Prince Oluwatoyin Ololade chairman Rosellas amusement park and events, a popular leisure colossus in Lagos State,has narrated his ordeals trying to keep afloat in business,not minding the seeming hostilities suffered in time past and the harsh business condition in Nigeria,he lauded the intervention of Chief Mrs.Lucy Ajayi, the Executive Director and CEO of the Lagos International Trade Fair Complex,saying her role in the eventual resuscitation of hitherto comatose Rosellas, gave it a new lease of live. He spoke with Olanrewaju Adesanya in an exclusive interview. Excerpts:
Rosellas has been around for quite a long time,offering leisure services can you lead into some background of it concept?
Rosellas is a divine conception,we were in Igando where we face myriads of challenges,let me just mention one or two to you,unfortunately the Lagos State government sited a very big LAWMA dump site directly beside Rosellas, I have been in Rosellas almost ten years before they brought the LAWMA dump site there, to cut long story short they dug the ground their and it was the sand there they to construct the dual carriageway road, I tried to stop them but forces in the government said no, they gave it to them and they are only going to do recycling things there. Little did I know,on my way to the office one day and I saw tens of refuse trucks coming to drop something there, I went there with two or three of boys and said what are you doing here, they say Lagos State government said they should be dumping refuse here, I said no that is not it,I have spoken with the commissioner and this is what I was told but however can I face truck drivers? So I had to go back to the Lagos State Governor and say this is what is happening beside me,he said ye it is going to be ephemeral, it would be there for only three,six months we are going to the bush in Badagry so pardon us for some time of course you will want to understand government needs some space to get out of a situation,why not why don’t I support them until three months turn to six,six to a year,two,three years and I kept going back and forth to the government and nothing was coming. Before you realizes the whole place was a complete refuse dump. Chased all the customers away,in fact you could not sit down to eat,like I did say put a bottle of coke down over 200flies would say hello to your bottle of coke,how can you go to a park where you cannot breathe,eat or drink this chased all the beautiful and wonderful children and their families away.
Unfortunately again the place is always flooded, perennial floodings unabated, I cried to successive government, from Tinubu to Fashola to Ambode nothing was done,it was only Commissioner Muiz Banire who actually did something, he had to come there himself and entered the flood up almost his chest and said no I wanted them to record this so that they would know why I need to do something for this gentleman and yes he did, I give God the glory but unfortunately it was not well done, so the channelization did not flow and the place is still the same or possibly worse than it was, because the land that was vacant before are now being built up so there is no more space for the flood to be because it could not flow,so the flood is still there.
Are you saying the floods have been a recurring decimal there before you sited Rosellas?
By the time I got there, there was no flood challenge because there was still vast land and nobody was in that land,I practically brought light to that place the closest you can get was from Solus, there is no light from anywhere, my landlord was the one that brought light because I lease the place. Almost kilometer and a half to that place but there was still vast land but no water challenge by that time,people were coming because Rosellas was bringing customers there, people are enjoying themselves and they begin to buy land and build houses, the land was being built up and no space water to stay it became problem for the area, many messages has been passed to the government through many media and even reverted to the government to hear side of the story which they had publicized again,radio stations carried it,I went to LAWMA and Oresanya the first MD became my friend through this challenge by nothing was done,he would sorry sir we are doing something about it, such a very soft spoken and nice man, in the next six months the dump sit will not be there but go there after one year they are still there even till now which marks the thirteenth year,but the idea was that they would only be there for three months. This is what killed Rosellas.
Are you seeing ray of hope in term business rejuvenation here?
I give the glory one thing about leisure is that it is not at your backyard,no matter the distance God would always advertise you and with the awesome management we have soon we will go places,God backing up with the good people around,with the press,government and good patronage we will go places by the grace of God,I am not relenting.
Coming to the trade fair what has been the challenges trying to relocate Rosellas here?
The challenges I have faced trying to relocate Rosellas to this place, we give God the glory, it is not only here,I have tried many places,through Lagos State government, they told me to be looking for the lands,they told me to go and investigate where their land is and so I went round with some surveyors and friends,please wherever you know Lagos State government land is that they are not using,we got a few,five,six or there about and I went back to them and nothing was done, just one story today,another tomorrow so nothing was done I have even gone to Ogun state to affirm the interest I have in it because Rosellas was a vision, I went to the previous Governor Amosun so that I could get a place,they had one moribund Muda Lawal stadium,they have a lot of other lands that I sighted one or two but nothing came out,they wrote me and directed me to some commissioners but by the time I it is one hindrance and blockage or the other nothing came out of it,I also tried some Federal Government lands,there is one in Gowon estate they call it Kuwait, it was a big federal government land which I tried through FHA and Federal ministry of lands,I got the place by the time I did the fencing round about five groups of Omoonile came from all over Lagos; not only one Etiosa,Ikorodu and more with OPC, guns and other weapons,sir what should I do ? I ran for my life,since then I have been trying and sincerely you amusement park is not a one plot business and most of the lands around Igando and LASU are all waterlogged and the ones that are still available are under one litigation or the other, I continued my search before God led us here.
How did you get here?
First of all I tell you the truth the Lord led me here,he woke me up told me some few things and said go to trade fair but he did not tell me what to do so I came here. That was when I met that gentleman, I saw the stadium and said okay maybe if I can lease this place or something, he being the first person I met led to one and the others and I was allowed to do a month programme, there was where I knew the right channel to apply to and by the grace of God I applied,having seen my antecedents, the little mettle we could prove at Igando, I applied and was called for an interview and here we are by the grace of God through the Executive Director and CEO of Lagos International Trade Fair Chief Mrs. Lucy Omosefe Ajayi, who has helped us instead of being moribund,she has given us a new lease of live that is why we are here,yes the whole compound was moribund,dilapidated and abandoned for years the roofs are gone,windows shattered, water everywhere but with God we would do a lot of refurbishment and see we can do and take off by the grace of God.
