Top 10 Exemplary Perception Managers in Corporate Nigeria

They come under different nomenclatures – corporate affairs manager; head corporate affairs; head, corporate communications; director, corporate communications; manager, external relations; public relations manager (very rare, these days). But their job description is essentially the same. Not only do they play a major role in creating public perception of the organizations they work for, above all, they manage that perception in a manner that would bring sympathy, goodwill and support for the organization.

Their role is that of the meteorologist who predicts the weather and advises the organization on whether or not rain would have any negative impact on the organization; whether or not there would be need for an umbrella, or whether attention should be focused on preventing the rain from falling.

In days gone by, it was common and acceptable to call them image makers. But that name created ambiguity in the minds of the public, as it sometimes conveyed a wrong and unintended meaning. This was more so because they were sometimes perceived as people who could lie to cover up truths about organizations in order to maintain a positive image. It didn’t help matters that in some cases, their employers actually expected them to do just that.

But a perception manager worth his salt knows that the job is not about deceit or lies, not is it propaganda. It’s about designing appropriate communications and deploying the relevant platforms, tools and activities to deliver those communications to the organization’s publics with the objective of creating a positive perception for it. The job does not end there.

The most difficult aspect of the job, perhaps, is to manage the positive perception so created, to ensure nothing untoward happens, through a slip that could come through an unforeseen development within or outside the organization; a policy gone awry; a scandal involving even one of the organization’s leaders; a labour crisis, or an adverse effect from the organization’s product (if it is a manufacturing organization).

The job of a perception manager looks glamourous, but is anything but glamourous. It is probably the most difficult job in the organization, perhaps second only to that of the chief executive officer on whose shoulders the survival of the organization rests.

The perception manager must be the organization he represents. He must own the organization; go to sleep and wake up thinking about the organization, always having it at the back of his mind the fact that a problem could occour anywhere concerning the organization – a problem he did not cause, but which he would be expected to solve. He must have every fact about the organization at his fingertips – its history, mission, vision, philosophy, culture, systems and processes. He must have firsthand knowledge of the workings and operations of every department and unit of the organization. He has no holiday, even when his superiors are on holiday.

A perception manager must love with passion everything about the organization – its products or services, its people, etc., and must be prepared to demonstrate that love publicly.

One of the reasons a perception manager in one of the brewing giants in Nigeria lost his job some years ago was his public display of dislike for alcohol at a function that had the organization’s bigwigs in attendance. The top shots could not understand how an employee who was hired to promote consumption of the organization’s products, which include alcoholic beverages, could reject the same alcoholic product at a function that also had members of the public in attendance opting, instead, for a non-alcoholic beverage. How would he encourage people to consume what he did not consume? It’s like seeing someone whose job entails promotion of a cigarette brand publicly showing his dislike for smoking.

An example of the difficulty of the job of a perception manager lies in the fact that it can bring him on collision course with his employers on matters of professionalism. This occurs when he may be forced to choose between being a professional and losing his job, or compromising on ethics and keeping the job.

In the early 1980s, a public relations adviser of the UAC Group, the late Ikhaz Yakubu, had cause to disagree with the foreign directors of the company on an issue that involved his integrity and that of the company, insisting on being the thorough-bred professional that he was and risking losing his job in the process.

An industrial accident had occurred at a factory of one of the group’s subsidiaries in which a worker lost his job. Yakubu was immediately summoned to the London headquarters of UAC where he was instructed to do everything humanly possible to ensure the story did not appear in the newspapers. But he would have none of that.

He did the unexpected by returning to Nigeria to organize a press conference where he announced the death of the employee. But he used the occasion to paint a picture of a responsible organization where workplace safety was a top priority, but where an employee died because he ignored safety rules and guidelines put in place by the organization.

Yakubu drew the public’s attention to the fact that not only was the late employee not supposed to be at the place he was at that time, but was also not kitted in the safety gear expected to be worn by anyone that happened to be in that area, which was clearly indicated in diagrams in strategic places.

The story that appeared in the newspapers the following morning was that of an employee who died out of sheer carelessness, despite the company’s meticulous effort at maintaining workplace safety. The story won for UAC the sympathy, goodwill and support of the public which saw it as an organization that cared about environmental safety and the protection of its employees. It earned for Yakubu a promotion, instead of the potential sack he faced for disobeying his superiors.

In deciding to ignore the directive of the organization’s owners in the United Kingdom and uphold his professional ethics, Yakubu thought about the incalculable and long term damage a distorted version of the incident could do to the image of the organization if it leaked out in the media, as it was certain to happen. None of those who asked him to “kill” the story thought about that.

Another area in which the job of a perception manager is a difficulty one is where the nomenclature arrangement places him where he as no access to the chief executive officer of the organization; where he has little or no direct input into policies that affect the organization’s image and reputation. Such arrangements are common in organizations where the reputation manager reports to the marketing director. Relations between the two are not usually the best.

The marketing director is concerned only about sales figures, and sometimes may not understand the huge communications budgets the perception manage comes up with, completely oblivious of the relationship between public perception of the organization and sales figures that come in from the field.

The ideal arrangement is for the man or woman who is responsible for managing an organization’s reputation to have direct access to the chief executive officer who may have no difficulty understanding where the former is coming from and where he or she is going. He is a personification of the organization and is therefore as interested in its public perception as he is in its profitability, knowing full well that the latter depends almost entirely on the former.

Today’s perception manager is better placed to perform a relatively notch higher than his counterpart of, say, 30 years ago. This is because he has access to two very important instruments of public relations his predecessors did not have – technology and social media. Not only do the two instruments enable him to stay in touch and abreast of developments as they occur in the industry in which he operates in particular and the entire world in general, almost real time, he is also able to reach out to his publics in terms of relevant communication when it matters most – at the touch of the button. Most importantly, technology and social media allow for the perfect working of the feedback mechanism of public relations.

