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‘Whether you’re talking of the first republic or current one, nothing much has changed’



Bode Adediji, a renown professional and former president of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) and principal partner of Bode Adediji Partnership (BAP), a multi-disciplinary real estate firm, spoke to CHINEDUM UWAEGBULAM on his career, issues bothering on politics and real estate sector.

What is your perception about life?

Life is about purpose and life is short. Life is just a path to a bigger continuum. Based on this perception, one must live a purpose-driven life anchored on the love of God and the love of your fellow human beings.

Even as we struggle to achieve anything, once those fundamentals are missing, one will be drifting, as our country is drifting now.

At the individual and family levels, you must live a purpose-driven life.

At the national level, a country must have its goals, which is absent and causing the problems within the micro and macro atmosphere in Nigeria. Outside these fundamentals, life is vanity.

Unfortunately, now, most of the traditional African virtues that make life purposeful and worth living are depleting at such a fast rate and this may be the reason why Nigeria, with all the homogenous endowments and resources, is still crawling in darkness.

Today, leadership at (in most cases) family level, corporate level and government level is characterised by selfishness, visionlessness and shortsightedness.

Sometime ago, you mentioned that you were an ordinary village boy, bred in the village. Can you share your experience and how all these started?

There is no doubt about that. In my understanding of life, in my relationships with my fellow human beings and in my pursuit of my life ambitions and career, I have been largely influenced by the rural setting under which I was born.

I was born a village boy and largely speaking, remains a village-person, in terms of my struggles and my purpose of life.

I was born and schooled in a village called Ada in Boripe Council of Osun State, which is just about 20 minutes drive from the state capital, Osogbo.

In the village, when a child is growing up, he/she has a fundamental perception of what is ideal, what the values are and which the no-go areas are.

The respect for law and order is sacrosanct. Societal values are key to success and there is no alternative to hardwork. In the Bible and Koran and any other religion, it is there.

I grew up under a polygamous setting, where the virtues of communal up-bringing, discipline, hardwork, fear of God, love of fellow human beings, respect for elders and submission to higher authority, sanctions and rewards were emphasised and made manifest to all young persons right from the tender age.

Unfortunately, not any more! I don’t know where this younger generation got the idea of idleness, shortcut to life and certificate racketeering.

In contrast, the urban person now has a tendency for such phenomenon as loss of value, rat race, individualism, lack of respect, selfishness and disrespect to elders and love of money for the sake of money.

However, amidst all these challenges, within the urban environment, we have people- men and women and young persons- who are purpose-driven, humane, ambitious, God-fearing and trailblazers in various endeavours.

The other issue that is sacrosanct engulfing us, as a nation, is that it is good to be successful and wealthy, but the worship of materialism at individual and national levels is actually the albatross in this county that we have been unable to conquer and overcome.

Once a people’s goal and man’s goal in life centre on money for its sake, it is no longer a failure, but a tragedy.

You are one of those that make things happen in the real estate sector. How did this success story begin and whom do you attribute this to?

The first thing in life is that everybody must have a vision. First and foremost, I must thank Almighty God for all my struggles and humble achievements as far as professional career in the real estate sector is concerned, and indeed in all areas of my life- family, community and leadership.

To start with, I was lucky to have been educated in one of the best village primary schools and in one of the best village secondary schools and in one of the best (village-based) universities in Osun State, University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile-Ife.

Looking back, I could say that my own foundation was tough and solid. And as the Bible says, if the foundation were to be faulty, there is nothing the righteous can do.

I thank God Almighty for the formidable path He has led for my life through solid foundation and training.

Furthermore, I must attribute my training and core values to the vision of my parents and the discipline and training of my late school Principal, Rev. Canon John Ojo, and some key professors under whom I had trained directly or indirectly at OAU in the 1970s, particularly people like the famous late Professor Aluko, Professor Kunle Ade Wahab and a few key lecturers in various cognate departments.

They all played formidable roles in my training that enabled me to emerge the overall best student in Estate Management Department in 1979.

Also, I was blessed to have won a highly merit-based Commonwealth Scholarship to pursue my Master’s degree at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom (UK) in 1982.

I must hasten to add that my sojourn in the UK during that programme changed my perception of life fundamentally and in all ramifications, the detail of which I will leave for other times.

My employment profile was uncommon. In 1980, after my mandatory one-year national service, I deliberately declined two other higher-paying appointments to join a vibrant estate firm called Epega and Company in Ikoyi, Lagos, which was very popular in the rare and core-competence areas, such as property development, financing, project management, corporate and sale valuation.

Indeed, the then founder and chairman, the late Dr. Ben Epega, took me as one of his blood brothers and gave me the highest possible training available to any one then at that time in Nigeria.

Eventually, at the age of 35 years, I became the managing director of that vibrant company and continued to nurture it until I set up my present company- Bode Adediji Partnership and Kontinental Developers Nigeria Limited in 1992 and 1998, respectively.