What will be your take on government body language to leisure business in Nigeria?
Thank you for that question, I usually tell people that Nigerians are not leisure conscious and that is the truth,you will agree with me on that ,where is our leisure place,beer parlours,joints that is all, we don’t know other place,and all the lands that supposed to be used for amusement parks have been built up,so our children no longer know what recreation is,the father’s don’t know, the children don’t know. So Nigerians are not leisure conscious, but the Lord has sent me,it is a vision from the Most High God that I should set up an amusement park so that his children can go and unwind and commune with him,so it is a vision.
So I am in it completely,I am a zombie for God on this.
Is Rosellas now fully operational here?
Yes and no,yes because we’ve started refurbishing,great refurbishment without that you can’t operate at the same time, we have some equipments at the stadium which we are bringing in, as at today customers can come in and enjoy some of those things but the state of the property is still being refurbished and repaired and land scrapping and all other things. Aside from that amusement parks are not one day businesses,you have to reshape,reschedule and reposition,yes but we are yet to have customers, we have equipments ready for bouncing castles,basketball, volleyball, table tennis,snooker,name it music,our halls can be used for wedding receptions,seminars,
Structural standard of the hall five which is your location here in the trade fair complex and the safety of potential fun seekers ,how well will you say it is guaranteed,given the long time it has been moribund?
The first thing I did is to bring two structural engineers into this place, of course any property that have been abandoned for so many years rain,shine and all that,they came around and did many test and they said yes the structure is still fine even for the next forty-five years possibly more but guaranteed forty-five years,if certain repairs and restructuring are done, most of them we had done,it had no roofs before most of the superstructural things are gone,most of all those we are gonna be doing, the are a lot of concrete decks that are exposed to alot of rains,okay those ones are weeping, we call it weeping in construction terms,they weep directly because rain falls on them for the past possibly twenty,thirty years,those ones we want to see we can do to cover them so that rain no longest goes on them,since they are still guaranteed to still this test of time. So we would see what we would do to cover them up.
What is the time lag for full completion of repairs and putting the place to operational use?
Operational use by October first fully,but one thing I want you to know amusement parks are formational,you put an equipment here today,you remove it and put another tomorrow, it either you feel you have a newer version or you want it replaced to a particular location or one other thing, so it is an ongoing structural formation every time,so you can’t put a time to it,today I can put an aeroplane,costing some good money and tomorrow I can say remove it and put a rollercoaster there. So it is always an ongoing thing,when you come here today and return six months time,six bigger things there again.
What are the effect of this relocation on Rosellas business and its potential customers and how do you plan to surmount them?
Of course when you displace anything you need adverts,connections and so many things for the displacement to be located or to be known,if you check my facebook page,a lot of our customers are saying ah! we missed you a lot in Igando,why did you leave Igando,why this and that or is it because of the dump site,lots of questions,we give God the glory, we’ve also done some adverts on newspapers foremost ones,we have also printed hundreds of thousands of flyers which we are circulating all over Lagos for everybody to know where are now and we would not stop,we have to continue for them to know.
What is your reaction to government stance on amusement park business?
Amusement park is not a government business completely, the government officials and their leaders also knows that amusement park is not their business,they can’t handle it. Look at all the parks that government had,where are they today? They have all gone moribund but this one is a vision from God,since 1985 and anything that came from the mouth of God would stand forever, please tell me any park that has stood twenty years and the name is still on?
None so God is behind us and good patronage,good adverts we would get there by the grace of God.
There is one thing about God,there is no distance in the spiritual realm, so wherever God is they can be anywhere,he can remove himself from some where and say okay I am no longer there,this is where I am,now he told Abraham,I am no longer there move so when God leaves a place,his anointing leaves the place so that is what I want you to know if God does not leave a place and he tells you to move part of his anointing will still be there. So it is God’s decision not mine,if God continues to stay there …so he has allowed me to come here wait and see what God would do.
What are you doing about the ease of transport down here from the bridge at the frontage of the trade fair and are there any partnership with multinational companies already as it applies in leisure businesses?
I will give you some of my flyers,right on the flyers you will see,free road train or shuttle car, from the bridge to Rosellas because it is some distance so even if you can get normal motorbikes to bring you down,we would position our train there or shuttle car when available. I like to put that,because the road train may go for servicing or may have been booked for a day and you now come there and say you did not put your train,it is already there, but when it is available for all of you, so that we have done for free,it can take up to 72 children and 60 adults at a time a car can take about five people,so whichever is available we are there,to let you know it is not all the customers that will be walking,some of them will be coming with their cars,tricycles, motorbikes and what have you we expecting them.
There are other accesses which we are going to harness with approval from the management,of course you know this place is the trade fair one small access wouldn’t have the only access ,there would have some other accesses,as we have more customers we would approach the management to place open those other accesses to us,which would be manned by the police for security.
Message to fun seeker’s?
Our customers are wonderful people, they have been there through thick and thin with me in spite of the challenges we’ve had and they know we are no longer there,they have sent good messages to us and on our website we have lots of information we are going to launch out,by the grace by the time this information gets to them coupled with newspapers, TV adverts,our chains going out with DJ’s and everything,goes round to share flyers to them,before you notice God has brought everyone of them back here and they would be glorifying God and enjoying themselves. The corporate bodies are our friends and they only scared by the dumpsite palaver in Igando our former location,we are doing business with Dufil makers of indomie noodles, Nestle Foods at Agbara and other companies and even big schools are already showing signs of collaboration, I even have meeting appointments with well to do individuals in the trade fair area who are ready for partnership.