The Chairman of Globacom, Dr Mike Adenuga Jnr, turns 68 on April 29. Typically, he would not roll out the drums in celebration as he is widely known as patently self-effacing. However, the day would avail his family and friends, mentees, employees, associates, and admirers worldwide, a rare opportunity to extol, recall, and recount the virtues of the man fondly called the Pillar of Prosperity. It would also be a day for the philanthropist extraordinaire to look back at his life and realise that every day deserves celebrations because of his trajectory and impact on humanity illustrated by boundless and borderless philanthropic endeavours, writes Lanre Alfred
In the mottled landscape of Nigerian businessmen, Dr Mike Adenuga, the trillionaire chairman of Globacom, is like a burst of the rainbow through a very cloudy sky. He is audacious and innovative, and despite the size of the telecommunications company, very hands-on and almost omnipresent in every department. He was quoted as saying in a tribute to celebrate one of his past birthdays; “You cannot be in my position and be oblivious of developments around you.”
Tales abound of how, since its incorporation, Globacom has never had an advertising agency for its commercials and promotional materials, as is the case with big companies. These are created in-house and underscore the creative bent of the man popularly called ‘The Bull.’ He’s a tireless hard worker. He signs off on all promotional materials and has a hand in every brand ambassador because, despite his legendary self-effacing nature, he is in tune with contemporary culture and trends. Not surprisingly, millions of youths see him as a quintessential mentor because of his guarded and understated lifestyle and business successes.
Indeed, Adenuga is not the typical African billionaire with a gaudy lifestyle. He chooses privacy over frightening excesses and superfluous splurges.
Also, at Globacom, there are no permanent goodbyes. It is more about ‘see you later.’ There is something about the company that makes former workers return years after leaving. Some say it has to do with the job security and convivial environment. Others say it is because Adenuga quadruples as a teacher, leader, father, and mentor before being an employer. A former top staff once stated, “Adenuga has recalled or reabsorbed former members of staff who left in the most dramatic circumstances. Some came back voluntarily while he reached out to others. For him, it is not about the sentiment but the value the individual has to offer. Yet, there were exceptional instances when he reabsorbed people mainly because he pitied their prevailing circumstances.”
Stamp of His Honour
Many money men covet and lobby far and wide for a mention on the Forbes Rich List. Don’t blame them. It satiates their conceit. They deploy huge resources to push their rating in the American journal, and when listed, these billionaires take out congratulatory adverts in newspapers and billboards. But Adenuga is markedly different. He pays no heed to such ephemeral listing. Many analysts have even consistently argued that he is bestowed with wealth far beyond the worth ascribed to him on the Forbes list and might even be the richest on the continent. He is, however, unperturbed by such guesses. Indeed, if Adenuga doesn’t strike you, at first sight, then possibly, he is a masterpiece of a man disguised as a blank canvas. The multibillionaire businessman affects a flurry of beings curled into one: he is science, an art, a foundation of genius with dashes of brilliance brightening the creativity of his mind and soul, thus illumining the world. A product of pure intellect, vision, and sheer enterprise, he can become any form he creates; he is a library of masterpieces, an intricate web of sensitivity and hope attuned in full measure to the world’s needs. This is a glimpse of who he truly is.
In top business schools across the world and beyond, the corporate exploits of Adenuga are veritable case studies for academic researches. And there seems to be a consensus of opinions that the Globacom boss has created phenomenally successful businesses and changed the world significantly.
A force of nature. A towering anchor of hope. An entrepreneurial depth: very few men can knead the tripartite traits of genius, modesty, and character into that moral and human centaur that remains unattainable to generations of tycoons and multibillionaires like this entrepreneur extraordinaire. The Globacom chairman achieves this with unequalled grace. He also epitomises merit and affluence with indescribable allure. He’s got a heart of gold too. His forays into the business sector are richly layered and iconic. He is a peerless patriot whose commitment to national and economic stability is beyond doubt. Having recorded a series of remarkable firsts in the highly competitive world of local and international commerce, Adenuga has no more worlds to conquer.
