GUEST COLUMNIST By Magnus Onyibe
In the past one year or thereabouts, l have been trying to recover from the shock of the jaw dropping gift that l had received from Chief Mike Adenuga Jnr, who is one of Africa’s foremost entrepreneurs and one of Nigeria’s most illustrious sons, that for lack of a better nomenclature, l would like to also refer to as the ‘Philanthropist -General’ of our time.
As he clocked seventy (70) years on Saturday, 29 April,2023, ceaseless tributes to the man of the people and of all times, have been flowing in torrents from all over the world and from all strata of society.
They include those from very consequential leaders of strategic countries of the world, ranging from the president of our country, Nigeria ,as well as current and past presidents of neighboring countries such as, republic of Ghana and Benin to the current prime minister of the second richest country in Europe, France as well as numerous employees of his business conglomerate spread across the African continent and beyond.
It is remarkable that all the soul stirring tributes extolling the enthralling virtues of the most effable and humane man that l have ever come across are from both the high and mighty as well as the plebeians in Nigeria, African society and the world at large.
Let us also keep in mind that there are legions of indigent folks who are not privileged to have access to mass media platforms to share their own stories that would melt the heart of even Lucifer himself, about how Chief Mike Adenuga Jnr’s uncommon philanthropic gestures have redefined their lives.
That indicates that the GLOBACOM founder and chairman for whom the entire world is clinking glasses in celebration of his moving to the seventh (7th) floor of life (70th birthday),has a knack for touching lives from the top of the echelons of society to the bottom of the rung.
So, in light of the above reality, it would be unwise or remiss of me to go on a rehash of the Globacom founders tough, instructive and inspiring journey to wealth which has been the subject of a handful
of case studies in entrepreneurship conducted in a variety of institutions of higher learning across the world.
All that need to be said about how Chief Adenuga Jnr did not ‘bury his talent’ a metaphor lifted from the holy Bible that Mr Segun Adeniyi, THISDAY newspaper Editorial Board chairman leveraged to illustrate the entrepreneurial prowess of the man that many refer to as the ‘Spirit of Africa’, did justice to the tycoon’s accomplishments as a quintessential business and jobs creator .
For those who may not be familiar with the bible narrative about the Talent, it is about how a wealthy man that gave his servants Talents (funds) when he was going on a long journey. While some of the servants invested their Talents and earned profit which they handed to their master upon his return, a particular one buried the talent allocated to him instead of generating more income with it.
Disappointed in the servant that buried the Talent entrusted in his care, in anger the master took the Talent off him and gave it to the servants that multiplied their Talents through enterprise.
Clearly, the analogy above is very apt because Chief Mike Adenuga Jnr has not only by dint of hard work multiplied the Talents allocated to him, a feat which has already been put on display in the effusive outpouring of encomiums on the man that personifies the concept of honest hard work and reward; he has also been a very generous giver to his compatriots in all spheres of life and all strata of society.
Perhaps, his attitude of being a very cheerful giver is in fulfillment of the doctrine or mythology in Christendom that wealthy people are custodians of God given wealth which they are supposed to use to lift the less privileged.
How many affluent people in the world have such a noble mindset?
In my reckoning, Chief Mike Adenuga is the type of man, who if he had the moon, can give it out in philanthropy to any man/woman who needs and deserves it, irrespective of tribe, tongue or creed.
Hence in my tribute to the shy and at the same time bold like a bull wealth creator, who prefers not to be talked about-Chief Mike Adenuga Jnr, l am concentrating on his somewhat understated acts of kindness and generosity to society as a whole and to individuals- both the affluent and indigent- in measures that appear to dwarf his financial wealth, even though he is stupendously rich.
Ordinarily, what the wealthy are used to, or are required to give out in philanthropy is a fraction of their riches.
But the myriads of testimonies about his large heartedness, the quantum of what Chief Adenuga gives and the burgeoning number of his benefactors appear to be so gargantuan, that it is difficult for some close followers of his philanthropic gestures not to assume that he gives his all.
One unique thing about his giving is that it is not just to his family members or people with similar business interests who have potential values that he would harness in the future. But, as l found out, his humanitarianism is multifaceted and multidimensional because his mission/goal is to affect humanity positively without frills.
That reality is underscored by the fact that if life serves a compatriot or even a fellow human being lemon, and Chief Adenuga is in a position to help, he would facilitate the process of the victim turning the lemon into lemonade.
