Alhaji Fatai Akinbade is a former Secretary to the Osun State Government, (SSG), a three-time Commissioner for Works and former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state. In this interview he shared his experience in the hospitality business. Excerpts:
How can government come to the rescue of hospitality business?
There are many ways government can help us. Firstly, if you talk of any bill or tax, they come to us first and they force it on us because they know that we have a lot of relationship with people without considering the challenges facing us. They know that we won’t like to be embarrassed. Therefore they come to us with exorbitant bills. I can tell you we pay huge amount of money on our dust bins. We need to generate power, pay staff, and other expenses. They don’t help us at all. Government should learn how to assist investors not only in hospitality industry but in every aspect of the economy. We employ well over 100 staff and we pay them promptly. If we can take 120 youths off the street, I think we deserve some motivation from government. We can only appeal to the government to create a conducive environment for business to thrive in Nigeria.
What are the other challenges?
It is low patronage. This is a very serious problem facing the business because despite the low patronage, we have many bills to pay. We have to generate electricity also and the cost of diesel is very high.
What keeps you going despite the poor patronage?
What gladdens my heart is that when VIP visits here, it becomes attractive to them. And I am also happy that as a Yoruba man, I am providing international services to people even for the white men who are coming to the country. Even our people who live abroad commend our services anytime they visit Nigeria. That is my joy.
With all these challenges, how have you been coping?
I am a trained civil engineer. My company played a very important role in constructing the hospitality facility. That has been helping us to manage some certain areas of the structure on our own. We know the materials we use and how to replace them in case there is need for that and that has been helping us to take it this far. Though we have low patronage but the most important thing to us is the standard. We always make sure that the standard does not fall below expectation. When you talk about maintenance, some people never believed we are already in our fifth year. Many people believed we are just started. Everything here is working as installed.
What actually motivated you into the hospitality business?
I am a civil engineer. I am into a building construction. I cherish construction a lot. So, each time I travel abroad and I lodge in a hotel, most of their structures and services amaze me and I always wish to replicate it in Nigeria. I use to tell myself that we can achieve it in Nigeria but it involves money and time.
Can we compare hospitality business with what obtained abroad?
We can compare here favourably with any facility around the world. I have traveled far and wide and ask anybody who visits our facility and they will tell you that it remains the best.
By the time you enter our facility, you will be asking yourself if you are still in Ibadan and even in Nigeria because of the standard, maintenance and the services. Whatever I am doing, I use to make sure that I don’t compromise standards. I always ensure it is world standard because I was trained not to miss a step during construction because if you do, you may not get it back again. Therefore, you have to go for the best.
Don’t you think hospitality business can rub you of your engineering job?
It is not the hospitality business that is rubbing me of my primary constituency because I am not fully directly in the day-to-day running of the business. My staff are here doing a fantastic job. What really took me off the engineering job is politics and the day I started politicking, I stopped construction work because there is no way I can combine the civil engineering job with politics. When I became a commissioner in over 20 years ago, I stopped taking jobs as a contractor.
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