Mike Adenuga: Seven Decades and One Year of an Entrepreneur Extraordinaire

Indeed, Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr. embodies so much of what makes commerce inspiring. Watching him preside over his business empire, you get inspired by how beautifully he weaves the strands of his acumen and entrepreneurial depth into a dominant narrative. But it wasn’t easy. It took incredible focus and courage to bear his gifts of talent and brilliance, deploy them through his platform, and honour the tripartite targets of enterprise, humanity and nationhood. If his story reads like an enterprise legend, it’s probably because he has successfully matched grit to desire with stunning outcomes. Currently, he stands at the centre of an empire widely seen as Nigeria’s industrial and cultural touchstone, his influence stretching across races and religions globally. This is certainly no common feat. On the cusp of his 71st anniversary, the social and business landscapes pulse with milestones he has achieved, thus reasserting his worth as a rare force of nature, writes LANRE ALFRED

Enterprise, like magic, has always been about stroking secrets. The fondling of desire comes from a subtle nudge into a wild grope—a grope against the odds, against reality. But few men are gifted at such endeavours, like Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr. The founder and chairman of Globacom created his universe from a conversation—an internal one. Every golem in the history of his business empire was summoned into existence through desire, toil, and pragmatic manoeuvring. Adenuga, aka The Bull, literally mauled into life his secret fantasies.

Through his struggle, he kept telling himself the truth when it mattered most. He submitted his dreams and his will to an internal censor long before the odds or any traducer could lay their wiles on them. Ultimately, his efforts earned him vast tracts of a voluptuous empire and the reputation of an African gem.

While several billionaires in his league forged their reputations through fraud and the devices of clever publicists, Adenuga got his reputation by earning it through sheer hard work. That is why he is worth celebrating. At 71, the Globacom Chairman attains full flourishing. His genius, realistic bent, witty, and charming demeanour manifest as moving parts of a spinning engine of growth and quintessential manhood. At his emergence in Nigeria’s business circuit, he left no one in doubt that he had come to tip the ashes of industrial growth onto the tongue of the wind. Having done that, he watched it spin-drift into dystopia’s dark tunnel, the same passageway where several cash cows had sprawled inert, moribund, famished from the ravage of Nigeria’s locust years. Adenuga came to the end of commerce’s dark years. As he flourishes in his 71st year, the billionaire magnate unflinchingly commits his genius and resources to the resurrection of commerce from the catacombs.

Indeed, commerce is far too precious and fundamental to be left to the wiles and exploits of villainous characters; hence, Adenuga believes that the doctrine of altruism and compassion must be preached as a counteraction to the doctrine of mercantilism, cutthroat competition, and uninhibited avarice that has over time become the norm in business circuits. According to him, virtues 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 not done as an apology or extenuation of his fortune and citizenship in 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, not out of a frantic zeal to apologise or expiate perceived inhumanities of his rich, privileged divide; he engages in good deeds as an intrinsic part of his masculinity and business ethics.

The facts of his story are not so easy to relate, but this surely passes as a concise record of the challenges and intrigues that moulded him into the titan he has become. As he clocks 71 on April 29, Mike Adenuga personifies a legion of lives lived to a moral measure. Yet he is just one man, exploiting the possibilities of his single life. To understand the essence of the man and his extraordinary life is to delve beneath the challenges and intrigues that moulded him into the man he has become.

Adenuga, a multibillionaire magnate and empath, appreciates the sun every morning because he has lived through the dark. His bank of love is never bankrupt. He is the proverbial benefactor born into a world of iron and might make it a world of gold. The only lean aspect of his life is his pride. Blessed with a good heart and a fat purse, if Adenuga had his way, he would banish extreme poverty from the world. For the Globacom Chairman, to give is interred in his innate nature; thus, a single act of kindness is like a drop of oil on a patch of dry skin—seeping, spreading, and affecting more than the original need.

