that suggest that Nigerian youths are sitting on gun powder?
It is a problem. The only advice is that Nigerian youths should be hopeful. They should continue to train themselves and have appetite for risk and, above all, they should know that real estate sector does not work on short cut. You must follow due procedure.
And the Federal Mortgage Bank on Nigeria?
Well, for government, it is working but the people’s opinion is different. If you ask your neighbours, classmates, colleagues, church or mosque members, they would tell you their experience on the Federal Government mortgage loan assisted facilities in the last three years, and the response would be negative.
But if the sector is growing amid the challenges of inadequate housing among young people, why is the country still crawling?
All the factors of production that Nigeria ought to have paid adequate attention to, including policy framework, availability of finance, long term finance, access to land at reasonable prices, as well as technical capacity to produce, are absent.
The country is yet to get someone who would focus on indigenous capacity and material sufficiency to produce mass housing. But, if we have adequate local resources to manufacture building materials, then the dependence on importation that covers cement, iron rods, aluminium frames and roofing sheets can be used to produce an affordable housing scheme for ordinary Nigerians. Unfortunately, housing scheme for the middle class has been obsolete because there is no money either to rent or lease.
So what are the prospects for housing in Nigeria?
The prospects are huge. And my prayer is that the country will be blessed with a government that will address all the issues surrounding housing as well as find a way to harmonise the public and private sectors for an efficient housing scheme in Nigeria. There is no amount of energy that the private sector can deploy on its own to raise new building or estate when government is either lukewarm or reluctant to provide adequate infrastructure.
The housing problem we have in Nigeria is not absolute if there is adequate investment by government. Insecurity and lack of good infrastructure are the reasons for the housing crisis we have in Nigeria. It goes beyond producing housing unit alone. It is whether or not the government is ready and able to provide infrastructure. Health, environment and housing go hand in hand. The money the nation spends on health delivery would have been reduced drastically if we have addressed the issue on housing 30 years ago.
You were the President of your association. Why did you not use your office to influence government’s policy on housing?
With 40 years of experience, it is not out of place to examine all these issues we have talked about in corporate, institutional and governmental levels, but one major frustration in this country today is that you can talk to anybody in power but the discretion and ability to implement whatever advice lies on government. Nigerian government prefers short-cut measures instead of planning ahead on housing policy. They are not prepared, enlightened and equipped to receive advice and act on it regardless of the hardship. And as long as they are the drivers of the major sectors, there is little or nothing the private sector can do to influence what they decide to do regardless of long time consequences.
Can you flashback on your achievements?
I have contributed to institutional development. I have also demonstrated practical ability to the professional service delivery system. I have consulted for the high and low, particularly in the core areas of our profession, including property management, valuation, property development and advisory services among others. We have executed housing development projects in Lagos and Abuja in various scales and sizes. Since, I have been the Managing Director of companies for the past 35 years, I have impacted into young people in training, leadership and mentoring. If there is anything I cherish most, it is the ability to have impacted on young people who are highly successful.
If you are given a pen to write on how you started your journey in two lines, what would it be?
I started my profession accidentally. But, if I look at the totality of my life, there had always been the hand of God in whatever I am. I went to University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University to study economics and accountancy and, within one year, I was rated the best student and when I crossed to the Engineering and Real Estate Management Department, I was also rated among the best students and won award as the best graduating student in 1979 without having an idea of what I would become. That was the first puzzle of my career. Secondly, after my NYSC, I had three jobs but I was totally confused on what to do.
Then, I decided to join a company that offered me the lowest salary but created an opportunity for training. The training helped me to develop faster than my contemporaries and I rose through the ladder and, within four years, I became the managing director of a company at 34 years old.