Prince Dr. Henry Uche Emelue, the amiable and unassuming chief executive officer/proprietor of Leads Guest House, Boji-Boji, Owa, Ika Northeast Local Government Area, Delta State, is no doubt a gentle man to the core and a man who believes in the truth. In this exclusive interview with Ika Weekly reporters in his office, the Obomkpa born business magnate revealed how his dream of contributing to the development of the society and humanity led to the establishment of Leads Guest House. Price Dr. Emelue, who doubles as the chief executive officer, HUE’S Enterprises Nigeria Ltd, also bares his mind on the need for young business men to have the three �Cs�, which are consistency, credibility and continuity, which according to him are the major keys to success.
Good day sir, may we meet you?
I am Prince Dr. Henry Uche Emelue, JP. I am a native of Obomkpa, Aniocha North Local government Area, Delta State. I am from a royal descendant. I attended Sacred Heart Primary School, Obomkpa, while my secondary education was at St. Pius Xth Grammar School, Onicha-Ugbo. We were the first set of students that wrote May/June, 1973, WAEC in the school. After my secondary school education I joined Guinness Nigeria Plc, where I worked for about eleven years. While in Guinness I rose to the office of a senior marketing officer.
What kind of home did you grow up from?
I grew up from a very humble home. In fact my father was a successful trader, precisely a beer dealer at that time. My father was also a gallant soldier and an ex-service man. He was killed during the Nigerian civil war, I was still young at that time.
When did you come to Ika land?
That is a very good question. As I stated earlier, I was a former staff of Guinness, Nig Plc, it was while working with the company that I was posted to Agbor, 1975 as a sales representative. Since that time I have lived in Ika land and has also become a son of the soil because since I came, I have not left Ika land for any other place.
You are the proprietor/chief executive officer of Leads Guests House, a reputable and thriving hospitality company in Ika land. When exactly was it established?
Leads Guest House was established February 14, 1983. We started in a very humble way. When I was posted to Ika land by Guinness during the time I was working with the company, I noticed that the place does not have a enough hotels for visitors. I felt something should be done, at least to build a place where people can come either for a drink or accommodation. I established Leads Guest House before I left Guinness. We started with just seven rooms, which now houses our restaurant and bar. As time went on, we were able to expand, putting into considerations the growth and needs of the society.
How was the patronage during the formative years of Leads Guests House?
It was encouraging. When we started, we were encouraged by people around who came to patronize us. Today, by the special grace of God we now have about twenty-seven rooms.
During the time Leads Guest was established, was there any big hotel in Ika land?
There were some hotels in Ika land at that time but Leads Guest House was in a class of its own. When we came into business, we had other hotels like Ika Guest House, Embassy Hotel, Travellers Hotel and Bendel Hotel. Those were the only big hotels at that time in Ika land. As at the time we started the whole area around us was thick bush, people were afraid of coming to us. It was the emergence of Leads Guest House that opened up the area. I could remember I brought electricity to the area and repaired the road in 1988.
Have you any regret leaving Guinness Nigeria Plc?
No, not at all, if I did not leave Guinness at the time I left, maybe I would not have had the opportunity to do what I am doing today. My greatest joy is that I am contributing to development and also creating employment for people.
Sir, how has it being since you ventured into hospitability business.
It has been very good. I remembered when Leads Guest House was opened, a car cannot drive out when there was another one parked inside the compound. To God be the glory, today, we have been able to expand the business and built more rooms. I give thanks to God who has been with us all these period. I still want to use the opportunity to thank the Obi of Owa land, His Royal Majesty Emmanuel Efeizomor who encouraged me. We still have that good rapport till now. Some of the advise his royal majesty gave to me has helped me to this day. Obi Efeizomor alongside with late Dr. George Orewa commissioned the second phase of the guest house building in 1986. So far we have enjoyed a lot of friendship, advise and patronage from Owa people.
What were the challenges that you faced at the beginning and those you are still encountering?
First, there was no water. We suffered the problem of water for many years until we were able to dig our own independent borehole. Secondly, the access road to this part of Melekwe street at that time was very bad, as a result we lost many customers. Thirdly, was the problem of electricity, though it was not as bad as we are experiencing now. Presently, we rely majorly on generator for our daily and constant electricity supply. Looking at the cost of buying desiel everyday and the turn over at the end of every month you will discover that it has not been easy for us. Initially, we got patronage from people and institutions in Edo and Delta States. Today the level of patronage has reduced to areas within Ika land. However, I want to say that we have been able to survive over the years despite the harsh condition under which we are operating because we have been able to keep to the rules and norms of the business. In anything we do, we must show some elements of sincerity and goodwill. If your customers do not have strong confidence in you, you will not have the drive to sustain any business. One satisfied customer can bring more customers to you. In other words, if you want to run an effective and successful hospitality business, you must adhere strictly to the rules of the business. If you see anything going wrong in the business repair it immediately. Some of the things most hotels do because of money, we do not do them in Leads Guest House. Going out of the norms of the business kills the aura and discourages customers, hence, we try to avoid that. Although we want money but in a very decent way. We do our things the way people will appreciate us. Today, notable organizations\like Rotary Club International holds their meetings in Leads Guest House, this is because our place is unique. Rotary International was even chartered on the 11th April, 1985 at Leads. Since 1985 Rotary International has been holding their regular meetings here. That driving force which has propelled the club to succeed in its selfless and voluntary service to humanity is what we have copied.
Are you borrowing money to run the business or you are doing it alone?