The benefit I derived from all these and for the benefit of the younger people is that if you are visionless and you lack a solid mentor who can motivate, guide, support and in fact lecture you, any pursuit of commendable goals and objectives in life will simply become a mirage.

What drove me into the profession was not the comparative analysis of the salary and perks, but the question my uncle asked me: What is your goal in life, especially career? I replied, without hesitation, that I would like to be in the pinnacle of my career.

I thank God for this, because I was able to set up a company that has become the role model, not in terms of financial resources, but deploying my endowment, experience and network to play a role at the institutional level.

I served the institution, when I was barely 30 years. When I was 50 years old, I became the president of the institution.

Not only that, I must emphasise that unless something fundamentally is wrong within him or her, there is nobody that has been opportune to work in my company who has not become a source of life, wherever he or she eventually found himself or herself.

What is your view on politics in Nigeria? Why are professionals shying away from it?

Politics in Nigeria, to me, is an overarching aspect of our national life, but which unfortunately, is evolving at such a slow pace.

The kind of politics that Nigeria is practising now is in no way substantially different from what politics was all about in the 1970s, during the Second Republic.

The basic facts or data concerning this assertion can be summarised as follows: One, there has always been disconnect between the leaders and the led.

Two, leadership in Nigeria, as far as political arena is concerned, is characterised by self-centeredness, visionlessness and lack of direction. Whether you are talking of the First Republic or current Republic, nothing much has changed.

Thirdly, you have an unfortunate dimension, which is that those who are patriotic, hardworking, visionary and to some extent honest, regard the political terrain as a no-go area.

And since nature abhors vacuum, you find that largely speaking, the never-do-well, egoistic individuals and those who don’t have any form of morals are the ones that dominate the Nigerian political landscape.

But in making this kind of general commentary, one must be circumspect and truthful enough to adore those few individuals who have been involved in the political affairs of this country and have performed, either as ministers, head of parastatals, commissioners, governors and others.

Their population is so small that the large majority of Nigerians don’t feel their impact.

As Nigerians grow in population and our problems get compounded, our leadership capacity, political will and inclination to sacrifice continue to dwindle everyday, Nigerians should ask questions why are countries like Ghana with limited resources continue to outpace a country like Nigeria in virtually all vital areas of human endeavour.

People talk about Gross Domestic Product (GDP), population and landmass as a measure of your strength, but to me, these are all bunkum.

For example, what has the large expanse of Nigeria got to do with the vitality of a small country like Israel?

People talk about the drawbacks, such as primordial instincts- our tribal and religious and other areas.

What has religion got to do with the phenomenal progress in Dubai and other Emirates in United Arab Emirates (UAE)?

These are the issues our leaders deceive the public about and latch onto to the detriment of Nigeria’s progress.

The watershed in the Nigerian political landscape may begin to emerge maybe as from next year’s election, where people would begin to ask questions right from the local government areas to the state government and the national level.

About 20 years ago, a small country called Rwanda became an international concern because of the genocide that took place there, but within 20 years, this same country, Nigerians want to go there for holidays and to work, even as housemaids.

These are the truth we should tell ourselves. Virtually all things that should support Nigeria have fallen into comatose.

Education is sacrosanct, but the kind of education we have now is anti-development through complacency and primordial instinct.

It has come to a time when Nigeria needs the involvement of social psychologists and psychiatrists to question those things, such as inclinations that have made us burden disappointments.

We should find out why Nigerian leaders must steal money beyond what is required to sustain themselves, immediate families and people unborn for the next four generations.

Only psychiatrists can find out for us why every large chunk of money stolen in Nigeria must be exported to those countries that have much financial endowments and resources than us. These are beyond solutions from some pastors and Imams.

Why these psychiatrists analyze us, I am not talking of typical insanity, we should be able to come to terms how to use our present circumstances to relaunch our country into the committee of progressive and promising nations of the world.

In the real estate agency practice, valuers are still seen as mere estate agents, despite their qualifications and exposure.

What is the problem? Why has it been difficult to change the mindset of the public and what should they do to regain their dominant roles in the building and property supply chain?

Well, I can alert you that one of the major problems already identified and resolved under the Ada Agenda is that our profession is totally different from any other profession, either in Nigeria or any other place in the world.

Until you are conscious of that, you will continue to be perceived in a wrong light.

Number one, unlike other things such as medicine, architecture and engineering, the estate agency profession and products are highly commoditalised, meaning that the entry parameters are low, totally unregulated and requiring little or no capital.

So, if you are aware of these fundamentals, you must know that the only thing you can do is let people know what you can add as value. Once your professional practice is not value added, you become a roadside agent.

Frankly speaking, surveyors must change from being estate agents to change agents.

It is a fact that a large number of qualified estate surveyors and valuers are now perceived as a mere estate agents who have no value to add to other than ‘rent seeking’ profile.

