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People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse - Business - Nairaland

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People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by millhouse: 7:21am On Sep 11
The founder of the popular resort, Whispering Palms, Professor Olufemi Pearse, speaks about its beginning, and the country’s arts and hospitality industry in this interview.

IT’S a cool Sunday afternoon and the founder of Whispering Palms, a scenic resort in Badagry, Lagos State, Professor Olufemi Pearse, is in good spirits.

The 85-year-old retired Professor of Medicine has just had a drink with the American Ambassador, who, on returning from a visit to the Akran of Badagry, had espied the resort’s jetty and stopped by to see what was happening.

“Se e ri oko ti man yen gbe wa,” meaning did you see the boat the Ambassador brought? He asks the artist Nathaniel Hodonu and I in Yoruba but we tell him no.

“O solid (It’s solid). I told him I would be willing to buy it whenever they want to dispose it and he was a bit surprised. He has taken my contacts though,” he continues as he leads us to the newly added games section of the resort to start our chat.

Dressed in a faded beach shirt, brown trouser, boots and fez cap, Professor Pearse’s nondescript appearance would make you take him for an old hired help instead of the visioner of the resort conceived 36 years ago but which opened its doors to guests a decade later.

Witty and quick to poke fun at himself, he’s delighted that the objectives of the resort have been realised, especially since people didn’t think he would succeed.

“Our vision has been well realised. We are happy that we are making Nigerians happy. This is a beautiful country, but we don’t seem to know it. We are showing Nigerians that it’s a beautiful country. When we came here in 1981, people said the man must be crazy. He’s a professor; he has read too many books, he doesn’t know how to spend money. He’s wasting money in this bush but now they say something different. It’s a matter of mission fulfilled for us.”

Back then, academics were not known to be wealthy, so how did he acquire the resort’s expansive land?

“In 1980, I won election to be the Provost of the College of Medicine, University of Lagos and the university had trouble with their vice chancellor, [Professor Babatunde] Adadevoh, who was removed; the deputy vice-chancellor was removed, the Registrar was removed by government and six other professors were removed. According to the statute of the University of Lagos, in the absence of the vice chancellor or the deputy vice chancellor, the provost of the College of Medicine is next to govern the university.

“So I was to have three positions; acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos; Provost, College of Medicine and Chief Medical Director, Lagos University Teaching Hospital. Now, that would be three jobs for one pay so I told my wife one night, iku ti de, death has come. We must have a retreat or else we will die on these three jobs. In January 1981, I started looking for land. I decided to work very hard from Mondays to Fridays; Saturdays and Sundays were free days to look for the retreat because I made up my mind that I would not die on the three jobs. That was how this place started. We are very happy; what gives us fulfilment is that we can make Nigerians happy. Many people don’t realise that the very essence of governance is to make the people happy.”

Funding the billion naira project, expectedly, was not a piece of cake as he reveals: “We sold our houses in Lagos in order to build this place; we sold our houses and land in Agbara in order to concentrate on this place. I told my wife, there’s no point having too many houses in Lagos or Agbara. Let’s put everything in one place so that we can supervise it. We used to live at Agbara but we sold the house for N24 million because I told her going back to Agbara at night is risky. I said let’s sell the house, put the money into this place. That’s what we did to survive and of course we had some stocks which we also used to finance this place but even then the finance was not enough.”

From that humble root, Whispering Palms has since become a popular get-away for couples on honeymoon, pre-wedding photo shoots, companies and organisations who appreciate quality.

Professor Pearse, whose father was also a medical doctor, laughs heartily when asked if there’s a masterplan for the resort.

“When you don’t have too much money, you can’t have a masterplan. Government can have masterplan but here everything depends on what is in your pocket,” he says still laughing. “Master plan can be developed when you have big capital or maybe you have stolen big government money and you want to do something huge. But when you are doing something for pleasure, it’s a day-by-day event. We thank God that our ideas have come out as if we had a big master plan. We had no master plan; all we wanted was something for the family and ourselves. Later, we changed and decided to open it up to the people because it was getting more expensive to maintain even that time. But we have no regrets in the sense that we’ve opened it up to people to enjoy themselves. To keep Nigerians happy is our mission and we are happy we have fulfilled that mission.”

Though there are palms around the get-away, they are neither whispering nor talking. So why did he chose to name it Whispering Palms?

He explains that it’s the name of a resort he and his family stayed when they went on a trip to Kenya and the Copper Belt. Though his children wanted North America and Europe, they were eventually very happy with the choice of Africa after the trip.

“We went to Kenya, Mombasa. There was the Indian Ocean and we stayed at Whispering Palms for three or four nights; it was a German resort. We went to Maasai Mara to see the animals, to Zimbabwe to see Zambezi Falls and the artificial lake; we also went to the area known as the Copper Belt. We returned to Nigeria and I was happy that I had a good time. My children, who were previously abusing me for not taking them to North America and Europe, started praising me that it was the best trip of their lives. I told them that Africa is beautiful; it’s just that we have bush men, bush politicians running Africa; that’s why everything is upside down.”

Back in June when we had our chat, Nigeria had not officially exited recession and the doctor, whose mother was a teacher, youth leader and politician discloses that the resort, like the wider hospitality industry, is also feeling its effects.

