By Amaka Agwuegbo
When his talent as a Â Â Â creative person began to show in his secondary school days, Kingsley Emezueâ€™s mother would always tear up his drawings and illustrations. She wanted him to be an accountant.
But he had another dream. That was almost 20 years ago. Today, Kingsley is living his dream: two cars, a family of three kids, an annual profit of about N800, 000 from designing cards, printing calendars and plaques. And mummy enjoyed this too!
Kingsley Okechukwu Emezue, owner of Kings Arts, is a graphic artist from Umuahia, Abia State, who defied his motherâ€™s wish for him to be an accountant and became a professional artist with 16 years of experience. What started as a N20, 000 business 16 years ago is now worth over N9 million today. He is neither depending on any body nor looking for a white collar job like most Nigerians. He is self employed.
â€œI have always had this artistic tendencies right from when I was a child and in my secondary school days, my mother would always tear up my drawings and illustrations because she did not want me to follow that path of career.
â€œMother wanted me to become an accountant and anytime she sees me drawing
, she would tear them up, asking me how many people are artists in Nigeria. â€˜Is this how you are going to build your home and feed your family?â€™ she would always ask. But father encouraged me to pursue my dreams and he persuaded mother to leave me alone.â€
Alone she did leave him, but reluctantly as Kingsley later gained admission to study graphic arts in Yaba College of Education, finally giving him the chance to spread his wings and live his dreams.
â€œAfter my youth service year, I worked in 2 advertising agencies as a graphic artist in one year before I quit to satisfy the desire to really establish myself in making greeting cards, plaques and also perfect my skills at printing calendars, banners, magazines, among others.
â€œThis is because in Nigeria, the demand for customized greeting cards and corporate gift items for organizations is on the increase. And as a graphic artist, one is supposed to know everything under graphic arts because one may not know where the big job may come from.â€
Kingsley didnâ€™t have it so rosy when he started out as he had to use the sitting room in the family house as his studio since he could not afford to rent one, especially not with competitors and customers not giving him half a chance at succeeding.
â€œToday, not only do I have a studio in my flat, I have trained 6 people and 4 of them are already established with their own studios. I thank God I talked them into going to school to get a degree because no matter what you do, you need to be educated.â€
Kingsley disclosed that his unique 3D emphasis of the recipientâ€™s name, use of colours, flowers and ribbons, his neat finishing and use of coat of arms for government officials have set him apart from the pack and are also responsible for the patronage he gets as his cards have brought him closer to people that matter in the society – what some other artists only dream of.
â€œIt takes me about an hour to 2 hours to finish a card size of small, medium and large which costs N1,200, N2,300 and N6,000, some prefer the extra large, which could cost about N150,000, depending on the customers negotiating powers.
â€œThis card making business is very lucrative and I am grateful to God for the level of patronage I have. From this business, I married a wife, maintain 2 cars, feed my family, pay rents and also supported my mother who later blessed me before she passed on.
â€œCard making has taken me to places I normally would have been dreaming of. I have met the former Chief of Naval Staff, Ganiyu Adekeye, I met with Justice Roseline Ukeje of the Ikoyi High Court, top army, customs, naval and air force officers who want greeting cards to be made for them.
Recalling how he met Justice Ukeje, Kingsley said â€œI did a card for someone which was addressed to her, and a couple of days later, I got a call from a woman with a commanding voice who said she wanted to see me at Ikoyi High Court.
â€œWhen I asked who was on the line, she declined disclosing her name till I come to the High Court. I told her I would not come if she refuses to tell me her name and who she is. She laughed, remaking that my attitude shows I am educated.â€
Kingsley later went to see Justice Ukeje and that opened a window of opportunities for his career.
â€œOn getting to her office, I intimidated by the caliber of people that were at her waiting to see her. Her secretary had this â€˜who is this small boy coming to see madamâ€™ look when she saw me but when I told her my name, she said â€˜oh, the card guyâ€™ then went in to tell the Justice. I was immediately ushered into her office to the amazement of other big people waiting for her. And Iâ€™ve been making cards for her.â€
Another name on his long list of clients is Buba Gyang, former Nigeria Customs boss who got hooked to his card after one of his works was presented to him.
â€œThe former Nigeria Customs boss, Gyang, called my phone number, which is always at the back of all my cards, saying he wanted to do a very big card for former president Obasanjo, and that he will be sending one of his men with the card details.
â€œI didnâ€™t know he would be sending a Zonal Comptroller who stormed the area with his convoy. When people in the neighbourhood saw the number of Customs Police that came to give me the card details, they were all surprised and some said some nasty things about me. Some said maybe I stole money while some said I had duped someone for me to be able to afford to live the way I live, prompting Customs officials to come and arrest me.
â€œI entered the ogaâ€™s vehicle who told me the details of the card the CG wanted. And throughout the time it took me to finish the card, he kept on calling me daily to remind me of the details of the card because he didnâ€™t want any errors on it.â€
Till today, this father of three still does jobs for Nigeria Customs, top army, naval, air force and other highly placed people in the society who reside in Abuja, Port-Harcourt, and other parts of the country.
â€œCan you believe I have not seen some of my clients because they probably got my number from the back of my card or a client gave it to them and they call to place their orders?
â€œWhen I get some calls to make greeting cards or plaques for people, they ask for my account details to pay in the money, or ask if it is okay for them to send someone with the money when coming to pick the cards.
Though Kingsley said business is good, but he pointed out that one of the deterrents is the connection factor â€“ who you know that can connect you to people that will give you big jobs and where you belong.
â€œIn our line of business, when you have people who can connect you to people that matter, youâ€™ll end up having big jobs that would set you apart and make people look for you.â€
This Festac- based artist wants government to help artists by providing machineries to produce the materials needed for their trade.
â€œNone of the material like plywood, glittering dust, display boards, coloured cards and chip boards that are used in making cards are not made in Nigeria, so we have to import from abroad.
â€œWe want government to assist us by providing the enabling environment to produce some of these materials here since we have the human resources.
â€œAlso, government, especially Lagos State, can help reduce the cumbersome registration process we face in the hands of LASAA officials because since its introduction, the agency has made the process tedious.
â€œThey demolished all sign boards and banners and introduce a new process for registration and renewal of business signboards. This is stressful and is hindering a lot of people from coming into the business and some prospective customers usually find it difficult t locate us.â€