Nigeria’s perception managers of today are highly educated, with access to all instruments of learning in this age of the internet, when learning of any kind is available online; when you do not need to be in a physical classroom to learn. They constantly train and retrain for their personal development, to be able to raise their standard of performance in the discharge of their responsibilities which are quite onerous.

The 10 perception managers featured in the following pages are not necessarily the best in a country that swarms with top notch professionals in every field of endeavor, in both the private and public sectors. Any attempt to select the best would invariably increase the number to at least 50, which would be a negation of the name of the magazine and a defeat of the purpose and philosophy behind its existence. They are simply 10 of the best in the country.

The men and women featured in the cover story have been able to manage the positive perception their organizations enjoy in the public space, bringing their skill and professionalism into play. They have made significant input, and are successfully managing the good corporate image their organizations have, which is positively impacting on their businesses. They all have impressive credentials and pedigree, academically and professionally, which explains why they are doing so well on their jobs, as you will find out.

Nasir Olanrewaju: Head, External Relations, United Bank for Africa Plc

It does not happen very often that an employee in a large organization that operates across national boundaries not only gets noticed because of the quality of his contributions to the growth of the organization, but also receives commendation from the highest level of the organization for meritorious service. But when such commendation comes, it carries a lot of significance.

Nasir Olanrewaju may have been satisfied with his job as Head, Media and External Relations (then) at the United Bank for Africa Plc, one of Nigeria’s leading financial institutions, being the thorough-bred professional that he is. But a special letter of commendation from Tony Elumelu, the bank’s chairman, for his outstanding contributions to the growth of the bank through the positive image it has maintained over time, brought home to him the impact of his 15 years of service to the bank. It made him realize that his contributions had not gone unnoticed. The bank’s positive image through favourable media mention said so. The bank said so, through no less a personality than its chairman.

It would be stating the obvious to say that Olanrewaju knows his onions. A holder of a First-Class degree in International Relations and a Master of Business Administration from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, he showed dedication and commitment to duty from the time he assumed duty as Media Executive at UBA in May, 2006. He literally lived in the newsroom, resuming work with journalists and closing with them. He needed to understand the constituency where he would be operating. This strategy would aid him in building the kind of friendship and rapport that have made it possible for journalists across media houses to see him as one of them. His inter-personal relationship with media practitioners is excellent.

It wasn’t a surprise that four years later, in March, 2010, Olanrewaju was promoted Head, Media. His smooth run, which saw him get better on the job like an old wine, as he progressed, yielded for him another reward in form of promotion, this time with the additional responsibility to manage UBA’s external relations – as Group Head, Media and External Relations – in January, 2016.

The icing on the cake for his rise in the organization came one year later, in February, 2017, when he was promoted Head, External Relations. On his current position, Olanrewaju is charged with the responsibility of managing external relations for a Pan-African Financial Octopus with tentacles in other parts of the continent, as well as Europe and the United States.

The position is a reflection of the confidence and trust the bank has not just in Olanrewaju’s competence, but also in his judgement in managing its relations with its various publics. The result of this confidence is the positive public image and rave reviews UBA receives in the media, both conventional and online.

In about two decades, Olanrewaju has proved to a be quite versatile in public relations and marketing communications, spanning public relations, marketing, crisis management, marketing strategies and campaigns; brand strategy and corporate communications. This has been made possible because of his recognition of the role continuous education and training plays in the profession. In order to be on top of his game at all times, he returned to the classroom to acquire more learning, obtaining a Master of Science in Media and Marketing Communication from the Pan Atlantic University in Lagos.

These impressive educational qualifications and on-the-job training constitute the fuel that powers his brilliant performance in all the positions he has held. This is in addition to the strong interpersonal skills that he developed working in culturally diverse and multinational environments.

The fruits of Olanrewaju’s sacrifice, determination, diligence, commitment, expertise and loyalty to his employers have come in form of awards and recognition he has received in the over 16 years he has served the bank. Perhaps none would remain indelible in his mind than the letter Elumelu wrote to congratulate him on clocking 15 years with UBA.

“On behalf of the Board, Management and Staff of the United Bank for Africa (UBA), Africa’s global bank, I congratulate you on your 15th anniversary as a member of UBA tribe,” the chairman said in the letter. “I write to commend you for the sacrifice, passion, and commitment that you have demonstrated in carrying out your job and ensuring that the Bank is projected externally in the most positive light always. With each passing year, you bring creativity and a strong work ethic to the team and I wish you continued success in your career.”

Quite remarkably, Olanrewaju has been humble enough to give credit for what he has become at UBA to those he rightly believes deserve it. 

“UBA and Elumelu made me who I am today,” he said during one of the numerous awards he has received from media houses for his performance. He never forgets to appreciate the man at whose feet he learnt the job – his immediate boss. “I had no experience when I was employed before the Chairman handed me over to Charles Aigbe, who adopted and tutored me on how to go about the job.”

Some of the awards Olanrewaju has received are The Image Maker of the Year 2016, from The Point newspaper; Outstanding and Innovative Corporate Communications Expert of the Year 2020, Most Resourceful, Outstanding and Media Friendly Corporate Communications Expert of the Year and Prestige Excellence Award, on two occasions.

Amaechi Okobi: Group Head, Corporate Communications and External Affairs, Access Bank Plc

It takes a genius to be able to excel in different positions across different industries, proving at every point to be a round peg in a round hole. If such people truly exist, Amaechi Okobi, Group Head, Corporate Communications and External Relations, could be one of them.

