-Michael Effiong & Eric Elezuo
There is no better time than now when the entire world stands in awe and admiration as he clocks the BIG 70 to share the inspirational, audacious and tenacious story of Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr GCON,CSG, CdrLH.
His story is better felt than told, better expressed than imagined. Well known but hardly seen, his story is the kind that will be so legendary that an -ism will be added to his name because his business trajectory and personal philosophy are uniquely his-and therefore worthy of emulation.
Some call him The Guru, others refer to him as the The Bull or most recently, the Spirit of Africa, one thing is sure, Adenuga is like the proverbial Iroko tree who is unlike any other. In terms of humility, pedigree, magnanimity, wealth and portfolio of investments, he is one of a kind. In any area of business that he plays, he almost always makes significant impact and the facts are there for all to see.
When the Federal Government decided to give indigenous businessmen licences in the dollar-denominated but capital- intensive upstream oil sector, Adenuga was one of those who applied.
Unlike others who sold their licences for quick bucks, Adenuga, the visionary, decided to go into full scale prospecting and exploration. The gamble paid off as one of the wells that was being drilled struck oil, making his company, Consolidated Oil, the first indigenous Nigerian company to discover oil in commercial quantity. Ever since that historic event of Tuesday, December 24, 1991, he had popped many bottles of choice champagnes and sipped some bottles of exotic cognacs to celebrate the execution of many mega deals.
Despite his success, Adenuga believes business must have a human face, it must add value, it must have an impact and ultimately, be socially responsible. These are some of the core values that he considers before throwing his money into any investment.That is not all, he also firmly believes that the world is a field of battle and you must prepare to win, not some time but all the time. He’s a mountain climber like the Tibetan Monk, who believes that you must survive all odds to get to the top.
Incredible tales have been told about his amazing capacity for work. He is known to sleep very little when there is work to be done and he expects his staff to imbibe the same work ethic. Though generous, he is said to have zero tolerance for incompetence or sloppiness. With him, you must be on your toes every time. It is therefore no surprise that his targeted investments and the grace of God Almighty have placed him well ahead of the authentic list of billionaires.
His never-give-up spirit is well known and it is this force that has driven him to achieve feats many mortals will think are impossible. In the entire continent of Africa, Dr. Mike Adenuga is in a class of his own-and therefore, it is inconceivable to actually put him in the same sentence or list as any of the others. He is without any shadow of doubt, Africa’s hidden treasure.
The reason is simple: Unlike many others whose worth can be calculated via their listed companies and assets, Adenuga’s intimidating wealth is usually in the realm of speculations, they are mostly privately-owned- which is reason he is usually given any position that meets the fancy of the publications.
Ololade Olaoye wrote, “Let us face it, if we count the numbers, dollar for dollar, Mike Adenuga would sweep everyone off the park. But we are in the world of paid narratives and agenda, where you can buy your place on the Rich List and those who already merited their place there don’t mind paying a few bucks to be overvalued. But if you ever become a billionaire, be this one: the billionaire who doesn’t care for the validation of Rich lLsts and the media.
The one who touches lives here and there, far and beyond. And ultimately, the one who’s more about the truth of the matter, than the narratives written by others. We all can’t be the Spirit of Africa but trust me, we can learn a lot from his values and essence.” We concur with this assertion, truth be told, he has no rival.
Let’s then take you into the world of this symbol of endurance, entrepreneur extraordinaire and self-made business titan who is certainly one of the wealthiest black men in the world.
HIS EARLY LIFE
Born on April 29, 1953 to Oloye Michael Adenuga Sr and Chief (Mrs) Juliana Oyindamola Adenuga, the Yeyeoba of Ijebuland, Otun Gbadebo of Ikija and Iyalaje of Ijebu-Igbo, Dr. Mike Adenuga Jnr was not a silver spoon kid but his parents were comfortable.
The indigene of Oru, Ijebu-Igbo, Ogun State was born and schooled in Ibadan. He attended the famous Ibadan Grammar School. He had his university education in the United States. He majored in Business administration with emphasis on Marketing. While in school, to augment the allowance sent by his parents, he worked as a cabbie (Taxi Driver), putting in many hours of work a week. This culture of back-breaking hard work shaped him for his ambitious business adventures later in life.
Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr is married to Mrs. Titi Adenuga (nee Adewale). She provides the comfort and stability that such an incredibly busy man requires. His children are Oyin, Babajide (Bobo), Paddy, Bella, Eniola, Bimbo, Sade and ‘Niyi Jnr. He also has grandchildren.
This close knit family members will be the ones around him today as he celebrates his birthday.
As soon he finished his studies in the United States, Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr. returned to Nigeria. His mother was into business, and it was under her tutelage that he began trading.
It is probably because of the tremendous impact that she had in his life as Business Adviser that he adored her so much. Before she passed on in 2005, he dotted on her.
Dr. Adenuga Jr, who is the youngest of his parent’s five children, began by selling removable car stereos. Probably sensing his business acumen, he was allowed to run the family saw mill factory in Ogun State.
He began to steadily grow the business. First, he went into the importation of saw mill equipment, then veered into importation of beer eventually hitting it big with his importation of lace.