However, a sizeable number of valuers are still perceived as credible persons and respected professionals whose services and advice are irreplaceable when it comes to the overall service delivery system in any real estate project and industry.

As far as I know, therefore, the only thing the body of estate surveyors and valuers can do, at individual, corporate or institutional levels, is to rediscover themselves and in a positive manner to be able to gain the respect and patronage of Nigerians.

Without a doubt, a chartered estate surveyor in the western world is a trusted, respected and indeed enviable professional.

We should not shy away from the fact that many people or clients who look down on professionals of any fields are themselves oftentimes questionable, worthless and unreasonable people that lack sincerity and value, apart from their ill-gotten wealth.

For example, if estate surveyors and valuers desist from being dependent on the low ‘hungry’ fruits in the industry to being change agents from the innovative, contributive and partnership, they do not require any campaign to regain their triumph of professional supremacy.

Experts believe said the ESVARBON Act has limited the scope of your institution to only estate surveying and valuation.

How true is this and what option is left to estate surveyors in this regard, now that there are parallel organisations in those areas?

To be frank, I am not concerned about the content and general intendment of the present ESVARBON Act, which reduced the scope of our practice to the lowest minimum.

Indeed, I have change both in the present and business professional endeavours have been hostile to any regime- why the law rightly or wrongly allocated the fear of influence to our class of professionals.

If people are well trained and well exposed, people will still continue to rise and shine.

The recent global recession left professionals and investors in the construction industry bruised. What should developers and investors do to rise to the challenge?

Like many people of my age group and above, I have witnessed recession over three times and other devastating effects since 1983.

But the one we are experiencing now will appear to be the worst ever and which, indeed, has been self-inflicted.

The nature of this recession is such that unfortunately, developers and investors on their own can do little or reverse the trend until we get the right policy, programme, vision and political will to turn things around.

Unfortunately, even though we Nigerians hate the truth, but the bulk of the professionals and leaders, whose selfishness, visionlessness and shortsightedness had plunged Nigeria into this devastating recession, still dominate our political leadership landscape.

Look around us now, individuals and the states are so submerged in an unprecedented regime of bad loans, for which capacity for payment is impossible.

However, if the enlightened segment of the developers, investors and professionals can come together to table a blueprint for recovery and backed by institutions and government remedial framework and platform, then the solution to this crisis will not be far-fetched.

But in the short run, we cannot but ignore the issue of sacrifice and endurance.

What are the contributing factors to the current housing crisis and what has been its negative effect on the economy?

Since I became involved in the study, training and actual participation in the housing industry since 1975 (some 43 years ago), the housing crisis has just been growing from worse to worst, despite all attempts to reverse the trend.

But in the last couple of years and with the rising population and comatose economy, featuring recession, the housing crisis has exacerbated even to the point of national catastrophe.

The factors behind the crisis are not far-fetched, namely, insincerity of government from one regime to another, corruption, lack of political will to implement the formidable blueprint, dwindling revenue and the uncontrollable population growth.

Furthermore, the crisis as we have it now has affected virtually all segments of our national life, notably health, security and employment.

The real estate landscape has been dominated by government pronouncements without tangible result, leading to a glut in the property market. What has been the problem and how do we exit this scenario?

Nigeria’s monumental importance when it comes to growth and development can be summarised in the popular Reggea adage, which states that ‘crusade, crusade, crusade, but never see the change.’

We have been unlucky to have leaders who cherish talk-shop on formidable housing blueprint, but in terms of doing something, nothing eventually happens.

However, I am afraid that there is nothing government can do unless the enlightened segments of the populace decide to act and compel it to put the housing problems in the front burner.

After several years, some buildings owned by the federal government’s ministries, department and agencies are still lying fallow or under-utilised in several cities, including Lagos.

What should government do to revive the properties and what use can they be put?

One of the things that portrays many governments as unserious indeed has been the reckless abandonment of valuable assets, and this is too common in any regime in the country, be it federal, state or local and many agencies and parastatals.

I must confess that the reason why this thing happens and how it can be stopped is beyond the thinking of ordinary Nigerians or even estate surveyors and valuers.

It requires multi-disciplined experts, including economists, psychologists and psychiatrists.

In major cities, a lot of Nigerians are moving to the hinterland or outskirts to become homeowners.

What factors contribute to the mobility of prospective homeowners and what can government do to encourage homeownership?

It is a fact that many people now prefer to migrate from urban areas to the suburb as a result of low prices of accommodation and land in those suburbs, compared to the urban areas.

In my professional opinion, this trend should be encouraged and supported by government.

Also, it should be a pointer to the town planners, professionals and relevant government agencies to focus on policies and programme that will reflect this irreversible urban-to-sub-urban mass migration.

In the provision of infrastructure, education, health and social amenities, this geographical phenomenon must be taken into account.

In the western world, government policies and programmes are geared towards a shift in the provision of infrastructures and employment centres to the sub-urban areas.

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