Okobi is said to be fond of describing himself as “a tall, bald guy in a suit”. What he does not add to that description, perhaps out of modesty, is the fact that his intimidating height and impeccable suits which define his identity aid, to a large extent, his job of marketing whatever brand he is assigned to market, because of the arresting attention he commands.

Okobi could probably have been dunking, slamming, hitting rebounds or recording assists on basketball courts in the United States where he received his education if he had been interested in the sport for which he is naturally suited, physically speaking. But he chose to chart a path in the corporate world. It would be an understatement to suggest that he has made a success of that choice. He also made a name, a good name which, as they say, is better than gold.

The tall, bald guy in a suit has traversed several industries. And wherever he has found himself, he has proved to be the right man for the job. If he has cause to move on, he leaves his footprint behind.

Okobi is the man at the head of the team that is behind the soar away and highly positive image of Access Bank Plc, one of Nigeria’s leading financial institutions. When he joined the fold of the Tier 1 lender seven years ago, his pedigree recommended him for the job that was cut out for him which, among others, was to develop the bank’s brand and strategy and marketing, media and public relations; events and sponsorship; corporate social responsibility and sustainability.

Okobi has, during the period, driven the bank’s communication strategies which have succeeded in repositioning the institution in the public arena. If the communication is not about the mega acquisition of Diamond Bank Plc, it is about a similar exercise outside the shores of Nigeria, into the Eastern and Southern parts of Africa where the bank is making inroads, fast becoming a continental brand. In recent times, moves by Access Bank to acquire a financial institution in one part of Africa or another have been regular features in the media, moves that are spearheaded by one of Nigeria’s banking wizards – Herbert Wigwe.

The positive public perception of Access Bank is not bought with money. It has not come about because of any deliberate effort by the financial institution at putting a white coating on a black surface. It is reflection of the bank’s position as one of Nigeria’s strongest, most resilient and best performing financial institutions. 

The accolades that have trailed the bank in recent times prove to be testimony of the fact that Okobi is discharging his responsibilities creditably. He has his own personal recognition to show for his efforts as well.

Okobi’s journey in the corporate world started in the U.S., where he attended St. Edmund’s College, and then George Washington University, from where he obtained a degree in Business Administration in 1995. He joined Revlon, the global cosmetics company in 1996 as an International Marketing Manager, on which position he provided support to 17 international subsidiaries and six distributors, coordinating products, promotions, advertising and marketing strategy. He also handled domestic marketing for Ultima II. His responsibilities also included executing a global strategy for the brand through advertising, promotions and public relations.

After a five-year stint with Revlon, Okobi joined Global Energy as Business Manager in August, 2002. At Global Energy, he channeled his energy into sales of multiphase pumps and multiphase flow meters.

He joined Nigerian Breweries Plc in December, 2003, upon his return to Nigeria, as Brand Manager, Heineken. On that position, he had additional responsibility for initiating, planning and executing strategies and programmes that were aimed at gaining market share for Gulder.

Okobi left the famous beer makers for a spell in the telecoms industry, working as Senior Manager, Post Paid Events and Sponsors, at Globacom. He would respond to the attraction to alcoholic beverage by joining Diageo International (Guinness Nigeria) in November, 2010, as Brand Manager, Marketing, the position on which he helped sustain the Johnnie Walker trademark as a profitable asset of the global brand. He held the position till April, 2014. In-between his schedules in the corporate world, Okobi returned to the classroom in 2012 for a course in Digital Marketing at the Columbia Business School, in the U.S.

Okobi’s ability to adapt effortlessly to industries and environments has chiefly accounted for the numerous successes he has recorded in all the places he has worked – whether in cosmetics, engineering, alcohol or banking. He prepares himself psychologically, physically and spiritually before making any switch.

“Six years ago (seven years now) today, after a bike ride and breakfast, I put on a suit and tie, cherry-red socks and black lace-ups, and got into my car. Destination: Access Bank. I walked up the stairs at 999C Danmole Street for my first day (and brand-new adventure) at Access Bank. Sometime during the night, my days of promoting whisky and premium spirits ended as I began the process of morphing into a banker,” Okobi is reported to have said, on his switch from one industry to another.

Since Okobi joined Access Bank in May, 2014, the financial giant has maintained an upward trajectory in terms of positive image. This is evident in the fact that the bank has so far won almost all there is to win in awards and recognitions in the banking industry, and even outside.

Access Bank won the Best Mobile Banking App Nigeria 2021 and Best CSR Bank Nigeria 2021, both from the Finance Derivative Awards; the Sustainable Bank of the Year, Africa; Best Commercial Bank Nigeria at the International Banker Awards and the 2021 Karlsruhe Award for Outstanding Business Sustainability Achievement (five-time consecutive winner). The bank also won the World Finance Award for Most Sustainable Bank (10-time winner); Central Bank of Nigeria Award for Sustainable Bank of the Year (three-time consecutive winner) and the Sustainability Team of the Year (Financial Services) Award at the 2021 Brandcom Awards.

In his personal capacity, Okobi has won the Corporate Communications Professional of the Year Award at the Corporate Communications Awards, 2017; Most Outstanding Corporate Communications Professional (Financial Services) at the 2021 Brandcom Awards and COVID-19 Response Banker of the Year Award at the 56th Chattered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria annual dinner 2021. He was made a Fellow of the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria in 2020.

