Great with giants!’ By Yomi Badejo-Okusanya


Great with giants!’
By Yomi Badejo-Okusanya (YBO)

Since the beginning of my secondary studies, I had a problem with my height. Finishing at 5ft 8-9in, I always wanted to be a lot taller for a myriad of good reasons.

My rather small stature during my formative years made me an easy target for several real and would-be bullies. I often had to struggle to get more “respect” from peers and strangers. Now, the most painful thing was that some taller women I looked up to then were understandably out of my reach. It didn’t help that my younger brother, Buky, quickly overtook me despite the incredible amount of beans I ate to stave off the inevitable.
Also Read: Nigeria PR Icon, Yomi Badejo Inducts ICCO Hall Executive
Over time, I learned to live with my shortcomings (no pun intended). I became aware of my other gifts which I deployed as a coping mechanism. I learned to speak to get in and out of sticky situations which I combined with 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-time professional friend of mine, John Ajayi, the editor of Nigeria’s leading marketing communications magazine, Marketing Edge. Now the context of this was an earlier event I attended hosted by the same publication where I felt rather offended and expressed my feelings to my friend. As a result, I was rather reluctant to attend another event from the same stable. However, based 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!

Unusually for me, I arrived late to the event held at the Radisson Hotel, Ikeja GRA due to a previous engagement. The room was packed and I was immediately struck by the caliber of industry giants who were already seated. Dr Biodun Shobanjo, Sir Steve Omojafor, Bale Jimmy Awosika, Mr Udeme Ufot, Ms Iquo Ukoh, Alhaji Garba Bello Kankarofi, Ms Bunmi Oke and upcoming giants like Steve Babaeko, Tunji Adeyinka, Femi Adelusi etc. Alongside these giants and would-be giants, I was to be inducted into what will no doubt be the benchmark for professionalism in the Nigerian marketing communications industry, the Marketing Edge Hall of Fame! How the hell did I get here? Am I sure there was no mistake?

It only seemed like yesterday in 1989 when I returned to work as a skinny-looking customer service manager in CT&A, under the tutelage of “my oga for life” Cornelius Olanrewaju Tay. Although I had long wanted to be a PR professional, the lack of full-service PR firms at the time made advertising the perfect place to cut my teeth in the industry.

Our office was in Ibezim Obiajulu Street in Surulere, a suburb of Lagos that seemed to house most of the creative houses at that time. We passionately followed the movement of accounts, who and what pitches were called. We knew by name, if not by face, all the directors and managers of marketing, corporate affairs and public relations whose budgets and activities determined the survival of our agencies.

Something that was not lacking was the myths surrounding the industry giants. Chief among them were those of Dr. Biodun Shobanjo. He was reputed to be a shrewd and uncompromising businessman endowed with extraordinary, even supernatural powers. Running into Insight Communication on a pitch was something to dread as he drove his team very hard and failure was not an option.

Often we were regaled at the legendary extent he would go to secure an account. One in particular was how determined he was to meet a potential customer that he left a standing instruction at the British Airways ticket office that next time the potential customer should fly overseas; he, Dr. Shobanjo must be assigned the next seat in the business or first class section of the plane, regardless of the cost. The story goes further that he eventually flew with the client, secured the company on the outward journey and immediately boarded the very next flight home from Heathrow Airport to Lagos! Many years later, after getting close to Dr. Shobanjo (we actually share a birthday) and reading his memoir, “Dare To Win”, I am able to separate many truths from untruths.

Another myth of the time was how the Coca-Cola account moved from Grant Advertising to the then fledgling STB and the role played by Mrs. Nike Alabi, who coincidentally turns 80 this week. Grapevine understood then that the account was moving, but where exactly it was headed was the million dollar question. Any agency would have given a right arm to secure him only for STB to land him. The irony was that STB, which had come out of the Rosabel stable, was then in its infancy, giving rise to its corporate advertisement which then spoke of “running before you even learn to crawl”. At the center of it all was another ‘Omo Jesu’ giant, Sir Steve Bamidele Omojafor.

Time and space will not allow me to write about the exploits of people like Uncle Dele Adetiba, Mr. Chris Dohudje, Chief Olu Falomo, Chief Akin Odunsi, Mr. Tunde Adelaja, Chief Kehinde Adeosun, Mr. Ted Mukoro, Chefs Femi Adeniyi-Williams & Tola Olujobi of OBM fame (it was now a legendary fight in the boardroom!). Or even Mr. Billy Kolawole Lawson and the irrepressible Mrs. Bola Thomas whose agency LTC-JWT was responsible for the iconic launch of Satzenbrau beer in Nigeria.

It is alongside some of these living giants that John Ajayi and his team have fortunately chosen to honor me by inducting me into the Marketing Edge Hall of Fame which was held for the very first time in the history of the group. editing. I have received several awards over the past year, this being my third Hall of Fame induction. But somehow it felt different.

As I stood there with my quote being read, a flood of emotions almost washed over me. I am grateful to the Almighty Lord for his great love, care and guidance. I am grateful to my wife Oyinkansola and our son Olaoluwakiitan for their immeasurable support, to my parents (late) Chief Emmanuel Badejo-Okusanya, especially to my mother (late) Olasumbo Amoke Olanrewaju Badejo-Okusanya, to my siblings , my parents-in-law (late) Prof Folabi and Mrs. Folashade Olumide, my brothers and sisters-in-law, my pastor, Olufemi Paul, my church, my professional colleagues, especially past and present staff members of CMC Connect (Perception Managers ), my friends, my alma mater Igbobi College, Yaba, my mentors and my proteges and especially the clients who trusted me enough with their businesses. One of the results is this recognition. I pray and will strive to continue to make you all proud and never let you down.

One more thing, standing before that august audience that night, rubbing shoulders with some of the giants mentioned earlier; I grew up and felt extraordinarily ‘big’!

YoYomi Badejo-Okusanya (YBO)

YBO, a public relations consultant, is the current President of the African Public Relations Association (APRA) and the Managing Director of the CMC Connect Group (Perception Managers).

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