This is a celebration of an exceptional African business icon and enigma from an insider perspective. I have interacted with the billionaire founder of Globacom and Conoil, Dr Mike Adenuga Jr., for over three decades, 16 years of which I worked for him, often at close quarters.
This is an unrestrained chronicling of his unique attributes; with anecdotes and perspectives you probably have never read elsewhere.
It was one of those activity-choked days when his meetings lasted till very late in the night. He had, a few moments earlier, closed his last meeting for the day with senior managers in his signature style. “Well, everyone to himself, God for us all,” he said with reverence, yet commandingly and reassuringly.
With everyone released, he treated the remaining files on his desk, passed them to his secretary and crossed over from his Oval Office at the golden building to his palatial residence, which he fittingly christened Bellissima on the waterfront. Bellissima is an Italian word coined from bella, which means gorgeous, while issima, is an absolute superlative.
Bellissima, the name, absolutely complements the gorgeousness of the immaculate white buildings at the Adenuga villas and their coral-coloured roofs. You would think, at that wee hour, he was heading straight to bed once he got home. No Sir!
Dr Adenuga is genetically fortunate to require only about three to four hours of sleep a day. The influential Wall Street Journal calls his kind the sleep-less elite who need just a few hours of sleep to function normally.
In that mould are the likes of Tim Cook of Apple and former American President Donald Trump. Sometimes, he would make a few calls to give some follow-up instructions or review some aspects of his last meetings.
Then, he would pour himself a glass of one of the smoothest cognacs in the world, relax and journey back to the past couple of hours to dissect his previous day, reflectively.
That, for Dr Adenuga, is a spiritual voyage of sorts where he tries to set matters straight between himself and the people he had encountered. Meditatively, he would ask himself, ‘Was I fair to him? Was she fair to me? Is there any additional value to explore and get a better result beyond the ideas the various teams from Globacom to Conoil Producing, Conoil Plc, Cobblestone Properties and Estate and others presented? How can we optimise our assets?’ He could be at this for up to three or four hours before calling it a day.
That is how the genius mindset of Chairman Adenuga works. Upon deep reflection, if in the previous day there was anyone the Chairman felt he was unfair to, he would make amends, often not in an apology but in voluntary compensatory actions. If there was anyone he felt was unfair to him, he would also take corrective measures. As generous as he frequently is, he doesn’t spare the rod when he needs to make people account for their misdeeds.
Where he acts the fastest is on any matter that could stimulate business growth. He takes whatever action is required to get results, particularly where the opportunity is hot and fresh, even if it requires a trip to the most distant part of the world. There were people in the Mike Adenuga Group who had travelled to the US, Europe, China and other parts of Africa and had no clue they were travelling as close as four to 24 hours before they boarded their flights.
No other business leader I have known can match his mettle when it comes to pulling all the strings to get a difficult result. That perhaps is the strongest staying power of an icon his admirers call the Great Guru.