O’tega Ogra: Group Head, Corporate Communications, BUA Group

In the Nigerian marketing communications industry, the name, O’tega Ogra, is one that rings a bell, not just for the expertise with which he plans and executes communication projects that have made BUA Group, arguably the country’s fastest growing indigenous conglomerate, a household name from the point of view of corporate reputation, but also for the contributions he has made to the changing face of the profession. In fact, his dexterity on the job has projected him outside the shores of Nigeria, into the West African sub-region where he is said to be a well-known, corporate and strategic communications experts.

Within the industry, he is regarded as one of the best crisis managers and reputation experts with a high commitment to excellence and professionalism.

At BUA Group where is the Group Head, Corporate Communications, Ogra has responsibility for designing and implementing corporate communication, brand, marketing, CSR and reputation management strategies that would drive the reputation and image of all the subsidiaries in the Group.

Since joining the BUA Group in June, 2015, Ogra has acquitted himself brilliantly driving communications that have stamped the Group in the consciousness of members of the public with the numerous successes it has recorded in the various sectors it has ventured into. The Group has excelled in manufacturing, in such as areas as cement and foods, and is making forays into the oil and gas industry. It is in the area of CSR that the BUA Group has demonstrated commitment perhaps more than any other corporate organization in Nigeria in recent times.

This came to the fore during the very difficult period of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when the world faced its worst health and economic crisis in a century. It was the period when the pandemic forced lockdowns around the world, including Nigeria, disrupting lives and livelihoods. The BUA Group was a member of the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID), which comprised about 50 corporate organizations and the federal government, and agencies such as the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

The Coalition was a private sector initiative by corporate organizations to contribute to saving lives and livelihoods in the country through building, equipment and donation of isolation and treatment centres, as well as donation of palliatives to alleviate the sufferings of poor Nigerians who were forced to stay at home during the lockdown.

Despite contributing substantially to the work of the Coalition, BUA Group took on the sole responsibility of donating personal protection equipment, medical equipment and supplies, including ambulances equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, to states across the country. Ogra did a fantastic job of communicating the Group’s status as a responsible corporate citizen during the period.

A graduate of Public Health from Babcock University, Ilisan, in Ogun State, Ogra began his career as a Field Officer for HIV/AIDS and Reproductive Health with the German Agency for International Department (GIZ) and the Federal Government of Nigeria Multisectoral Women Empowerment Programme in North East Nigeria. He managed five projects related to HIV/AIDS and reproductive health, Planned Parenthood, girl-child education, as well as access to justice for women and children.

He joined GTBank in 2008 and contributed to positioning the bank for the new age of digital marketing through incentives such as Ndani and GTcrea8. He set up the bank’s social media platforms in 2009.

Ogra left GTBank to join Wema Bank where, at 24, he became the youngest ever to lead corporate communications functions of a bank. This role enabled him to play a critical role in Wema Bank’s rebranding exercise in during the recapitalization and consolidation exercise of 2004/2005 in the banking industry.

Ogra joined the BUA Group as a man who had defied the popular saying of a Jack of all trades being a master of none. He is a Jack of all the trades he has put his hands into, and is a master of all.

He has won many hats over the course of his successful career – a brand stategist, digital marketer, content creator, crisis manager, and salesperson. He has also been a web designer, event organizer, business manager, entrepreneur and corporate communications expert.

Ogra is never afraid of what others see as impossibilities. In fact, such things hold a special attraction for him. He likes to take on impossibilities, what is referred to as beat-your-chest-against-the-wall challenges. He says on his Linkedin page that he is always looking for a new problem to solve.

A regular speaker at public for a, Ogra is a consultant for individuals and corporate organizations, in luxury brands and public affairs. A man with deep love for charity, he devotes time and resources to helping various causes.

Ogra, who is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (UK), was in 2021 awarded the Outstanding Corporate Communication Manager of the Year, at the 2021 Marketing Edge Annual Brands and Advertising Awards of Excellence.

Abdullahi Abdulazeez: Head, Corporate Communication, Kaduna Electric

Abdulazeez Abdullahi, Head, Corporate Communications and member of the management team at the Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company, brought into his current job a rich professional background in communication, having been a journalist at the highest level for many years.

He was Managing Editor/General Manager at Peoples Media Limited, publishers of the Abuja based People’s Daily newspaper. In this role, he was responsible for the business and marketing operations of the company, in addition to coordinating the editorial department.

Abdullahi’s rich pedigree in communication and public relations has enabled him to effortlessly manage the communication needs of Kaduna Electric across its four franchise states of Kaduna, Kebbi, Zamrara and Sokoto.

He has brought his expertise and professionalism to bear on his job of managing communication in an industry that does not enjoy the best of relationships with electricity consumers across the country. But despite the challenge of managing reputation in an industry that is generally perceived to be an unmarketable brand, Abdullahi has been able to maintain cordial relations between Kaduna Electric and its customers in four states. This is helped by the fact that the company provides services that have been adjudged satisfactory.   
His outstanding work in Kaduna Electric has earned him recognition both within the organisation and outside. Among these are the Managing Director’s recognition for Effective Crisis Communication and leading Kaduna Electric to win the Premium African Brand Leadership Merit Award in 2021.

A seasoned journalist, Abdullahi started his journalism career as a Reporter/Researcher at Daily Trust newspaper in 2001 and rose through the ranks to become its Acting Editor. He left the paper in 2008 and took up appointment at Unity Bank as Senior Banking Officer where he headed the External Communication and Brand Management units of the bank. He was a member of the Branding Committee that was saddled with the task of rebranding the bank.
Throughout his career that has spanned more than a decade, Abdullahi has had opportunities to interface with government officials at all levels including politicians and policy makers, and has built long lasting relationships. He also successfully managed teams cross functionally to achieve results.

