A few metres from the Country Club on Joel Ogunaike Street in GRA Ikeja, luxury hotels are springing up to change the face of the once quiet street to a liveable hub of those seeking the ambience of a temporary getaway. Mary Ekah writes that it is a melting pot where foreign nationals and Nigerians spend the night on arrival in Lagos
Stand at one end of Joel Ogunaike street in Ikeja, Lagos, there are now many high-end hotels as far as you can see. But this is the same street that used to be host of just the Country Club located at the far end, sitting on the edge of Mobolaji Bank Anthony way. Now the street has changed and become an enchanting rendezvous for all sorts, almost.
Within the precinct of Government Reserved Area (GRA) thought to be a place occupied by those with privileged status and a better standard of living, Joel Ogunaike has metamorphosed from a purely residential neighbourhood, to a choking business district.
It used to be seen as an area meant for the very rich elite. Even the streets and its surroundings were completely separated and different from the larger society, with the best of infrastructure to show off. But not anymore.
Today, streets like Isaac John, Sobo Arobiodu, Oba Akinjobi, Adekunle Fajuyi, all in Ikeja GRA are in a completely different state. They are now a beehive of eateries, hotels, banks, schools, clubs and even churches. Joel Ogunnaike, in particular has become a haven for hotels and other hospitality services as residential buildings continue to give way to luxurious hotels. Unlike in the past when most of the houses were known as private residences, many of the blocks of flats are now rented for commercial purposes and this has no doubt, increased the population of the environment beyond its original design.
Since the colonial times, the Ikeja GRA has remained a choice residential area for top government functionaries and other very important personalities and their families, but today it seems to has turned into an abode for all comers.
One wonders at the metamorphosis that has come upon Joel Ogunaike in particular, a street, which was many years back, known only for the Lagos Country Club, located at its tail end but now the street is full of different kind of hotels and eateries and these have rubbed off on it over the years. Some of the hotels that line the street include: House J Hotels and Resorts, The Cave, BEC Suits, White House Excellence Service. Country Guest House, Starfire and the latest addition, GrandBee Suits, amongst others.
A worker with the Lagos Country Club who begged to remain anonymous said the Lagos Country Club has existed in the location for more than 60 years, noting that the spring up of so many hotels on Joel Ogunaike street has only made it to become busier especially at night, stating also that when members of the Lagos Country Club come in the evenings to relax, they also patronise these hospitality hubs. He noted further that the presence of the Club might also have attracted quite a number of hotels on Joel Ogunaike Street as most members patronise these hotels.
“ I have been working with the Lagos Country Club for about ten years now and like you rightly observed there have been a lot of changes as a result of the so many activities taking place on this street. More so as it is adjacent to Isaac John notorious for its habitat for night crawlers”, he stated.
He said the high rate of activities on the street has had no negative effect on the Club as it closes for activities at 10:00pm noting, “we cannot rule out the possibility of the presence of unwanted elements in an area where there is a beehive of night activity”.
He said however that the security on the street has been tight as the Police are seen on patrol every night to prevent unwanted elements like pick pockets and “call girls” that are sometimes seen lining the street as well as prevent the possibility of various other nefarious activities.
GrandBee Suites is the latest hub on the street established about a couple of months ago and located just before the end of the street. The Sales Secretary of the hotel, Ms Damilola Kafidiya said GrandBee Suits is a choice location on Joel Ogunaike, despite the fact that numerous other hotels have already been running on the street, because it is a very comfortable environment to see how well you are doing.”
One would have thought that surviving in an hospitality business in such a street will require an uphill task but that is not to be with the newly established GrandBee Suits.
“If you count from one end of the street to the other, you would count nothing less than 13 hotels. I think for every hotelier, it would be a healthy environment to be competitive. There is a distinctive difference in what every hotel is offering on this street from what you can see if you go inside.
“ We know that everybody goes to an hotel but the difference between us and another place would be the services that work for you and how we offer you these services. When we say personalised service, we mean that we know you as much as your name, birthday and as much as you are willing us to know and that is what we sell to you. I mean, your daughter and your son will remember that it is daddy’s birthday and we would also remember that it is your birthday”, Kafidiya noted.
She noted further that another reason GrandBee Suite is located in Joel Ogunaike, like other hotels, is the proximity to the airport and to those outside Lagos. “If you are in Ibadan, Ibafo or Abeokuta, you would rather stop by somewhere closer, if you are in Lagos for the weekend than driving all the way to the Island”. Hotels at Joel Ogunaike are almost very close to every business unit in Ikeja. They are like in the centre of Ikeja, the airport and all the big shops and companies are nearby too. And again the security situation seems to favour Joel Ogunaike too. It is not far from Lagos State Police Headquarters.
Besides, the new Hotels on Joel Ogunaike are taking advantage of Sheraton Hotel on Mobolaji Bank Anthony that is usually over-booked by guests or with some conditions not favourable. Being located on a street like Joel Ogunaike, Kafidiya revealed further, offers a competition where Hotels strive to match up with the market, “knowing that you cannot afford to offer poor services keeps you always on your toes. If you cannot meet up with the market, next few minutes somebody next to you is selling almost the same thing that you are selling and the challenge would be making sure that your guests keep coming and have something to come back to.
So it is a fierce competition being located here but a healthy one all the same in the sense that everyday you are on your toe, understanding that you have to compete with other hotels around.”
On Joel Ogunaike there is luxury, so is the money that goes with it.