Chief Charles Mba: Building Affordable Homes for the Average Nigerian
Chief Charles Mba is the Chief Executive Officer of CDV Properties and Development Limited, a real estate development company. In this interview with Precious Ugwuzor, the real estate guru, who has undoubtedly carved a niche for himself as one of the biggest players in real estate sector in Nigeria by building affordable homes, shares the heart warming and exciting story of his life’s journey as he marks his 50th birthday
How do you feel at 50?
It is great to be 50. Fifty to me is a golden age. It is half time. Even in the Bible, 50 is golden. Attaining fifty means a lot of experience and a time that someone could say that he has reached enough and reasonable maturity in life. I feel great at 50. But at heart, I feel as if I am still 40 years old. To me, I don’t feel I am 50. My birth certificate is 50 years but when I reason, I think I’m more than 50 years old but when I act, you see me act like 40. God granted me good health at 50, I don’t have any kind of underlying ailment. I have no issues. So, I feel great to be 50.
As you turn 50 today, are you fulfilled?
I feel fulfilled as a person. I am so grateful to God, first of all; for keeping me alive till 50. I have lost some friends, even at the age of 40, they died. I have lost close friends who didn’t get to 50 but for me, the most precious thing God has done to me is keeping me alive and healthy to attain 50 years and I know He will continue keeping me to make 100 years. But at 50, I feel so fulfilled too. I have achieved a lot. I have done so well in my area of discipline even in other areas. God has been so kind to me and things have been working so perfectly well at 50.
What are some of the achievements?
The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively. So
achievements generally could not necessarily be achievements in terms of material things. There is a way I look at achievement; how many people have you impacted in life, how have you changed situations around you ? These are where and areas I call achievements. We have been able to give scholarships to different people, especially the indigent people. We have been able to train people who are graduates today; fending for themselves. Some are employed in our establishment, working for us and earning a living.
These are civil engineers that went through reputable universities. We have been able to take care of people; the sick and the needy . We have also been able to provide amenities for our community. We have been able to do roads. As we are speak, we are building a church. These are what I call achievements, not personal but helping people and the community. But in terms of growth, we have also done well.
We have grown our company CDV Property and Development Limited too. We have grown the company from scratch to where it is today. And by the grace of God, it is one of the outstanding building and real estate companies in Lagos. We have delivered a lot in the industry.
At 50, do you have any regrets in life?
There is nobody who doesn’t have one one. It may not be regret per say but not doing what one wants to do at the right time. The only thing which I call regret is that I would have studied Civil Engineering instead of studying Microbiology but still I have made up for that. I have employed the best civil engineers working with us. But I would have been so fulfilled if I was a professional civil engineer. Apart from that, there is no regret as every other thing has been moving according to plans; every other thing has been strategically structured and working perfectly well.
If you are opportune, would you go back to school to study Civil Engineering?
Yes, I will do that and I will still do Architecture at the same time.
What was your happiest moment in life?
My happiest moment in life is when I am with my family. I love my family; both my immediate and extended families. Whenever we are together, I feel so happy, blessed and so great when I watch them grow, play and do all sorts of activities. I feel happy and fulfilled.
How was your growing up like?
I was born on December 4, 1971 precisely. I was born in a town called Nsukka in Enugu State. It is a university community. That is the town that houses the University of Nigeria. I had my primary school in Nsukka and also my secondary education at St. Theresa’s Secondary School, Nsukka. Then I proceeded to the prestigious University of Nigeria, Nsukka where I read Microbiology. Growing up in Nsukka was a lovely experience.
It is indeed a lovely place. It was a place that molded me to become who and what I am today. I am from Orba in Enugu State and our people naturally are down to heart people. We are very resilient and quite forthright.
We are highly respectful, sincere and we were taught a lot of morals. We take things easy never in hurry to make money or do anything evil to achieve greatness. We were taught that hard work leads to success and that was the way I grew up. I was born in an average family with a civil servant father while my mother was a caring housewife. We have that basic home training of an average family where we had very close and tight family values.
We were all brought up with high discipline and we did everything together as a family. My parents weren’t that rich but they made us believe that there’s dignity in labour and that with determination we could be whatever we want to be.
We could achieve our dreams and that is why everybody in the family one way or the other is doing his or her best to the best of one’s ability and because we were trained to have that self-confidence, self-reliance, believe in our selves and believe in what we can do and not depend on people for arms, rather do it yourself. We learned to do it and always be the best at whatever we did.
So, that is the way we were taught while we were growing up. I imbibed it and till today it is working out . I believe I can do it once I remain focused and keep my eyes on the ball, I will achieve what I want to achieve. My growing up experience molded me so well. Then more importantly the university I went to. We had good lecturers and a serene learning environment. We were taught very well and today the results are obvious.
You studied Microbiology and today you are in the real estate business. What motivated you to venture into real estate?*
Basically, I like watching things grow. I like to watch things move from one point to the next point. I like playing with objects as a child. But I never knew I would end up in real estate development. I thought I would be a medical doctor. My intention was to study Medicine but as God would have it, I passionately ended up where I am today.
But I always had this building tendency in me , dismantling and rebuilding things, playing with objects and drawing different designs of homes even in sand as a child . It has always been my hobby. If I see something, I would want to dismantle it, I want to put it back and I want to build it myself. So that habit of building by myself prompted me into building as a profession. The first house I did, I thought about it. I am passionate about building.
Basically, I was building the house to live and somebody came and said he is interested and asked me “Would you sell this house to me?” I said okay come on and I sold that house to him. Then I bought another land, started building again. You know when you are building to live, you put in all the best in the house and that is still my secret till today. Any house I am building, I build it as if I want to live there. I want to make sure I use the best of standard so that even if someone doesn’t buy it, I will be proud to own it . I can confidently tell you that this is my house and I will keep it for myself. So from there on, we started building. We sold, we bought another land we built and before you know it, we kept going on and on.
Can you share your major turning point in life and in the real estate business?
Basically, my turning point was when I moved from high profile building to a medium-income homes . Though we started well in building luxurious houses but when the economy of the country started nose-diving, we switched to building affordable homes that more people can acquire because the economy wasn’t good enough to support the market for luxurious homes anymore.
So, that was when we developed this idea of building terrace houses which are cheaper, affordable and less expensive for people to buy. And when you watch the population of the country and you watch the distribution of wealth, you would see that the people in the average class are more than the people that can afford luxury. So the market was huge in that average class. So when we switched to affordable terraces was the turning point for the company.
At 50, you are still looking very young, what could be the secret?
The secret of looking young and healthy is just to make sure you do all things with modesty. Always be happy with yourself and be happy with the people around you. Don’t be envious of your friends, relations and more importantly eat healthily and do a bit of exercise. Make sure you take good care of your body. Go for your regular medical checkups and be at peace with yourself.