Abdullahi obtained a Bachelor’s degree in English from the Bayero University, Kano and a Master’s in Mass Communication from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He also has a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism from Thomson Foundation, Cardiff, United Kingdom and a Post Graduate Certificate in Organizational Behaviour from the University of Cumbria, United Kingdom.

He has attended several management and strategic communication courses, and is a member of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR)

Mohammed Garba Deen: Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, NNPC

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is passing through the most critical phase of its history. For more than four decades, the corporation had been a behemoth, or an Octopus, run in a manner that was perceived to be opaque and devoid of openness and transparency. This has constantly attracted criticisms from the public almost throughout the entire period it has been in existence.

Now, with the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) in place, the former behemoth is about to be a new entity that would be run with openness, transparency and accountability. If managing public perception of NNPC before the coming of PIA was a difficult task, winning the trust, belief, sympathy, goodwill and support for the emerging new entity isn’t going to be a walk in the park. It is a job only a tried and tested communication professional like Mohammed Garba Deen can handle.

Garba Deen, the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of NNPC, had held the same position during President Muhammed Buhari’s first term when Emmanuel Ibe Kachukwu was minister of state for petroleum resources. He left the position in what would turn out to be an interregnum when the current minister of state, Timipre Silva, was appointed to replace Kachukwu, and he was appointed his Special Adviser on Media.

His second coming, on the same position, at a time the corporation needs to have its new identity, mission and activities in the new era well-articulated and communicated to the public, can only mean one thing: Garba Deen is the best man for the job. He is only the second person in recent history to hold the position at two different times in the organization.

Garba Deen is a well-rounded professional in journalism, public relations and perception management. He understands the arduous job of managing communication for an organization that needs to shade an image of opaqueness for that of an entity whose activities would be an open book for the public to read. Perhaps none other is better equipped to articulate and communicate NNPC’s new policy of Transparency, Accountability, Performance and Excellency (TAPE) than a man with the experience of Garba Deen.

He is now going to be speaking for an organization that runs as a business concern, out to make profit – an organization whose number of publics will increase to include shareholders interested in return on their investments.

His pedigree in journalism puts him in good stead for the job of a mass communicator at the level that is expected of the perception manager of a repositioned and refocused NNPC.

A former President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Garba Deen held various senior positions in the Daily Trust newspaper, including Bureau Chief, State House Correspondent, Deputy Editor, Editor, Weekly Trust and Acting Editor, Daily Trust.

He commands the respect of not only his colleagues, but also leaders in all walks of life.

Outside the newsroom, Garba Deen has worked variously as media assistant and adviser to some influential people and political leaders, including former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, as Honorary Media Assistant.

Well known for creativity and innovation, Garba Deen broke new grounds with introduction of digital media content in managing media relations and communication at his last place of assignment before his return to NNPC, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, promoting the activities of the ministry and the minister of state on conventional and social media platforms.

Garba Deen, who holds first and second degrees from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and is also an alumnus of the Lagos Business School, is not only a team player, but a leader who leads from the front.  He has a sharp and analytical mind that enables him to predict developments and prepare adequate and timely responses, from the point of view of public relations. And where he needs to be proactive to prevent and unwanted situation from occurring, he hasn’t been found wanting. 

Shade Morgan: Corporate Affairs Director, Nigerian Breweries Plc

Shade Morgan is your quintessential professional, with experience in legal and corporate communication competences across various sectors that look quite intimidating – enough to form a book. Her hands on experience in law and business management in legal and corporate environments give her a pedigree that stands her out as an achiever, by any standard. Call her an all-rounder, and you won’t be wrong.

Quite interestingly apart from the period Morgan spent practising what she actually studied, which is law, she has spent the greater part of her working life in one industry in the private sector, namely, the food, beverage and tobacco sub-sector of the consumer goods industry. She has promoted smoking; promoted consumption of non-alcoholic beverage, and now, she is promoting consumption of alcoholic beverage, specifically, beer.

Morgan joined Nigerian Breweries Plc (a member of Heineken BV Group) in December, 2018 equipped with about 26 years cognate experience in legal practice handling high profile corporate cases, as well corporate management in a multinational blue chip organization. As a member of the Executive Management, she occupies a position that enables her to strengthen the company’s non-crisis stakeholder relations and drive a strategy-led relationship with governments, regulatory organizations, host communities, the media and non-governmental organizations to reinforce the company’s Winning with Nigeria philosophy

She began her career in legal practice in 1993, working with two leading Nigerian law firms of Dentons ACAS, as well as Aluko and Oybode. In the course of her legal career, she worked across several industries and markets in Africa, Middle East, the United Kingdom, as well as other parts of Europe.

Some of her achievements while in legal practice include restructuring of an over $30 million state owned cement manufacturing company and its subsidiaries in Nigeria, which was acquired by a client who was a foreign investor; advising on regulatory requirements for foreign investment and counseling on  commercial transactions, company formations, due diligence issues and statutory as well as compliance issues.

She was a member of a multi-specialist legal team, counselling businesses on strategies for protection, enforcement and leveraging of company’s IP assets. She supported functional units on general legal matters, and ensured statutory and regulatory compliance in company operations, effectively managing external counsel to ensure maximum return for expenditure.

Morgan joined the British American Tobacco (BAT) in 2003, where she worked for over 11 years in various management positions across different jurisdictions. In 2006, she was seconded to BAT Middle East and North Africa, an assignment that enabled her to share responsibilities with the Executive Committee for the strategic management of the business unit of the Gulf Corporation Council.

She was appointed Legal Director and member of the Leadership Team of BAT in 2008. In that capacity, she drove the regulatory and legal risk management agenda for the 26 West Africa area markets of the business unit.

