When I graduated from the university , I worked at Daily Times , where I was for three years and rose to become a Chief Sub – Editor for the evening part of production .
After those three years, I felt an urge to do something else. I heard about Lintas Advertising and I joined the company .
I spent five years there and was sent to the United Kingdom on a training programme . There , the idea of setting up an agency struck me .
When I came back to Nigeria , I discussed with two of my colleagues who were also at the university with me .
We came together and formed Rosabel Advertising Limited which ran for about 13 years.
Then, we established STB McCann as a second line advertising agency .
The lot fell on me to run STB and the McCann aspect of it was an affiliation to some agencies outside Nigeria .
I am retired now but I visit them once in a while .
The company has been handed over to the second generation of people who we trained and kept on the job , who were learning and gaining exposure .
In starting STB McCann in 1991 , I faced many challenges .
Rosabel Advertising was made , well known and had good control over the business .
When we decided to set up STB McCann , the challenge was getting a client base and a work space .
So , my partners gave me their old office and a staff of two , because they were moving to another office space .
They also gave me two clients to handle and I got started with them . That seemed like the biggest challenge of my life at the time .
So , I started to think of strategies to grow the business and look for clients to add to my base. Back then, you couldn ’ t poach others’ accounts; you had to find fresh businesses to work with.
A year after I started , I ran into luck with Coca Cola , who was in the midst of changing their agency and someone called me to inform me of the activities .
I worked with my networks but the hunter from Coca Cola said he wasn’ t interested in a one-year – old agency .
Not willing to give in to defeat, I invited him to tea and pitched him my ideas to reconstitute an agency from the beginning.
When he came, I offered him a chance to mould the agency into what he wanted because we were new and flexible.
At the end of it , when he returned to England , he put our name on a list of six agencies that were to be further looked into .
We got invited to the United Kingdom to propose our work and I didn’ t have much to offer.
I got a reel of all the work I was involved in at Rosabel and it served as my Curriculum Vitae .
We got the gig but it was so big , we had to burn the candle on both ends and work extremely hard just to manage it right . But in the end , it worked just fine .
What was your experience as Zenith Bank Chairman ?
It came like something God had destined for me because I wasn’ t in the finance sector and I didn’ t work in any bank .
I call it one of the miracles of my life . The owner invited me one day when the bank was going public .
He said he wanted to appoint two new directors and looking at my reputation and integrity, I was suited for the office.
I had to start learning and reading broadly about what banks did and what made up a bank .
Also , I learnt about what happened on a board and how the board oversaw the things they did – the credit, risks and ratio of returns and investments.
I spoke with my friends who were already in the bank and some who were on the boards of other banks .
I was on the board for about seven years , after which I was made chairman for four years.
Jim Ovia came back to the board and it was time for him to take over as chairman . Happily , I handed over to him and completed my tenure on the board .
It was a very exciting period for me and I learnt quite a lot.
I came out of it wiser , more learned and ready to face whatever the future held for me .
You ’ ve been in the industry for over 40 years. How will you compare then and now?
It was more exciting back then because clients usually appointed a firm as their agency of record and they stuck with one company for their business .
They also paid their bills on time , in comparison to now .
Nowadays , what a lot of multinationals wouldn’ t do in their countries , they do in Nigeria .
They come here to set up in- house agencies to do their advertising work and unfortunately, the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria is gradually becoming obsolete .
The government enables APCON to regulate and make laws for the industry but since it has become politicised , it ’ s not working as well anymore .
In the last four years, we haven’ t had a council, which means that clients can do what they like because there are no binding laws anymore .
Everyone kept to the rules back then, so advertising was a lot easier .
However , we have more alternative channels in modern day advertising, which is an advancement for the country and the industry because one can now look at the situation holistically and appropriate a budget .
But , some of it must still be traditional because many people are still not online. A lot of people still watch television and listen to radio.
Back then , it was easier to manage but now , it ’ s more complicated because people are going digital.
Practitioners need to improve themselves in order to cope with the new realities .