Recounting those early days, the businessman extraordinaire said he was returning home from a trip in the United States when he missed his British Airways flight and had to fly Swiss Air. On that flight ,he was lucky to sit next to the owner of one of the biggest lace manufacturing companies in Austria.
He, it was, who convinced him before the flight touched down to give lace importation a shot. He took this advice and the reward was good. Later, he also went into tomato puree and vegetable oil. He was a sort of Jack of all trades and master of all. By the age of 26, he was already a millionaire.
As he grew older with more financial muscle, he decided to streamline his operations and look for investments in key sectors of the economy to concentrate on. That was how he began to structure the Mike Adenuga Group where he is Chairman.
When General Ibrahim Babangida decided to break the monopoly of foreigners in the oil industry and encouraged Nigerians to participate, Adenuga was one of those who took up the challenge. His company, Consolidated Oil applied for and was granted some oil blocs. It was a very risky decision and even his mother advised him against it.
He spent over $100 million on evaluation, interpretation and drilling. His courage and tenacity paid off when Consolidated Oil became the first Nigerian company to explore, discover and produce oil in large commercial quantities. Now called Conoil Producing Limited, it is currently the leading indigenous oil and gas exploration and producing company in Africa.
Years later in year 2000, he bought over the moribund National Oil and Chemicals Company (NOLCHEM), taking over the government’s majority shares. He has since injected fresh funds into the company and rechristened it Conoil Plc.
Conoil Plc has over 450 retail outlets all over the country and is the acknowledged leader of development in modern retail outlets such as mega stations and non-space pumps in new-look retail outlets. It is the market leader in aviation fuels.
Adenuga’s most ambitious project yet is in telecommunications. His company, Globacom is the Second National Operator in the country. The first is the government-owned NITEL. It is obvious that with Globacom, Adenuga is not interested in short-term profit, he is there for the long haul and of course, his desire is to give Nigerians and Africans world class telecommunication services. When he launched the network, he was two years behind the others, Adenuga’s entry strategy was to be innovative and aggressive. He waged a price war, democratized and demystified telephone services. Today, the ultimate risk taker has taken Globacom from the nadir to the zenith of the industry.
Glo was the only operator in Africa to launch its operations on the superior 2.5G network which enabled the convergence of voice, data and multimedia technologies.
But more importantly, it launched operations on Per Second Billing, thus ensuring subscribers only pay for actual time spent on a call instead of the practice of billing customers N50 per minute even when the call cuts off at just 2 seconds.
It also crashed the cost of SIM card from N30,000 to N6,999 and later N100, thereby making it possible for low income earners, students and artisans to own GSM lines today. It is now one of the most recognizable brands across the continent.
The network currently has over 60 million subscribers, and is the most preferred network in Nigeria, with a vast network of already laid fibre crisscrossing all parts of the country.
The Globacom network comprehensively covers over 400,000 communities, all the 36 states and all major highways. Globacom has highly successful subsidiary networks operating in other West African countries. Reputed to be very hands-on in the operations of his businesses, Dr. Adenuga, whose daughter, the cerebral Mrs. Bella Disu is the Executive Vice Chairman, Globacom, still gets briefs on the day-to-day running of his business empire.
Glo 1-This is the only solely-owned high capacity submarine cable with connection to the USA and running from the UK through African and European countries. It has been and continues to be a huge commercial success at the heart of the socio-economic development of Nigeria. It is remarkable that it is a Nigerian company that has pulled off this ambitious project. One of Adenuga’s close associates said the idea of building a submarine cable berthed when the entrepreneur went on a business trip to Paris, the French capital, sometime around 2008.
While there, he found out that telephone calls to Nigeria were epileptic unlike the connection between France and other parts of Europe. When he made enquiries about what could be done to solve the problem, he was told it was to have an international submarine cable. There and then, Dr Adenuga decided to build Glo 1, and the rest is now history. The project is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit and foresight of ‘The Guru’.
Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr also has vast holdings in the banking, real estate and infrastructure sectors of Nigeria. It is not hard to imagine that Adenuga is the richest man in Nigeria, and indeed Africa, and of course when one quantifies wealth in terms of liquidity, and not stocks. He is unmatchable.
HIS SUPPORT FOR SPORTS
His passion for giving is not only personal, the culture has also been imbibed by his companies especially Globacom. Through Globacom, he became the biggest supporter of football in Africa.
For so many years, the company supported the development of Nigerian sports through the sponsorship of the Nigerian Premier League and the national football teams of Nigeria when no other corporate organisation wanted to touch the assets.
Globacom spent billions of naira in developing the Nigerian league and clubs, and this culminated in Enyimba Football Club winning the prestigious Champions League twice in a row, while the Super Eagles won the Nations Cup in 2013.
In that same 2013, the company signed a N1.9 billion deal with Nigeria’s league Management Committee. The company also did same for other associations and major leagues in Africa.
Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr. also started a football revolution with the sponsorship and transformation of the yearly Glo/CAF Footballer of the Year Awards. He is the undisputed pillar of sports in Africa.
HIS GIANT STRIDES IN CULTURE AND CREATIVE INDUSTRY
Nigeria’s entertainment industry has also received a massive boost through Adenuga’s love for the arts expressed through Globacom.