A troubadour. A pen in hand, a notebook and a tape recorder, I have moved around the world 10 years today, studying one man, interviewing people about one man and in the end I have become a student of this one man who continues to amaze, educate and inspire me.
If I have not given up on the Mike Adenuga project, it is something I drew from the man himself. The passion, the persistence, the hard work, the drive and the determination to follow a lifelong dream up to its logical end. Not giving up, not bowing out in spite of obstacles and daunting challenges along the way that every writer faces in this arduous literary journey.
The other day, I was casually reading the massive transcripts of the Mike Adenuga interviews I conducted in the last 10 years. It occurred to me, now that my brother and writing partner Dimgba Igwe is no more, in his memory and with his support wherever he is today, I could refocus our book by making the people we interviewed tell their own Mike Adenuga’s story straight from the horse’s mouth. Just like our other book: SEGUN OSOBA, THE NEWSPAPER YEARS.
From Africa’s first winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature Prof. Wole Soyinka to Nigeria’s first military President Ibrahim Babangida, everybody has his own unique, enthralling Mike Adenuga story. Every person constitutes a chapter in this gripping narrative that tastes like tea or coffee filled with the milk of human kindness. We interviewed the brother, the sisters, the mother’s sister who looked after Adenuga as a baby when the parents went to study in England, the daughter, the classmates, Femi Ekundayo, the man who was the first managing director of his Devcom bank, Chief Dosu Adelu, the man who taught Mike Adenuga all about oil drilling, the Senegalese superstar Youssou N’dour who once begged Mike Adenuga for a ride in his plane. The list goes on and on. All the interviews attest to the greatness and the legend of this one man whose story must be told to inspire and challenge the youths of today about the values of hard work, talent, wisdom and the strategies to make it in Nigeria through entrepreneurship.
From Femi Akinrinade, Mike Adenuga’s first-ever business partner, I heard a pathetic story about trust and friendship. It reminded me of how I related with my late friend Dimgba Igwe. Said Akinrinade: “I am a senior brother, but Mike is a taskmaster—what Americans would call a slave driver. He does not know come. It’s always go. I really enjoyed working with him. He is younger than me, but I learnt a lot from him that you never say never. He never gives up on anything. He would keep on keeping on until he gets to his destination. That is the kind of man he is. What I enjoyed most in our partnership is his transparency and honesty. You do not have to be there. If any money comes in, that you are not expecting, you do not have to be there for Mike to put it on the table. As partners, most of the times, I insist it is 50:50 but Mike would protest: ‘You can’t do that, sir. You take more.’ But I would say no, this is business. He is starkly honest when it comes to material things. We never had arguments over money. In fact, sometimes when we were working together, if he does something on the side, on his own, nothing to do with me, and he makes money on it, I would just see a cheque or money. He would say: ‘Egbon, I did this business and here is a little something for you.’ That is the kind of person that he is. And that is what I enjoyed most about working with him. You can go to sleep and you know that even if you die, if you don’t wake up, your next of kin would get what is coming to you.”
At my 60th birthday, Dimgba Igwe said something similar and prophetic when he was paying me his tribute. He said he would sleep peacefully knowing that I Mike Awoyinfa “would surely take care of business.” It’s a heavy responsibility but we have God to help one carry on.
One man who knows Mike Adenuga in and out is Niyi Adewunmi, his oldest aide. Adewunmi’s most unforgettable Mike Adenuga experience was at the point of death in 2000. He recalls how Adenuga like an angel of mercy “flew me with a jet overseas. He hired an aircraft for me. He put me in the most expensive hospital in London. He told me: ‘Niyi, don’t worry about money. I am paying here. God has made the money. We started together. This is the time for you to enjoy it. Death would not take you away.’ Till tomorrow, when I remember that statement, tears would roll from my eyes. I had what they called neuropathy. But at the end of day, a miracle happened and I survived.”
In Abuja, Senator Tunde Ogbeha’s has a cook from Ogoja by name Emmanuel who has a special way of cooking okro soup which Adenuga enjoys so much. “Sometimes when he comes to the house and he is happy with my cook, he would give him a cash gift which is more than his salary for one year,” recalls Ogbeha. According to Ogbeha, “my most memorable Adenuga experience was when he had no house, when we hanged out at the mother’s house in Ibadan. I cherish that period. The mum had a very good friendship with my mum. To the extent that when my mum died, we did not tell her, because of her state of mind.”
Lt. GENERAL (Retired) VICTOR MALU, Commander of the ECOMOG peace-keeping force in Liberia (1996- 1998) and Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (1999-2001) has this to say: “I went to Liberia and for one year, I didn’t come to Nigeria because we were fighting throughout. In fact, I didn’t even think I was going to come back alive. When I came back, I started trying to see if I could go and thank Mike Adenuga for what he did because that five thousand dollars he gave me was my saviour. It was more than the worth of five thousand. When I got to Liberia, the war started. My name was not included on the nominal pay roll. For three months, I didn’t have any allowance. It was that money I survived on as an officer to live a decent life. Mike is a very generous human being. He shows you generosity and you have no means of saying thank you to him. You write thank-you letters and you are not even sure it got to him. That is the kind of man.”
It was under Prof. Jubril Aminu’s tenure as petroleum minister that Mike Adenuga got his oil licence and struck oil. Aminu goes on memory lane to recall the drama of Mike Adenuga coming to his office with David Ogbodo (Aminu’s then P.A.) and the two of them begging the minister for the oil licence which Aminu gave him in the end after he was convinced that Adenuga, young as he was, should be given a chance to go into oil exploration. Today, he says of Adenuga: “He’s been very good, he is successful, he is a go-getter. I mean after Consolidated Oil, he moved in to express himself in National Oil when it was being privatised. By that time, I had left petroleum a long time and he got it, changed it to Conoil. And then he moved to Glo. I was very worried for him when they said he paid $20 million and it was not refundable. I went to one or two places on his behalf and I am very happy he got the business and he was able to recoup his $20 million and more. He is a great businessman. I don’t know what he is working on now. But I won’t be surprised if he is working on some atomic energy thing or something like that. He reminds me of somebody who said: ‘Naira is running at 90 miles per hour and Nigerians are following it at 120 miles per hour.’”
From Senator Jubril Aminu to Dele Momodu to Bella, Adenuga’s daughter to Dr. Ebi Omotshola to Mohammed Jameel to Mike Jituboh to Adewale Sangowanwa to the architect Isaac Fola-Alade, everybody has an Adenuga song—a song worth singing. Fola-Alade recalls that of all the people he helped with government contracts, only Mike Adenuga came back to say thank you. Quoting the Bible, he asks: “Were there not 10 cleansed lepers? Where are the nine?”
In his book on GIVING, President Bill Clinton asks: “Who is happier? The uniters or the dividers? The builders or the breakers? The givers or the takers? I think you know the answer. There is a whole world out there that needs you, down the street or across the ocean. Give.”
And didn’t the Good Book say “it is more blessed to give than to receive”? Here is wishing the Guru a happy birthday on April 29.
For more Mike Awoyinfa writings go to www.expressng.com