A Citizen of Humanity
Becoming an entrepreneur extraordinaire is not mere lip service. It takes consistent effort and focus on growing from just an entrepreneur interested in a particular business to becoming a respected and renowned empire builder. Think Adenuga, frequently likened to a champion and sometimes, a business genius that effortlessly depicts the image of a modern-day general of commerce. Nothing excites him as much as his octopoidal conglomerate because very few members of Nigeria’s affluent club can achieve great feats in their youth and remain quiet and self-effacing like an avatar of the Himalayan thrust.
While some are busy pushing status and their immense bulk in a desperate dash for socioeconomic and political acclaim, Adenuga affects tact and humility without ostentation or pretence. You would be forgiven for ascribing to him superhuman smarts. For a man who has learned and mastered intricate business as the genius conductor assimilates Mozart’s aria, you can never ornament the words enough to describe his unparalleled verve and genius. If Adenuga were a lab scientist, he would have reordered groups in organic chemistry and calculated the anti-derivatives of functions that he will effectively deploy in real life – all with a modest amount of energy.
Knighted in French
Indeed, if virtue truly is the fount whence honour springs, then he is a virtuous man; apologies to the late English playwright and poet, Christopher Marlowe, who would have probably said the same of one of Africa’s redoubtable billionaire businessmen. The chairman of Globacom wears his entrepreneurial strength and savvy like a badge of honour on his chest, shining it with sweat as true virtuous men do. He stands tall, wading through odds with the courage of a knight and the confidence of a champion. Unlike the proverbial warrior who lives to sing the song of his deeds and derring-do, Adenuga remains impressively humble and immune to conceit, treading a rare path to acclaim thus, attracting honour in torrents, from home and abroad.
In homage to his humanity and relentless strides at rewriting the African business narrative, the French government invested him with a Knight of the Legion of Honour (Chevalier de la Legion d Honneur), the highest French decoration and one of the most famous in the world. Adenuga is the only and first-ever Nigerian to have received the award since its inception. He was recognised and honoured for his “remarkable contribution to the development of the French-Nigerian relations and appreciation of the French culture.” And, just as he has earned the respect of the French government, he continues to earn that of nations, world leaders, associates while commanding the genuflection of men. Not long ago, he was decorated with Ghana’s highest civilian national honour, the Companion of the Star of Ghana (CSG). The former President of Ghana, John Mahama, said, “The award is in recognition of your unique and outstanding contribution to business enterprise both in Ghana and the continent of Africa at large. Through your creative business exertions, you have touched many lives in Ghana. You have provided employment for our teeming youth, artists, footballers, and many more. I am particularly proud of you.
This award is our way of saying a simple thank-you.” By the honour, Adenuga became the first Nigerian outside government to receive Ghana’s highest national honour.
Similarly, in 2012, he was decorated with the Grand Commander of the Order of Niger (GCON), Nigeria’s second-highest national honour after the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR). Talking about the award, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan said, “Mike Adenuga Jnr has contributed immensely as a businessman and an entrepreneur to the growth and development of our economy. He worked hard to establish Globacom as an international communications company, which provides means of livelihood to over 100,000 Nigerians.”
Champions often write history. Sometimes they rewrite it. But very few champs excite the splendid tribute of a cheer in the wake of their most glorious feats. Nonetheless, Adenuga strikingly commands the relentless tribute of a cheer.
It reverberates as deafening applause for the extraordinariness of the man who taught Nigeria and Africa to trust in the entrepreneurial depth of man of their sons and daughters. Adenuga makes history every hour.
He industriously adds page after page, volume after volume, as if nature were holding up a monument to his exploits.