And there are multiplicity of instances that he played such roles especially in the lives of our compatriots in the sports and creative as well as performing arts worlds which are too numerous to be listed in this piece.
As my good friend Bashorun Dele Momodu, THISDAY newspaper columnist and Ovation magazine publisher noted in his tribute to the business colossus and humble owner of GLO telecommunications and Conoil Producing, who also has significant stakes in major banking, real estate and construction concerns, Chief Mike Adenuga Jnr, in just a space of one year; he was gifted two premium cars – Audi A8L and Range Rover worth eighty-five (N85m) million naira amongst other goodies.
Who does that for someone who is not his father or mother, siblings or business facilitators/collaborators?
But as Mr Momodu pointed out in his well crafted exposé ,the generous gifts to him were sudden and surprising from the man whose birthday has got very significant tongues waxing lyrical in attestation to his Midas touch in business and also his being imbued with the spirit of kindness to give freely to fellow humans without strings attached.
Although, l am convinced that the man known as The Bull by his friends and associates would be uncomfortable with the disclosure that l am about to make, because he is an ‘apostle’ of one hand giving without the other knowing; but l can not resist sharing with his millions of well wishers across the world, that l have also been a ‘victim’ of his out of this world ‘drop dead’ gifting.
Imagine receiving a bank cheque with not just single, but multi digits figures on it amounting to a huge sum of money that would keep the mouth of many readers agape with incredulity!
Add the fact that it was unsolicited, but an instinctive decision of my benefactor who has become legendary in his love for being his brother’s keeper, as his favor literally came out of the blues, then you can begin to have an idea of the reason that l confessed in the opening paragraph of this essay that l am still trying to recover from the positive effect of the pleasant surprise.
And I was stunned by his fabulous gift because l am not a product of his loins, neither a sibling, nor a business associate or even an employee of the man that without equivocation, l would like to refer to as the most illustrious son and selfless giver that has ever come out of ijebuland, Nigeria, Africa and indeed the world.
So, what manner of man is Chief Mike Adenuga Jnr, the consummate business Titan who can gift a man something as priceless as the moon?
That is the optics with which most people that he has touched their lives through fabulous gifts, view the favors that he has doled out to them.
In my modest understanding of life, only God gives freely without strings attached.
The assertion above is underscored by the fact that it is only God that freely gives every living being, particularly humans air-the most critical element for the sustenance of life .
It is also only God that makes the sun to shine upon and rain fall freely on Mother Earth to sustain those who believe in Him and those that do not, without discrimination.
Indeed, it is a rare and unique display of humanity that Chief Mike Adenuga embodies such qualities associated with only human beings blessed with higher minds and not mere mortals.
Strikingly, such godly values of freely giving and intentionally hiding his large heartedness from public glare is in adherence and consonance to God’s injunction in the holy Bible in Mathew 6:3: “But when you give to the poor and do acts of kindness, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing [give in complete secrecy]
It is unsurprising that some benefactors have justifiably gushed about Chief Mike Adenuga Jnr’s fantastic acts of kindness and have therefore conceptualized him in the image of Angel Gabriel.
Well, it is worth pointing out that angels often announce the gifts being conveyed from God to their benefactors, except on few occasions when there was a caveat for silence.
Take for instance, the immaculate conception of Mary mother of Jesus Christ and wife of Joseph the carpenter whose tongues were tied until Jesus was birthed.
But given that Chief Adenuga detests publicizing what l would like to characterize as his ‘do goodness’ through his intentional efforts at keeping his wondrous generosities outside the klieg lights, it may seem uncharitable that l am breaking the code of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, while engaging in charity as enunciated in the holy Bible.
While not being unmindful that l am in contravention of the philanthropist’s core value, ethos and guiding principle of giving in secrecy, l have taken solace in the fact that even when Jesus Christ, the son of God had instructed the ten (10) lepers that He had pronounced healing upon to go and show themselves to the priests, it was disappointing that only one returned to show gratitude to Jesus Christ, as narrated in the Bible book of Luke 17:11-19.
That is why l have elected to acknowledge and celebrate the cheerful giver, Chief Mike Adenuga’s largesse to me, so that l would not be like the nine (9) lepers that failed to go back to their healer to show gratitude.
So, while recognizing that l risk making the extremely shy, humble and enigmatic birthday celebrant a bit uncomfortable, l apologize for the indiscretion unreservedly.