Morgan was assigned to the United Kingdom headquarters of BAT in 2013, with regulatory and marketing counselling and engagement oversight of BAT Group’s 86 Eastern Europe, Middle East and African region country markets. This followed her impressive performance and diverse operating company experience.

She left the services of the tobacco company to join the Nigerian Bottling Company, a member of the Coca Cola Hellenic Bottling Company Group, in2014, at the position of Public Affairs and Communications Director. While with the leading global non-alcoholic beverage brand, she recorded significant achievements that include successful driving of stakeholder management, business sustainability and the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility agenda.

Morgan has been able to bring her wealth of experience in stakeholder engagement, expertise in management of diverse publics, as well as corporate communications to bear on her job of corporate affairs director at Nigeria’s foremost beer manufacturer. This has enabled the company to remain at the top end of the market, despite the entry of some of the world’s leading brands into the country’s beer market.

A law graduate from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Morgan is a Prince II Certified Project Manager in Executive Management from the Institute of Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland. She has also attended HIMAC, an Executive Business and Leadership Programme, as well as numerous executive management programmes within and outside the country.

She is a member of the Institute of Directors, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations and Chairman of the Food and Beverage Recycling Alliance Nigeria.

Funso Aina: Senior Manager, External Relations, MTN Nigeria

Funso Aina, Senior Manager, External Relations, MTN Nigeria, has over 22 years’ experience that covers a wide range of fields such as journalism, cultural diplomacy and telecommunications under his belt. He brought into his current position proven competencies in public relations, public affairs, corporate communications, crisis management, as well as perception and reputation management.

Before his foray into the corporate world, Aina was an accomplished journalist, holding senior editorial positions in different newspapers, with extensive coverage of various fields, including foreign affairs. He was a Senior Reporter with Independent Communications Network Limited, publishers of The News magazine, as well as Tempo and PM News newspapers. He was also the State House, Abuja, as Chief correspondent for Punch newspaper, as well as a member of the newspaper’s editorial board. He held the position of Assistant Editor with The Nation newspaper.

Aina’s journalistic skills and expertise recommended him for inclusion in the International Visitors’ Programme of the State Department of the United States in 2003. That is one programme that is reserved only for the best and brightest in journalism.  In 2005, the Commonwealth Press Union made him a Fellow, also in recognition of his journalistic excellence. As part of his journalistic training, he worked as an intern with Portsmouth News, a newspaper in the UK.

Aina’s first birth upon leaving journalism was the British Council, the international organization for educational opportunities and cultural relations of the United Kingdom, as Communications Manager. That was where he learned the ropes in communication of a different kind, from what he had practised for many years in the newsroom. He also had a stint with the British Council in India.

He joined MTN in January, 2009, at the position of Public Relations Manager. On that position, he had responsibility for reputation and perception management for the telecoms giant. He also handled stakeholder management, media relations and public relations, corporate sponsorships and events management.

In recognition of his invaluable contributions to the positive image and reputation of MTN in Nigeria, he was elevated to the position of Senior Manager, External Relations, in 2018; a position that affords him the opportunity and leeway to engage more extensively, through tailor-made communications with the company’s various publics. Since his elevation, he has proved that the confidence the company reposed in him hasn’t been misplaced.

A holder of a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Ilorin and a Master’s in International Relations from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Aina has been able to bring his knowledge and competence in corporate communication to bear on his current position, especially his ability to manage communication with the company’s critical stakeholders and publics.

Aina has distinguished himself as a thorough-bred professional in corporate communication, winning the admiration and recognition of not just his employers, but also the media – his traditional constituency – as well his professional body. In one of such recognitions, the Lagos State Chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations honoured him with the award of the Best in Crisis Management, at a colourful ceremony on December 18, 2021.

He is an Associate of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations.

Folake Ani-Mumuney: Global Head, Marketing and Corporate Communications, First Bank Limited/FBN Holdings

Folake Ani-Mumuney wears two caps. She is the Global Head of the Marketing and Corporate Communications department of First Bank Limited, Nigeria’s foremost commercial banking group which has presence in several countries in Africa, as well as the United Kingdom and China. On that position, she has oversight functions in FBN Holdings Plc and all its subsidiaries in several areas that include asset management, investment banking, private equity, insurance, pension fund custodian services. She is also the Chairman, Board of Directors, FBN Insurance Brokers.

Ani-Mumuney has a significant ‘first’ attached to her name, which predates her current positions. She is remembered as being the first black woman to hold a top management position in British Airways, managing the marketing functions of the airline’s operations in Europe and Africa.

She attained the unprecedented position after successfully initiating online ticketing and check-in of customers by the airline. Her interest in the African market encouraged the company to merge Europe and Africa for easy marketing purposes.

To say that FAM, as she is called by friends and colleagues, is daring and adventurous would be to make an understatement about a woman who is almost everything rolled into one – pacesetter, innovator, leader, mentor and team player. Her career path is clearly defined by these sobriquets.

Ani-Mumuney has a career that spans over 25 years across diverse sectors such as banking, aviation, manufacturing, as well as oil and gas. She has displayed exceptional skills in all the places she has worked and in the different roles she has played, which include leading strategy and business planning, business analysis and process re-engineering, business development, innovation and marketing. She has managed portfolios in diverse locations across different continents, including Europe and Africa, Asia Pacific, Middle East and the United Kingdom.

Ani-Mumuney, unquestionably an Amazon in a male-dominated field, began to exhibit her bold, daring and adventurous side as a child when she was denied opportunity to start school with her elder sister on grounds of age. She cried and would not stop wailing until her parents caved in to her demands and sent her to school. She would exhibit this trait throughout her educational and professional journey, which is the reason she is today at the pinnacle of her career.

