•De Prinnoc Conglomerate
Prince Yommy Ogungbe is the MD, CEO of De Prinnoc constructions, a company that works alongside the National Inland Waterways Authority to construct link bridges in-between communities that are separated by a body of water in Lagos. On Tuesday, July 15 2020, Prince Yommy clocked 51 years and he had a very low key celebration due to the lockdown rule.
A man of many sides, Prince Yommy Ogungbe is a well-known philanthropist and businessman who is very popular in Lagos because of the number of lives he has touched. His good works in business and philanthropy earned him the prestigious City People Award for Excellence a few weeks ago.
Last week, City People’s duo of DAMILARE SALAMI and TIMOTHY FOWOMOLA caught up with him at his Lagos office where he spoke exclusively on his life at 51, how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected his transportation business, his new award and a few other interesting topics.
Below are excerpts from the interview for your reading pleasure, enjoy.
On behalf of the Publisher and the entire staff of City People Magazine, we want to say a very big congratulations on your 51st birthday
Thank you so much.
Fifty-one years is not a joke, it must have been full of so many challenges, happiness, joy, sorrow, regrets and many other things that life throw at us. So Prince, what has life taught you at 51?
I’ve learnt a lot in life and I realized that everybody’s upbringing has a big influence on whatever such a person wants to become in life. I thank God for my dad who despite being a very local man insisted that he will give us the best legacy. He always say that I don’t have any property to give you apart from education. My mum also thought me a lot, she made me realize that I don’t have to depend on my dad to cater to my needs. She introduced me into business by making me hawk iced water, plates (abo ajase), oguso (local torch), etc. My Dad was a business merchant while my mum was a local trader and their combined efforts made me who I am today. I am not a social person because I realize that being social can kill a lot of dreams. I can smoke, I can drink, I can womanize, I can club but I decided not to because I see these things as distractors and time wasters. When you have good parents who have taught you good values and you heed their advice it will help you in the long run. Just as a Yoruba proverb says that you have to retrain yourself after you have been trained by your parents. In life, we are bound to face many challenges because that is the best way to learn. The more problems you are able to solve, the more you learn. I remember there was a time I was working in my father’s establishment and one of his staff who happened to be my supervisor suspended me because I misbehaved, I had to accept it in good fate. Many people said he should not have done that because it was my father’s business but I learnt from the mistake which is helping me in my own business now. In whatever you find yourself doing, try to learn from others because someone has definitely done it before. Learn from other people’s mistakes and you will see yourself growing. There was a time a joined a construction company as a labourer. I was carrying cement and sand on my head, loaded tipper of sand. I was reported to my Dad for doing that and he dealt with me but today, a lot of water has passed under the bridge but today, I am better off for it.
There was a time I had to start afresh again. I had to change all my lines, avoid some category of people and faced life squarely but I thank God today that all is now history. The difficulties I had passed through over the years helped me a great deal, especially during this pandemic. I learnt how to diversify and had to put some other things in place so as to increase the flow of income because the pandemic has slowed business down.
While you were talking now, you made mention of the fact that COVID-19 has affected the economies of the whole world, Nigeria inclusive. Let me quickly ask, how has this pandemic affected your business and how are you dealing with it?
Well, as you know that I run a transportation outfit and there is no way people will not go out. The only challenge we have now is that we have not been making sales as much as we have been doing before the pandemic. The government has rescheduled our movement because of the pandemic, there are days some people don’t even go out at all while some who go out every day before now go out every other day. We understand that the government is trying to reduce the crowd everywhere just for our own safety so we have to obey all the rules to remain safe and free from COVID-19. When the lockdown was declared, we had to shut down completely. Nobody was coming to the office. In fact, as an organisation, we had to distribute 1050 cartons of noodles to women and the needy during this period. At the moment, our turn up is very low but we understand because everybody is affected. As far as I’m concerned, the pandemic has come for us to learn and rethink about the way we live. This is not the time to be extravagant, this is the time to show love to our neighbours, family, friends and colleagues. A lot of businesses have closed down, a lot of people have lost their jobs and their daily needs must be met. This is not the time to rely on the government alone because it is obvious that only the government cannot do this. We have to rise and support one another at this trying time. As a company, we are doing our best, as an individual, I am also trying my best but all hands must be on deck if we have to overcome the harsh realities on ground now. Just as I said before, the only way to sail through this difficult period is to have a multiple flow of income. Many people should go back to agriculture, we have to increase our food production and by doing, it may become easier because the truth is that no matter what happens, people must eat. For me, I want to diversify into the sales of groundnut oil so that I can make more money.
You recently bagged the prestigious City People Award for Excellence which is known to be won by hard work, sheer intelligence and excellence in the chosen field. How do you feel being honoured with such an award?
I feel so honoured that one of Nigeria’s biggest print media outfit, City People Magazine has joined others to recognize my hard work. I must confess, the award came to me as I surprise. I didn’t know that you people were watching my progress and monitoring my achievements. This is not my first award though, I have so many of them, I have won the Nigerian Youth Development Movement man of the year award in 2019 and also early this year, I have also won the Nigerian Institute of Enterprise, Development and Management man of the year, and many others that I can’t even remember but this feels more special for me. Especially because it came during this COVID-19 pandemic.
What is it that you are doing right that has made you a recipient of so many awards within this short period of time?
Well, I really don’t know but one thing I have learnt in life is to put my all in everything I do. I remembered that there was a time I was handling my father’s business and doing to the best of my knowledge and then, being someone from a polygamous family, there were issues. One of my elder brothers then called me and said if you can do your father’s business this excellently, then you can do better on your own. That was how I started and I pumped all my energy into it. One thing I know about myself is that I believe this is the time to work, a time is coming when I will not be able to work again by the time I get old. But right now, I put in all my energy in whatever I find myself doing. I also believe in education. Whatever I want to do, I learn about it the right way. I don’t believe that there should be anyone doing anything ignorantly because that will not give you your desired results. Just as life is evolving, we must also evolve; so I don’t feel comfortable with any success. I believe there is still more to achieve so I go for it.
Some people believe I look way younger than my age at 51. The secret is because I engage my mind. I believe I am still very young so I reason and act like a young man and the results are there to show for it. The major problem we have in our society is that people don’t know what leadership is all about. Leadership is about service. Your willingness to serve the people around you will place you ahead of them or above them. I believe so much in being the servant of my people and it has been paying well for me. Till tomorrow, some people still don’t believe that I am the owner of this company, some believe that I am just an engineer while others believe that I am fronting for the real owner but I like it that way and I thank God for it because if I leave today, I believe that this company will still remain. I don’t believe in paying for awards but I understand that people are watching and seeing what we are doing.
At 51, can you say you are fulfilled?
Hmmm… that statement is quite vague is that to say you are ok?
It depends on how you view it…
As I said earlier, I’m still moving on, there are so many people out there that still need me to touch their lives God will not come down to help anybody but the little I can do for myself and society, I will do it and I have not even started yet. So at 51, life has just begun.