Thursday, 04 April 2024 04:33

Interview: I rejected FG employment offer, became Lagos taxi driver, and eventually an advert guru - Segun Adewale

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Excerpts from a conversation with The Group Managing Director of IMC Holdings Limited in Ikeja, Lagos, Segun Adewale, as he turns 62 today April 4, 2024. A Fellow of the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) bares his mind on the journey to becoming a successful Advertising Practitioner, his foray into politics and more.


Happy 62nd birthday, OSA! Interestingly, you‘re known and referred to as “OSA” everywhere you go. How did you come about that alias?

Thank you so much. OSA is an acronym for Omooba Segun Adewale. I am from a royal family in Yewa South Local Government of Ogun State. So it simply means the Yoruba adaptation of the English way of saying Prince Segun Adewale. But the alias didn’t just emerge like that. The role of strategy and creativity in making sure that that acronyms become what it is today in various household in Ogun state cannot be over-emphasized. You know being an Advertising practitioner, communication is key. Strategy is key, and with creativity, you can achieve anything you want and even surpass it. So, it is the strategy plus creativity that made it possible to link the real local or traditional meaning of OSA, which is salt to my person for its acceptability amongst the political class in Ogun State. Salt is a valuable household item. It took serious brainstorming and strategy sessions for us to come up with that. So, everything is about strategy and creativity, be it personal life, in an organisation or government. We must give priority to strategy, creativity and strategic communications.


Let’s talk about your career in Advertising and Communications. You are a Fellow of the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON). Kindly tell us how you got to that height as a professional?

(Sigh…) To God be the glory! I say that because I know it is only God that determines what the destiny path of any human being will be in life. I must say that I am very grateful to God for planting my feet in the advertising industry because I am very proud of what I have gone through so far in the industry: the challenges, successes and innovations. The Nigeria advertising industry keeps evolving, and having practiced for about 35 years, I can say that I have been part of the good, the bad and the ugly of the industry.

I started advertising practice with BTAS communications Ltd in 1990, and thereafter (two years after) joined STB & Associates, which later became STB-McCann, Lagos. I was there for nine years and became the Group Head in the Client Service Department. You should understand those period I am talking about, the days when Advertising agencies were fewer but very creative and competitive. There are proliferations of advertising and marketing communications agencies all around now compared to those days.

Also, I have had the privilege of working with veterans like the Chairman of STB Group, Steve Omojafor and the late Nike Alabi at STB-McCann, also Chairman of Centerspread & DKK group, Kola Ayanwale; the Group Managing Director of Bates Cose Group, Yomi Onabolu; and several others too numerous to mention.

I recall that in the 90s, I happened to be one of the few agency staff with knowledge and skill in computer, and on several occasions, I became a sought-after staff during strategy sessions and top management meetings and briefing, as well as when the use of computer system was needed to deliver agency tasks.

But to answer your question, it wasn’t just easy getting this far in the advertising industry. Infact, before I got into advertising practice, I worked as a Taxi driver – known locally then as “Kabu-Kabu driver”. After my service year, I left Ibadan (where my parents resided) for Lagos. My childhood friend, who had earlier settled in Lagos accommodated me in his one-room apartment at Oke-Odo area of Alimosho Local Government. That was where I started driving Kabu Kabu. It was during my hustle as a cab driver that fortune smiled on me when I picked a passenger that would later linked me up with the first advertising agency that interviewed & employed me.


So, would you say that the current unemployment and under-employment problem graduates face in the country is not a new thing?

No no no, it wasn’t the same. The abysmal unemployment situation we are having now which has invariably  brought new lexicon to our local vocabulary in the African continent like ‘Japa’; an unpleasant situation where our youths gather millions of naira to relocate abroad to look for job opportunities didn’t exist that time. The fact that I worked as a taxi driver then doesn’t mean that unemployment was high. I did that in the process of waiting for when the opportunity would come to get my first break in advertising practice, because I was so sure that advertising was what I wanted to do - being a creative person right from childhood. Infact, let me tell you this, as at the time I was leaving the NYSC in Niger State in 1990, I was a recipient of the NYSC President’s Honour Award. The event took place at the prestigious Abuja Sheraton Hotel and Towers. I got a Federal cheque of N20,000, a gold medal  and certificate as well as automatic employment in the Federal Civil Service from the then Head of State, President Ibrahim Babangida. This was in recognition of several self-help and community programmes I initiated and implemented as a Corps member. People persuaded me to take the automatic employment offer but I rejected it basically because I did not see myself pursuing that career path.


How did you come about establishing your Advertising agency, 24-7 Communications Ltd., and the rationale behind the name itself?

I would say it’s all about determination and focus. You see from late 1990s when I was an Account Director at BatesCosse and later Group Account Director at Centrespread Advertising down to the beginning of the 2000s, and the journey back to democracy in the fourth republic in Nigeria, we had government policies having direct impact on the economy and infrastructural development, then advertising took the center stage as brands and multi-national companies engaged agencies to achieve set business and communication objectives. I then had the opportunity of working with several notable brands. I was part of the launch of Globacom into the Nigeria’stelecommunications landscape. I was also part of Globacom’s sponsorship of the All African Games hosted by Nigeria in 2003. The Globacom brand recorded exceptional visibility and 100% brand awareness and recall both within Nigeria and throughout West Africa. I also worked on Vodacom, the biggest telecoms company then in Africa. After Vodacom left, I led another telecommunications brand called Vmobile, and was responsible for developing the iconic “It’s all about you” Vmobile campaign which was met with both national acclaim and the accompanying brand success.