In a world where most of his billionaire peers live like the Dead Sea, always taking in and never giving out, Adenuga is remarkably different. His kindness is like a magical spell meant to enchant hearts and lift weary souls so that they might fly. While many draw attention to society’s most pressing problems, Adenuga resolves them. Adenuga is never far removed from his roots and the indigent, however far and near. He is compassionate in an unrelenting sort of context. When he gives out money or favours, he spends himself completely on the gesture.

If the chairman of Globacom were crowned the richest man in the world today, it wouldn’t matter to him. He had never been a sucker for worldly and ephemeral titles. Thus, he would keep doling out his fortune to nourish dreams and flesh out the hopes of the starving. If you ask him, he would tell you that he has not lived in a day until he has done something for someone who can never repay him. Thus, while some billionaires toss satellites into orbit and strive to harness the sun, Adenuga commits his fortune to nobler, simpler objectives, like raising society’s underprivileged from privation to surplus.

The Globacom chairman detests the fallacy of the faux angelic in Faustian wealth as a measure of the affluent’s obligation to society’s poor and underprivileged. Unlike his fellow billionaires, he would never wield money like a scalpel, using it to procure applause, trophy mansions, social rank, and carnal pleasures. The Globacom chairman embodies what it feels like to be empathetic and resolute in one breadth: he projects what the world wants to see and defies the stereotypes it expects.

Adenuga has always challenged what society thinks a billionaire magnate should or should not be.

There is no gain; he stirs powerful feelings with his charitable gestures.

He pulls you in with his soulfulness through his eyes and the stillness and nuance of his compassion. Adenuga is constantly pushing himself, influencing a new generation of empaths to succeed him and go further. To reassert his aura in history, he understands he must redraft and project a Nigerian credo of patriotism indigenous to us. This is why he spares no effort to improve many of his people and immediate society.

Adenuga, having noticed a certain kind of charity common among us, resolved to propagate its more noble variant.

He understands that patchwork philanthropy is never enough; his charitable ventures seek to do more than clothe the ragged, feed the poor, and heal the sick. Not that he decries the noble spirit that seeks to help the poor and underprivileged, but rather that he seeks to establish and sustain a kind of philanthropy that eradicates the social maladies that create and imperil society’s vulnerable divides from the source.

Adenuga would always argue that for a nation or a community to prop up its weakest and most helpless members, its best and most gifted must rise and get passionately involved in palliative philanthropy and the social re-engineering that eliminates structural and institutionalised poverty.

When he clocked 70 last year, the world virtually stood still to honour him. It was the least that could be done by his global kith and kin, friends, governments, and business associates as one of the Earth’s most materially blessed human beings clocked his seventh decade.

Congratulatory messages poured in from far and near in honour of the billionaire magnate. President Bola Tinubu, for instance, used the occasion to extend his good wishes to the business mogul for his many social and economic investments in Nigeria, describing him as a “believer in the manifest destiny of Nigeria as a great country.”

While celebrating Adenuga’s accomplishments as a notable entrepreneur in telecommunications, oil and gas, real estate, and aviation, among others, Tinubu, the new president-elect, particularly noted how he democratised and revolutionised GSM telephony in Nigeria in 2003 with per-second billing at a time when it was considered impossible to do so.

He said, “I congratulate Otunba Mike Adenuga on attaining 70. To reach the Biblical age of three scores and ten brings great joy to every human being, and I thank God for making this great son of Nigeria and the world reach the milestone in good health.

“Otunba Adenuga is a firm believer in the manifest destiny of Nigeria as a great country. This he has demonstrated with his continuous investments in our economy, creating thousands of jobs and wealth for our people through his many businesses. I wish Otunba Adenuga many more years in profound health to continue adding value to our country and humanity in general.”

On his part, the then-outgoing President, Muhammadu Buhari, celebrated the entrepreneur, “whose charity and goodwill continue to inspire, attracting local and global recognitions, including three national honours, OON, CON, and GCON.”

