Sixty Five Cheers to An Enthralling Innovator

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On his 65th birthday, Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes that billionaire businessman, Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr. presents the towering image of a compelling trailblazer and compulsive risk-taker consumed by a high drive to succeed

The show was not really about the globally acclaimed Nigerian billionaire businessman, Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr. who is celebrating his 65th birthday today, but for the purpose of the character traits he wanted to emphasize; businessman, journalist and politician, Chief Dele Momodu used an instructive encounter with Adenuga to background his toast to popular actor and lawyer, Richard Mofe-Damijo.

Referencing the years when Adenuga’s best known business was Devcom Merchant Bank, Momodu and Mofe-Damijo who were then journalists with the defunct National Concord Newspapers had the privilege to interview Adenuga. That meeting led to an enduring relationship. And the three gentlemen in the liaison have experienced phenomenal transformation in their individual career-Mofe-Damijo has become one of the best known actors in Nigeria, while Momodu continues to make an impressive mark in the media and politics. Through it all, they maintained a rewarding bond with Adenuga who is widely acknowledged as Nigeria’s second richest man, with assets in excess of USD5 billion, arguably on account of his ownership of one of Nigeria’s leading telecommunication companies-Globacom-founded in 2006 with over 25 million customers.

On the day, Mofe-Damijo was being inducted as a brand ambassador of a popular alcoholic beverage, Momodu recalled their friendship to Adenuga in order to underscore the importance of visionary leadership and dedication. Adenuga has the debatable reputation of being one of the most unreachable VIPs in Nigeria. Momodu implied this when he referred to the billionaire businessman as a ‘spirit who is everywhere but cannot be seen’. Notwithstanding, Momodu confessed he still enjoys Adenuga’s hospitality. Mofe-Damijo’s face can be seen on Globacom products as an envoy (in addition to his wife’s service in the company as one of its top managers.) In his short speech, Momodu succeeded in drawing attention to the sterling mannerisms of Adenuga. He painted the picture of a compelling trailblazer and compulsive risk-taker. Consumed by a high drive to succeed which leads him to challenge established ideas and practices, Adenuga is gifted with uncommon intelligence, creativity, wisdom, loyalty, steadfastness and charisma.

Two examples of his hunger for innovation suffice. At a time other telcos said it was impossible, his company, Glo pioneered per second billing. The service was a game changer in the industry and brought relief to consumers. The company’s submarine cable system, Glo 1 dedicated to providing world-class voice and data services brought about a revolution that gave it the boastful title of ‘king of data’. Adenuga who also owns the leading indigenous oil company, Conoil, has recently increased his stake in the construction and real estate business by becoming the biggest individual shareholder in Julius Berger (even if by proxy). This appetite to conquer and acquire new business territories multiplies the charm of his popular alias, ‘The Bull’. An artistic representation of a bull, displaying strength and aggression occupies a copious space at his corporate headquarters, Mike Adenuga Towers on Adeola Odeku Street, in the heart of the Victoria Island business district of Lagos. The moniker is also a commentary on his big bodily frame and physical attributes. Viewed from the sky, his residence in the affluent Banana Island neighbourhood in Ikoyi is an eye-pleasing spectacle with a landing area for helicopters.

As a younger person, Adenuga had the privilege of shuttling many Nigerian cities, which gave him the opportunity to understand different cultures and languages. He would later assimilate global ethos when he lived and worked in the United States of America. No minding that he had to start small as a trader, he simply knew that business was his forte and he was not afraid to embrace the challenges. This exposure to wide experiences inspired him to build a world class company that offers equal opportunity regardless of race, religion and gender. No wonder he is welcome to invest in a growing number of African countries. His wide acceptance at home and abroad has attracted a number of very distinguished honours including the Nigerian national award of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger and the highest French government decoration, Chevalier de la Legion d Honneur.

At 65 years, the only thing, in this clime, that may have endangered his growing business dream is a launch into partisan politics. Since he has avoided this potential grave of many unfortunate Nigerian businessmen, the coast is clear for continued expansion of his commercial horizon. He has instituted a clear vision and organizational culture that anticipates the future. Adenuga is also lucky with his family. No doubt his entrepreneurial dexterity will apparently live after him, as his children, for example, Bella and Paddy, have been engrafted into the boardroom culture and are showing promises of becoming business wizards on their own steam.

One important business decision that many admirers of The Bull look forward to is the long expected resolution to share his economic risks by allowing Glo go public. This choice which will definitely chart a new future is not an unfamiliar terrain to Adenuga who, apart from holding the shares of many companies, understands the high-reward of going public. Conoil which he founded is now a publicly quoted company and is considered to be one the largest independent exploration companies in Nigeria, with a production capacity of 100,000 barrels of oil per day.

Balancing intellectual and economic pursuits with the right dosage of enjoying activities that stimulate the senses, Adenuga has deployed huge resources to support Nigerian cultural festivals across different ethnic groups, the Nigerian film industry and sporting activities in Nigeria and Africa. His generousity to individuals, communities and institutions is legendary. He has been known to completely wipe the tears off the eyes of indigent persons by completely transforming their fortunes from abject poverty to prosperity.

There are a few myths about Adenuga. One of these fables is that he personally approves of every employee, supervises projects and oversees financial transactions. Stories abound how seemingly brilliant (little number of) candidates passed all written and oral tests only to be rejected by The Bull, aided by an unexplainable intuition, which often proves to be right, at the end of the day. The only credence to this assumption is the undeniable fact that he works long hours to authenticate his personal belief that, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”