Dr Bamidele Onalaja is one of the biggest real estate players in Nigeria. He is active despite the Covid-19 lockdown. He is always online for one programme or the other, talking about real estate business.
Few days ago, precisely 21st May, 2020, this man celebrated his 46 birthday in his Ikeja office and was graced by his friends, staff and business associates to congratulate him and also present their gifts because it was a low-key celebration.
So, City People was also there, represented by the Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE, and ISAAC ABIMBADE and the Celebrator spoke to us about his business and real estate business in this Covid-19 lockdown. Below are excerpts of the interview.
Congratulations on your birthday. How did you feel when you woke up this morning knowing that it’s another year for you?
I feel so great. I feel happy. You know every of my birthday, we are always sceptical on what to do. So, this particular one, I just made up my mind I want this to be special. I don’t want to make any noise. I just want to give thanksgiving to God. I gave everybody instruction I don’t want to have any party. You know that last year when I was 45, we closed down Lagos (smiles). The next landmark birthday would be my 50th. We are planning big already for that one. But in all, I feel good and I feel thankful to God for giving me the strength and the wisdom and the ability to be alive today.
When we interviewed you early January, you explained your plan for the year. How has the last 4 months been in terms of projection and fulfilling those plans?
Yes, the plan is still on course we’ve been able to achieve parts of it. But because of the Covid-19, we couldn’t move around. Part of our plans is setting up new offices. But we have started 3 new projects already this year: 2 in Ibadan; Victoria Court Gardens and Pacesetter Estate. Then, we have a new one in Lagos called Houston Park in Ibeju-Lekki. Our next project is Abeokuta, which we’ve already finalised. We are extending to Abeokuta by the end of this month or June, by the grace of God. We also have plans for Portharcourt and Owerri. So, our plan is still much intact. Also, we have had significant growth in the diaspora. We now have a lot of clients from the diaspora. Because of lockdown, a lot of people are at home and they have access to the internet. We have recorded a lot of growth in our Dallas Texas office in the US. So many people in the diaspora want to come back home, so they need a trusted brand to patronise and that’s how RevolutionPlus comes in. They believe so much in us and that branch has grown during this lockdown.
Looking at it from a bigger picture of the real estate industry, how has the lockdown affected the real estate business?
It has given the industry new opportunities. But initially, when Covid-19 first started around March, there was panic. We were shocked and there was a drop. But in April, when we all realised it, most of us now embraced the Internet. We were having a meeting on Zoom, Webinar etc. We kicked off well and I did some Zoom training for people. I spoke on so many platforms online, so property business picked up in April and it has been rising since then because they said everybody should sit at home where do you sleep?
How will the partial opening up of the economy help the real estate industry?
The partial opening is the best anybody can do. If I was the Governor of Lagos State, I would open up the entire economy and I would put in some measures because the economy of Lagos State is key and Lagos is the gateway of Nigeria. I expect the government to open up by June, fully. The worship centres should be opened. Restaurant and eateries should be opened, business activity should resume. Because without the private sector and business activity, the state will collapse and there will be hunger. The government has done so well, now it’s time to open up the economy fully with guidelines and measures. This is the best time Lagos and Ogun governments should open up the economy.
Let’s talk about the economy because in the last few months the price of fuel has dropped and Covid-19 has also affected Nigeria economy negatively. How can the government use real estate to re-energise the economy?
You know as at last year, real estate is the 4th contributor to the GDP. It is the 4th sector that contributed the most to the Nigerian economy. Now that the oil price has dropped significantly, but surprisingly, real estate didn’t crash; real estate is growing. If anybody tells you the price of the real estate crash is a lie. What some of us have been doing is to give people to pay for a longer period of time. What we don’t normally do, we are now doing it. Example: if you want to but a property of 20 million, normally we don’t do 2 years but we now do. If you are buying one million naira property, we don’t do 12 months interest-free but we now do; we ask you to pay in 12 months interest-free. So, I can say real estate has picked up significantly and I can tell you that I have made more money in the last 2 months. That’s to show you it has not dropped.
In your last conversation, you said RevolutionPlus will ensure almost everybody becomes that a landlord this year. How can someone go about that?
That is true. That is what RevolutionPlus Property is known for. We are known for Affordability. We make sure everybody owns a house. If you can’t own a house at least own a land. When you become a Landowner, you can become a Houseowner, because with land you can’t owe a house. And that’s why we are expanding to every part of the country. And we have a property that is as low as 800k and we have property worth 45 million nairas.
In the last 2 months of Covid-19, a lot of people have been patronising you, are they within the country or people from the diaspora?
We have had more clients from the diaspora because what I have discovered is that, many people who live abroad want to come back home. Even in the live chat many of them took interest it. Like I said our office in the Dallas received more subscribers. We have more people who want to buy our property from the diaspora, especially in the last few months. And you know at RevolutionPlus you can pay as low as 10k every day to become a property owner with us.