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JUST IN: “How I rejected FG Employment, Became Lagos Taxi Driver Before becoming An Advertising Practitioner” – Omooba Segun Adewale frpa Speaks At 62

Excerpts from a conversation with The Group Managing Director of IMC Holdings Limited in Ikeja, Lagos, Omooba Segun Adewale, as he turns 62 on 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, Omooba!

Interestingly, you‘re known and being 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, you know I am from a kingship 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 beyond that, 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 house hold 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 makes it possible for us 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 house-hold 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 dwell more on your career in Advertising and Communications. You are a Fellow of the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON), was it easy getting to that height as a professional?

(Sigh…) Glory be to God, 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 practice for about 35 years, I can say that I have been part of the good, bad and ugly.
I started advertising practice with BTAS communications Ltd in 1990, then I joined STB & Associates, which later became STB-McCann, Lagos two years later. 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, Sir Steve Omojafor and the late Madam Nike Alabi at STB-McCann, also Chairman of Centerspread & DKK group, Mr Kola Ayanwale, the Group Managing Director of Bates Cose Group, Mr Yomi Onabolu, and several others too numerous to mention.

I recall during advertising practice in Nigeria in the 90s, I happen to be one amongst the few agency staff equipped with knowledge and skills in computer appreciation, 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 these 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 were 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 one of my enterprise as a cab driver that fate would smile 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 relocating abroad to look for better job opportunities didn’t exist that time. The fact that I worked as a taxi driver then didn’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 is 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 Badamosi Babangida. This was in recognition of several self-help and community programme I initiated and implemented as a corps member. People persuaded me to take the automatic employment offer but I rejected it basically because I do not see myself toeing 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 20th century when I was an Account Director at BatesCosse and later Group Account Director at Centrespread Advertising down to the beginning of the 21st century, 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’s telecommunications landscape, I was also part of Globacoms 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 in Africa. After Vodacom left, I lead 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 all these feat 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 have been involved since 1993. I will ascribe my involvement into 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 into joining full time politics. So, the reason for joining politics is to continue to impact on the lives of people of Ogun State but most importantly Ogun west region where I belong. Before I declared for Senatorial and Governorship ambition 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 desired ambition. 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 region.

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

There are countless of the 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 comes out to share them, including from those I engaged in the management of those programme 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, 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 then music entertainer in Ilaro who was introduced to me and that I assisted has become a known 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 member, I was later told, spoke graciously and in admiration of my person; recounting how I had intervened in a community project by assisting them with fund and caterpillar 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 enclave and I see people still wearing the OSA foundation T.shirts, Caps and gift itmes and chanting my alias, testifying about how our medical outreaches has impacted their health and life, 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 on lives.

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

My experience about the politics of Ogun State and the agitation for a Yewa-for-Governor is very wide. I happens to rank as a key stakeholder who did expended financial 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 governor from Yewa region because a political party presented you as their 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 regional development of Ogun west, I am the man to beat. The risk was just so much that it afforded me the opportunity to gain some insightful revelations about the yearning 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 region has always appeared to me as very 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 pioneer stakeholder politician in pro-Yewa for Governor person and based on my experience, there are three clear things that needs to be done for us to clinch that seat amidst our challenges that a lot of people from the region still doesn’t know about. It is not by omission or mistake that when the Late Senator 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 at your leisure times?

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 as well, while praying that the Almighty God continue to be gracious to me in order to continue to impact lives.