It was after being fulfilled - achieving those feats as an employee that I was inspired to established a young and dynamic advertising agency, 24-7 Communications Limited in June 2004. Our mission and vision then was simply to offer well thought-through creative and communication solutions for brands and organization within a twinkle of an eye and limited time frame. That was why we came about the name 24-7. The company has however grown from a single entity in 2004 to a group of companies including an Out-of-Home agency, a media planning & buying agency, an experiential marketing agency, a digital marketing agency and investments into solar energy company and travel & tourism company.


At what point did you consider joining partisan politics in Nigeria?

My political journey started at around 2010 though I had been involved since 1993. I would ascribe my involvement in politics to God’s direction, and my late mentor, the former Chairman of IGI insurance, Remi Olowude. I missed him a lot and will forever do. He saw great potential in me, and introduced me to politics (story for another day). He was very instrumental to my Advertising business expansion and existence in African countries like Ghana, Rwanda and Uganda. So, having being fullfiled as an Advertising practitioner, the quest to inpact the lives of people aside what I was doing with proceeds from advertising led me to going into politics. So, the reason for joining politics is to continue to positively impact the lives of people of Ogun State but most importantly Ogun west region where I come from. Before I declared for Senatorial and Governorship seats in Ogun State, I had, for many years between, 2005-2010 championed the empowerment and uplifting of the youths from Yewa-Awori in Ogun West Senatorial District. I established a Yewa-Awori Engagement Strategic Initiative – YES INITIATIVE.  The focus of Yes Initiative was borne out of the necessity to position young, talented and able-men - Yewa Awori indigenes for opportunities while also helping in achieving their set goals. Besides, we implemented strategic empowerment programme at improving the state of health of our people by providing free medical checkup and drugs during medical outreaches in the five local government areas of the zone.


Can you recall the outcomes and lives affected by these initiatives since joining politics …?

There are countless testimonies of the YES Initiative and OSA Foundation that I don’t even remember until sometimes when beneficiaries and, at times associates whom my support initiatives impacted their lives come out to share them, including from those I engaged in the management of those programmes began to tell those testimonies. I recall when I was building my house in Ilaro around 2006, many of our people in town said it was the first modern house to be built in Ilaro then. But where I am going is when I wanted to roof the building, and the roofing technician that I gave it to from Lagos came to the site. There was a young man in Ilaro who came to me asking to be involved in the roofing, and I directed the technician from Lagos to include the young man in his team - which he did. As soon as the project was completed, the young man never stayed in Ilaro anymore as he was absorbed by the technician from Lagos and has been on his own travelling around Nigeria doing the business of roof building. Whenever I call him anytime I needed to hear from him regarding his area of expertise, he's always busy travelling from one part of the country to another roofing buildings. I also recall I was at a gathering where one of the managers of my empowerment programmes told me about a music entertainer in Ilaro who was introduced to me and that I assisted and who has become a star in the country. There was a day my people went out to deliver a message in my name at a community in Oko Baba area of Ilobi-Erinja in Yewa South local government of Ogun State, and one of the community members, I was later told, spoke glowingly about me; recounting how I had intervened in a community project by assisting them with funds and bulldozer to work on their bad road. Many of those interventions I couldn’t remember until people around me share them. But the one I mostly relate to is when I move around the Ogun west zone and I see people still wearing the OSA foundation T-shirts, fez caps and gift items while chanting my alias, testifying about how our medical outreaches impacted their health and life. When I see these, then I do have a sense of fulfillment that I have indeed made impact in the lives of our people. You don’t have to wait till you have political appointment or in elective positions before impacting lives.


What do you say about the Politics of Ogun State in relation to the quest for your senatorial district to produce the next Governor.

My experience about the politics of Ogun State and the agitation for a Yewa Governor is very wide. I happens to rank as a key stakeholder who committed resources, time and all that I have in pushing for the Yewa agenda. I am not just talking about being on the ballot as a governorship candidate from Yewa because a political party must present you as its candidate. I mean when it comes to being deliberate in my decisions to risk a lot of things and jettison several great personal opportunities for the sake of the human and zonal development of Ogun west, I am the man to beat. The commitment and sacrifices are such yielded more insights and revelations about the agitation for the Yewa for governor agenda. Therefore, since 2011 that we lost that opportunity due to internal crisis and deliberate gang-up of some people. The journey to attaining that position as a zone subsequently appeared to me as rather far, and at other times very short depending on the circumstances surrounding the movement at every point in time. But I can tell you that as a major stakeholder in the Yewa for Governor, and based on my experience, there are three clear things that need to be done for us to clinch that seat amidst our challenges that a lot of people from the region still don’t know about. It is not by omission or mistake that when the Late Buruji Kashamu was to pass-on two years ago, he did call some people asking for forgiveness for what he did to them and all that. He called me, I was surprised when I saw his call. I never knew he was going to die. I think I should just stop here for now.


On the last note sir, how do you fine time to relax and enjoy yourself?

I am a socialite and I always find time to recreate by going to social clubs anywhere I find myself. I am a member of the premier club in Nigeria, The Island Club, Ikoyi Club 1938, a member of Abeokuta Sports Club, Yewa Metro Club Ilaro. I am also the publicity secretary of Egbe Omo Ogun Rere (EOOR) in Ogun State. I also find time to engage in church activities, I am the current vice president of Egbe Itesiwaju Society of Cathedral Church of Christ Ilaro.


How do you intend to celebrate this 62nd birthday?

Well, in showing appreciation to God for life, I intend to  reach out to the less-privileged. Those at the orphanage homes in the locality. It is what my immediate family used to do. Whenever my children are having their birthdays, it has always been the family culture and trend to package foods and gift items to the orphanage homes and celebrate life with them. So, I am doing same thing this year, while praying that the Almighty God continues to be gracious to me in order to continue to impact lives.


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