All in all, it ’ s been an exciting ride.
What were your low and high moments in advertising ?
My high point was winning Coca Cola ’ s account one year after the establishment of STB McCann , and getting Nestle Foods ’ brief shortly after that .
We also won accounts of very high profile businesses. Our slogan used to be ‘ the agency that didn’ t crawl before it started running ’ .
Our low points were losing the big businesses that kept us going and unfortunately, at the time , I was already stepping aside .
Is there anything you would have loved to do differently in your career ?
I would do the same things but will be a bit different with recruiting staff because one needs high calibre expertise in recruiting people for work .
Back then, it seemed like you had to study Journalism or Mass Communication to work in advertising but today , practically any graduate can work in the industry .
The only criteria are creativity , flexibility and fluency .
You turned 73 recently. How does it feel being that age ?
It’ s been good.
It actually came on me without me thinking about it unlike when I turned 70, three years ago.
Turning 70, I wondered about how different life was going to be ; what plans and aims I had for the rest of my life .
After that, I started living leisurely , yet still purposefully daily till it became my birthday again and this time , I had turned 73 . I realised that time moves by quite fast after a period .
There was a period in life where it seemed lagging and dormant ; like nothing was moving.
That could have also been as a result of many activities going on at the same time .
I always thank God for the years as they come. However , I am the same Steve I’ ve always been .
I still do what I enjoy with reduced pressure and I take on what I choose to .
Expectations are no longer as high because I am not expecting too much out of life anymore . I focus on the areas I can give to and impact on people , my children and the society .
I’ m also focusing on living healthy.
When I turned 70, I was excited but it also dawned on me that certain things had to change .
At this age , I don’ t feel as strong as I was at 60 but I feel good and strong for a 73-year – old man .
There is still a lot to life and I feel that there’ s still so much I can do in my environment and family .
I’ m still keeping myself busy , relevant and strong enough to add value.
How have you been keeping busy since retirement?
I retired fully at 70; so , I decided to focus on other things aside work.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos had a dream of building a university in Epe , Lagos ; and post-retirement , I became very pivotal in setting it up .
I headed the fundraising group to get the university running .
Then, I became the chairman of the Board of Trustees , which I still am.
I spend a lot of time on the matters concerning the university . I also do a lot of work for the Catholic Archdiocese .
I belong to the Metropolitan Club in Victoria Island, Lagos , and the Lagos Motorboat Club .
These are some of the activities I’ m now engaged in. I like swimming and I complement my swimming with long walks in my neighbourhood .
In addition to these , I’ m involved in talking to the younger generation . I get invited often to speak at St .
Gregory ’ s College , where I had my secondary school education . And because my daughter belongs to a book club , I’ m given a book and we review it .
There is a youth club in Lafiaji ( Lagos Island), which is the neighbourhood I grew up in; they dance fante , which is a dance imported from the west coast of Africa .
I am a member of the Elders ’ Group that sees to what they do and counsels them .
What does Augustine University plan to do differently to be unique in the educational sector?
Recently , we got full NUC accreditation for eight programmes.
If I have another chance to set up a university, I won ’ t go for the conventional anymore – Bsc , BA , etc. I would opt for a technical university because that ’ s what we need in Nigeria today .
We are looking for graduates with strong vocational skills and I think that’ s where our future lies . Now that we have our accreditation , this concept can be introduced .
We can also apply for more relevant faculties .
What other corporate activities have you been engaged in ?
At the last general meeting of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria , I was appointed the chairman of the board of trustees.
I willingly accepted to serve in the association so that I could still contribute my little quota to the advancement of the marketing communications industry .
I was also recently made the chairman of the government relations committee.
What advice will you give to the youth to ensure they have a good future?
Nobody , at the point of birth , decides what he or she wants to be in the future . It is as they grow that they pick a path that they ’ d like to toe .
As they go , there is no guarantee how life will turn out for them . Some fall by the wayside and some become successful .
In my time , work was readily available for us as we were leaving school .
