Pendulum: Mike Adenuga: The Spirit of Africa @70
By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, exactly 70 years ago, on Wednesday, April 29, 1953, an exceptional baby was born. As was customary with the Yoruba people of old Western Region of Nigeria, he would soon be given names that would reflect the circumstances of his birth and the observations of his parents around the period.
Thus, he was named Michael Adeniyi Agbolade Isola Adenuga, at his christening. One of these powerful names soon became a prophecy fulfilled. AGBOLADE is the child who has attracted wealth to his family. If the Adenugas thought they were already successful and prosperous, their son, Mike Adenuga Jr. would soon be known globally as one of the world’s wealthiest humans on planet earth.
I will not bore you with his biography since the cyberspace is already awash with tales of his uncommon trajectory. I’m here to demonstrate why I’m convinced that the celebrant of today is a special creation of God sent to this world to touch countless lives.
As for me and my house, I consider my encounters with him as being spiritually ordained. Not many people can boast of seeing and knowing Adenuga at close range. I’m privileged to have Dr. Adenuga as my mentor and benefactor. I can readily write a PhD thesis on the extraordinary nature of the Spirit of Africa, a spirit you hardly see but feel his impact all around you.
I’m very convinced that only God could have sent Dr Adenuga to me. Our relationship is undoubtedly divine.
I bless the day I met Dr Adenuga in 1991. More than money, I have gained much more from having substantial access to him and drinking endlessly from his fountain of knowledge than the wealth he has splashed on me and so many others. While most people see his billions in dollars, I see his intellectual prowess in trillions. I pray that technology will give us opportunities to clone such brains as I doubt if similar geniuses are still manufactured these days. I will never get tired of learning at his feet.
Let me now give you just a few of our encounters.
Adenuga, the generous giver: I can confidently say, Mike Adenuga is the most generous man or woman alive. If you know of any other, please write your own piece. I know of people who have become billionaires in Naira/assets from the regular support Adenuga gives them. All it takes is to impress him repeatedly with performance and loyalty. No amount is too big for Adenuga to give his friends and associates. He believes in the reward system. I once asked why he gives out so much. His response was a classic. “If you have a Billionaire as your friend, his wealth must reflect on you…” What a response!
In 2015, I got a call to pick up a car at Banana Island which he bought for me. I wasn’t surprised that he bought me a car, since he gives more than 50 exotic cars out every year, I was stunned that he bought me the most expensive car in the Audi family, Audi A8L. I was later told he bought about ten of those luxury cars and gave them out. I know of a family he gave the husband a Range Rover and the wife a RAV 4. These are not Tokunbo vehicles (used cars) but brand new. Adenuga does not believe in dolling out peanuts to people. One encounter is enough to leave you dazed eternally. If you are smart and can manage your business well, you should be made for life.
Adenuga, a loyal friend in the days of tribulations… In 1995, I got into serious trouble with the Abacha government and I needed to literally vamoose and I reached out to Adenuga for help. I was pleasantly surprised when he gave financial support as risky as it was then. And during my exile years in England, he supported me every year till I returned home. Unlike others who would expect you to become a slave thereafter, I was treated with love and respect.
When I started Ovation International in London and the company ran into trouble, I wrote to Adenuga and asked him to take over since I didn’t want my dream to evaporate. His response again was brilliant and encouraging… “Ovation is your baby, work harder at it…” He kept giving me the necessary support periodically without requesting for my flesh and blood.
Adenuga respects reciprocity in relationships… He tries hard to reciprocate kind deeds you make to him. A year after he bought me the Audi, I did something that really touched him in 2016. He invited me to his Bellissima Palace on Banana Island. As I sat down, he thanked me profusely for my love for him. Then to my greatest surprise and joy, he announced very calmly: “I have just ordered you a Range Rover, the only problem is that the dealer only have it in white color…” Jesus, I screamed: “Chairman, you just gave me the Audi A8L last year, this is unexpected Sir…” He smiled and told me: “Our Bob Dee, you’re a great guy and you deserve anything I can give… I will let you know when the Range is available in black, because black will look good on you, and send it to you…” And when the car was ready, he told me to wait for someone at Wheatbaker Hotel in Ikoyi, where it was delivered to me. Let me confirm to you that both cars he gave me in one year cost him N85 million… Let’s not talk about other transactions at home and abroad, including well funded foreign assignments.
