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Honesty, dedication kept us afloat – Osigwe, advertising guru

At 50, Mr. Ingram Osigwe, Managing Director of Full Page International Communications Limited, is already a fulfilled man.  From a humble beginning, having been trained by a father, who was a school principal, the Mathematics and Statistics graduate turned media executive has grown to become one of the most sought after advertising practitioners.

However, his journey to success was not rosy, as he had to cope with loss of family members, such as his siblings and more painfully, his first son. While many companies have closed shops and fizzled away due to the harsh economic condition, Osigwe has weathered the storm and been able to succeed where others faltered.

In this interview with Ayodele Olalere, at his exquisite office in Festac, Lagos, he bared his mind on his journey to success, his pains, and life at 50 and what has kept him going.


You turned 50 on July 30, how do you feel at 50?

I feel fulfilled and humbled and count myself lucky, having attained that golden age. Life expectancy in regional Africa is not a good statistics. So, for one to get to 50 really calls for thanksgiving and celebration, having attained the milestone.

 What has life taught you in the last 50 years?

Life has taught me to be humble and patient, and for one to tread on the path of honesty because if you imbibe all these features, you will attain your heights in life. My moral philosophy in life has been there is enough for our need but not enough for our greed. When I look at being content, I believe in life, you meet honest client who want to do business with honest agency. From my background, my dad retired as a school principal; so, he imbibed those virtues in us. He always wanted us to bury ourselves in books and empower ourselves; he always told us to choose a path of honesty and hard work.

 How was your growing up like?

Life was very interesting. As I told you, my father was a school teacher and it was about books and reading. He used to tell us we should read our books, pass and if you excel in life, then you can buy a box of cloth, bags of clothes and shoes  in a day but you cannot attain your heights in a day. What he was saying is that one should not allow so much of clothing and materials things to be a distraction. Stick to your books and excel and come out with good grades, then you will get a good job.

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We have grown to a more knowledge-based economy. The owner of Facebook, when he was painstakingly going through the process of how to develop the software, he expunged all these distractions in him. My father would always tell you to be honest and when you match your honesty with hard work, you will definitely get there.

When did you start your company?

I read Maths and Statistics. When I graduated, I had serious love for liberal arts; so, I started reading books for development. I later veered into advertising and got certified. The career development in our society is not strengthened. Lots of us in the 80s and 70s were trying to read courses that were the choice of our parents and not our own calling. They felt then that the potential to make a living rested on being a doctor, engineer or lawyer. Most people that travelled abroad then went there to read law or medicine or engineering. They never thought that a comedian too could make money. Nobody gave a chance to an actress or somebody reading theatre arts.

If you see somebody now that read Biochemistry or Microbiology or Zoology, many did not apply for it in the university. They definitely wanted to read medicine before veering to Microbiology.  Then we had impression that it’s only those courses that could lead you to success. To me, a graduate ought to be total perso, who knows everything. The way you passed through school, let school pass through you so you can come out for anything when you imbibe the virtue of being patient and honest.

There are people who are master cartoonists, that people buy newspapers just to read cartoon. These are people, who have chosen a career, excelled and got to the peak.

How will you rate the advertising industry in Nigeria vis-a-vis the present harsh economy?

Every occupation has its own challenges. The advert industry in Nigeria has really evolved so much. Lately, we have infractions from some foreign agencies, conniving with unscrupulous people here. Some don’t go through regulatory agencies. When you look at what is happening in advertising world, the print media is being suffocated because of the advent of the new media.

Before a story will come out in print, the story is already online so the new media is really affecting the print media. That is why abroad, some magazines like Newsweek ad TIME went into extinction. The print media have been hit by the new media. Everybody has to brace up but that does not mean the core traditional media will die but to reach out to all spheres, you must make use of the new media.

