Candid, creative, and intuitive, the Director General and Special Adviser, Oyo State Signage Agency, Yinka Adepoju, wears many hats as a consummate grass-roots politician, public speaker, pastor, and a prominent figure in Nigeria’s outdoor advertising industry. He tells Adedayo Adejobi about his childhood, career, what it takes working for the Oyo State Government and the thrill of having his first grandchild
What kind of a childhood did you have?
I am fortunate to be born in a Christian family. My parents being Pa Daniel Adebisi Adepeju and Madam Christiana Adepeju Adekojo of blessed memory were both Christians of the St. Paul’s Anglican Church Odo-Ona Ibadan; I was baptised in the church. I was a member of the choir of the church during my childhood. I was one of the drummers in the church band. I schooled at Ibadan City Council Practising School. I was privileged to be at the prestigious Government College Ibadan from 1971 to 1975. I had a stint with the Oyo State government where I worked with the Ministry of Finance, the internal revenue division. I gained admission into The Polytechnic, Ibadan and studied Mass Communication; I graduated in 1985. From there I left for Lagos in search of greener pasture. By 1986, I was in the media. I served in NTA Tejuosho and Vanguard newspapers as an advert executive. I later joined an advertising firm, St. Georges Publicity in Ilupeju, and moved to Media Link Limited in 1987 – from a senior client service executive to being the commercial manager and after which I became the pioneer General Manager of the firm. I served under Kole Ademulegun and Babu Akinbobola. I had a good time there until 1995 when I set up my own company, and managed the company for about 19 years before being appointed by Governor Abiola Ajimobi as the Director General of Oyo State Signage and Advertisement Agency and now also the special adviser.
What values and memories have stayed with you?
I had very good value system especially as a child from a Christian home. I was a member of the choir and it was such a nice thing starting that way. I remember an incident at Government College Ibadan where six of us jumped the fence to go to a night party and unfortunately, our principal and the school head boy had to come to the party to peep on us. We were seriously punished for going out of the school at night without an exeat. We cut grass for about one week. We were lucky not to have been expelled from school, and that taught me a good lesson.
What were your best and worse subjects?
Literature in English was my best subject followed by Agricultural Science. Because I had a teacher who was very fond of me – each time we were on the school farm, he cracked a lot of jokes and it made me develop an interest in agriculture. I loved poetry and prose and learned about Shakespeare and Wole Soyinka. I dreaded mathematics.
What has changed in your time and now?
Discipline in the real sense of it. How we talk, dress, address people around us especially the elderly ones. We were taught respect. I don’t see these values often today. Nobody cares about anybody. There’s no courtesy. Our young people only care about social media. Even in Christian homes, you need a persistent drive to have your children meet up with your own standards. I grew up with an Anglican background but as I grew up, I moved to Pentecostal, and to the glory of God today I’m also a minister of God in Foursquare Gospel Church of Nigeria. What we learn in Sunday school and from the pulpit have really helped us and it has formed part of the values we pass down to our children. I want to thank God for the kind of children He has blessed me with, they are doing well, and they have Christ in them because of the way we brought them up. My expectations are high because I’m a pastor; more so, I expect that all my children will serve in the vineyard of God.
How do you balance the ministry with secular work?
I am a child of God with the mind of Christ, and when you have the mind of Christ, your life is settled. Your integrity, honesty, faithfulness, loyalty are intact. There might be influences but with a mind of Christ, even when temptations come, you can stand strong. As humans, we are vulnerable to temptations, but if you are the type that prays fervently and you also devoid your mind of worldly things, success is yours. Balancing being a pastor and a government official has not been a challenge at all. It has always been a plus for me. But in every decision and action that I take, I think of God first in everything.
With most media budget, especially in outdoor advertising being slashed by clients due to the recession, how do you strike the balance as a regulator between client and practitioner?
Three years ago, outdoor advertising practitioners came to Oyo State because of the recession and the difficulty in business. As genuine as their concerns were when the board is not displaying, it’s occupying a space. So we struck a balance; there was a reduction in their rates. We reduced the rate for billboards that do not display and no campaigns on them. Our rates are quite appropriate and are fair enough. To sum it up, we like to listen to our business partners, and we also like to share whatever pain they have.
Are you planning to go into politics at the expiration of your tenure?
Now, I’m a technocrat in politics. I am first an advertising practitioner. That’s been my profession since 1985; 32 years of active practice in advertising has earned me a fellowship award. I am a fellow, and that’s the highest you can get to in any profession. In all my life, I have been doing advertising: I sleep advertising; I eat advertising. I’ve not done any other business than advertising and I’m very happy that I’m one of the very few senior advertising practitioners in Nigeria today. Having served two terms, I’ve gained a lot in politics. I am a grassroots politician. I come from the south-west local government in Oyo State, ward 12 and to the glory of God, I have contributed immensely to the development of my ward, my local government.