“All the big companies making profit don’t come regularly anymore because they want to save money. Previously, we used to have a lot of companies here. At least once a month we had a big company having retreats .Now you don’t see that anymore because the country is dry; dry in every way,” he says.

Apart from the beautiful structures and games at Whispering Palms, there are also several artworks, a museum, mini zoo, and an exhibition space for Hodonu, underscoring Prof Pearse’s love of the arts. Though his interest in the arts is innate, it’s also acquired as he explains: “You are doing a hard job in the university, a thinking job and one of the ways to relax is to appreciate the arts. Then, my wife used to be Human Resources Manager of Gulf Oil and Chevron. Whenever expatriates were going home, on retirement, leave or secondment, she would have to organise presents for them; Benin bronzes and things like that. That helped us to acquire a lot of artworks and appreciate them too.”

Having invested a significant amount of his life in hospitality and the arts, it’s not surprising that Professor Pearse’s wants more for the sector and the country.

“Nigeria has a lot of beautiful facilities but before we can do much, we need to develop domestic tourism. If foreigners know you are happy in your country, foreigners will like to share in that happiness. If we do not succeed with domestic tourism, we won’t succeed with international tourism,” he warns as the interview ends.
http://www.tribuneonlineng.com/people-called-crazy-i-started-whispering-palms-prof-pearse/

6 Likes

Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by Mikee7(m): 8:04am On Sep 11
Its wonderful how he still remembered God in all this, but Chai, 3 jobs and they will still give him same cheque, some Nigerians are wicked oh

1 Like

Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by modelmike7(m): 8:04am On Sep 11
Presently, That is one of the most Lovely, serene, beautiful, sight in Lagos.
It's so close to nature.
Never give up your dreams, no matter what people say to discourage you!

11 Likes

Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by Rayhandrinni(m): 8:05am On Sep 11
08:05

Reading this on a toilet seat

I'm not working today, I'm off

some barnies up the pecking order

but hey, I can't get too twichy now...there's the sudden rainfall to worry about.

7 Likes

Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by babyfaceafrica: 8:05am On Sep 11
Nice place to be..very serene

1 Like

Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by Ilefoaye(m): 8:06am On Sep 11
k
Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by rozayx5(m): 8:06am On Sep 11
Pix please



Poor report

4 Likes 1 Share

Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by Desdola(m): 8:06am On Sep 11
Nice one indeed
Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by King4Roller: 8:07am On Sep 11
Na only you sabi say palm dey whisper
Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by Nackzy: 8:07am On Sep 11
Always be an inventor...and don't remain a consumer and patronizer

1 Like 1 Share

Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by SillyeRabbit: 8:07am On Sep 11
And no single picture ?

14 Likes

Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by beaversticks(m): 8:07am On Sep 11
excursion way back 2003

2 Likes

Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by seXytOhbAd(m): 8:07am On Sep 11
So sad that Nigeria has lost a lot of visionaries like the prof due to corruption. Bring 1million to receive certificate of tourist attraction smh
Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by yomalex(m): 8:08am On Sep 11
nice
Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by Nbote(m): 8:09am On Sep 11
OP u for include pix na Atleast for those of us outside lagos.. Or U don't remember Pics or Adonbilivit..

4 Likes

Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by tokrizy(m): 8:09am On Sep 11
whispering palms to is not far from my fadaz houz so if ona want pics I go jst go dere dis afternoon snap cum share with ona

4 Likes

Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by gracein: 8:09am On Sep 11
happy birthday to me. my likes please

10 Likes

Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by blackbelt(m): 8:10am On Sep 11
The place is fine but the epistle is too lengthy abeg.....
Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by charleff512(m): 8:10am On Sep 11
XiE
Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by free2ryhme: 8:10am On Sep 11
Anyone that starts something without resorting to popular opinion or approval is never normal

It shows your don't need popular to be successful
Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by Raintaker(m): 8:11am On Sep 11
no pics?
Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by Olalan(m): 8:11am On Sep 11
A beautiful place for a weekend relaxation from the stress of lasos
Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by badaoyeyemi(f): 8:12am On Sep 11
.
Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by Rapture4real(m): 8:13am On Sep 11
That's great.More grace
Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by 9japrof(m): 8:13am On Sep 11
grin
Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by Jacksparr0w1207(m): 8:14am On Sep 11
I didn't read. Too long
Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by chanx: 8:14am On Sep 11
Nice place to spend time.
Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by bolseas(f): 8:15am On Sep 11
Nice.
Pictures speak louder than voice/writeup
Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by Chukazu: 8:15am On Sep 11
not a single pictureundecided
Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by geekybabe(f): 8:16am On Sep 11
Really.?
Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by vislabraye(m): 8:18am On Sep 11
tokrizy:
whispering palms to is not far from my fadaz houz so if ona want pics I go jst go dere dis afternoon snap cum share with ona

hmm... does it still exist ?

1 Like

Re: People Called Me Crazy When I Started Whispering Palms —prof Pearse by Throwback: 8:21am On Sep 11
Rayhandrinni:
08:05

Reading this on a toilet seat

I'm not working today, I'm off

some barnies up the pecking order

but hey, I can't get too twichy now...there's the sudden rainfall to worry about.


I'm a fellow toilet seat spectator of morning news.


#flushingmytoilet.

2 Likes

(0) (1) (Reply)

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