Buhari affirmed the impact of Adenuga’s visionary leadership on Nigeria’s economy, setting the pace for investments in oil and gas, telecoms, real estate, banking, construction, and hospitality, with a remarkable presence in supporting entertainment, sports, and African culture, both within and outside the country.

The president extolled the philanthropist for his courage, humility, and dedication to nation-building, always placing the interest of the nation first and the welfare of the people, and ensuring that all his ventures and investments uphold human values of empathy, appreciation, trust, and respect.

Congratulatory messages were also sent to Adenuga by then-Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, President Emmanuel Macron, former President John Dramani Mahama, former President Thomas Boni Yayi, the AfDB president, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Governor Dapo Abiodun, and then-Vice-President of Liberia, Dr. Jewel Howard Taylor.

While Osinbajo described Adenuga as “a true national asset” whose “patriotism and personal commitment to Nigeria’s development is a beacon of light and an inspiration to many, especially young people at home and on the continent,” French President Macron acknowledged Adenuga’s “tremendous contribution to the strengthening of the relationship between Nigeria and France on many aspects.”

He said, “Above all, I see in your remarks and in the success of your activities the perfect illustration of the vibrant Nigerian entrepreneurial spirit and an exemplary winning partnership between France and Nigeria over the long term.”

He said Adenuga’s success is a source of inspiration for French entrepreneurs and has given the France-Nigeria Business Council an initial impetus essential to its success as a dialogue platform.

Macron appreciated him for establishing the Mike Adenuga Centre, Alliance Française, which has not only become “the major architectural and cultural landmark of Lagos but a considerable asset for the cultural visibility of France in Nigeria and the dialogue between our cultures, with no equivalent on the continent.”

There is no denying that Adenuga is the only human to have enjoyed such a widespread and heartfelt celebration. As a testament to his global citizenship of humanity, both the young and the old felicitated with him; best wishes poured in from all over the world as both men and women, young and old, businesspeople and politicians, pastors and imams, among others.

His beneficiaries and associates were thrilled that the exceptionally gifted mogul was alive and kicking, adding value to nationhood and lives in this challenging but exciting era.

Adenuga always stands out in whatever he does. The industrious business titan, whose story inspires all and whose triumphs command ceaseless ovation, has touched many souls at home and abroad.

Adenuga best portrays that persona of mystery—the unpredictability that assures victory. He does not chase acceptance or influence, honour invitations, show up at random shindigs, or amass followers on social media.

He’s hardly ever in the public space. Thus, you can count his interviews in the last 40 years on the fingers of one hand. Most of what we read and hear about him is speculation. He practices the dictum of the British monarchy (‘never complain, never explain’).

Despite his penchant for avoiding the spotlight, news about him continually makes it into the social space, perhaps because the founder of Globacom, Conoil, and a chain of other businesses spanning banking and real estate affirms, through his genius and industry, the transcendence of the fruitful magnate’s rippling virtuosity.

Going by his trajectory, Adenuga may be likened to a god of the franchises he created and a guardian of the world his business empire inhabits. It’s a huge task; earth-born deities influence economies, politics, culture, and cities. And if they are very assertive, they create not just the laws of government but also the code of mortal existence. However, no magnate has been a god to as many vastly different worlds as Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr.

His worlds are tasking and exacting, but they are also flooded with the brilliant light of his imagination, whether he is building on the past, determining the present, or strategising for the future no one has ever imagined. 

Many have wondered how he came to amass such vast affluence and an enduring sway at the pinnacle of the business world; it’s mostly a function of perception—his ingenious ability to discern the labyrinthine tracts of commerce and his persistence in asking, ‘why?’ Adenuga symbolises the enterprising African spirit, unalloyed commitment, resilience, and hard work. Thus, he is today one of the most recognisable names on the African continent, sitting atop what is arguably one of the continent’s largest business empires, comprising oil and gas, telecoms, aviation, banking, and real estate.

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