YOU HAVE SOARED HIGH IN BUSINESS, ACHIEVING MUCH AND BUILDING A LEGACY, BACKED UP WITH A SOLID ACADEMIC QUALI- FICATION. CAN YOU EXPOSE US TO HOW YOUR EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND INSPIRED YOUR JOURNEY IN REAL ESTATE?
My name is Chiedu Nweke; I am a lawyer. I have a degree in Law, with an LLM from Lagos State University. Currently, I’m concluding my Ph.D. at the University of Nigeria. I am a project person. I have been in dredging for close to 26years now. At some point, I was working at Baran in Bayelsa state, and in 2009, we were invited to Lagos to create the Lakowe Lakes Golf Estate. I was one of those that pioneered massive dredging in Lagos. When we were about to conclude the Lakowe project, the beauty of it all, I told myself that this is an opportunity for me to do something in real estate in Lagos. And that was how we applied to the Lagos state government for a concession that led to Orange Island, then Periwinkle.
HOW HAS PERIWINKLE RESIDENCES LIMITED BUILT A SUCCESSFUL LUXURY PROPERTY BUSINESS WITH A VISIBLE TRACK RECORD OF SUCCESS IN THE REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY. WHAT ARE THE EXPERIENCES THAT HAVE SPURRED SUCH HEIGHTS?
Well, everything is about ideas. While working on Orange Island, Oba Saheed Elegushi, Kusenla III, invited me to get involved in the reclamation of this portion of Ikate Kingdom. Initially, there were a lot of shanties, and it was a dirty area. Nobody believed it could be turned around to what it is today. But being a man of ideas, I decided to use it to make a statement, which was why after reclaiming it. I called it Periwinkle. When I told the Oba what I had named it, he laughed and laughed and asked why I chose the worst of names, but now, people see the vision itself. Periwinkle has become our way of expressing ourselves. It is a small estate, but it allowed us to define who we are in terms of infrastructure, structural construction, and the style of buildings we are making. We set out to make it a Live, Work and Play environment; that’s why we christened it Lifestyle Estate. You don’t have to go far to get to the mall, church, school, or playground. Everything is around you. I imagined that people who will live here wouldn’t need to go too far to do their jogging, bicycle riding, or whatever recreational activity they want. We’ve provided everything within the estate.
AS AN ENTREPRENEUR AND A CEO. KINDLY TELL US ABOUT YOUR ENTREPRENEURSHIP JOURNEY AND SOME OF YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS IN BUSINESS.
The critical thing for me is to work hard. If you are close to me, you’ll know that I log in a lot of time. It takes time for you to get things done, and it requires a lot of patience and tenacity. I recommend that young people like you understand that nothing comes easy, so when you see a successful person, know that the person has worked hard to get there.
WITH THE LEVEL OF SUCCESS, YOU HAVE ACHIEVED, WHAT OPERATIONAL POLICIES MAKE PERIWINKLE RESIDENCES LIMITED DISTINCT FROM OTHER COMPANIES IN THE REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY?
The most important thing is being effective and efficient and putting the customer first. I usually benchmark myself; whatever is not too good for me, I don’t want to give someone else. I never give anybody the wrong gift because whatever I’m going to give to you is what I can use, so I applied that in my buildings. Many people come here and question why I’m doing all these; I’m giving my buyers what I can use.
IN A STATEMENT TITLED ‘PERIWINKLE RESIDENCES EXCITE INVESTORS, LAUNCHES SET OF LOW-RISE APARTMENTS’ PUBLISHED BY PUNCH YOU STATED THAT “LEKKI PHASE 1 IS A VERY SIGNIFICANT MARKETPLACE FOR PERIWINKLE RESIDENCES LIMITED”. INTER ESTINGLY, THE COMPANY HAS WORKED TOWARDS THE GROWTH OF THE IMMEDIATE SOCIETY IN WHICH IT OPERATES.CAN YOU KINDLY SHARE SOME ACTS OF SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY WHICH YOU HAVE SUCCESSFULLY UNDERTAKEN IN RECENT TIMES?
Thank you, that’s an excellent question. When we started this journey,we involved the local community, the Ikate Kingdom. The late Baale of Into, a spiritual leader, was one of the people who gave me the kind of support I needed to start this project.We paid stipends to the Baale, to the women, to the youths, we got involved in matters affecting the community. The security and sweepers are from the community. We are part and parcel of the Itedo community.
WHAT ARE YOUR PROJECTIONS FOR THE FUTURE, AND HOW BEST DO YOU THINK, AS A COUNTRY, NIGERIA CAN CREATE A THRIVING ENVIRONMENT FOR BUSINESSES LIKE YOURS TO REPRESENT ON THE GLOBAL STAGE?
I believe what is essential is for the government to build an enabling environment. This economy is a huge one, with almost a 200million people, and we have a young and agile workforce hungry for success. The only thing that is lacking is harnessing it and so much opportunity in this area of business. I mentor young people, and I tell them; there’s a Chiedu in you already; you can be what I am. The important thing is to believe in yourself. You don’t need much to be a real estate developer. Everyone owns land somewhere, either by your parents. This journey started many years ago; I started small. When I tell my people I’m going to develop somewhere, they try to discourage me, telling me not to waste my time. But it’s beliefs in those small things that got me here. There’s so much opportunity in Nigeria, which I recommend the young people to take.
WITH NIGERIA’S EVER-INCREASING POPULACE, HOW CAN WE FOSTER YOUTH INVOLVEMENT IN THE INDUSTRY VALUE CHAIN AT ALL LEVELS OF SOCIETY?
The first thing is to train the youth. Without education, I won’t be here. Give the youths good education and see them unleash. There’s a kind of freedom you get when you are educated; you become confident. My worry for Nigeria is the lack of good education. We should invest in the youth, train them properly. Once you train them, you’ll get amazing results.
WHAT ONE PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE ANY ASPIRING DEVELOPER READING THIS?
Believe in yourself. The sky is your limit. There’s something I hung in my office, ‘try to look at the earth from the moon, not from the earth to the moon”. That’s the kind of ambition we have here in Periwinkle, and that’s what I recommend for young people. Don’t see limitations, don’t see challenges, see opportunities in everything. Believe in yourself. You will get there.
WHAT IS THE MOST COURAGEOUS RISK YOU’VE TAKEN?
Putting money in things that nobody believes in. Recently, I went to Eko Atlantic, and many developers called me and asked, “Chiedu, why are you going there?” But I like being a pioneer. I take a lot of risks in what I do. When I went to Orange Island, there was nobody, but you see people dredging everywhere now. The first day we went there, I was in a boat, and nobody believed that a town could be created where it is today.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH ME?
Well, I’ll like to thank you for this. And I believe you’re also part of the youth, and I ask all of you to believe in yourselves. Nothing is impossible. You can overcome the challenges of today and tomorrow if you believe in your-self. Thank you.
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