By Christy Anyanwu
Dr Meckson Innocent Okoro popularly known as M.I Okoro is a name to reckon with in real estate business, management and consultancy in Nigeria. In fact, he is one of the front-liners and belongs to many professional bodies of the business. But last week Thursday, he proved he could wear many hats when he was sworn in as the Captain, Golf Section, Ikoyi Club 1938. In this interview with EFFECT, he talked about how his numerous attempts to get the captainship failed until he succeeded at his fifth attempt. He also spoke about real estate business and about life generally. Excerpt:
You said it took you ten years to attain this position. Why?
I have been contesting for a long time. In fact, it is at the fifth time I actually got it. It is highly competitive. Here, we have prominent people and I’m not the only person interested. Just like in any other aspect of life, God’s time is the best. That was when it got to my turn.
What’s so special about being a Captain in the golf section?
It is number one position as far as golf is concerned. To be a Captain here is a very prestigious position. You know you are representing men and women that have arrived in life. There’s nobody that is somebody in Nigeria that is not in Ikoyi Club and most of them are in the golf section. Being their leader for me is a privilege. It is not as though there is something too special about being the leader of such prominent club. It is the best in Nigeria and Africa. The golf course we have here is the busiest in the whole of Africa. I would say even in the world because there is no golf course you can go to in this country and even in the world that will be busy from 5.30 in the morning till about 7.00 in the evening every day. It is only Ikoyi Club 1938 golf section.
It is a very important position. The work is commensurate with the position because you have to work hard to meet the expectations of all these prominent people. Don’t forget that in this section, we have serving governors as members. We have serving ministers. We have ambassadors. We have also foreign diplomats as members. And, we have many army generals, many naval officers, admirals, rear admirals and so forth. For me, there’s nobody I want to reach that I won’t get to reach, locally and internationally. Almost all nationalities that are in this country are members of golf sections. And, most corporate organizations too- Chevron, Mobil, Exxon Mobil, Total, all the multinationals, their members are in this Ikoyi Club golf section.
I’m excited. Despite the fact that it took me this long to get there but you know nothing good in this world comes easy. You take them as they come but the most important thing is, anything I decide I want to do I must get it. The highest thing is, it can only take me time. Once I strategize and have all the necessary elements that will enable me to get there, then I must pay the price and get there. That is just it about me.
What are your roles as Captain of this club?
Administratively, it is my duty to ensure that the course is adequately taken care of. The course stays on about 70 hectares of land. I’m talking about the course alone. I’m not talking about Ikoyi Club. From here to Obalende, to Dodan Barracks, it is very long and wide. It is my duty as the Captain to ensure that the course where we play the golf is in a playable condition and all the facilities are working. We make sure that members enjoy their golfing, monthly, tournaments and special events that are golf-related. It is my responsibility to present the golf section even outside. If we are going on outside tour, it is my duty to lead the team of golfers that will be going for such traveling to whichever country in the world. Before COVID-19 kicked in, we travelled to US; to Germany, to London, all over the world. It is the duty of the Captain to schedule such international tournaments. We go to Ghana; in fact Achimota has a reciprocal match play with ikoyi Club. So, every year, it’s either we go to Ghana or Ghana comes to us. So, it is the duty of the Captain to make sure that such arrangements are in order. It is my duty to lead it and to represent Ikoyi Club in such outside tournaments. It is my duty as a Captain to arrange for sponsorship from most multinationals, individuals, corporate organizations, who sponsor our tournaments and get branding and advertisement in return. For instance, if a bank is sponsoring our activities then we use that opportunity to do a lot of marketing, a lot of branding, and a lot of advertisements in other to attract prospective customers to patronize them.
What are the challenges in real estate business right now?
Right now, the challenges we face, again, bother on the state of the nation. The viability of real estate market is a function of the political and economic stability. So, if any of these indices is not right at a particular time, definitely it will impact negatively on real estate. Because of COVID, ENDSARS protest, the country, the economy has received a kind of shock and because of that people do not have enough purchasing power any more. Some companies are retrenching; some who are not, work from home, do virtual operations. All these things have negative impact on real estate demand, either for official use or for residential. Even tenants find it difficult to pay their rents and thereby many people are failing in the expectations of landlords. If I tell you that the economy is not affecting the general performance of real estate then it will be an understatement. However, very few people who are in a position of authority, who have disposable income still buy but not as it used to be. So, the negative impact of the economic implications on this is almost 60 percent reduction in the demand of real estate services.
From a humble beginning, you moved from glory to glory. What is the secret?
It is nothing but remaining focused and making my desires a reality. Once I focus that I want this thing, I will look at the advantages of that thing, and the disadvantages, short-term, medium term, and long term. I weigh it and if it will impact positively not only on me but on everything around me, then I create unquenchable desire for that thing and that desire now propels me to attain that objective and that is what lessens the pains of the price I had to pay in order to win the prize.
That price you have to pay to win is a sacrifice and making the sacrifice is very painful. We are talking of me pursuing my goal of becoming a Captain in the midst of this very powerful environment. I was Vice Captain for one year and now I am Captain. But even the journey to becoming a Vice Captain is more troublesome and turbulent because the moment you become the Vice Captain then there are chances you may eventually become the Captain subject to grace of God, good behaviour because people watch you. Any slightest mistake you make may shut you out of the race and get people to contest against you. But if you remain humble, focused and appear to know why you are there, the tendency is that you may be allowed to proceed to the position of Captain. I must tell you, it is not an easy journey but my passion and desire to attain the position were responsible for the reduction of the pains that one went through. Every human being will now begin to focus on the position, the beauty, flamboyance of the position but nobody remembers all the sacrifices one made to attain the position. It is one-year tenure but that one-year is like 10 years if you understand the environment you are operating in.
What lessons has life taught you?
A very big lesson: first, I learnt that in life and, in dealing with human beings, you should not take anything for granted. Don’t assume that what will please Mr. A will please Mr. B too. This is because as our faces are different so our reactions, desires and opinions. More importantly, when you want to emerge number one in the midst of champions, it makes it more difficult. Nobody in the golf section is a small person in every definition of success. They are champions in their own right. For them to even agree that you will be their number one is by the grace of God. It is not because I’m the best golfer. If it is by reason of being the best golfer, I would not have been elected to this position. In life, for you to attain any position, you have to have patience.
Two, you have to remain permanently focused, no matter the turbulence. Keep your eyes on the goal. Whether the result is good or bad, you must remain good. I contested four times; it did not favour me. You would think, ordinarily, I would be annoyed, and that annoyance would make me voice out things that people would hold against me. In fact, whenever I failed in any of the elections, I didn’t talk because whatever you said would be used against you in future. The best way not to fail people is to keep shut your mouth because you would be judged by what came out of your mouth. I also learnt to be humble and magnanimous in victory. I will continue to remain humble in this position until my tenure expires.There are so many lessons that life has taught me but the most important are: patience, perseverance, focus, courage; these four elements and, finally, Providence. The Bible says that except God builds a house in vain does the builder builds. When you remember that it’s not by your power that is where Providence comes in. But Providence is not for the indolent; for those who don’t take action. It is a reward for a courageous action. Even though it comes from God, He is too selective because if you are sleeping in your house and not bold enough to face your challenges, Providence will not meet you on the way.