By Olusegun Adeniyi
During the Christmas holiday, I spent a considerable amount of time watching television. In the process I saw numerous Globalcom commercials promoting our rich culture and the nation’s entertainment industry. By using local musicians, actors, actresses as well as global stars with Nigerian ancestry for endorsement, Globacom has helped to empower many of our people at home and in the diaspora. But it is in the content of these promotions that Globacom has deployed its network to project Nigeria’s image beyond the call of business. It is a patriotic duty for which its chairman, Dr Mike Adenuga Jnr must be commended.
For instance, if there is anything the commercial by the British World Heavyweight boxing champion, Anthony Joshua, demonstrates, it is the Nigerian spirit of resilience in the face of adversity. We see that all the time in the manner we laugh at our problems and survive against odds. But Anthony Joshua puts it in a way that resonates. “There has always been a big piece of my heart as a Nigerian and I do believe that it is that piece that sets me apart. It always says to me, ‘never give up, dream big’! We come from a nation of warriors and that is why I believe in Glo. We have that same tenacity, that Nigerian fighting spirit that makes us game changers! We are relentless. We don’t just face our challenges, we step into the ring to win again and again and again. If you believe in yourself, there is no limit to what you can achieve. Yeah, I used to be a bricklayer in England but now I am heavyweight champion of the world!” he declared. And then this: “You need strength? Yeah, that comes from the hard knocks that life throws at us. And we are Nigerians, we know all about that”. He then added: “It’s like when we are up against the rope. You don’t stay down; you’ve got to fight. You have to dig deep to be a world champion”.
Meanwhile, the contribution of Globacom to the entertainment industry goes beyond sponsorships and endorsements to Corporate Social Investment (CSI) initiatives that have helped to resurrect and nurture the career of many veteran artistes who may have ended up in penury in a society that places little premiums on art. Given the array of stars they promote, Globacom must be investing billions of Naira annually on these artistes and their crafts. And the multiplier effects on the economy must be enormous.
On a personal note, I derive joy from the fact that Adenuga has validated my position. During the licensing bidding round which earned Nigeria global applause because of the transparent manner Dr Ernest Ndukwe handled the entire process, there were people who dismissed the argument some of us were making (that we also needed a Nigerian business man on the telecoms table) as mere sentiment. But we have been vindicated by Globacom. Despite being launched more than two years after two foreign operators (MTN and Econet) had been firmly entrenched in the market, Adenuga has succeeded where others before and after him have failed. But more commendable is the disruptive role Globacom has played in the industry: From putting a lie to the claim that per second billing was impossible in Nigeria to crashing the prohibitive cost of acquiring a GSM line to bringing down the cost of airtime etc.
In my column on this page on 31st October 2002 (more than 17 years ago now!) titled “Unto Whom Much is Given…”, I reminded Adenuga that while he may have won the battle for a licence, he had to prove to Nigerians and the world that he could run an efficient telecoms system. I also argued that it made no sense to exclude our people from such an important sector. “For us to grow as a nation, we surely need daring people who are ready to invest their money…men who are prepared to dream big, take the biggest gamble, men who will never accept No for an answer regardless of how hopeless the situation may seem,” I concluded.
While Globacom has made considerable investment in the development of sports in Nigeria, what is not known to the public is the role Adenuga played in the qualification of Nigeria for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. When the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua decided to intervene at a time it was looking like Nigeria might not qualify for a tournament holding for the first time on African soil, he turned to Adenuga. But at his meeting with Yar’Adua, Adenuga said he would prefer to operate from the background with financial support and both settled for the then Rivers State Governor, Mr Rotimi Amaechi to chair the presidential committee of which I was a member. True to his word, he was the single largest donor to our assignment. Incidentally, the last time I had any contact with Adenuga was on 17th June 2010 at the stadium in Bloemfontein where Nigeria played Greece during the tournament.
The critical challenge of our country, as I have argued on several occasions, is that we have too many idle billionaires with neither credible sources of livelihood nor feasible investments who can help put our people to work. Many of them stash their money abroad, buying Yacth and ferrying around Supermodels while employing only domestic staff who minister to their vanities without adding any value to our society. To confront our economic challenges in this new year and decade, we need the patriotic zeal and courage of men like Adenuga who will not only invest their money but also empower our people.