Thomas Imonikhe and Dan Amor
As a faithful servant, an engaging entrepreneur, a passionate philanthropist, dedicated realist and reformer who can bridge all gulfs, level all mountains and put a lamp in every tunnel, exemplified by his selfless service to Nigeria, his fatherland, as seen in his contributions to the growth of the economy of the country, Dr. Mike Adenuga Jnr. has, undoubtedly, come to be seen as modern-day phenomenon whose corpus requires a large canvas.
Though having blue blood running in his veins, Adenuga, who clocks three score and six today, was neither born great nor had some greatness thrust upon him. Rather, he belongs to a category of people whom the great dramatist, William Shakespeare, would describe as some who achieve greatness by dint of hard work and striving tirelessly, given the right leadership and work environment to remain on top of his businesses.
A son of a disciplinarian schoolteacher, the young Michael apparently realised early in life that even coming from a noble background, since his mother hailed from a royal family, “is no guarantee of any particular merit, competence, or expertise” and decided to take his destiny in his own hands by embracing Western education. This, perhaps, explains why he chose entrepreneurship as a career over the classroom, where his father had excelled, and pursuing a white collar job that was in vogue upon graduation from the university, a decision that made the difference in his journey and brought him wealth, fame and influence in society.
Significantly, his venture into the lucrative but volatile oil and gas industry marked the beginning of his success in business. Along the line, he diversified into the highly innovative and capital-intensive world of telecommunications, which has made a tremendous impact on the lives of many people to the extent that Adenuga and his company, Globacom, are now household names not only in Nigeria but across the globe.
A man of immense vitality, integrity, honesty, few words, strong character and with the fear of God, Adenuga must have imbibed one of the popular axioms of the current richest man on earth, Jeff Bezos, that “one of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out.” Bezos, an American and founder of Amazon, has an estimated net worth of $170 billion, according to the latest ranking by the influential Forbes Magazine.
Currently ranked the second richest person in Nigeria and also the second richest black man in the world behind Alhaji Aliko Dangote by Forbes, with estimated net worth of $9.4 billion as of February 2019, Adenuga, going by the remarkable successes recorded by his chain of businesses in the past few decades, has not only demonstrated his abiding faith in brand Nigeria but proven to many that the black man can hold his head high in any chosen endeavor and still play by the global best practices.
But it was not a smooth sail for the business mogul before he joined the exclusive billionaires’ club. Born on April 29, 1953, to Oloye Michael Agbolade Adenuga Snr., who was a schoolteacher, and Omoba (Princess) Juliana Oyindamola Adenuga (née Onashile, of Okesopin, Ijebu Igbo), Ogun State, a businesswoman of royal Ijebu descent, Adenuga attended Ibadan Grammar School, Ibadan, in Oyo State, and Comprehensive High School, Aiyetoro, Ogun State, for his Higher School Certificate. However, his quest for higher education and the proverbial greener pastures saw him leaving the shores of Nigeria for the United States of America, USA. As a student there, it is on record that he worked as a taxi driver to help fund his university education. He graduated from Northwestern Oklahoma State University and Pace University, New York, with degrees in Business Administration. And upon his return to his fatherland, he entered the unpredictable world of business, where he has towered above his peers, to the satisfaction of many.
His blossoming career, one recalls, started in 1990 when he received a drilling license from the regime of then military President Ibrahim Babangida. Subsequently, his Consolidated Oil Company struck oil in the waters of Ondo State, in the South-west geo-political zone, as the first indigenous oil company to do so in commercial quantity in 1991. Besides, he owns the Mike Adenuga Group of companies, comprising former Equitorial Trust Bank, Cobblestone Properties and Estates, a real estate and property development company, Conoil Plc, petroleum marketing company, and Conoil Producing, a crude exploration and production firm.
But it is in the telecommunications sector that, perhaps, the business mogul has made the greatest impact. In 1999, he was issued a conditional Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) network license, which was later revoked. He received a second license when the Nigerian government held another auction in 2003. Having done his homework properly, his telecom company Globacom (Glo) hit the ground running, spreading rapidly, and immediately challenged the dominance of South African giant, MTN Group, in the Nigerian market.
Globacom Limited, founded on August 29, 2003, by Adenuga, in no time came up with revolutionary services, including per second billing, which Nigerian subscribers were initially told by the first two entrants in the sector, MTN and Econet (now Airtel), was impossible, a situation they endured for two years.
That singular innovation by Glo immediately endeared the company to thousands of subscribers who in turn embraced it whole-heartedly through massive patronage. Till date, the company has offered direct employment to more than 3,500 people and indirect jobs to hundreds of thousands others worldwide.
It had over 45 million subscribers at December 2018, which makes the company the second largest network operator in Nigeria, a feat said to have been made possible by the dynamic and focused leadership of the Globacom chairman and the management team, headed by his daughter, Mrs. Bella Disu (executive vice chairman). Indeed, analysts had attributed Glo’s effective massive telecommunication services and its ability to overcome the stiff competition continuously posed by the MTN Nigeria to the business acumen and adequate funding provided by Adenuga, without which the company could not have weathered the storm.
Also, due to his dynamism in business operations, Glo Mobile now operates in four countries in West Africa, namely, Nigeria, Republic of Benin, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. In addition, his passion for information and communication technology, according to some analysts resulted in the successful laying of Glo-1 submarine cable from the United Kingdom to Nigeria. Glo is the first individual African company to implement such a project.
A pillar of sports and entertainment as well as a cultural ambassador across Africa, Adenuga, for his numerous attainments and meritorious service to humanity, has been recognised at home and abroad. For instance, he has bagged the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON), which is Nigeria’s second highest national honour for a civilian who is not in government, Ghana’s highest civil award, the Companion of the Star of Ghana (CSG), and the African Entrepreneur of the Year at the first African Telecoms Awards (ATA) in August 2007.
Significantly, also, the digital guru has been conferred with France’s highest national award of Commander of the Legion of Honour by the French President, Emmanuel Macron, who described Adenuga as “a true role model for Africa” and one with “incomparable spirit of entrepreneur, tenacity and ability to think out of the box.”
He further applauded Adenuga’s contributions to the growth of the African and French economy and for the promotion of the French language and culture in Nigeria. He gave kudos also to Mrs. Bella Disu, who conceived, coordinated and executed the Alliance Française project.
Also, Glo, under Adenuga’s watch, continues to sponsor prominent festivals in the country, including the Eyo Festival in Lagos State, Ojude Oba Festival in Ogun State and Ofala festival in Anambra State as part of measures to promote the nation’s cultural heritage. Globacom also has invested heavily in entertainment and social interventions in Nigeria and Africa.
For instance, it is the biggest promoter of Nollywood, which has helped to project our country on the global entertainment scene, as well as sports in Africa. Glo has been sponsoring the annual Confederation of African Football (CAF) Awards, now elevated to a major event in the global football calendar.
Dr. Adenuga holds a Yoruba chieftaincy title, the Otunba Apesin of the Ijebu clan in Ogun State, and he is married and blessed with children.
•Imonikhe and Amor are, respectively, former Nigerian newspaper editors.