Toks Modupe: For Whom It’s All About “The People”, By Tunde Okoli
A marketing communications strategist par excellence, Toks is renowned in the industry for BIG ideas. Even while he took half of his professional time off to consult for clients in the murky Nigerian political terrains, Toks left impressive footprints cutting across the nation’s political divides.
You cannot miss the message that greets you once you step into the office marked “Rebel Leader” at Africa’s topmost public relations agency, TPT International. On a glass table facing you as you’re ushered into the sprawling office, sits an iron statuette of Elemu on a stylish glass pedestal beckoning on you for patronage. Elemu is the quintessential palmwine tapper/hawker reputed to have evolved the concept of “total marketing” in local parlance. The Elemu, in Yoruba traditional marketing heritage, combines the elements of production (as the tapper of the wine), advertising/public relations (being the itinerant hawker of his product) and marketing (as the retailer selling his own product to customers).
This essence and aura of Elemu pervade the cozy office of Adetokunbo Modupe, better known as Toks Modupe, the founder and Rebel Leader at TPT International, who has just added another year to his glorious days on planet earth.
A very warm and hearty happy birthday to you sir, the reference point of Nigeria’s marketing communications sector.
Though this is simply meant to be a birthday salute from a close associate, permit me to indulge in some professional musing as learnt under your expert tutelage. The innovative Elemu’s business module is about people and service. The legendary figure of Elemu sold an enduring image of TPT International for 20 years, since your founding of the companyin 1998. This same legendary image captures the essence your life, beliefs and business philosophy. Like the Elemu, your professional life is about people and service.
At TPT International, it is not about positions held by individuals; the emphasis is on people, the team. Hence, the acronym TPT (the-preferred-team) as name of the company. Until recently, even the official website of TPT International (www.tptinternational.com) does not tell of Toks’ portfolio in the company. It’s all about the people.
A marketing communications strategist par excellence, Toks is renowned in the industry for BIG ideas. Even while he took half of his professional time off to consult for clients in the murky Nigerian political terrains, Toks left impressive footprints cutting across the nation’s political divides. One of his most esteemed accomplishment being the Heart of Africa project, a strategic international perception management initiative used to launder the country’s image and promote the positive attributes of the country to the rest of the word. Likewise, the several innovative branding projects he conceived and executed on behalf of his home Ondo State during the administration of his friend and political associate, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, the immediate past governor who made history as the only person to have governed the State for two concurrent terms.
He dreams BIG, aims BIG and achieves BIG always. As the publisher of celebrity magazine, City People, noted in a recent piece, Toks will always charge his colleagues at TPT International to “Think Big, Act Big” and that a PR agency is not a mere media relations agency. Indeed, he will always insist that media relations is only a tool in the hands of PR to execute aspects of strategy and drive communication plans to achieve desired results. According to Toks, “there’s no accident in PR. Nothing happens by accident. Everything is about a deliberate and carefully designed plan, put to work on a well hatched strategy”.
At TPT International, a company he founded some 20 years ago, Toks remains a “Leader”, not a manager of people, not of individuals or ‘workers’. The label on the door to his office says it all – “Rebel Leader”. As a leader, he exhibits all the inherent attributes of a charismatic frontrunner who leads his organisation as a team. This is far from “managers” who merely “run” things, human and material, towards organisational goals. A leader pilots his organisation as a cohesive group/team. What he sees in the teams members are people, unlike managers who see and run the affairs of members of their organisations as just human resources made of individuals.
As a leader at TPT International and anywhere he is saddled with the mantle of leading people, Toks carries with him an aura of a servant-leader and exudes all the characteristics of a servant who leads, including those of – listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualisation, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community.
Toks is a builder of men. The quintessential public relations guru has his footprints all over the PR industry in Nigeria. There’s hardly any PR agency you go to today in Nigeria that you won’t find an alumnus who passed through the tutelage of Toks at TPT International. Today, a large chunk of PR professionals practicing in Nigeria today, honed their skills and expertise in TPT.
His incursion into politics nearly a decade ago has been as innovative, memorable, and successful as his professional and social life. When your Facebook calendar alert reminds you that it will be another landmark birthday for Toks in a few days, you began to ruminate on what to tell him on his birthday since distance won’t allow you to be physically present him with a gift to mark the special day. You contemplate, at this stage of his life now, why not take the next BIG step in the political terrain? After all isn’t it said that a time comes in a man’s life that he must make some decisions. Yeah, the man makes these decisions most times.
However, in some cases, they have others – nature, fate, destiny and people – suggest or make such decisions for them. I thought to myself, this is the point to make Toks take his involvement in politics to the next level. As he is a year older, I feel it is time for Toks to be fully actively involved in the running of the affairs of Nigeria. Especially now that the country yearns for fresh, vibrant and young politicians brimming full of progressive and innovative ideas to take the country out of the conundrum it has been condemned in recent times.
As these thoughts rage in one’s mind, one reaches for your phone; the same phone whose alarm had jolted one from his studies thatbhad been going on all night. It’s at about 2:37AM CDT, Bloomington, Illinois, United States time, and one’s call hits the homeland shore as 9:37 a.m. Nigerian time. Toks’ unmistakable voice hits one’s ears from the other end of the receiver. “Tunde Bawo ni? Bawo ni Studies? O sun ni?” (Tunde how are you? How’s studies? Do you ever sleep?), he asks in his usual complimentary style. “Oga, I just want to say happy birthday in advance”. One explains. “Thank you…” And one cuts in to add, “but sir, I just want to ask what your plan is towards 2019?” Before he replies one adds, “I think you need to make the next move in politics now sir…” ranging between question and affirmative advice. “Well, I am still giving it a thought,” he tries to explain. “Sir, I think I have this figured out for you already, if you don’t mind. I think you should shoot for our Senatorial District’s slot at the red chambers of the National Assembly”. “Well…” was all he says and then silence.
