Shina Peller, is popular as the king of nightlife. In this interview with our reporter, he talks on misgivings about him, his businesses, passion and politics.
You are synonymous with Quilox, but there is also the Aquila Group. Can you tell us about it?
The Aquila Group is a group of company that has interests in building and construction via Aquila Building and Projects and Aquila Global Resources Limited. We also have interest in the oil and gas industry via Aquila Oil and Gas, as well as entertainment through Quilox, our six restaurants and Aquila Records.
Your oil and gas business is not really popular, is it?
We deal in the downstream sector, although we are in the process of restructuring to focus on procurement in the mainstream and upstream sector of oil and gas.
How long have you been into building and construction?
It is something that we have been doing before now. We have been doing loads of private projects and we do some government projects as well. We have also put some of our recently completed properties on the market. The properties are around Agungi area of Lekki in Lagos State.
As a businessman, tell us about the wrong business decisions you have taken.
Decision-making is very key in business and for me to have achieved what I have achieved so far; I want to say that I must have taken the right decisions. Life is full of ups and downs, and for every situation you find yourself, it could have been worse.
Tourism is a major focus of the Lagos State Government, how can nightlife contribute to the industry?
The nightlife industry is actually adding so much into the tourism sector in Nigeria. I know that we record more influx in the club during the December period when you have people travelling into Nigeria from every part of the world. So, all the government needs to do is give us their support via steady power supply, which is an important factor that is affecting the business. At the same time, if they can streamline all the taxes because there are several of them; we have VAT, we have consumption tax, there is liquor tax, and you have another saying merriment. There are so much taxes coming from here and there.
You were into several partnerships before opening your own nightclub, what motivated it?
I started Quilox because of my passion for nightlife. I like to go out a lot, and Quilox was just like a joke when we started it. I remember telling some people that “why we don’t just start our own nightclub?” I remember this whole thing started with a partnership at a club called Grotto and the partnership went sour along the line and I just decided that why don’t I just build my own club?
You haven’t really talked about what ended the Grotto partnership, what really happened?
Like I just said, it was a partnership that went sour and Aquila Building and Projects came together to build Quilox, our own nightclub, when the partnership went sour.
Your club is considered the best club in Nigeria, how did you achieve the feat?
When the partnership with Grotto ended, I took to my computer to find out about nightclubs. At times, I would sit till 3am researching about clubs. At a time, I ‘googled’ the best 10 nightclubs in the world, picked my passport and decided to go and see what they were doing.
You don’t like talking about the worth of Quilox, but what was your budget when you started it?
We had a budget of N40 million. The initial plan was just to get a place in Lekki, knockdown a few walls, get the sounds, do some sort of renovation, but by the time I started thinking about nightclubs and because I like to get the best out of what I do, the whole dream just started getting bigger and wider. By the time I travelled abroad, I went to live in Miami, filmed in Vegas; I went to VIP rooms in Paris and even as far as even Macau. By the time I got back to Nigeria, my perception about nightclubs had changed.
A changed perception must have meant a bigger budget, yes?
Of course, I started having issues with my financial advisers. They thought that I was going crazy with the kind of idea of what I wanted to build. I based my point on the fact that anywhere you go in the world, be it London or Dubai, you will always find Nigerians having fun there. I was also motivated by the fact that there was no purposely-built world-class standard nightclub in Nigeria. So, I saw the opportunity for me to take that risk. I knew that it was something that was going to work, but a lot of people were against it. In all of the things I do in life, I like to focus on the positive thoughts than the negative ones.
Tell us about the funding for Quilox, where did it come from, was it a loan?
Recall I told you that we have a group of companies. The oil and gas company paid for it a lot because at that time there was no bank and nobody believed in the project. Today, the financial adviser can see the light.
Nightclub businesses are also considered a host for other shady deals, do you agree?
It is only in this part of the world that they think like that. The nightclub business is actually a revenue generating business, which gives room for legitimate employment and the government to collect tax. I run my other businesses the same way I run Quilox. You can see that Quilox is the only nightclub that has a proper operational structure. In Quilox, every department is well arranged. In our cash department we have someone in charge of cash, we have someone for credit control, internal control and finance as well. I have a proper organisation chart that says who you report to. So, I have a proper working structure for Quilox just as I have for my other businesses. It is in Nigeria that people see nightclubs and say that this is an unserious business, but it is a business that is actually really serious. I have been attending nightclub conventions. There is actually a nightclub convention that comes up every year in Vegas. The first time I attended, I was actually the only Nigerian among twenty five thousand people and that was even before I started Quilox. It’s just a way people look at nightclubs, but I can say that Quilox has changed that perception about nightclubs in Nigeria. Today, you will see people after leaving school they bring their CV and say that they want to work in a nightclub.
What is the secret to your successes because you are into a lot and they seem to be succeeding?
I like to make the best of what I do.
You are into a lot of things among which is politics, how do you harness all these?
I am a very restless person, but I also surround myself with dynamic people. All these businesses have their own general managers who I exchange day to day communication with. I also get reports from these managers on Mondays. That is what I actually do on Mondays; I sit down and look at the report of the previous week from all of my companies.
A businessman turned politician, what motivated it?
I have embarked on several social projects over the years as an individual and through my foundation, but it is now clear to me that the only way I can impact the generality of people is if I am part of the policy making and implementation process. It is no longer possible to seat back and bask in comfort while so many are poor, downtrodden and less privileged.
Were you motivated by the need for younger people to get into politics?
I personally see the system changing from the norm. I believe this is the time for young people to play an active role in politics especially successful entrepreneurs and technocrats amongst us. It’s time to put round pegs in round holes.
What will feature majorly in your manifesto?
I will be actively involved in the political process. I will be involved in decisions that affect the people. I don’t want to be a hypocrite shouting from the sidelines. I want to encourage all the young people to get involved in the political process, to join a party; to run for office; support candidates with integrity; to do nothing is no longer an option.
What party do you belong to?
I am a member of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
A lot of well to do people have wasted their resources playing at politics, how do you hope to prevent this?
Life is easy if you have a clear vision, good intentions, and the passion to execute them. Life is like a business and the correlation between risk and reward is a core factor, but even the best forecasts sometimes go wrong. If things don’t go according to plan you simply re-strategise and move on. I am a religious person; my intentions are pure. So, if things don’t work according to plan I will accept it as the will of God.
What fond memories do you have of your late dad?
I grew up working with my father. He was a very loving and hardworking man. He taught us his children never to give up in life. I remember that during our holidays we used to help him during his magical tours. He was very restless as well.
Has your father’s pedigree rubbed off on your business?
When he didn’t have any paid shows, we go on tour ourselves and I do all the bookings. He tried to make the very best of everyday he lived. The name Peller is very popular and has opened doors and opportunities for me.
How is your foundation ‘Help The Blind and Handicapped’ doing?
There is a deep meaning in the name of the foundation. I believe that every man does not owe anybody anything in life. It is every man for himself. But you can’t say that to the physically challenged because he already lacks something and that is why I decided to make my philanthropy focused on the handicapped because I already have something that they lack. If we are both human and I have something that the other person doesn’t have, I believe that I owe that person who is lacking.
There is a perception that for you everything revolves around Quilox, is this true?
It is not true. I have been living my life even before Quilox and part of my hard work is what brought about Quilox. A lot of people just see me and say because he is a nightclub owner; he is a person, who likes to party every day. But I believe that there is more to that because Quilox doesn’t take twenty per cent of what I do, I do a lot of things outside Quilox. And that is why my close friends say I work forty-eight hours in twenty four hours. I work at night and still work in the day, but people erroneously see me as one unserious nightclub owner.