Mike Adenuga at 70: A legend through the mirror of Yoruba proverbs
“At least when history is written, it will be said that Adenuga did it differently.”
These are the words of billionaire businessman, Dr Mike Adenuga. The Globacom founder had so expressed his mind in the course of a business discussion about a decade ago. But the essence of the assertion seems to be more real now as he clocks 70, mounting with style the summit of age, dream and an enviably robust success.
The opening quote is actually taken from a book of Adenuga’s sayings, titled, Memorable Quotes Of The Guru. The quotes are presented in a hilarious manner, but they reveal a lot about the philosophy of the icon: his disposition to life, business, family, nationalism, charity, human relations and more. They largely mirror the personality and inner thoughts of the man whom you won’t see every day making speeches. The evergreen book thus serves as a consolation as it bridges the gap between the enigma and society. This is as the publication is highly educative and entertaining. More importantly, unlike in my initial general review of the work not long ago, I find it intriguing connecting it (the assertions) to some Yoruba proverbs, a way of situating much of Adenuga’s perspectives in the Yoruba worldview. Perhaps the cultural reflection will serve as a little tribute to the man who has also done a lot for tourism, arts and entertainment, especially through the sponsorship of prizes, festivals, events and the Glo Ambassadors scheme that launched many of Nigerian entertainers onto glory.
“Anybody can be a moneybags, but to be successful you have to be able to add value.” Ohun tó ń be léyìn Òffà, o ju Òjé: Oje may be next to Offa, but it’s certainly not the end of the journey. Also: “Ohun tó ń be léyìn èfà, ó ju èje.’’ (Seven may be next to six, but there are many, many other numbers after it.
Hear Adenuga again: “Rule No 1: The Chairman is always right. When he is wrong, refer to Rule No 1 Bí adájó bá gbékun lémú, enu odaràn kó la ti fé gbó o: Even if the judge’s nose is laced with mucus, no one expects the accused to say so.
“If I have worked so hard to put this together, I will not allow anybody to rubbish it for me.” Olójú kò ní fojú sílè kí tàlùbò kó wòó: No one will leave his own eyes widely open till talubo jumps inside the eyes. Please, in the spirit of the legend’s celebration, don’t ask me the meaning of ‘talubo’. Just picture it! But the talubo imagery may explain why he at times takes unusual decisions – which others might consider irrational.
“You don’t have to throw away the little water you have simply because there is a sign that there is going to be rain.” A kìí gbó kúkù òjò ká da’mi inú agbada nù, torí òjò tó sú le má rò: You don’t pour away the water in the clay bucket just because the sky is rumbling’ it’s not every cloud that bears rain. This proverb is, indeed, one you will find in Akinwumi Isola’s romance fiction, O Le Ku.
“What can be done today should never be deferred to tomorrow.” As is possible in other contexts, several Yoruba adages capture Adenuga’s thought here: Ojó a bá ríbi nibi wolè. (You bury evil that day you sight evil.) Omi gbígbóná kìí gbénu ú pé. (Burningly hot water is never allowed to tarry in the mouth.) Gbígbóná làá jòpòló, torí bó bá tutù tán, yíyi níí yi: (It’s better to eat the toad when it’s still very hot because its meat becomes too stubborn when cold.) The question is: does anyone eat toads? Just an idiom!
“You should shape up or I yank you off that job.” Fúnra kèrèngbè ni yó so ibi t’áá f’okùn sí lórùn òun: A gourd points to where to put the rope while tying it.
“I am the Chairman. I am not only in office but I am also in control. Bó se wù kí èyìn alágbàro se gànnàkù tó, eni tó gb’óko fún un lògá è: No matter how stoutly built the weeds clearer is, the farmer who employed him is still the master.
“I may have been born at night, certainly not last night.” Mo dàgbà ju tèsín; mo ti kúrò lómo àgbékórùn r’oko: I’m older than I was last year. I’m no more a child the farm-bound mother hangs on her neck.
“Uncle, don’t sleep. The rich don’t sleep. You pay people to sleep for you.” Ìdúró kò sí, ìbèrè kò sí f’éni tó gb’ómoodó mì: When a man swallows a pestle, he should know he has simply said ‘Bye’ to rest.
“My absence for 18 months has corrupted all of you. Now that I am back, all that nonsense must stop.” Ológbò tàjò dé, èkúté ilé epara mó: All rats dash disappear once the cat returns from a journey.
“It is ok to dine and wine every now and then with the ownership but hierarchy should not be lost on you, please.” Oko kìí jé ti baba t’omo kó má láàlà: Even when a father and son jointly own a farm, there will still be some boundaries here and there.
“You go around aggrandising yourself; but what about the man who pays the money?” Àkéyinje kò mò pé ìdí ń ro adìe: The man who relishes eggs never feels the pain the hen goes through while laying them.
“Money we have, money we don’t have, we are spending it on equipment.” Owó la fií peéná owó: You spend money to make money. Also: B’óde bá rò’sé rò’yà, bó bá p’eran kò ní fénì kan je.(If a hunter has to consider all the ordeals he passed through while hunting, he will not share the game with anyone.)
“As a businessman, I ask myself: If I’m going to drop a supplier, who am I going to replace him with?” Èrò ni gbègìrì, bí a kò bá ròó, kíki àbaadì nii ki: To prepare good gbegiri soup demands knowing the art of stirring it, otherwise you get the wrong texture.
- Lasisi is a performance poet and journalist