At the same time, l have rationalized my action by terming it ‘good offense’ in the manner that the American civil rights activist and member of House of Representatives, John Lewis of blessed memory, dignified dissent as ‘good trouble’ back in the days of the struggle for black voting rights activism in the United States of America, USA.
In my reckoning, it is better l ‘offend’ a bit the extraordinarily benevolent giver in the mold of Santa Claus (Father Christmas) and mother Theresa combined, than act like the nine (9) healed lepers that failed to return to Jesus Christ to show gratitude, earlier referenced.
Although, my action of spreading the unique and awe inspiring favors dolled out to a myriad of folks is in contravention of the rule of the man with the heart of God-as Chief Mike Adenuga may be equated to modern day David, whom God referred to as the man after His heart, according to the Bible narrative in Acts 13:22. But the philanthropist extraordinaire prefers to stick to the original injunction of God: give in complete secrecy.
As things currently stand, it appears as if Chief Adenuga Jnr has no choice but to forgive his legion of friends and associates that have exposed his well guarded secret of doing good and keeping it under the radar.
Put succinctly, one is encouraged by the fact that a deluge of beneficiaries comprising of thankful men/women of influence and indigent Nigerians alike, have also erred by breaking the humble and cheerful giver’s ‘code’ of being his brothers keeper without ado.
Certainly, since as the saying goes: a gold fish has no hiding place, the culture of spreading the milk of kindness that Chief Mike Adenuga Jnr has obviously democratized by extending his compassion to both the needy and not so needy, no matter their tongue, tribe or creed, was bound to become an open secret, sooner or latter.
It is against the backdrop of the human milk of kindness that has percolated from the top to the bottom of Nigerian society and indeed in Africa through sheer acts of charity via support for stakeholders in the sports, arts and culture space that the 70th birthday of the man that most of his admirers fondly refer to as Chairman- derived from the fact that he has founded and currently chairman of multiple firms that have attained the status of unicorns-has unsurprisingly triggered.
Chief Mike Adenuga’s birthday has triggered so much emotions from Nigerians from all works of life with such great aplomb to the extent that folks hitherto known to be taciturn have voluntarily chosen to become voluble in sharing life changing experiences that the man of the moment and altruist has inspired or positively wrought on their lives.
At this juncture, l would like to crave the indulgence of readers to allow me share how I was first introduced to the man whose 70th birthday has got millions of tongues wagging -no porn intended.
I first met Chief Adenuga in 2003, two (2) decades ago when he was in the process of launching his game changing and wave making telecommunications firm, GLOBACOM.
The meeting was facilitated by Hon. Nduka Irabor, journalist par excellence and ex member of National Assembly, NASS that represented lka federal constituency of Delta state.
At that time, l was a manager in charge of corporate communications in the defunct Continental Trust Bank, CTB owned and managed by my friends and brothers, Mr Ike Nwabuoku and Mr Tony Elumelu amongst many other investors.
I was interviewed for a job to head the corporate/ public communications department of the first indigenous GSM telephony firm founded and managed by my benefactor Chief Mike Adenuga Jnr which has now become the wave making GLO network that is the number two (2) network in Nigeria in terms of subscription.
Despite being offered the job after the interview ,l opted to remain in CTB with my friends at a time that the bank was floundering under the yoke of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN sanction for foreign exchange, FX infractions.
Being a loyalist and a man that can not jump from one ship to another in times of trouble, I tarried with the hope that the dire situation would be sorted out and the bank would be salvaged.
But the ailing bank was not rescued.
Instead, it got gobbled up by a rejuvenated Standard Trust Bank, STB that was being driven by Mr Elumelu who had exited CTB/MBCOM arrangement by deciding to tread a new path that culminated in his ultimate acquisition and turnaround of then ailing, United Bank for Africa, UBA which is currently amongst the five (5) top tier banks in Nigeria and changing the financial landscape of Africa.
As the saying goes, the rest is history because l had to quit the job at CTB and after a short intervening period during which l was an entrepreneur having secured the franchise to be the exclusive partner with JVC electronics company of Japan for the importation and distribution of their products in Nigeria.
Thereafter, l was lured back into banking by another friend, Mr Fidelis Tilije (currently commissioner for finance in delta state government) who was managing another up and coming, Fortune bank which is also currently defunct.