Her never-accept-no attitude to the pursuit for her dreams was again on display after she completed her secondary education so early that at 15, she was ready to go to the university. In fact, she was admitted to study Law at the University of Ife. But her parents, for the second time, thought otherwise. Their position was that she was too young to enter a university. They enrolled her in Queens College in Lagos, to do A ‘levels. But she had the good fortune of having her uncle intervene, pleading that she be allowed to go straight to the university. They bowed to pressure and asked her to go study Philosophy, instead of Law. It didn’t seem an exciting idea to them to have a daughter qualify as a lawyer at the still adolescent age of 19. She still had her dream of studying Law fulfilled at the University of Buckingham, England, after bagging a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy.

With a knack for learning and tendency to explore, Ani-Mumuney ventured to do a diploma course in Business Computing Analysis and Design. She simultaneously learnt Structured Query Language, which gave her the knowledge to build through coding.

“I felt I had missed out on the internet revolution and that was my way of catching up,” she recalled in an interview “It helped me to become what I have become today, which is a solutions provider.  I don’t say I am a marketer or I am a strategist or I am a business analyst, which are all things I have done.  I provide solutions. In whatever field I find myself, I try to provide solutions.  The only thing I don’t think I can do is maybe brain surgery or rocket science.  But everything else, there is a principle, there is an approach, and if you don’t know, go find out who knows and put it all together.”

Ani-Mumuney later attended the Harvard Business School where she did an Executive Programme. She followed up with several other management certificates and affiliations with many professional bodies. She joined British Airways in 1999 as a graduate trainee and, through an accelerated growth, became a Business Analyst, Strategy and Business Planning Manager for the United Kingdom. It was an opportunity for her to put into practice the solution providing skills she had acquired in the course of her studies.

“We did amazing things”, she recalled. “We conceptualized a whole idea of moving everything online—online ticketing, online check-in.  People said it would be impossible but we did it. I was a big part of creating Terminal 5.  It was a huge, huge project, to be able to bring everything in, bringing the network and everything.”

Upon her request, Ani-Mumuney was posted to West Africa where she introduced the concept of buying tickets from the banks. It was an innovative solution for the West African market which was soon exported to other parts of the world.

She served as Head of Marketing Services, Africa, for four years and later spent one year as the Head, Brands, Policies and Communications for Europe and Africa, covering 59 countries.

She left British Airways in 2009 to join Dangote Group as the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, after being personally headhunted by no less a personality than Aliko Dangote, President and Chief Executive of the Group.

She recalls how she was recruited by Dangote: “In less than two minutes he (Dangote) helped me make up my mind. I knew I wanted to be a part of something great; I knew I wanted to be part of taking a Nigerian brand to the global stage. After all, I was doing that for an international brand.  And I did it very successfully such that I won awards and accolades. But he said: ‘Come and do it. Because if we don’t do it, if we don’t take Nigeria to the world, then the negative narrative on Nigeria is what we would hear—we would never hear the positive stories out of Nigeria.  So come and do this. Come and join me.”

Apart from her credentials and five-star performance in an international organization, what attracted Dangote to Ali-Mumuney was the role she played in the organization of the 90t birthday anniversary celebration of the late South African president and anti-apartheid icon, Nelson Mandela.

She joined the Dangote Group after the brief encounter with the man who would go on to become the richest man in Africa. For the next year, she played an active role in rebranding the Group, bringing it to its current status of one of the largest indigenous conglomerates in Africa.

Positively restless and highly mobile, she joined First Bank Limited as the Head of Marketing and Corporate Communications, and was appointed to the Board of FBN Insurance Brokers Ltd in September 2017.

In 2017, Ani-Mumuney was elected the 10th and first female President of the Advertisers Association of Nigeria in a keenly contested election. Before then, in 2016, she had been elected Vice Chairman of the Junior Achievements Nigeria in August, 2016.  She became an Executive Council Member of the World Federation of Advertisers in March 2018. She is an Honorary Member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria; a Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, UK; a member of the National Institute of Marketing Nigeria and serves in an advisory capacity to many organizations on strategy and marketing communications issues. In 2019, she was given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Marketing World Awards, in Ghana.

Folake Ani-Mumuney is either a chairman or co-chairman of boards of several other private sector bodies, including and non-governmental organizations.

Anthony Chiejina: Group Head of Corporate Communications, Dangote Group

Anthony Chiejina, Group Head, Corporate Communications for the Dangote Group, is unarguably one of the big names in the circle of Nigeria’s reputation management experts. Tony, as he is fondly called by friends and colleagues, has straddled the corporate communications circuit, garnering experiences in diverse industries that include the financial and manufacturing industries.

Suffice to say, he has left his mark wherever he has had the opportunity to manage corporate communications. These achievements have been made possible by his rich pedigree in journalism, which prepared him for the various corporate communications positions he has held.

Tony was previously the head of corporate communications for Zenith Bank Plc, one of Nigeria’s leading Tier 1 financial institutions and the defunct Oceanic Bank Plc when it was at the height of its glory. So well did he acquit himself in the highly specialized and demanding field of corporate communications that he caught the attention of Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, a man noted for expertise in headhunting the best for his Group.

For over 16 years, Tony has been the unseen hand directing implementation of the various communication strategies and programmes that have ensured the Dangote Group remains in the consciousness of the public, both national and continental, from a positive perspective. The Group’s public image is propelled by its flagship subsidiary – Dangote Cement. It is to Tony’s credit that he is able to manage the reputation of a company that ranks among the top cement manufacturing companies on the African continent, with plants in eight countries – Nigeria, Cameroun, Tanzania, Ghana, Zambia, Ethiopia, Senegal and South Africa. The company has made an inroad into Asia, with a plant currently under construction in Nepal.

