Suru Group will donate the sum of N10 million to open a purse for that purpose. So as I walk from Lagos to Ibadan, we will do 10 miles per day for 10 days.
Real estate guru and Chairman of Suru Group, Mr. Edward Akinlade, is working frantically towards his plan to trek from Lagos to Ibadan. This is not a protest march but for charity purpose. Talking with Effects recently at his office, he spoke about his passion for charity, why he returned to Nigeria, his lifestyle, business and lots more.
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Can you take us through your journey into real estate and hospitality business?
I am a chartered accountant by profession. I left the United Kingdom in 2006 to settle in Nigeria. Before then, I was into real estate in London, so it was the money that I made in London that I brought back home to continue in the business. While I was in London, I used to buy properties at auctions, refurbish them and sell them to make huge money. I did that in the UK for over five years. But around 2001, I was in a full-time employment in the UK as a chartered accountant. I left the UK in 2006 to Nigeria and within two years of my return, the Nigerian economy collapsed and most Nigerians have not recovered ever since.
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So why did you abandon your banking job for real estate business?
I believe that nobody makes money by working for somebody all his life. If you want to be independent and self-sufficient, you need to work for yourself but then you need experience. So from the age of 20 to 35, work for other people and gain experience, after that period, set up your own business. So being an accountant has helped me to be able to look at any business proposal with figures. As an accountant, I can fit in anywhere. But for me, my calling is real estate. I have been successful at it in the UK and that moves me to do it in Nigeria too.
What was your first attraction to real estate and hospitality businesses in Nigeria?
When I arrived in 2006, Nigerian Airways was selling all its assets in GRA Ikeja and nobody was prepared to buy them. That was the attraction. We bought properties spread over 22 hectares of land. I knew from time that it was going to be a reservation area. What I did was to buy large portions of land and then cut it into bits, so that people who could not buy hectares could buy plots. All I did then was to buy and wait and it has proved a huge success for me.
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The hospitality business came because when I arrived here, I realised that there was only one or two hotels in Ikeja GRA, in fact there were only five hotels in the whole of Ikeja. That was like 12 years ago and then we started investing in the hotel business and today, in GRA alone, we have counted more than 35 hotels. Suru Group at the moment has just three and we intend to expand to more as time goes.
But the environment here may not allow people who desire to start their businesses at 35 to do so.
If you have God by your side everything is possible. And going into business involves taking risks. Some people don’t want to take risk. If you set yourself a target of ten years, to leave a job, set up your own business, it can be possible. And if you set yourself a ten-year target and then save your salary, even if it is 5% of it every month, you would have something to start your business in ten years. And if you work for ten years and you still can’t save enough money, come up with a business idea and call all your family members to a meeting and tell them that you need some amount of money to start a business and if you can convince them, they would give you money. What I am saying in essence is that there are so many ways of raising money but the problem is that people don’t want to take risks. Some people are just contented with their salaries and those types of people can’t make money except through corruption.
Let’s talk about your proposed walk from Lagos to Ibadan.
I want to walk from Lagos to Ibadan for two reasons. One, to raise money to support the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria; two, to support the families of former Super Eagles superstars. We have a lot of the superstars that have died and their families are thrown into abject poverty and even some of them still alive, have their families suffering. This planned walk is just to encourage the former Super Eagles superstars and families, telling them: ‘Look, you played for us; we will be there for you.’ Suru Group will donate the sum of N10 million to open a purse for that purpose. So as I walk from Lagos to Ibadan, (Ibadan is about a hundred miles from Lagos), we will do 10 miles per day for 10 days. The walk will commence on October 1, and will last for 10 days. We will start at 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. I am sure by the time we get to Ibadan, Nigeria will be a new country because everybody will win. I will personally win because it will transform my old status, in terms of publicity. We want the whole of Nigeria to support this walk. We have a couple of months to prepare and of course, who and how to join as well as the necessary infrastructural support for this walk, will be communicated to the public soon. The walk will be streamed live on Facebook and some TV stations.
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Can you actually walk from Lagos to Ibadan?
I believe I can, since I’m going to stop at every 10 miles. Every day we will start by 6 a.m. and end the walk by 6 p.m. and then we would find a hotel at each locality to rest for the night and those who want will be massaged to get their energy back, then the next day we’d continue.
What was your childhood dream?
I don’t have a dream when I was a child. All that I was after was how I would own a Mercedez Benz one day, that’s all. I was not aiming to be a governor, politician or the richest man in Nigeria. Those days, on the streets in Surulere as a child, when I see a Mercedez Benz I just place my hands in front of the car and speak to the car, ‘I will buy you one day.’ Behold, that was the car I was driving in London.
When you told your friends in London you were moving back to Nigeria, what was their reaction?
I’m moving like Abraham, you either come with me or you go like Lot. That was how I left them.
What lessons have you learnt about life?
I’m one of the people who believe I’m here not by myself. I don’t need all these Nigeria stress. I’m here just because of my staff, the widows I cater for, and because of what I could do to impact the average Nigerian. That is what moves me. If it’s about me, I will sell all that I have and retire to Jerusalem.
How do you spend your day?
I don’t socialize in Nigeria. I socialize in the UK when I go on holiday, I attend parties and all that. But in Nigeria, I attend only my relatives’ parties, or parties that the church organizes. But I like driving. I like walking and I like enjoying a good wine. Put me in a house and give me a DSTV, I’m fine. I had been in my room in Nigeria for three days and didn’t step out of the room. But when I’m in London, I’m a different person because I don’t face any security challenge. If it was in the UK, I should be walking home everyday from work. But every time I try it here, some of my security follows me. For how long will I do that?
How do you like to dress?
Somebody just arrived from the city of Mecca and brought me all these long outfits. I don’t dress in agbada. I hate agbada , I don’t dress English also. I have done all of that in England. But I’m developing the long robe now. I have about six of them, so I’m sending to my tailor in Ibadan to copy the styles.
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