In an era beleaguered by the infamy of humans, Adenuga’s handiwork unfurls as an undying tribute to mankind’s better nature. Adenuga emerges as the perfect symbol of business excellence. As a historic figure, he is seen at home and abroad, the personification of a business calculus within Nigeria and the African continent.
Philanthropy is at the heart of everything that Adenuga does. Why a lot of elite philanthropy is about elite causes is not so for Adenuga. Through his eponymous Pan-African philanthropic foundation, the Globacom Chairman helps Nigeria and other African countries to achieve social and economic independence while contributing to an improved future for Nigerians and other African citizens. The foundation puts smiles on people’s faces by creating or supporting initiatives that deliver knowledge, skills, resources and infrastructures that will stimulate innovation, facilitate commerce, drive enterprise and improve living conditions. Its core programme interests are entrepreneurship, education, health, and rural development. The education programme aims to support the study of disciplines that drive innovation and development.
As the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the world, Adenuga dug into the depth of his humanity to support every effort of the federal government to combat the virus, particularly, through the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN’s private sector Coalition against COVID-19, donating heavily. In a letter to the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, Adenuga applauded the federal government’s measures to tackle the pandemic’s impacts on the country, commending the bank for its worthwhile initiatives. He donated generously to the Lagos government, various bodies, and institutions.
Love for the Arts
Adenuga’s love for the arts is intrinsic and invaluable. Perhaps after his passion for business, making money, and philanthropy, appreciation of the arts is next in line. The entertainment industry has featured prominently in Globacom’s corporate social investment initiatives because of Adenuga’s passion for the industry.
Aside from direct financial commitments, including massive sponsorships, Globacom currently retains the largest number of key players in the entertainment industry as brand ambassadors while upholding that by actively engaging them. He has also really done so much too for African football. He has taken football to greater heights and African football has suddenly become a global phenomenon that can no longer be held back. It is no wonder that Africa continues to get more slots in the FIFA World Cup competition.
Many entertainers, both established and unheralded, have been blessed immeasurably by this love and patronage. Though very elusive, he once drove himself to the album launch of Paul Play Dairo, a phenomenon in the Nigerian music scene in the late 1990s and early 2000s, to the amazement of guests.
“The chairman, Dr Mike Adenuga, showered me with so much love and I enjoyed so much favour from him. The height of the good gestures was when he honoured the invitation to my album launch in 2004. A lot of naysayers in the press said I was too inconsequential to get him to attend my launch. But they were all disappointed,” Dairo recalled.
When Paul Play fell sick in 2009 and took a long break to treat what many thought was cancer, he confessed that he didn’t try to publicly raise funds because “people like Dr Mike Adenuga were there for me.”
Likewise, when juju music maestro Ebenezer Obey, who had retired from secular music decades earlier to concentrate on evangelism, required eye surgery many years ago, Adenuga bankrolled the entire treatment, which took place abroad. That gesture restored Obey’s health and return to musical reckoning. The Globacom boss also blessed the Miliki exponent with an Escalade SUV.
For several decades, the Alliance Française, committed to promoting French culture and teaching French as a second language around the world, was located in the boisterous area of Yaba, Lagos. But thanks to the generosity of Dr Adenuga, the organisation now has a new home in Ikoyi that has been aptly named the Mike Adenuga Centre. Since it was declared open to the public in 2019, the centre has been commanding commendations from far and near from art aficionados and artists, and preeminent Nigerians. In Adenuga’s reckoning, it is all in a day’s work.
Journey To Selfhood
Growing up in the Adenuga household was like evolving in a brilliant world of dazzling mirrors. Even now, he relives the sparks of magic and tufts of grace wrought in his psyche by his exceedingly principled and loving parents.
Adenuga learnt a lot from his parents. From his father, Pa Mike Agbolade Adenuga Snr, he learnt humility, sacrifice, tact, wisdom, and patience. Whatever he learnt from his father was reinforced by his mother, Madam Juliana Oyindamola Adenuga. Both parents taught him to value every human life and relationship.
