Mike Adenuga at 70: The man, the myth, the legend
Where does one start from with the elephant in the room? The perception therein varies based on divergent prisms of touch, look and feel as one of Nigeria’s octopoidal entities christened Otunba Dr. Mike Adenuga celebrates the milestone of clocking seven decades on planet earth in a few days time on 29 April 2023 with an outlook of a colossus that bestrides the landscape with aplomb.
It’s been a sojourn a laden with challenges that have been surmounted and carved into business wins that have impacted the ecosystem far and wide. Beyond the business acumen and ingenuity that the Ijebu-Igbo born enigma has displayed since he berthed into the terrain of entrepreneurship he’s ingrained with a DNA that leverages national consciousness, custodian of culture and heritage, philanthropy home and abroad. The signature characterization of the bull is a feature that’s well pronounced all over Adenuga and it’s evident with the sculpture present at the Mike Adenuga Towers nestled in the business district of Victoria Island, Lagos.
Adenuga has contributed immensely to the ease of living and working in Nigeria. Even though he is rarely seen in public domain, he operates from the background where his actions speak louder than his words. This illustrious captain of industry studied Business Administration in the big apple, which is the leading bastion of global capitalism. He forbears traits of a Wall Street investment banker and the bull is reminiscent as an iconic sculpture in the melting pot of diversity. The values of impact are enshrined via his services to Nigerians and by extension to Nigeria have witnessed the birthing of Michael Adenuga Foundation, which is hinged on development, education, health, rural and entrepreneurship. This novel initiative was leveraged to donate the princely sum of N500 million to flood victims in Bayelsa State in 2012 and N1.5 billion towards fighting COVID-19 via the CACOVID Alliance. Despite all these stellar achievements, Adenuga stays away from media klieg lights.
The recurring decimals that form an existential part of the business trojan include grit, determination, stamina, resilience, eyes on the ball military precision that has been witnessed in the various pies he’s involved from telecommunications, banking, oil and gas, real estate, aviation, construction amongst others. Lest we forget, the hurdle for prospecting for oil in commercial quantity by indigenous business concerns was broken by Adenuga’s Consolidated Oil Limited in 1989 led by eminent geologist from Shell, Dr. Ebi Omatsola who coordinated a crack squad that struck oil offshore. This feat was considered insurmountable as eggheads wrote off the terrain for not being attractive for oil prospecting. Striking hydrocarbons via the Oil Prospecting Lease (OPL 113) located on shallow waters offshore Ondo State was a stellar feat. The never say die spirit of Adenuga made the team of geologists, engineers and oil drilling experts from Houston based Transocean Sedco Forex – the world’s largest offshore and deepwater oil drilling specialists to strike gold. This author has been opportune to meet with Dr. Omatsola before where the question about Adenuga’s landmark achievements in the oil and gas industry was greeted with smiles that he’s tough as nails and his razor sharp focus ensures that hits the bullseye always.
In addition to the turning point achieved in the oil and gas industry by Adenuga much earlier, the breakthrough engineered by his firm Communications Investment Limited (CIL) the morphed into Glo Network stands tall in the annals of Nigeria’s history where they broke the jinx of per second’s billing (PSB) that was said to be a no go area by earlier entrants in the Telco ecosystem. Adenuga’s name is etched in gold as he went through hell to acquire the GSM license auctioned by the Nigerian government in 2001, as he lost millions of US dollars after he failed to scale the hurdle at the initial stage based on the alleged reason of failure to raise the prerequisite sum for the acquisition. Mike Adenuga debunked this development in categorical terms that the payments were met and the Nigerian government refused the conditions that the payment was made with. Mere mortals will not wake from slumber, if they experience this kind of drawback. Like the R&B hit song by Aaliyah “Dust yourself up and try again”, Adenuga persistence amidst the evident adversity made a comeback with payments again a year later in the quest for the Second National Operator (SNO) license. Love or hate Adenuga, he gives his all to achieve business goals and objectives. The disruption engineered by the bullish entity crashed the price of SIM cards and PSB made telecom services accessible to everyday Nigerian.
In the financial services sector, Adenuga founded two banks Equitorial Trust Bank (ETB) and Devcom Merchant Bank that have dovetailed into Sterling Bank Plc where he maintains a large shareholding after the Charles Soludo banking consolidation exercise. At this rate, it’s not far fetched if business schools home and abroad offer business modules centred on the business trajectory of Adenuga.
In the sphere of cultural heritage and history, Adenuga has left indelible marks as his business concerns are committed to the entrenchment of cultures and traditions of Nigeria through the sponsorship of key festivals such as Ojude Oba Festival, Ijebu-Ode, Ofala Festival, Onitsha across the nation. Adenuga single handledly bankrolled the opening of Mike Adenuga Centre housed in an immaculate and celestial white building in 2019. The goal of the institution is to deepen the bond between Nigerians and the Francophone community. The centre offers courses, an art gallery, and a French experience for the common Nigerian who is unable to travel to French-speaking countries to experience these insights at first hand. The launch ceremony of the MA Centre witnessed the official visit of the president of France, Emmanuel Macron. The citation on Adenuga by Macron was a delight to behold by all and sundry. Adenuga remains one of the few individuals in Nigeria bestowed with the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger title by the government of Nigeria in 2012 and in 2018, he was decorated with the insignia of a Commander of the Legion of Honor by president Emmanuel Macron of France.
In a nutshell, Adenuga has sponsored the Nigerian and Ghanaian Football Leagues, as well as the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) through his company Globacom. He has elevated Nigerian celebrities to become superstars using the Glo platform in ways never seen and done before – The Glo with pride byline rings a bell always in the consciousness of the average Nigerian, as he propelled and galvanized national consciousness beyond comprehension.
On this day, this illustrious son of Nigeria who has put the nation on the world map as a result of his doggedness, industry and business integrity deserves to be serenaded. Happy birthday to the entity with the acclaimed moniker termed Spirit of Africa who’s a firm believer in the constant acquisition of knowledge, inspiration to youths to continuously pursue knowledge at all levels.
Ayoola Ajanaku is a Communications Specialist based in Lagos, Nigeria.
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