The economy is affecting the advertising world vis-a-vis infrastructure. Government is trying their best but the lack of power is affecting them. In the 80s, we read about the factors influencing industry, such as proximity to market and infrastructure. Government is trying their best in providing power because that is the most important sector that drives the economy.

Once the power sector is attended to, there will be so many industries. Haven’t you wondered there was a stage in this country when there was industralisation. We had so many companies and beverage companies. Almost every state had one brewery company or another. Even the bakery industry too but sadly the power situation became worse; the cost of production became high. So, if they achieve power, people would try their best to establish companies and create more jobs, which will drive the advertising world.

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As a company, what has helped you to remain relevant in the industry?

Part of things that have kept us afloat is our honesty. We try our best to be honest with our client. There are things our people will do. We tell our clients the truth. Once you are honest, your clients will trust you. Also, always give your clients superior ideas. For a client to come to you, such person is looking for superior reasoning or other ways that can boost his brand different from what he already knows. So, you must be on top of your game.

Some weeks back, a client sent some money to us and we found out that he overpaid us. We didn’t wait for him to call us; we called him to inform him and paid him back. That money could have solved a lot of problems for us but those are the things we talking about. We can still grow if we are honest. That man that we refunded his money could be our marketer, campaigning for us. There is always an honest person, looking for another person to do business with. So, this is our core values.

Let me take you back to your background. What are the good and bad memories that you have and are unforgettable?

Life is about the good, the bad and ugly. One was when I lost my mother. She is a woman that gave all. In 1993 when I was preparing for my Youth Service and I needed money to travel to Abuja for camping, I told her I needed money to go.  She didn’t have the money because she had used the money to stock her shop.

She had to take auction crates of minerals to another woman selling so she could raise money for me. I would have loved her to be around and witnessed me turning 50 years. Another painful memory is the loss of my two younger siblings. Very sad enough, they were all graduates of Federal University Technology, Owerri, FUTO. One died of pneumonia while the other was a victim of building collapse in Port Harcourt in 2005. And, of course, losing my first child is painful too. These are painful memories. But life is all about that; some people cry some are happy.

 If you have the opportunity to rewind the time, what would you like to do differently?

I have really had an eventful life. I don’t wish to turn anything back. Coming from a humble family, I have been opportune to be educated. I don’t wish to go back. Seeing your workers as associates and paying their salaries as when due makes me happy because it is their basic right. You don’t need to make people kneel before you help them because God has a purpose for blessing you.

How did you meet your wife?

We Igbo have a way, not like this age when you look for wife on the Internet. Those days, a woman is recommended to you and you do the findings about her. You don’t just go and see anybody. It was through that referral we were able to meet. After the referral then brief courtship before marriage.

Are any of your children taking after you?

Yes. If you are brainy and your wife is brainy, those genes are transferred to the children. They have developed a passion for books.  The economy has made it that there is no reading culture again. In the 80s, you must read books, which helped to build your diction and growth. I encourage my children to read and censor what they read and watch.

 How do you relax, do you go clubbing?

I love music. I came from a family with great musical background. My uncle is a musician and first cousin, who is a reggae musician. I listen to all genres of songs and I provide contents for some radio stations. I like classical songs. I am also a wine collector from the entire continent. I also try to read 20 books in a year.  I am also a fan of Arsenal football for the past 30 years; I love football.

 What are your likes and dislikes?

I dislike people, who are dishonest. There is enough for our need but not enough for our greed. Life is made of three Cs. You Complain, complement and Compromise. You complain about things you don’t like, when someone does something good, you complement and things you can’t take you compromise.

 What’s your fashion style?

I am a proud Nigerian when it comes to fashion. I don’t believe that Mungo Park came here to discover River Niger because our forefathers had been going to that stream and had a name they called that stream. We cannot copy European style completely.

I don’t believe I must wear suit when going to meet a client on a Monday. You wear what fits you. We have traditional wears that are good fashions and our tailors have gone haywire now. I do more of native wears and like mostly white.