Ragaray is the best hotel in Ogbomoso ― Ayinla, Chairman, Ragary Exec Suites

Abdulrasheed Ayinla, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ragaray Executive Suites, Ogbomoso, Oyo State

Mr. Abdulrasheed Ayinla is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ragaray Executive Suites, Ogbomoso, Oyo State. In this interactive session with FLORENCE OLOGBODI, ALFRED ADETUNJI, and ANTHONY NEWTON. He speaks on why he considers his hotel the best in Ogbomosoland.

Kindly let us into your background.

I am an indigene of Ogbomoso, born in Ghana, of Ogbomoso parents. I had to come to Nigeria to contribute my quota to the development of my country.

(Cut in) Was the decision to contribute your quota to the development of your father the sole reason for your relocation to Nigeria?

Not quite. This is a long story, I attended secondary school in Ghana. When I participated in that year’s GCE, I didn’t perform well enough. Unfortunately, it was the time the Ghanaian government asked all non-Ghanaians to leave the country, that was 1969. So my parents left, and because I didn’t do well in the examination, they felt there was no point bringing me along, even though I am the firstborn.

So they came with my other siblings. I went back to school. I took it upon myself, as a challenge, to retake the GCE and even went further to take the ‘A’ Levels exam as a private candidate. So when the result came out in 1975, I did very well, BBCB, in one sitting. That was when my dad said rather than studying in Ghana, I should return to Nigeria and attend university here.

Ragaray Executive Suites 4

That was how I gained admission into the University of Lagos in 1975 and finished in 1978, went for my youth service and worked with UTC Nigeria Ltd, and retired thereafter. During my stay in UTC, I moved from one department to another, that was how I got ideas about engineering, personnel, finance, and so many functional areas. And that now brought about the issue of this hotel. Initially, it was not a hotel. When Ladoke Akintola University was established some years back, and quite a number of people were interested in building hostels for the students. So Ragaray Executive Suites was meant as a hostel for students. But before I started, I decided to go round and see how the hostels were managed. And what I observed was very disappointing. You know for students, they will pay for the first year and at the end of the year, they won’t pay again. So I told my dad I was going to convert it into a standard hotel. So, I started breaking the walls into a standard hotel and by His grace, Ragaray Executive Suites today stand out as the best hotel in Ogbomoso.

You talked about the reasons why you came into the hospitality industry. But rather than the hospitality industry, you could have chosen to establish an industry or invested your money elsewhere.

Of course, before even coming into this area, I had a petrol station I was running in Lagos, and you know each business has its own peculiarities. But I observed that the hotel business was not been run very well. You know if you go to a hotel, you will want service, you want satisfaction, you want service delivery. Right from the front office, you want to see human beings (permit the use of that expression). Because once you get into an environment and the reception is not good, then, of course, you get discouraged. Before I set up this place, I lodged in hotels in Ogbomoso and outside Ogbomoso, and even outside Lagos, and looking at the standard, I felt there was the need to have the highest quality in Ogbomoso which is what I have been able to do. Although we are not there yet, there are still many areas to work on but we are trying, it’s a work in progress.

You appear worth millions with what we saw here. Just how rich are you?

(Laugh). That’s not true. You know, one thing about life is that as human beings we waste a lot of money and that is a fact. When I was in UTC, I was a Senior Manager. And in the private sector, there are some motivational efforts carried out by the company to encourage the senior managers, which is akin to what is happening in the Houses of Assembly. Has anybody in the various Houses told you what he/she earns? They will give you an amount, They will give you an amount but what about the allowances. In the private sector, the higher you go, the higher your allowances. Those allowances are not taxable and they are as much as 20 times the basic salary. Some of my colleagues were just carrying girlfriends to the UK, to America, etc. But I didn’t do that. Instead of using that money in a lavish manner, I invested in those allowances. And that is why till today and to the glory of God, as big as this structure is, I am not indebted to any bank in Nigeria or outside Nigeria.

Yes, you could say one is a millionaire because of the assets. It took me 17 years to build this place, and I have run it now for 5 years. So this building is about 22 to 23 years old, and it is still strong. We didn’t have an engineer. My dad and I built this right from the foundation. So calling me a millionaire, is in the mind. But the main emphasis was “do I want to give back to society or do I want to provide job opportunities for people”?

Yes, there are times when I look back and I see about 25 staff members, I feel fulfilled. That at least in Ogbomoso I have been able to gather people together that are earning salaries from me and making progress in their various family setup. So, I wouldn’t say I am a super millionaire, it is all in the mind actually.