Now why am I prodding Toks on to vie for a seat at the Nigerian Senate? My reasons are not far-fetched. First, I have known and worked with Toks well enough to know him personally that he is eminently qualified for a seat at the Nigerian Senate. As a stakeholder and kinsman of Toks from Ondo North Senatorial District, I know he possess all the attributes of the ideal candidate that our people desire to represent us at the National Assembly, especially its upper legislative chambers. What is more, I doubt if anyone is in better positioned to advise Toks on this other than I am.
As a stakeholder, I once took a shot at a seat in the green chambers of the National Assembly to represent my federal constituency comprising two of the six local government areas that make up the Ondo North Senatorial District. I know the leadership gap that exists as far as the district is concerned. I know and recognise that having someone with a pedigree, sound mind, business and professional success like Toks is what people of the area have been yearning for. The time cannot be more right or ripe for Toks to take on the next challenge to serve his motherland than now.
As he marks yet another milestone on his birthday this year, the expectation is that he will heed the expectation and call of people in the Ondo North Senatorial District to take up the gauntlet and vie to represent the District in the Nigerian Senate in the next dispensation.
His contributions to the political life of the people of the district in the past 10 years of his veering into politics is legendary. “How lucky are the people of Ondo North Senatorial District if they have someone in the calibre of Toks – a young, vibrant professional brimming with progressive ideas – to represent them at the Senate?”
Like his professional life, the people are the focus of Toks’ involvement in politics. Since joining politics, he has successfully supported several young men and women to political offices at all levels of government – ward councilors, local government chairmen/chairpersons, State house of assembly members, federal House of Representatives members etc.
His leadership of his party provided voice for party members in the district. Though he was not a political appointee or elected office holder, he was responsible for attracting several political appointments to several people in the entire Senatorial District during the eight years reign of his friend, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, as State governor.
Toks is unarguably about the most qualified person, when compared to those rumoured to be jostling to vie in the race to represent the Ondo North Senatorial District at the Senate in the next dispensation. Asides having paid his dues in Ondo State’s political arena, he is one of the very few political figures in Ondo North Senatorial District who has contributed immensely to the socio-political and economic development of the area. As stated earlier, his support and sponsorship of young men and women to political offices via election and appointments before now is a testimony to his enduring contribution to the development of the people of the area.
Everything seems to have prepared Toks for the role destiny is cutting for him in his ancestral home. As a growing boy, Toks was raised by his grandmother from whom he not only learnt and honed his street-smart marketing skills and knowledge, but also the act of selfless giving and caring for the needy. His philosophy to giving is simple and humbling. Make people (that is, people that really need help, people at the lowest rung of society ladder) the centre of your giving. While many so called philanthropists spend a better part of what is at their disposal on lavish ceremonies like setting up foundations etc. to display their acts of giving, Toks believes in a quiet, almost anonymous manner of giving back to his society.
More importantly, among those currently jostling for the District’s exalted seat at the Senate, Toks is the only candidate who has his roots in two of the six local government areas of the District. He is son and a chief (Akogun) of the ancient town of Owo, in Owo Local Government Area, his paternal homestead; as well as of Ute, his maternal ancestral home in Ose Local Government Area of the Senatorial District.
As a liberalist, Toks’ network of friends cuts across political divides. For instance, I and Toks has never belonged to the same political party. While I ran for the House of Representatives seat in 2009 on the Action Congress (AC) platform, he was one of ruling Labour Party (LP) stalwarts in the State and leader in the senatorial district. When my party transformed, first to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), and later All Progressives Congress (APC), Toks moved with his friend and political associate, Dr. Mimiko, to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), where he still is today. Despite belonging to different political convictions, we have managed to maintain good relationship and respectably share our thoughts on political matters without unnecessary friction. His liberal approach to politics and politicking is largely responsible for the large followership he enjoys across political divides in Ondo State. What is more, Toks has nurtured and maintained a large network of friends across the entire Ondo, especially in the six LGAs in Ondo North, which he treats as his primary constituency. From Akoko South-East to Akoko South-West, Akoko North-East to Akoko North-West, and from Owo to Ose LGAs, Toks has friends, colleagues, acolytes, political associates and admirers, cutting across ages, sexes, social and religious associations. People he has in one way or the other, touched their lives.
If the race is about the people, if the agenda is to seek a true servant of the people to go on to the red chambers in Abuja to represent the people of Ondo North Senatorial District, no one is more qualified than the one whose life and ambition has been to uplift his people – Toks Modupe. Hence, the reason for this call out to Toks to consider running to represent the district in the next senate in 2019.
While one would commend those who have had the privilege of serving the Senatorial District at the Senate in the past, especially in the last 20 years, it is high time that the Senatorial District sends someone who can creditably articulate the needs, hopes and aspirations of the people of the area at the red chambers in Abuja. Elsewhere in the world, the job of the legislature by nomenclature, is service. It is the most representative arm of governance. Hence, the need to send someone who is ready to be a servant of the wards, LGAs, State House of Assembly constituencies, Federal House of Representatives constituencies in the Senatorial District.
Though this piece was simply conceived to be a birthday salutation jive, in view of the foregoing and as a stakeholder in the affairs of my people, I cannot resist joining voices to ask Toks to take up the challenge of running to represent our senatorial district in the next Senate.
This is a role nature, fate, and destiny seem to have prepared for him as a leader among his people.
Tunde Okoli of Oka-Akoko writes from Bloomington/Normal, Illinois, USA.