In the recent past, people from my constituency have suggested to me that it’s time for an election, but my answer has always been that it’s not yet time. By the end of this second term, through prayers, I will know what next step to take. The future will speak for itself. Even if I do not go into full-time politics, I still have my profession. Even at this age, I am not too old to keep practising advertising. You don’t retire from your own personal business at age 70 or 80. I can still go to the office, to share and inject my experience into the people behind me.
Pastors are known to be very busy. How do you find time for your family?
I plan my day and life. In the business that I do, I have my obligations that I must fulfil. Running an agency, when I have a work ethic, and I must follow that plan. I have obligations and assignments, all of this I must do. I do not allow anything to come between that because if I don’t function well as a leader in my secular assignments, I have failed. I am not a full-time minister. I do it on a part-time basis. But that does not in any way interfere with my secular job. I go to church with my family, and when I’m at work, they are at work too. God designed it that way and I have managed it well. My children are grown-ups and on their own now except the baby of the house who by the grace of God is a student at the University of Ibadan.
How did you meet your wife?
As a young man, my first job was being a cashier with Oyo State Ministry of Finance. The job took me to the bank regularly, and incidentally, she came out of school then and was in Oyo State Ministry of Health as a cashier. So, when we brought money to the bank to pay into the government’s account, we always saw each other. We got talking and the interest started developing. I gained admission into school thereafter, and also she gained admission. So, the relationship continued up to the time that we discovered the reality of life which was when we came together as husband and wife.
When you look back, what have you learned in life?
With Christ in our lives, nothing will rock the relationship, or make it shake because even in difficult times we still go back to Christ. We had some tough times, but because we developed the idea of praying, reading and sharing the word of God together, we comforted ourselves with the word of God.
What will be your advice to young couples?
My advice to them is to accept Jesus Christ as their lord and their saviour. They should also allow the Holy Spirit, to guide them; with the Holy Spirit everything about you is balanced. I have never regretted serving the lord and also accepting Jesus Christ as my lord and savior. He has been the motivating factor, he has been everything to me and I know that as many that are in Christ, they will continue to have that great experience.
What do you owe to your strong spiritual inclination?
I owe everything and whatever modest achievement I have recorded to God. I enrolled into a bible school and perhaps that opportunity also gave me more insight into the things of God and today I’m better off. I have my Bachelor in Theology and again I’ve been to the state of Israel, and Jerusalem and everything I learned and saw gave me this belief to be so strong in Him because I had good exposure to the things of God.
Away from work sir, how do you relax?
The little time I have, I spend with my family. There are times we go out to different restaurants, nice and interesting places. We do go out and we also party.
Who is more romantic between you and your wife?
I think that question should rather go to my wife; I don’t know. I don’t know if I am.
How often do you take your wife out?
We do that once in a while.
How does it feel being a grandparent?
It gives me great joy that God made it possible for me to see my children’s children. Incidentally, I was at the hospital when my daughter gave birth, immediately they went to the hospital they called me and the hospital was a stone’s throw from where I live. I was going to rush into the labour room when I had the cry of the baby but I was stopped. They asked me to wait so they could clean up the baby, and immediately they finished cleaning her, they handed her over to me. You can imagine my joy! I was the first person to carry my grandchild. Her name is Tamilore Iremide Olushola. I carried her and gave her a very warm kiss and said, ‘God, I thank you.’ It’s all fun and it gladdens my heart to see my grandchildren.
What influences your sense of style and fashion?
I was a television reporter and presenter. Later on I joined the newspaper and became an advertising executive and eventually, I ended up in an advertising agency. My job and career have supported my outlook in every form. Essentially for business, I wear suits and wear it a lot because that has been my way of life. But for social activities, I still put on my native attire. I like them when they are neatly sewn and well designed. They make me look good and fashionable. I try as much as possible to look good all the time whether I’m wearing English or native attire.
Do you still play the drums?
I did that close to 50 years ago. I was very active when I was in school. I have stopped doing that. Most times when you see me now, you see me on the keyboard. Although I’m not too good at it, I’m hoping that very soon, I’ll get one in the corner of my sitting room and I’ll sit down to play at my own time.
You seem to love music. What kinds of music do you listen to?
I listen to gospel music -worship songs and praises. I love soft music too, and the kind of music that you listen to and it makes meaning to you. I listen to Ebenezer Obey and Sunny Ade a lot.