Tall With Giants!’
By Yomi Badejo-Okusanya (YBO)
From my early secondary school days, I have had a problem with my height. Ending up at 5 ft 8-9 inches, I have always wanted to be much taller for a myriad of good reasons.
My rather diminutive stature in my formative years made me a soft target for several real and aspiring bullies. I often had to struggle for more ‘respect’ from peers and strangers. Now the most painful one was that some taller ladies I then admired, were understandably out of my reach. It did not help that my younger brother, Buky quickly outshot me despite the incredible amount of beans I ate to stave off the inevitable.
As time went on, I learnt to live with my shortcoming, (no pun intended). I became conscious of my other giftings which I deployed as a coping mechanism. I learnt to talk my way into and out of sticky situations which I combined with some effective presence building. But on the night of Friday February 18, 2022, the story changed.
It all started with a notice I received from a long-standing professional friend of mine John Ajayi, the Publisher of Nigeria’s leading marketing communication magazine, Marketing Edge. Now the background to this was an earlier event I had attended, organized by the same publication at which I felt rather slighted and I voiced my feelings to my friend. So, I was rather reluctant to attend another event from the same stable. However, drawing on my years of relationship with John, I called him and after a few exchanges, I decided to attend. Boy, was I glad I did!
Uncharacteristically of me, I arrived late to the event held at the Radisson Hotel, Ikeja GRA due to a preceding commitment. The hall was packed to the rafters and I was immediately struck by the calibre of industry giants that were already seated. Dr Biodun Shobanjo, Sir Steve Omojafor, Bale Jimmy Awosika, Mr. Udeme Ufot, Mrs. Iquo Ukoh, Alhaji Garba Bello Kankarofi, Mrs Bunmi Oke and upcoming giants like Steve Babaeko, Tunji Adeyinka, Femi Adelusi etc. Alongside these giants and aspiring giants, I was to be inducted into what will arguably be the benchmark of professionalism in the Nigerian marketing communication sector, the Marketing Edge Hall of Fame! How on earth did I get here? Am I sure there had been no mistake?
It only seemed like yesterday in 1989 when I resumed work as a scrawny looking Client Service Executive in CT & A set for tutelage under ‘my oga for life’ Cornelius Olanrewaju Tay. Even though I had long wanted to be a public relations practitioner, the absence of full-service public relations firms then, made advertising the apt place to cut my teeth in the sector.
Our office was on Ibezim Obiajulu Street in Surulere a suburb of Lagos that seemed to house most creative houses in those days. We passionately followed the movement of accounts, which and what pitches were called. We knew by name if not by face, all the marketing, corporate affairs and public relations directors & managers whose budgets and activities determined the survival of our agencies.
Something that was not short in supply were the myths that surrounded the giants in the industry. Chief among these were those of Dr. Biodun Shobanjo. He was reputed to be a shrewd and hard-nosed business man with some extraordinary if not supernatural powers. Coming up against Insight Communication in a pitch was something to be dreaded as he drove his team very hard and failure was not an option.
Often, we were regaled with the legendary extent he would go to secure an account. One in particular was how intent he was on meeting a potential client that he left a standing instruction at the British Airways ticketing office that next time the potential client was to fly abroad; he, Dr Shobanjo must be allocated the very next seat in the business or first-class section of the aircraft irrespective of the cost. The story goes further that he eventually did fly with the client, secured the business on the outward trip and immediately took the very next flight back from Heathrow Airport to Lagos! Many years later having come close to Dr. Shobanjo (we actually share a birthday) and read his memoir, ‘Dare To Win’, I am able to seperate many truths from falsehoods.
Another myth of the period was how the Coca-Cola account moved from Grant Advertising to the then nascent STB and the role played by Mrs Nike Alabi, who coincidentally is turning 80 this week. Grapevine had it then that the account was moving but where exactly it was heading was the million-dollar question. Any agency would have given a right arm to secure it only for STB to clinch it. The irony was that STB which came out of the Rosabel stable was then at its very infancy giving rise to its then corporate ad which talked about it ‘running even before learning to crawl’. At the centre of it all was another giant ‘Omo Jesu’, Sir Steve Bamidele Omojafor.
Time and space will not allow me to write about the exploits of the likes of Uncle Dele Adetiba, Mr Chris Dohudje, Chief Olu Falomo, Chief Akin Odunsi, Mr. Tunde Adelaja, Chief Kehinde Adeosun, Mr. Ted Mukoro, Chiefs Femi Adeniyi-Williams & Tola Olujobi of OBM fame (now that was a legendary boardroom fight!). Or even Mr. Billy Kolawole Lawson and the irrepressible Mrs. Bola Thomas whose agency LTC-JWT were responsible for the iconic Satzenbrau beer launch in Nigeria.
It was alongside a select few of these living giants that John Ajayi and his team thankfully chose to honour me by inducting me into the Marketing Edge Hall of Fame which was holding for the very first time in the history of the publishing group. I have received several awards in the past year, this being my third induction into Halls of Fame. But somehow, this felt different.
As I stood there with my citation being read, a flood of emotions almost overwhelmed me. I am grateful to the Lord Almighty for His great love, care and guidance. I am grateful to my wife Oyinkansola and our son Olaoluwakiitan for their immeasurable support, my parents (Late) Chief Emmanuel Badejo-Okusanya, especially my mother (Late) Olasumbo Amoke Olanrewaju Badejo-Okusanya, my siblings, my parents in law (Late) Prof Folabi & Mrs Folashade Olumide, my siblings in law, my pastor, Olufemi Paul, my church, my professional colleagues, especially past and present members of staff of CMC Connect (Perception Managers), my friends, my alma mater Igbobi College, Yaba, my mentors & protégées alike and most importantly the clients that trusted me enough with their businesses. One of the results is this recognition. I pray and will strive to continue to do you all proud and never let you down.
One more thing, standing in front of that august audience that evening, rubbing shoulders with some of the giants earlier mentioned; I grew and felt extraordinarily ‘tall’!
Yomi Badejo-Okusanya (YBO)
YBO a public relations consultant, is the current President of the African Public Relations Association (APRA) and the Group Managing Director of CMC Connect (Perception Managers).