…Recommends dedication as Nigeria turns 60
High Chief Sunday Nwobodo is the Chairman/CEO of New Planet Resort Limited, a hospitality outfit based in Lagos. In this interview with CYRIACUS NNAJI, he spoke on what he does as a CEO, life experiences, what made him popular, and as Nigeria turns 60 he advised every Nigerian to be dedicated to the Nigerian project. Excerpts:
Let’s meet you, your name and what you do
My name is High Chief Sunday Nwobodo, Akaekpuchionwa 1 of Enugu State; I am from Nkwuoka, Nkanu East Local Government. I am also Akaekpuchionwa of Lagos State, a businessman, and by the grace of God, I am the caretaker, because God owns, the caretaker of New Planet Resort Limited.
As Chairman /CEO, what do you do, after all, ordinarily you should be relaxing at home while your workers bring returns?
Yes, as a CEO of a company it does not mean you will relax and sleep, because God chooses kings, and when God chooses that king, He chooses him to help others. Even if you are successful, you have to make others successful in many ways, if you are working hard others will only learn the way you are working hard, it will help them even to be successful persons also. If you are at home they will never have experience and will never learn from you, but when you are working hard many people can benefit from you directly or indirectly without even giving the person cash. So that is why I try to work, one, to make sure my business is standard, and make sure that other Igbos and Enugu people learn from me and survive and have their own companies.
How many workers are in your payroll?
By the grace of God I have some workers, I have a lot of workers and contract staff, some people are trainees, we train those who want to run hotel business and other things. We train them for free.
There is peace in your company, your workers don’t complain, what is the magic?
The magic there is very simple, when as the CEO of the company; they see that you can do any work, so others will not complain even if you send them to do the same work. It is only when you sit down and fold your hands and send someone, go and clean this table, the person will feel, maybe, it is because I am poor that is why you said I should go and clean that. But when they see that the chairman, CEO can clean table by himself, it means you don’t need to tell them to do it, they will be happy to do. Again they receive their salaries according to your agreement with them.
Let us look at those services you render that make people talk about New Planet Resort
There are a lot of things that make New Planet unique. I will only say a few because they are too many; it is like branches of a tree. And it depends on the angle the person has his own view, but the good thing about it is that everybody is saying good things about New Planet. One there is security, we are doing well; we are not God but we are doing our own and the rest to God. Even me, I am always awake, supervising to ensure everything is safe and since we started this hotel, we have not had any bad record. We have a lot of shows and a lot of activities, which a lot of hotels don’t even have a quarter of it, they will have problem, either you heard that they kill person or fight, we don’t have such here. Immediately someone enters this place, they would obey our rules and regulations.
Most important, the CEO of the company, you must be disciplined; because they say you first respect yourself before people respect you. If they know you as an honest person; that is what will make people to believe you. Even if you tell the person don’t do this, believe me I will do this, that person will keep calm without causing violence. Here they know that if any matter that comes inside this place I will go straight to the truth on it, that is why when I say stop, both customers and staff will believe, so that is it.
Tell us a little about hotel business as a way of mentoring the young ones. It is said that hotel business requires astuteness and business intelligence; is that true in your own case?
Yes. Like when you have a car, there are a lot of things, you service it. You check the engine, the oil, you change it, even big man; they service big man. You must service it and maintain your big man. Many have become big man before; that is how the hotel business is. It requires discipline. That is the first thing that made many hotels to fall. Because in a hotel it is like, you sit pleasure and success sleeping in one place. And normally in human life, this skin will always like to pick pleasure, road to success is always painful, if you see enjoyment and see work, your flesh would always like to pick enjoyment and leave work, and you know work is the road to the success, without work there is no success. So that is how it works.
In a hotel you must make sure you purchase what customers want, repay what need to be repaired, don’t wait until customers complain, The hotel is where you can see people are coming out any minute, people that come yesterday night by 12, early morning, by 4 or 5, they don’t care whether you are awake, they need the same service, and the issue is how would you maintain it. You make sure you supervise the major departments by yourself.
Why did you go into hotel business?
When I travelled abroad I saw the way oyibo people run hotel, I saw that hotel is a place where you will see people , everybody will feel at home, so when I saw it, I said if I come back I will run a hotel and treat human beings like this.
The roads around the hotel are bad, why have the authorities not done the roads and how has it affected your business?
It affected it too much, three much, because if the roads are not too bad, you will see a lot of people. Before, the whole of FESTAC, Abu-Lado come to gather here, even Cotonu people, weekend they always come here. I have met the local government chairman, but nothing. I fill the road with sand myself. My Honourable House of Assembly member has come, and he has promised to help.
Tell us a little bit about your state, Enugu, and what makes you so popular there.
Let me put it in this form; the business I have in Enugu is when you have good record in your home, in your village especially. As I said earlier, when I was a small boy, we made a good record, good name in our place, then when God started to help us to grow, when they are having meetings, other things, the people will call and say they want to hear from me. All those things made me to grow more popular.
If you go to my community, my name doesn’t hide, once you call my name the okada man will take you to my father’s compound. From childhood people believe God created me special to care for people. When you entered here you saw some Ezes, all of them are from Enugu State, they said they want to come and see me, ordinarily they supposed to invite me; that is that part of respect when people believe in you.
How much time do you give to your family concerning the time you devote to your hotel business?
It is a very big challenge, that is why in marriage when you want to marry, you ask God to give you your own wife, a woman with understanding, a woman who knows you and who knows what you are up to, who knows the purpose of running that business, with that I and my wife have no problem, even if she didn’t see me but heard how I behave, she is not worried.
Other states and parts of Lagos are envious, they are asking when are you going to open New Planet branch in their areas, any such plans?
In my village I have a little Planet, it shows that I valued my village, and my people are happy with it, they didn’t believe somebody could suffer and go to the village to make people to be happy. That is why you can’t say why people like me or talk about me. If God help us, maybe we can get money to expand.
Your advice to Igbos in Lagos
Igbos are created special, and when we are working we should not forget our home. Like as I said, the little second Planet I have is in my village, there is no place like home.
Do you have interest in politics?
I am a businessman, I am not a politician, it is only God that can say my friend, like Jonah and the big fish you may say okay I don’t have interest, but if God say you have work to do for the people, that is why God never neglect anyone created in special way, most people that value people’s lives, you may be there, that is it.
Nigeria at 60, your opinion and advice
My advice is that we should be serious as a nation, like Hong Kong that we got independence with in 1960, if you go there, the difference is more than too much, 100 much, you may think those people existed more that 1million years ago. Nigeria is moving like a country that nobody is driving it. There should be dedication on the part of individuals, organizations and government at all levels.
You started as a youth, and you are still a youth, your advice to Nigerian youths
You should learn not to depend on government or my father. Some will say my father no give me money; that your father, his father, how much did he give him? I believe if your parents can suffer and give you education, even Primary school, you can give yourself education, self-determination makes success. China people, let’s say by year 2000, the condition of China , Nigerian airport was better than China airport, China airport was like Enugu Airport. Now China changed like magic, every day China change, the secret that made China to change is that every individual work hard.
What are some of the things you do for people living around this area, your CSR?
The way they are feeling they are feeling happy. One the security we have, many years ago here is a no go area, but no more one million boys, and everybody is sleeping with their eyes closed. Since New Planet came here, all their properties added much value. We help in cleaning the gutter and grading the road, Planet changed a lot of things. Their children are also employed here. If I want to take the Planet away they will protest, they will not allow me.
When you are not working, how do you relax?
How I relax, you know when you are serving the public and you see they are happy, you feel relaxed; there are moments for relaxation, but when you see that people are happy you are happy.