I tell the younger generation to be focused ; don’ t jump from one job or profession to another .
You need to learn to crawl before you walk and then run.
For every level you get to , sit down and reflect ; look at where you are coming from and visualise where you are going.
No one falls from heaven and becomes anything ; it ’ s about planning your life .
You must be ready to deny yourself many distractions and work hard .
Another important thing is learning to be unique in doing your things. Don ’ t dance to someone else’ s tune but yours.
Tell us about your background .
I was born in Obalende , Ikoyi , Lagos , but I’ m from Delta State. My dad was conscripted to help in the colonial army when they went off to war .
After the WW 1 , they were demobilised and my dad got a job with Post and Telegram , in the course of which he got married to my mother .
My mum had the greatest influence on my life .
My dad was a semi – learned civil servant ; he couldn ’ t really afford to send us to school .
However , he supported us as best as he could. My mum was a trader in the market who worked really hard to send me and my two siblings through school .
My parents were average but they provided what we needed and were able to plan and manage whatever resources they had for us to grow up and have our feet grounded.
Both of them are late now .
My parents had three kids before me but they all died .
I was the first one who survived. So , I ’ m the first surviving out of the first four children .
When I was about three years old , my mum took me to the Catholic Church to ‘ dedicate’ me and ensure that nothing happened to me . T
hat’ s why I got so close to the church and still am. I became a mass server and later a papal knight in 1990 .
I attended St. Matthias Catholic School, Lafiaji, Lagos , for my elementary education and St . Gregory ’ s College , Ikoyi , for my secondary school education .
Afterwards, my parents suggested I went to Delta State for my higher school for two years. The idea was to learn more about my culture .
So , I went to Hussey College , Warri , Delta State , where I completed my higher school. Then, the war started in 1967 and I came back to Lagos to take my final higher school examination .
I got into the University of Lagos to study Mass Communication , with a major in print and broadcast .
Tell us about your marriage .
While I was with the Daily Times in 1973, I belonged to a drama group called Neighbourhood Players .
I had heard about it and went in , told them I was interested in acting .
They auditioned me for a new script they were working on titled , Too much , Too Soon , and I was given a good part to play .
A lady , Moji , was also introduced into the drama group .
I spoke with her but she said she wasn’ t interested because she was still in secondary school , though we kept in touch somehow .
As soon as she finished her secondary education , she travelled to England and we lost touch .
Years later , my friends and I went to the Federal Palace Hotel to hang out and I saw Moji walking down the stairs with another gentleman I knew. I went to her and we talked.
I was about 28 then and we ‘ linked up ’ , this time , very seriously. I met her mum and she approved of me immediately. About two years later , we got married .
Getting married was beautiful and it came at the right time .
I had a two – bedroom apartment in Surulere , Lagos , but I didn’ t even have a car , although , transportation in Lagos was easy at the time .
We had so much fun during our courtship that she even got tired of partying .
We have three amazing children from our union and my first two sons are married .
How did you propose to her?
Of course , no one just wakes up and decides to propose without having thought about it thoroughly .
I had juggled it in my mind for a few weeks and discussed with two of my friends, who had met her .
We used to go to the Bar Beach to enjoy the ambience of the sea .
One day, we went to the beach and we were inside one of the shacks, just enjoying ourselves .
I unwrapped a piece of candy and told her to open her mouth, which she did .
I popped the candy into her mouth and popped the question , almost out of the blues .
The interesting part of it was that I didn’ t propose to her with a ring or get on my knee to ask her to marry me .
I got her the engagement ring after our two families had met and we had fixed a date to get married .
Tell us about the first time you became a dad .
We got married in 1975 and she was pregnant in 1976 .
Our first baby was a boy , followed by another boy, and finally , we birthed a girl .
We had our three kids in the space of eight years. The first time I saw my first son, I was very emotional .
I wasn ’ t present in the labour room because I just couldn ’ t bring myself to be there. Till now , if I’ m watching a movie where there is a birth scene , I immediately shut my eyes.
I don’ t know whether to say I’ m not bold enough, but I just can ’ t face it .
