Harvey Ugochukwu Igbanugo, a philanthropist and real estate entrepreneur, is the founder and CEO Zelo Homes Limited. In the last 40 years, Havy Don, as popularly called by friends, has carved a niche for himself through his several empowerment programmes, community development services and thousands of housing projects executed in Lagos. Rebecca Ejifoma reports
You will be 40 by Easter Monday, so how do you feel about that?
Of course I feel fulfilled, coming this far. I thank God for bringing me this far in good health, with a lot of achievements. It’s something to really thank God for. Many people wish to celebrate this day and I thank God I’m among the people God has chosen to be celebrated. So it’s all fun for me and I must first of all be grateful to Almighty God that has given me sound health to witness this great day In my life.
Looking back in the last 40 years was it an easy journey. Can you share your growing up and some of the things you’ve been able to achieve that makes you feel fulfilled as a person?
I’ll first of all say that my life has been one of testimony, half of this my year for the past 20 years it has been all testimony upon testimony. While I was a kid, I always had this big dream that I’ll be somebody great. Today, like I said earlier, I feel fulfilled because most things I desire in life has been accomplished with extra so it’s a very big testimony for me. My accomplishments isn’t something I can start naming one by one-they’re too much for me start mentioning.
I wouldn’t start telling you how I’ve been progressing in my businesses. I’ve done so many housing in Nigeria- thousands and to God be the glory, I’m still in business considering all the tragedy that has befallen the world including COVID-19. God has a way of making a way for us which I’m so much grateful. That’s why I’ve decided on this my day that I’m also going to touch people’s lives to thank God for the great things He has been doing.
You have successfully done some empowerment programs and carried out infrastructural development projects in your community, what inspired you to do these. Are you aspiring for any political position in your state?
To be honest, I’m not a politician and I never intend to be one someday. Whatever I do for my community is out of love, I have loved my town from when I was born. I’ve never spent my Christmas holiday anywhere in the world apart from here-this is how much I cherish my town.
I have so many friends that come around to visit me and some of them come with exotic cars and complain that we don’t have good roads. So I saw it as a priority for me to make sure I fix the road leading to some of the villages in my town and thank God we’ve been able to do a lot to make sure we develop our town. We can’t just be developing cities whereas your town is in debris. It gives me joy and I’m willing to do more
You’ve been able to register your name in the hearts of the people no doubt, but can you say at 40 you’re proud of your achievements?
I’ll first of all applaud myself for how far God has brought me and how I’ve been able to manage my relationship with people. It is not easy because 40 years is not four years. So if you’ve been able to create good relationship with so many people in the last 40 years, that’s to say that the next 40 years will be better. I’m not content with what I’ve done in the last 40 years but I’m happy with what I’ve achieved in the last 40 years and I pray that the next 40 will be better than the previous.
You’re one person that’s loved by virtually all your friends, what’s the secret behind that?
I have this belief that there’s great value in friendship. I’ve been in so many places whereby people I don’t even know helped me. We started being friends and those relationships yield great fruits in my life and create great impact in me.
So I value friendship a lot. I’m this kind of person that I give friendship 99 per cent and it has always favoured me most times. Everything must not always go the way you want it but I can tell you half of the time, it’s been nice sharing testimonies from friends.
I have so many friends I can’t even mention their names one by one, but to be honest with you, one way or the other, they’ve stood by me in times of difficulty and challenges many things. So I value friendship, I have friends spread all over the world. There’s no place you’ll mention I know somebody there and anybody I know knows me. That’s the kind of friendship I build, because I want to put something in you that you won’t forget about me in a hurry.
At 40, do you have any regrets as a person?
At 40, like I said earlier it’s all about testimony. I don’t have any regrets, everything about me has been the way I wanted it. God has been so kind to me. I have a family and three beautiful kids. So I have a boy and two girls, a wife, my parent because my dad is late. I have my siblings and we’re all fine and in good relationship with everybody. So everything that revolves around me is love. Like I said, I’ll say that my 40 is fulfilled.
Can you share your happiest moment in life?
One of the happiest moments is the day I had my son. I felt like I’ve gotten the whole world because that was the only thing left for me at that moment. I believe I need to do it and feel accomplished. So the moment he arrived and we looked at each other, in as much as they say he can’t see I believe he was looking at me, I feel that I’m made.
So it’s one of the joy I can’t just erase and he has been making me proud till date. So any other thing is the same kind of fun I’ve been feeling, there’s nothing different, wealth, money, cars all those things revolve around each other. That’s why I call him my original love.
What are your hobbies?
I know how to do a lot of things. I remember back in secondary school I used to be the best prefect. I can run, play tennis, football, badminton and javelin. I had an idea of many things but today, one of my favourite games is formula1. I love cars and I love F1. I know all the rules and I follow them a lot as a very young kid.
Formula1 is a game I cherish a lot maybe because of when Hamilton came on board and he happened to be the first black man in the race, and as God will have it, he started making us proud. So I’ve been following him and other good driver. Formula1 is my game any day.
Can you share your happiest moment with your wife and how you met her. Also, with your decade of experience in marital bliss, how were you able to overcome most of the teething challenges of marriage?
My wife is a unique one and meeting her too was unique. I have a wonderful marriage as I have been enjoying everything. She doesn’t give me problems, we’ve never had issue that so many people will come and plead on our behalf.
Marriage is all about gallops, ups and downs but
She makes me happy. She gave me a boy and girls. Of course, I adore her.
I make sure she’s happy too as I celebrate her always. I know it might sound surprising when I say things about my son. You see as a child, I used to have girlfriends so when I married it was different from having a girlfriend. There is a bond I have with her that makes her exceptional and exquisite to me, without her I won’t have a son. She played a vital role in my family, taking care of my kids and making sure they have the best things in life.
How has your wife inspired you as a person?
She’s my number one cheerleader, she puts me on gear five always to make sure I get things done.
She looks out for me. Whenever I’m depressed in business , she calls everybody in the office to know what’s happening, why I’m sad, why things aren’t going well. She got my back and she doesn’t want me to spend so much on things that aren’t necessary. She’s considerate and not materialistic. I can tell how many things she has asked me to buy for her, I fight to buy things for her.
Having seen four decades on earth, what is your advice to young people?
This life is all about focus. My advice to the young generation is for them to keep their head up, focus in everything they’re doing. If you’re a mechanic, know that you have to be strong and determined to do the work well, put in your effort.
You can be a car manufacturer tomorrow if you understand the mechanism of how the car is produced.
But today, everybody wants to be on the fast lane. I use myself as an example-when I started real estate, I started with just one plot of land project and every morning I’ll be there to count my sand and iron planks to make sure the supplier supply the right quantity I ordered for and today I have employees that do all those counting for me. I was steadfast in what I was doing as I resume very early to make sure everything is in place and I’ll leave my site at the close of work, but I can tell you today I don’t go to most of my sites.
So my advice to young people is be focused. Whatever you’re doing, give it time, nobody can add value to your own business. Nobody can promote your business more than you do. So if you put your best in whatever you do, you’ll actualise a positive reward.