Adenuga hates the word impossibility… One beautiful morning, I landed in Dubai. As I was checking into my hotel, a call came through from his top aide, Mr Bode Opeseitan. “Bob Dee Sir, Chairman wants to have dinner with you and a few friends at home tomorrow…” Wonderful Lord, the Devil is a liar, I soliloquised. This was an opportunity I had waited for so patiently. A dinner with Adenuga is always a treat. He is a man of extraordinary culinary taste and style… He spoils his guests with the best of cuisines, washed down with an assortment of cocktails, white and red wines, champagnes and cognacs… He sends me cartons of these expensive drinks, from time to time. Sorry, about this digression. This is a rare opportunity to say just about one percent of our interactions.
I had to abort my stay in Dubai with automatic alacrity. How can a whole Adenuga invite me to dinner and I will tell him I can’t come because I’m in Dubai. So I told Bode to tell Chairman, I will honor his invitation, no matter what it would take.
I called Emirates and moved my next flight to London backwards and left for London same afternoon. Fortunately, I landed in London by about 6.30pm and was able to board the 10.30pm Virgin Atlantic flight from same Heathrow Terminal 3 to Lagos. Because of Adenuga, I made a round trip of Accra to Dubai to London to Lagos in less than 24 hours. But it paid off handsomely. At that dinner, I sealed a mega deal of the Ovation Carol sponsorship with Glo… “Bode, please, tell your sponsorship team to give Bob Dee whatever is required to make Ovation Carol a success…” What a Spirit!
Adenuga’s battle with photographers… For a man so charming and handsome, Adenuga does not like cameras around him. I’m lucky to have had many pictures with him. When I started handling his media relations in 1992, I was being paid to shield him from publicity, whether good or bad. It was difficult, if not impossible, to get any clear picture of Adenuga in media files. His favourite words are “I’m hiding under the parapet…” When I complain about the way he’s being undervalued on the annual Rich List, he used to tell me: “I’m not desperate to be listed as number one. I’m comfortable wherever they put me.
Those who understand the game know the real wealth.”
On one occasion, about 12 years ago, he agreed to open up his books to a few of us. His nationwide and international real estate portfolio was so staggering that we became dizzy just looking from city to city. He owns one of the most priced properties in Johannesburg and he’s a neighbour of the current President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa. His properties litter several world capitals.
We gained access to the stupendous assets of GLO and GLO 1 and could not believe the figures staring at us. It is difficult to contemplate how one man could ever think of stretching the limits of technology by laying submarine cables under the Atlantic ocean from Europe to West Africa.
His gargantuan operations at ConOil was another matter entirely with huge investments in exploration, in upstream and downstream. The gas deposits were beyond imagination. What a blessed man!
Adenuga and his battle with cameras… It has been a struggle getting him to agree to take pictures even for his 70th. For a man who can afford the biggest photographers in the world, he only allowed one young talented Nigerian photographer Jeffrey Olalekan, to take his pictures and Maureen Ekezie, to clean up the job. What an enigma!
Let me give one more encounter, a very recent one, since there are too many tributes to read on Adenuga today. He called me two days ago to complain that the noise about his 70th birthday is getting too loud. So I pleaded with him to allow us celebrate him this time around and that I believe this one is beyond his control. It is not his style but his friends, associates and disciples have decided to celebrate him big time, whether he agrees or not.
imagine a newspaper edition in which you have Segun Adeniyi, Simon Kolawole, Reuben Abati, Nduka Irabor, Yemi Ogunbiyi, with congratulatory messages pouring in from well-wishers. What more can a man ask for from God?
Today na today…
Happy birthday to the Spirit of Africa…
Source: The Boss