Sunday, 10th December 2023

Adenuga: Industrious, illustrious

By Ray Ekpu
02 May 2023   |   3:15 am
Last Saturday the newspapers were choked by adverts inserted by friends, business associates and beneficiaries of Michael Adeniyi Agbolade Ishola Adenuga Jr, a billionaire businessman who turned 70.

Mike Adenuga

Last Saturday the newspapers were choked by adverts inserted by friends, business associates and beneficiaries of Michael Adeniyi Agbolade Ishola Adenuga Jr, a billionaire businessman who turned 70.

Better known as Mike Adenuga Jr, the man has made phenomenal achievements in the business world. He owns Globacom, Nigeria’s second-largest telecommunication network which also operates in Ghana and Benin Republic. His oil company, Consolidated Oil Limited, is the first indigenous oil company in Nigeria to strike oil in commercial quantity.

His father Michael Agbolade Adenuga Sr was a school teacher, while his mother Juliana Oyindamola Adenuga (nee Onashile of Okesopin, Ijebu Igbo) was a business woman of Royal Ijebu descent.

Adenuga Jr learnt the rudiments of business at the feet of his mother and made his first million in 1979 at the age of 26 by selling lace and distributing soft drinks. But he also went to school to learn the nuts and bolts of business management from Northwestern Oklahoma State University and Pace University, New York, United States of America.

Dele Giwa and I met Adenuga in 1984 when we were shopping around for investors for Newswatch. We found him to be an aggressive businessman with qualities of tenacity, dedication and doggedness. We thought that he was born to run and that quality impressed us immeasurably. In our conversations with him we found that even though he was already rich he held on to the view that the more money you make the more money you want to make.

For him making money came with distinct thrill, the thrill of accomplishment. Every business success provided for him a new challenge, a new mountain to climb and a new conquest to be made. Once that conquest has been made a new ground zero has arrived and a new ladder is needed to climb higher.

Adenuga is a businessman who believes in getting revenue from multiple lines of business. He has engaged in buying and selling, real estate, banking, oil and gas, telecommunication, construction, aviation, and tourism. In each of these areas he has toiled assiduously to outperform and outwit competition. I think it is the thrill of competition that makes him to gallop like a prized race horse.

His philosophy is to employ the best hands available because it is those best hands that can deliver the goods. In his book of sayings, titled: Memorable Quotes of the Guru, he puts it this way “At least when history is written it will be said that Adenuga did it differently.” Doing it differently led to his success in the oil exploration business.

Some of the Nigerian businessmen who got licences for oil exploration simply sold the licences to foreign companies, pocketed the money and moved on. Some of them who were given oil lifting contracts so as to help them raise money for oil exploration simply sold the crude oil, pocketed the money and moved on to other things.

Adenuga did it differently. He invested tons of money in searching for black gold. His mother, an astute businesswoman, was worried about his investment in the oil exploration business. She thought that it was like pouring water in a basket, like kalo kalo. According to Adenuga, his mother came to him one day and spent a couple of hours with him. “She was telling me how crazy I was to want to go into the oil business,” he told Newswatch in 1991 after he had struck oil.

His company, Consolidated Oil Limited, struck oil when he was 38. This was at 1:30am on December 24, 1991. I was the first reporter in the world to break the story in Newswatch, the story of the striking of oil from the oil prospecting lease OPL 113 offshore Ondo State. I was at the rig oil offshore with Adenuga, the Managing Director, Mr Ebi Omatsola, and the staff who made it happen. I interviewed Omatsola and Adenuga for Newswatch because Adenuga’s hope of finding oil in commercial quantity had turned into reality.

Oil exploration is a tricky business even with the most up-to-date state-of-the-art technology. When I interviewed Adenuga he called the find: “The biggest casino on earth,” and a big Christmas present to him because oil exploration is a leap in the dark.

Who knows what is in the ground? Water, oil, gas, sand, all of the above can be found in the ground but you have to get there to see what you are looking for. That makes it a high risk, very expensive business venture. You need a lot of courage to make the move. You need patience too. This is how Adenuga put it to Newswatch. “Some people have money but not patience. Some people have patience but not money. In this business, you need both.”

He attributed the success of Consolidated Oil Limited to the fact that “we are hungry not for food but for success, for accomplishment, an opportunity to prove that Nigerians, young Nigerians, can do it.” The thirst for success, that is what makes Adenuga gallop. But his success is not an accident. He didn’t get there by chance; he got there by meticulous planning, meticulous execution, huge financial investment, a meticulous search for high-level technological staff with maximum commitment to the search for success.

At the time he struck oil in commercial quantity, a former NNPC GMD, Mr Aret Adams said: “One has to give full credit to Consolidated Oil. They are working offshore and an offshore environment is not the best place to work.” He knew what he was talking about because that is a business that is dominated by international oil companies who are also known as the Seven Sisters.

Adenuga’s business impact has been more pervasively felt in the telecommunication sector. His pursuit of a GSM licence was herculean. It appeared as if the authorities did not trust a wholly owned Nigerian company. Adenuga knew there was fire on the mountain. He kept pushing, pushing, pressing, pressing. He tapped into his powerful network of friends and the search for the licence assumed the dimension of a war that must be won. At the end of the day he won. That is tenacity. That is perseverance. That is persistence.


His telecommunications network, Glo, was launched in 2003 and it has grown astronomically since then because of his sharp business acumen, his high entrepreneurial spirit, his ability to keep his eyes on the ball and his payment of keen attention to details because, as you know, the devil is always in the details. Glo’s promotional activities have been exceptional. People have won 180 cars in 180 days; other people have won houses, generating sets, sewing machines etc.

Our successful musicians, actors and sports people have been made ambassadors of the product with mouth-watering payments to them. There is also an intense promotion of Nigerian music and Nigerian movies by Glo. Glo assiduously supports Nigeria’s Nollywood and Ghana’s Ghollywood. The company also launched a television drama called Professor Johnbull that ran for several weeks to the intense excitement of viewers.

The most important favour that Glo has rendered to all Nigerians is the introduction of the per second billing. Before Glo came on to the scene the other networks were billing Nigerians on their phone calls per minute even if you spoke for only a few seconds. When Glo introduced the per second billing the competing networks were compelled to begin billing subscribers on a per second basis which they had hitherto claimed was not possible. Glo made that possible, Adenuga made that possible.

It is not for nothing that many people have congratulated Adenuga as he reached the proverbial three score and 10. He has been a major philanthropist who has touched the lives of many Nigerians in pleasant ways. A lot of young people owe their success to him. A lot of old people owe their survival to him. A lot of institutions owe their prosperity to him.

Adenuga has a long antenna. That is also why he has been honoured by his country with the second highest national honour, Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON). In 2017, he was conferred with The Companion of the Star of Ghana, the highest national award in Ghana. He also got the Chevalier La Legion d’ Honneur award the same year. In July 2018, the French President, Mr Emmanuel Macron, gave him the award of Commander of the Legion of Honour, France’s highest national honour.

His foundation, Mike Adenuga Foundation, focuses on creating and supporting sustainable resource management of improving infrastructure, health, education and the living standards of Africans. His generosity is legendary. By the law of compensation, he has grown to become the man with the Midas touch, the man who is not only industrious but also illustrious.

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