For a company that started off unsure of what the future held for it, Tanus Communications rolls out the drums to celebrate 20 years of its existence
At the beginning, the idea was to establish a modest multi-faceted marketing company that would combine some advertising with media relations and communications. The company was also supposed to make book publishing an integral part of its operations.
However, 20 years down the line, Tanus Communications and Tanus Books, according to Yemi Ogunbiyi, the chairman, is eternally grateful it went into book publishing. Speaking at a lecture organised to mark 20 years of the existence of the company, Ogunbiyi traced how the company has evolved from one he established after he lost his job as managing director of Daily Times to a major player in the field of communications and book publishing.
To start with, he said, “Our first major job as a new company in 1992 was a contract to produce a coffee-table type corporate book on the history of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.” While attributing the job to goodwill from Alex Nwokedi, a friend, Ogunbiyi said Tanus made enough money from that particular contract to set the new company on sure footings for the future.
According to him, from that point on there has been no going back in the giant strides of the company towards becoming one of the household names when it comes to the production of corporate publications and educational instructional materials.
He explained that building on the NNPC job, the company went on to get similar jobs from other corporate organisations, including the Nigerian Reinsurance Corporation, which he said retained Tanus to produce major publications. In the same vein, he said Tanus also did similar jobs for the then Afribank, and that invariably opened doors for more of such jobs from other banks and companies in the financial services sector.
The company’s foray into the field of educational publications however did not take a sure footing until around 1999. This, Ogunbiyi attributed to the help of Donald Duke, former Cross River State governor, who he also described as a friend and younger brother. Said he: “Barely days after his assumption of office in 1999 as governor, he declared a state of emergency in the education sector in Cross River State and subsequently accepted the report of a special committee which he had set up to have the state produce its own textbooks. And since Governor Duke was familiar with some of our work in the area of corporate book production, he asked us to help and produce some of the finished texts. We did and the finished products looked quite good.”
The story did not however end there. Ogunbiyi said since the books were based on the approved national curriculum, Tanus offered, under a copyright arrangement with the state, to market the books to other states of the federation. “That year, we sold a lot of books. It immediately dawned on us that there was a demand for well-written, well-produced and well-marketed school textbooks, especially if their prices were competitive,” Ogunbiyi said. He added that there and then, Tanus decided that rather than merely market the Cross River State titles, it would also produce its own textbooks. In this respect, Ogunbiyi’s academic background came in handy as he was able to rally some of his colleagues in the universities to set up a compact and effective book publishing organisation that was designed to take full advantage of the benefits of digitalisation.
Today, he says, the company has about 232 school titles in its stable ranging from such technical titles as carpentry and joinery for technical colleges, Fabrication and Welding Practice, Radio/Television Electronic Works to the standard core titles such as English Studies, Mathematics, Computer Studies and Basic Science. At the moment, he explained that the company is working in collaboration with some foreign partners to produce a specially designed Tanus-Book tablet that would hold all of its textbooks electronically.
Ogunbiyi seized the occasion of the company’s 20th anniversary to give gratitude to individuals and institutions that have contributed in no small measure to the success story of Tanus Communications and Tanus Books. In this respect, he was full of gratitude to Ahmed Muhammed, the executive secretary of the Universal Basic Education Scheme who he said provided a lot of support for Tanus at the level of the federal government. At the state level, in addition to Cross River, Ogunbiyi was full of gratitude to Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Ekiti states.
He also did not fail to recognise the staff of Tanus for their efforts in making the company a success story. In this regard, Ogunbiyi particularly mentioned three pioneering staff of Tanus – Tosin Falade, the finance director; Helen Nwude, general manager and Chukwuma Ukaegbu – who he said resigned from relatively secure jobs at Daily Times to join him in setting up Tanus 20 years ago and have since then never looked back.
Activities marking the 20th anniversary of Tanus included a public lecture titled: The Future of Nigerian Education. The public lecture attended by distinguished Nigerians from all walks of life was delivered by Ayo Banjo, emeritus professor of English language and former vice chancellor of the University of Ibadan. Banjo used the lecture to highlight the importance of education in the quest of the government of the day to secure a better future for all Nigerians. He lamented the poor state of affairs in the education sector in Nigeria while partly blaming it on paucity of funds.