Adenuga’s parents, like most of their peers of the conservative era fondly remembered as the good old days, inherited the timeless wisdom of the ages from their forbears. Having lived full lives of their own, they had added to their repository of insight before passing it on to him and his siblings and so doing subsequent generations of Adenuga. Undoubtedly, everyone who comes in contact with Dr Mike Adenuga gleans from that timeless wisdom that distinguishes the Adenuga lineage as an enviable one.
No doubt, It helped him situate the fount of his parents’ uncommon humanity and capacity for tough love. His parents were both strong and outgoing. They were an uncompromising pair who helped make a success of the family’s moral code. They taught him and his siblings never to cringe from hard work. They taught them to be self-reliant.
He once described Chief Juliana Oyindamola as “A mother whose business blood flowed like a river inside us. A mother whose innate business intuition, acumen and genius we all inherited. A mother who schooled and mentored us all, from very early childhood in the art and science of doing business, through the school of hard knocks and even as adults, was still coaching us in business acumen”.
Also, his father, “Pa Michael Agbolade Adenuga- a man of letters! Despite his ever busy schedule as a headmaster and inspector of schools constantly moving from one location to the other, Papa still always found time to write letters to all his children’s school”.
Born to the illustrious Adenuga family of Ijebu Igbo in Ogun State on April 29, 1953, he attended Ibadan Grammar School. After that, he studied Business Administration at Northwestern State University, Alva, Oklahoma, in the United States. He earned a master’s degree at Pace University, New York, majoring in Business Administration.
His sojourn in the U.S. added an inspiring chapter to his impressive history. He attracted national attention as far back as 1991 when his Consolidated Oil Limited struck oil in a commercial quantity, having distinguished himself in the business of importation at the age of 22.
Virtues, according to him, should be, in the popular estimate, the rule guiding human conduct in business, social and political circuits rather than the exception. “A man is nothing without his virtues”, he argues. Thus he endeavours to do good. But his deeds are done not as an apology or extenuation of his fortune and citizenship of the world. While many rich men propagate virtues as penances for the inaction of the world’s privileged divide, Adenuga imbibes and perpetuates the culture of goodness out of an intrinsic part of his manliness.
Reports abound that despite his large heart, Adenuga has suffered untold betrayal by friends and staff. Yet, he does not harbour ill-will towards anyone. He forgives easily. Thus, he sets high standards, which he abides by as a matter of exemplary leadership and integrity of character. Therefore, it is not surprising that doing good comes naturally to him, which is why no amount of betrayal or backbiting would deter him from what he believes in. He doesn’t hug the limelight despite that it comes with his monumental attainments.
Notwithstanding his depth as an entrepreneur extraordinaire, philanthropist, and citizen of humanity, Adenuga covets no vanities, unlike other billionaires. He demands no free verses, heroic couplets, or ornamental rhymes to glorify his personage as a man. Adenuga is hardly given to such infectious vanities.
Class Excites Businessman Extraordinaire
Many a billionaire cannot be elegant even if they slave at it. So they choose to be extravagant. They forget that style, rather than a deep pocket, is the most crucial thing in matters of reputation and honour. But Adenuga is remarkably different.
He understands that if universal rules could teach poise and panache, it would no longer be poise or panache, and every middling fellow with a deep pocket or otherwise may adorn themselves with the twin traits of sophistication and elite breeding. There is no gainsaying Adenuga possesses admirable poise and panache, a man of venerable taste in fashion. He effortlessly depicts style as an outward and inward sign of grace and character.
Many privileged billionaires stumble into vogue, but it takes a discerning man of class and élan to mirror the girth and depth of burgeoning trends to the world. ‘Chairman,’ without doubt, epitomises such an exclusive breed of manhood. Among other traits, he flaunts immaculate flair and charisma. He effortlessly characterises the essence and refinement, exemplary of intensely constituted men of style.