COVID-19 came in late 2019 and throughout last year, the hospitality sector felt the hardest hit. How did you cope? Did you have to lay off some staff members?

I didn’t actually retrench because the volume of business came down. But then it didn’t come down too badly because even with the restrictions imposed by the government people still moved around, people travelled. But it now became a matter of which hotel is more secure for me, health-wise, prevention-wise. You can see at the entrance there, we have a hand-wash basin, there are hand sanitizers everywhere on the premises, even till date. We complied with the rules of COVID-19. We have about 35 rooms and that is not too much for a town like Ogbomoso to accommodate dignitaries who for one reason or the other will have the opportunity of travelling.

So I did not retrench and of course, retrenching means pushing them back into the labour market, and having to start all over again. We still managed, we paid half salary for only one month and thereafter we came back to our normal schedule and since then we have been good.

Has there been any form of assistance from either state or federal governments to cushion the effect of the pandemic?

Unfortunately, we didn’t receive anything from the government. What the Oyo state government said then was that they are giving us a rebate on what we ought to pay as tax. It amounted to nothing in the actual sense. That was for last year, 2020. And this year, they brought figures even higher than what they said before.

So, it’s unfortunate, the support has not been as much as one expects because hospitality industry is very key. I mean, let’s look at it. As we sit here, power supply was interrupted a number of times. We spend a lot of money on energy. We don’t have water supply either. I have to bring water five hundred meters away from here. We are not getting the needed support from government, and it is quite unfortunate. All I can do is wish them well because when they leave service they are coming to meet us in the industry and they will see how it is. There are some economies that gave complete tax holiday in the US and UK. Of course, we may not compare ourselves but we are growing.

So where do you see your brand in the next five to ten years? Any plan to expand outside Ogbomoso?

My belief in life is that whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well. A lot of people have been saying that with what you have, why don’t you go to other states including Lagos and Abuja. But, like I said earlier, we are not perfect yet. It would have been my wish to have branches, but as I talk to you now, in about two months, I am going to be 70 years old, and I don’t think I have the energy to set them up. If my children – unfortunately it appears they are not interested – want to do the expansion, yes they could. But as much as possible, we will make sure that this brand remain the brand to beat in Ogbomoso, because anytime you come in here, you will definitely see something new. The chairs that we are sitting on today was not here about a year ago. If you get into our rooms, you will observe differences. Ditto for the environment. I am somebody who loves nature, You can imagine what some people say about the decision to plant grasses. I will like to take you around the premises. For instance, I have rabbits, turkey, guineafowl, and I also intend to have some peacocks so that guests can see them when they come in and to assist those who love nature to have things that they can remember the place for. A lot of our children read in books about turkey, peacocks, but they have never seen them physically.

You want this facility to be close to nature as much as possible.


You earlier said this is the best of such facility in Ogbomoso. What are you doing to remain at the top?

You see, cleanliness is one, we don’t compromise it at all. And we also constantly maintain the facility, if any thing goes bad, we change it immediately. And most importantly, it Is the leadership ability. I set very good examples. If you go to some hotels, either in Ogbomoso or outside, you will find bad boys around. And this is a university environment where you would have expected on arrival here to see students loitering all over the place. I don’t allow such here. So anybody that comes into Ogbomoso and desire a serene environment, without disturbance to stay usually select this place. There was even a time I was advised to do a night club because of the available space, I want it to be an exclusive place for reputable people. If you want to go for night club anywhere, you are free. After your clubbing, you are free to stay here.

Going by the huge number of people going to the hospitality business, it appears a lucrative endeavour.

Just like the petrol station issue, once they see somebody in a particular business, people will jump at it. But it goes beyond that. You must have passion and love for what you want to do. I told you when I was in UTC, I was in many departments. I had exposure in so many areas while there. So if you don’t have passion for what you want to do, you cannot manage it well. Another thing is that hotel is not an investment that you reap immediately, it is a long-term investment and within the long-term period, there are challenges which you will continue to face. Of course, if you do it well, you will earn money, you will earn fulfillment. But it is not a money doubling business where you will put in 100 million and get 200 milion. No! I have not, at the moment, earn what I have put in because most of the time whatever I earn is ploughed back into the business, and that is the secret. And since we started running this place, about six years ago, I have never owe my staff, I pay them before the end of the month because if you don’t pay them, you are encouraging them to steal.

ALSO READ: https://rulersworld.com/day-of-honour-for-awrab-suites-boss-adekunle-ajeigbe-wives/