It mustn’t be forgotten that the Dangote Group was in 2105 adjudged the most capitalized, most profitable company with the highest shareholders’ funds in Nigeria by Businessworld 100, published by Businessworld newspaper.  Little wonder, the Group has for two consecutive years been named The Most Admired Indigenous Brand by Brand Africa magazine.
Tony holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and a Master’s in Industrial Relations from the University of Lagos; as well as two other Master’s degrees in Organizational Analysis from the University of Lancaster, United Kingdom, and Development Studies from the Institute of Social Studies (ISS), The Hague, Netherland, respectively.

He worked briefly as a Graduate Assistant at his Alma Mata, University of Lagos, before going into journalism in 1989 as Associate Editor, Deputy Editor of African Economic Digest in the United Kingdom, and later Acting Editor African Concord magazine. He left mainstream journalism to work with Seven Up Bottling Company as Personnel Manager and Editorial Adviser. He was Head, Corporate Communications, Zenith Bank Plc, from 1997 to 2005. He moved to Oceanic Bank Plc on the same position, before joining the Dangote Group where he has been for over 16 years.

Tony is a recipient of several awards and recognitions, among which is the Salzburg Fellow for Gifted Mid-Carrier Professionals, Austria; British Government Scholarship (ODASS) for Graduate Studies, UK and the Netherland Fellowship. He is a University of Lagos Scholar and a Fellow of the University of Oslo, Norway.

Nduneche Ezurike: Group Head, Strategic Brand Management and Communication, Polaris Bank Limited.

Nduneche Ezurike, Group Head, Strategic Brand Management and Communication at Polaris Bank Limited, is a marketing communication specialist with over 15 years that have seen him work with various teams in emerging and mature brands across different sectors. His expertise in delivering results that are critical to enterprise business strategy derives from the fact that he honed his skills in the banking and communication consulting sectors.

On his current position which he has held since September, 2018, Ezurike has led the bank’s brand transformation aspiration of becoming a future-determining bank focused on enabling enterprise. Some of the signature projects in which he has played an active role include mergers and acquisition communications involving Skye Bank and Mainstreet Bank, in 2015. For that exercise, he managed the communication team of Mainstreet Bank which involved coordinating its communication and cultural integration with Skye Bank. He coordinated brand transformation initiatives for Bank PHB in 2007 and Polaris Bank in 2019, and leadership change management, Polaris Bank in 2015. Others are crisis management communication for Polaris Bank in 2015; Digi-Fest (project volunteer in 2018), as well as Employee Innovation and Millennial Integration for Polaris Bank, in 2019.

Ezurike has come a long way in reputation management and communication, such that he could be correctly described as a veteran. His journey has involved being an employee and a consultant at various times. Between April, 2003 and February, 2005, he was Head, Corporate Communications at the erstwhile Continental Trust Bank Limited, on which position he supervised integration of the brand’s standards with that of the parent company (the bank had just been acquired by Standard Trust Bank Limited). He also advised the managing director and chief executive officer on brand development propositions and behaviour change strategies.

He was appointed Head, Internal Communications at Standard Trust Bank in February, 2005. On that position, he implemented the bank’s internal communication strategy along defined performance metrics. He also managed the bank’s annual Group Employee Survey, generating periodic reports arising from staff feedback to the leadership for policies and activities.

Ezurike was appointed Head, Media Management, at the United Bank for Africa, after the banking consolidation exercise of 2005 which saw Standard Trust Bank become one of the legacy banks under UBA. He handled implementation of the post-integration media plan, and also supervised media and communication officers across 300 branches of the bank.

He wrote speeches for the chief executive officer and other key management staff of the bank, and also liaised with key media contacts and newswires to organize press interviews, press conferences and other media engagements by the bank.

A highly itinerant media and communications manager, Ezurike left UBA in June, 2006, to join Ecobank Nigeria Plc as Head, External Relations. By this time, he had acquired enough expertise that enabled him to build relationships with top level stakeholder groups and financial partners on the implementation of the bank’s sponsorships and corporate social responsibility programmes. He also designed and mobilized sponsorship and promotional activities to drive the bank’s initiatives and also support relevant requests from the public.

In June, 2008, Ezurike made yet another move to Bank PHB, where he coordinated the activities of 12 staff in four departments, namely, Media Relations, Brand Management, Internal Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility. He liaised with executive management, consultants and product managers to ensure brand uniformity across the bank and its subsidiaries within the West Coast. He also implemented positive brand perception, and succeeded in achieving good rating from rating institutions.

In between his movement through financial institutions, Ezurike has had stints running consultancies as a private individual. At different times, he managed True Tales Communication, Signature Group and Caritas Communication, the latter as Chief Operating Officer.

Ezurike is a member of the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, a designated global network of business professionals making research contributions to the Harvard Business Review.

Through his affiliations with the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), the Nigerian Institute of Marketing (NIM), Chartered Institute of Bankers, Nigeria, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and the Chartered Institute of Arbitration (CIArb) London, he can leverage on invaluable resources to advance best practices in my field.

He has published over 100 articles and served on several panels and volunteer boards to share ideas on the business-enabling role of Integrated Marketing Communication and Business Sustainability in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

His on-going research and knowledge sharing initiatives on the role of corporate leadership in mobilizing millennial employees to achieve workplace collaboration and innovation have impacted over 400 individuals since 2018.

Ezurike is passionate about digital transformation, gender inclusion and the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa.

A fellow of the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria and a fellow of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, Ezurike is always seeking opportunities to impact his workplace, community and society.