But my sojourn in Fortune Bank was only for a short period before l was finally headhunted by my friend, brother and mentor in politics, Chief James lbori, then governor of Delta state who invited me to join his cabinet in his second term of office in 2003.
The next time l was lucky to encounter Chief Adenuga Jnr who has become a fairy godparent, also fondly referred to as the GURU was with my new boss and brother ,Chief Ibori , then governor of delta state , at Heathrow airport, London, United Kingdom, UK.
It is Chief lbori that helped deepen my closeness to the man whose businesses have empowered millions of humans not only in Nigeria, but across the African continent via provision of employment to many and as source of business to suppliers of sundry goods and services to the numerous firms in his conglomerate.
And the business czar Chief Adenuga, who has the memory of an elephant that never forgets,(he remembers everything) which is why he has committed in his memory all those who have facilitated the favors that he has received in the course of managing his very private life that has seen him conceiving, birthing and nurturing his plethora of humanity touching and life changing business concerns that span the subregion of the African continent
Despite my not working for him in his then emerging telecommunications firm, Chief Mike Adenuga Jnr’s GLO that has become a sort of telecommunications behemoth dominating African landscape with a strategic submarine cable, GLO 1 that renders services to other telecommunications services providers; l have been adopted as an ‘Aburo’ translated as younger brother in Yoruba parlance.
It is a measure of the depth of the goodness of his heart that as he clocks the platinum age of 70 that the Good Samaritan is being saluted by a broad spectrum of Nigerians and indeed humanity, because his influence is not just local to Nigeria, not even only pan African, but it extends to Europe, the Americas, and also Asia, perhaps less so.
Over the past few years, l have had the privilege of being a guest in the numerous dinner parties that he has hosted in his palatial home: Bellisimo On The Waterfront in Banana Island, Lagos to welcome or send-forth a plethora of diplomats from all parts of the world to Nigeria.
And by being in the company of Chairman Adenuga, l have had the privilege of my palates being treated to sumptuous seven (7) course meals and my taste buds have also been savoring fine liquors that can be as rare as forty (40) years old single malt whisky that costs as much as four (£4,000) thousand Uk pounds per bottle.
That is not all, as I have also been opportune to sit at tables where the man with uncommon knowledge about our country’s evolution from cradle to the present socioeconomic and political situation,(yet remains very apolitical)has shared his fascinating and inspiring experiences in the course of his evolution from a young and restless undergraduate student in the United States of America, USA working hard to eek out a living by combining academics with being an entrepreneur at the same time.
Apparently, these are traits he inherited from his parents-father who was a school teacher and mum that was a trader.
By and large, it can be surmised that it is from his parents that he inherited the talents that have propelled him into becoming an institutional colossus that he is today.
Did l mention that his palatial abode in Banana Island, Lagos that occupies an entire close which is a very expansive strip of water front property named: Bellisimo At The Waterfront is apart from having residences and offices ensconced in the private enclave is complete with a magnificent chapel and a huge banquet hall?
Amongst other accoutrements, the banquet hall features a stage for live shows and it is certainly the most exotic and the smartest purpose built banquet hall in a private home that l have seen in Nigeria.
In my reckoning, it is only the ball room in Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach, Florida, US resort/home of the 45th president of the USA, Mr Donald J Trump that surpasses the size and decor in Bellisimo At The Waterfront, Chief Adenuga’s manor.
What else can one say about the man who has internalized God’s injunction: ‘whatsoever you do to the least of your brothers, that you do unto me’ (Mathew 25:40) than to give him a shout out on this auspicious occasion of his platinum birthday.
Happy birthday to the Yoruba man also known by some of his friends who are lgbos as ‘Nnam Ukwu’ translated as my big boss in lgbo dialect.
In Nigeria of today where ethnicity is occupying left and center as it has become a polarizing factor being weaponized by nefarious political actors, it speaks volumes about how detribalized Chief Mike Adenuga Jnr is.
Chairman, please accept my Seventy (70) gun salutes in commemoration of this epochal occasion of your very significant birthday.
The Bible tells us that God allocated three scores and ten (70) to us as humans on Mother Earth and by His grace you have attained and surpassed that age.
My prayers is: may it please the almighty God to grant us the favor of being around to give you one hundred (100) gun salutes to mark your 100th birthday in thirty (30) years time before our time on earth is done.
*ONYIBE, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst ,author, development strategist, democracy advocate, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts university, Massachusetts, USA and a former commissioner in Delta state government, sent this piece from Lagos.
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