Segun Adetiba is the President, Furniture And Allied Products Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (FAPMAN).
In this interview, Adetiba spoke about social housing with cheaper locally-made building materials adding that it depended on the seriousness and acceptability of those materials by the private and public sectors. He felt that there was need for the public sector to have a new mindset on the creations of the Nigerian architects, calling on the sectors to look inward and embrace inward integration. Adetiba also spoke on the challenges facing the Nigerian real estate industry as well as issues about home furnishings, and housing.
Slums in cities
I wouldn’t say we were failing in our real estate planning. Overtime, we didn’t have patriotic leadership that would set the pace. We failed to have trailblazers, coaches and trendsetters – those to look up to. It was the beginning of our failure. And it happened immediately after the days of the Azikiwes, Awolowos, Sardaunas, Okparas, Mbadiwes, and Okotiebos. We failed to take from them, and embrace their legacies. I don’t want to say that they failed to deliver to us what they knew.
Truth is that if you don’t plan, you would fail. This is attributable to high spate of failures among young people. But we have taken to re-materialise this through championing of skills acquisition. In my factory alone I have graduated more than 550 Nigerians on various fields in carpentry, upholstery; machinists, painting, carpet laying and spray painting and they are in various towns and cities doing great works in home furnishings and automobile especially in Abuja. Most of them have their own factories. There is need for skills in our thought, planning, environment and the future. Every man or woman is the architect of his/her fortune. So, we are all architects. On the area of transfer of technology in the construction industry, I would say; it is not a difficult thing rather a matter of mindset of who you are and what you want to be. If you know who you are and what you want to be, there are people who would take you there. So, it is your planning that would make you to torchlight those who would lead you to success. It is what is lacking in our today’s young artisans.
Real estate development
It still boils down to leadership and followership. The leadership is supposed to set the pace, be patriotic enough to set agenda for the followership. The kind of leadership we have today does not know anything other than how to acquire money and stash in foreign banks, whereas money is supposed to run after our leaders especially if they have creative ideas on how to solve problems in the housing sector. In setting the pace, the leadership should create the enabling environment for the followership to participate. This accounts for the huge gap between the government and private developers in housing delivery; there is no patriotism and outlook in the sector that could specifically say; ‘this is what I want to do to create the kind of building I want for the future,’ a research into the future. Instead of copying the Western idea, we should create from African setting and arrive at something new. In fact, we need to settle down to create the kind of environment we want rather than copying. Nonetheless, Nigerian architects are learning and changing fast especially in the area of creation. Our roofing system is different from what is seen in other parts of the world. Even our façade are quite different and they are creations by Nigerian architects. My son is an architect and he is now busy organizing Made in Nigeria home furnishings exhibition.
We have arrived at the starting point. The current Minister of Power, Works and Housing Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) is busy designing local building materials, manufacturing door and windows. Today, when government awards contracts to build, the contractor goes to government owned factories to collect doors and windows. So, the housing industry is becoming versed. Fashola has turned it into success and it will soon show. I’m not propagating activities of his ministry because I’m not a politician. Since I grew up, the Buhari-led administration is the only government I have seen to fight and confront Nigeria challenges head-on. He has been busy about the challenges of the country in different sectors of the economy including education in some states of the federation. There are some states that are picking up economically, though not in the majority. And Governors are beginning to learn lessons that before you can become popular, you have to embark on social and populists programmes including social housing. That is why they are engaging the media for more awareness. It was not like that in the past. Every governor now wants to complete some social and people oriented projects before his tenure elapses. There is hope for the versed and untapped real estate industry.
Today, it is treated as an industry because there are various sectors and sub sectors. And all of them have a correlative effect in the industry. The federal government today has an agency that manufactures bespoke doors and windows in large quantity and there are a lot of building materials being produced locally. There are also various estates being created nationwide and the buildings in some places have started. It is easier today for builders to build because all the structures have already been cast and ready made and can be purchased and fixed: lintel can be purchased and fixed, ditto roofing sheets and windows. There are slab formwork, you just assembly them and a house is ready. So, the rudiments had begun the silent revolution going on in the industry.
There is a gradual response to that. It is on the increase because you learn fast by the Internet. It is the general norm now. So, architects should take advantage of it and create their own product online instead of marketing other people’s products. When you want to sell your product to the people, sell from your creation. It might take time for people to accept you but you can be rest assured you would be accepted. I attended home furnishings exhibition organized by GTbank on Victoria Island and saw that Nigerian architect and interior designers have gone far on what they are making out of Ankara and Adire fabrics; how they are using them to design and display as partitioning panels; Aso Oke being used for doors. It is a beautiful sight to behold.
The current government is providing an enabling environment for this kind of creativity to thrive and it is almost going big wheel. Youth are beginning to look inward and those who are reaping it are no longer thinking of leaving the field because they are now more passionate about it. The various governments are always hammering on skills acquisition and they have so simplified the culture that everything is based on skills; what one can do with his hands. The youth are being engaged such that even dropouts from schools are now returning to short classes. Forty-eight hours, 10 days and three months skills acquisitions programmes are all over the place. And when you acquire skills for three months, you go into the profession and start to develop your own business, and furnish the sector you belong.
The Furniture and Allied Products Manufacturers Association, (FAPMAN) under the umbrella of the furniture sectoral group of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has counselled government through the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment. Good enough, we have a minister that is ready to listen and always coming to us for seminars, meetings and workshops. And we are always letting him know the programmes that would embrace the artisans mostly the youths, not only to focus on big factories but cottage industries.