As a Nigerian doing business in Nigeria, I have learnt how to manage situations I know I cannot control. I could remember I once borrowed the sum of N140,000 from United Bank of Africa, UBA, Abudu branch for the building of the second phase of the guest house. Then the three banks we had in Agbor were ACB, First Bank and New Nigeria Bank (Unity Bank). Most us who were doing business in Ika land during the period were customers to UBA, Abudu. I still remember the role Mr. Steve Ashien, publisher, Ika Weekly newspaper played just to ensure that I was able to get the loan. Apart from getting loan from the bank, I was one of the signitaries who requested that UBA should be brought to Ika land. Mr. Ashien championed it and it was sited at Abudu. Thank God I was able to pay back the loan after sometime. In Nigeria if you borrow money from a bank and you are able to pay back without suffering any hitch to your business, that means that you are wise. If we have been able to weather the storm from that time till now, it then means we have achieved something good. I want to use this opportunity to thank our friends who have been identifying with us. We still hope and pray that the sky will be our limit.
Irrespective of the challenges, is hospitality business worth venturing into?
There is success in any venture in life. It is the amount of energy you put in a business that determines whether you will succeed in it or not. They are people who are drivers, tailors, career workers, that are millionaires today. To answer your question, hospitality business is good, but it has to be done in an enabling environment. The necessary things that will drive the business must be there. A situation where there is no electricity, roads, water and security, I do not think the business will succeed. In other words, there must be good roads, electricity, water and security for you to be able to manage the business effectively. Hospitality earns foreign exchange if it is run in a good environment. What has actually helped us irrespective of the odds is the drive and passion for the business. We are succeeding because we are putting in our best and at the same time adhering strictly to the rules of the business. Once you have a genuine business impression, people will always trust you, people will always go along with you because they know you are serious in what you are doing.
What kind of person is Prince Dr. Henry Emelue?
Well, I am not in a position to say whether I am good or bad, it is left for people to judge. I think the question about my personality should be directed to those that know me particularly to my manager, Mr. John Ogbe, who has worked with me for more than twenty years. He was employed as a bar man but has now risen to the position of a manager. It is not only certificates that matter, we also put into consideration the elements of hardwork and consistency, which has given rise to where we are today. If you ask me if I am bad, I will say that I am good but the society is the mirror. You can also ask your publisher, Mr. Ashien about me, he will tell you who I am because we have been friends all these years. He knows how we started, by the grace of God we are still waxing strong. Whatever thing you find yourself doing in life, do it well. Be hard working and pray that one day God will make you to succeed. Let me say this, I did not establish Leads Guest House because I want to become a millionaire. No, I made up my mind to established a guest house so that I can contribute my quota to the development of our area and to also give employment to people. I have no regret remaining in the business. Many big names in Ika land have over the years identified with Leads Guest House. We all started from this community and we are proud of ourselves. I do not want to mention names but I want to tell you that majority of Ika elites know something about Leads Guest House. Let me mention this, Chief James Ibori, former governor of Delta State used to lodge here. We have had the privilege of hosting ministers, commissioners and top government functionaries in this place both during the military era and now. During the old Bendel State we got patronages from Abudu. We were opportuned one day to provide services in a meeting that had General Tunde Ogbeha, rtd, in attendance. The commendation General Ogbeha gave to us during the meeting was a very good one. Also in those days, there was a company along Abraka road called Nova Layteh which was into leather productions. When the factory was commissioned in 1986, the white men in charge of the company used Leads Guest House for their accommodation and entertainment. One late Godfrey Rushton, a former manager o the company played a major role towards the growth of Leads Guest House both in terms of patronage and publicity. He travelled abroad and brought friends to us. When he died, I organized a memorial service for him and invited some members of his family to Nigeria. We did not stop there we have also immortalized Mr. Rushton by naming our main hall after him.
What piece of advice do you have for upcoming businessmen?
What I want to advise people is that they should know that God has a purpose for creating everyman. If we are able to identify our God given talent early enough in life we will surely succeed. There is an adage that says, �a rolling stone gathers no dust�. Constitency, credibility and continuity are the basic key factors we need in whatever we are doing. In addition, there is another adage which says a good name is better than riches, hence, we must be honest in the ways we do things. We must be guided with the word �what a man sows, that he will reap�. We must take life gradually and make sure that in whatever we do we do it well. Our youths should start something for themselves and learn how to grow in it, it is only then that they can have a story to tell.
Have you any award?
Yes, I was conferred with Honorary Doctorate Degree in Business Administration by City University, Los Angeles, USA in the year 1990. I was also honoured by the High Commission for Justice and Peace of the International Youth Congress in Brussels, Belguim in February, 2001. I was inducted a Fellow of the Institute of Sales Management of Nigeria (FNISMN) in May, 1996. I am a patron of the Catholic Youths Organization of Nigeria. On the 19th March, 2011, I received a long service award from Rotary International for consistently serving the club for twenty five years. Today, I am a one star Paul Harris Fellow.
What about chieftaincy titles?
I am a Justice of Peace. But I am not freak about titles.
You are married with children?
Yes, I am happily married to Mrs. Florence Emelue, a lecturer in Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwashi-Uku, Delta State. We are blessed with children.
Is there any other thing you would like to say?
First and foremost I want to give thanks to the Almighty God for the life, strength and wisdom. I want to appeal to the government to improve on the state of our infrastructures. I know that the government is trying but it should do more. We do not have night life in Boji-Boji, the government should look into it as the absence of night life is affecting several businesses in Ika land. We are happy for the security situation at the moment, hence, the efforts of the army, police and the Joint Task Force (JTF) must be commended. I thank Ika Weekly Newspaper for keeping us abreast with information of things happening around us. The publisher, Mr. Ashien and his dogged team should not relent despite the odds against them. We are proud of Ika Weekly Newspaper and we will all continue to identify with it.
Our next personality of the week is Mr. Jude Oshiagwu, national co-ordinator Delta Patriols Awareness support Initiative. He spoke on health and other burning issues.