Highest Honour is to serve Your Country – Lolu Akinwunmi

‘Lola Akinwunmi is the immediate past President of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) has a lot to be really grateful for. For a man who just concluded his tenure as the APCON President, and had previously held sway as the President of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) and the pioneer Secretary and CEO of the Nigerian Rebranding Project, he has experienced a lot in the advertising industry, attaining glorious heights in his career and reaching the zenith of the advertising industry. Marketing Edge’s Ntoka Gabriel reports.

Reflecting on his tenure as APCON President in a media parley with journalists recently, he talked extensively about a plethora of wide-ranging issues he had to contend with as well as the controversy that greeted his replacement as APCON Chair, the upcoming general elections and the role of advertisers and his future. He described the journey as quite rewarding but was not a smooth sail as expected. After his appointment by President Goodluck Jonathan and his subsequent confirmation by the National Assembly in 2010, Mr Akinwunmi declared that he had to swing immediately into action because there were lots of unresolved and conflicting issues on ground rather than just performing the traditional statutory responsibilities of vetting adverts and preparing syllabuses for higher institutions as advised by senior APCON members.

Such lingering issues he had to tackle head on included the proper re-structuring and reformation of APCON in order to be an effective federal government agency that would perform its duties as a stern regulator of the industry and that led the council to review the fourth code which led to the establishment of the fifth code, the persistent disputes between the two major breweries, Guinness Nigeria PLC and Nigerian Breweries PLC and, the limitation of foreign advertisers doing business in Nigeria, a decision which he received extreme backlash as such decision was not well received from the affected parties and saw him dragged before several government officials, agencies and institutions such as the former Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, the Nigerian Investment Promotions Council (NIPC) and the National Assembly, just to mention a few alongside in his words, an “odious campaign” against APCON and himself in the media.

Mr Akinwunmi discussed extensively the issue of foreign ownership of advertisement businesses especially in the communications sector during the media chat and said that while he is not discouraging foreign investment in the advertising sector as Nigeria is a signatory to various international trade protocols, he remains convinced that there are eminent Nigerians who can professionally run such businesses and therefore must be given the enabling environment to perform such tasks because as Nigerians, the major tenet of democracy, the system of government which the country operates is to carter for the interest of its people and the council ensure the interest of the Nigerian people were protected. He however raised a more salient issue saying that for a growing economy and polity such as ours, public communication is very delicate and therefore it would be a dangerous precedent to allow foreigners control the apparatus of communication in the country as whoever possesses the structure of public communications in a particular environment would like to control and influence the entire structure and also influence the view-point of the unsuspecting public consumers of information which has a grave security and socio-cultural implication on the people and the country in general. He acknowledged that during this epic battle, he received “uncommon support” from groups such as the AAAN, ADVAN, OAAN, MIPAN and other groups as they knew what was at stake.

On the stern battle for the control of the alcoholic market by the major breweries, Mr Akinwunmi admitted that the relationship between the two major breweries had gone sour and tensions had heightened drastically to the extent that he had to personally wade in to resolve the conflict, ditching the procedural APCON committee which was to look into the case after one of the breweries CEO allegedly indicted the council for complicity, in order to quickly resolve it before the situation got messier and APCON became the scapegoat. He affirmed that after investigations, the committee found out that the situation was untrue and the alleging brewery company repudiated


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