I walked up and down the corridor till the baby came before I could finally breathe easily. It took quite a while , an overnight labour session .
She took a break from the legal firm where she was working , although she studied Sociology , not Law .
If you came back to this world, would you pick advertising again ?
I will definitely love to come back and practise advertising but I ’ ll wish to have more time to write. I love writing and I’ ve written a book already.
Because I started out as a journalist , it still haunts me and if I still have my way, I will do a lot more writing .
However , at 73 , I believe I have seen it all and will want to give back to society.
Life has been good and God has been very faithful. I’ m also lucky to have listened to parental advice , checks and controls to keep me on the right track .
Anything you ’ re struggling too hard for may not necessarily be yours.
You must let things flow naturally and make the best of them .
With your achievements and integrity , why haven ’ t you got involved in politics ?
Many politicians are mostly concerned about what they can get out of the system. They promise so much and deliver very little .
They spend a lot of money to get into government , then find ways to recoup by asking for different types of allowances .
Do these people ever see how the country really is , looking at the hungry and angry people in the country? I’ m not built for such a life .
Sadly, bribery and corruption have now become a part of our DNA. If you can ’ t beat them , you are made to join them .
So , even if you go into politics to make a change and be pious with your agenda , it won ’ t work .
How do you think Nigeria can grow out of its present state?
It’ s sad that we are where we are now .
Back then, Nigeria was peaceful and politicians did their thing . They did not make life difficult for us .
Ethnicity and nepotism weren’ t this pronounced . The system ran well and graduates didn’ t need to have connections to secure jobs.
Jobs were easier to get ; transportation was good and things were relatively cheaper .
I would have thought that things would have been improving rather than diminishing .
I think it had to do with the politicians and the military who saw the wealth in the land and plundered it .
In plundering it , they used politicians and other Nigerians . When they left the scene , we were already opened up to cheap money everywhere and we kept grabbing.
What could make sense given the type of situation we are currently in is to find a way for the members of the legislature to agree to scrap the presidential system of government we are running now .
Nigeria will save so much money . The amount of money the politicians make for themselves annually is scandalous .
A time will come when people will shamefully have to say they have failed the country and find a way to rebuild the country for a future generation .
I am very dissatisfied with the state of affairs today .
Why are you more attached to Lagos than Delta ?
I was born in Lagos and almost all the schools I attended were here, except when I went to Warri for two years during my higher school education .
Although I have always lived in Lagos , I am not oblivious of my culture and who I am .
During the two years I spent in Delta State, I got very attached to my grandmother and I used to spend my holidays with her instead of going home to Lagos .
When I came back to Lagos , I very frequently went back to visit her .
What are your hobbies ?
Every Tuesday, we have lunch at the Metro Club, which I am a member of . It is a social club for elders .
The lunch is the hallmark of it and it is very formal. After the lunch , we break into groups and talk about things. I also swim very well .
I have a pool in my house and at least , three times a week , I swim about 40 laps to and fro. At the Lagos Motorboat Club, we go sailing and picnicking and just sightseeing Lagos from the lagoon.
I don’ t have a boat but my friends do .
I party a lot , though not as much as I used to but most weekends , there’ s an event to attend .
I enjoy socialising and travelling because I generally like going to new places .
What’ s your favourite food?
Back then , it was eba and egusi soup but gradually over the years, as I grew older , I cut off from too much carbohydrate .
Now , I like rice, beans , dodo and vegetables. I am a very bad cook but I enjoy well – cooked meals .
If I even tried to boil water, it could get burnt . Luckily , my wife accepted me for who I am . Even during my bachelor days , I didn’ t cook .
If my girlfriends came over and they wanted to cook , I let them cook in the kitchen and I ate what they cooked .
How do you like to dress?
When I was in active service, I loved dressing formally .
I liked wearing a suit and tie. Now, I have elevated to my bow- tie, when I have to dress formally but if the occasion doesn’ t require me to dress formally , I like to dress casually in my buba and sokoto .