70 Gbosas for The Guru: A birthday tribute to Dr Mike Adenuga – By Mayor Akinpelu

Dr Mike Adenuga, Chairman of Globacom, Conoil Producing, Conoil Plc and Cobblestones Properties, is a workaholic. He has this enormous capacity for work. It is not unusual for visitors to be ushered into his office at 2am. Some visitors wait for hours to see him. He is a hands-on chief executive and he micromanages.

Nothing goes on in his financial empire that spans telecoms, oil, banking, real estate and construction without his knowledge. He works hard and drives those who work for him equally hard. It is not unusual for a top executive in his company to receive a phone call, in the dead of the night, with instructions to proceed on an assignment outside the country. Working for Dr Adenuga is a 24-hour job. There are peculiar traits about this genius. One of them is his generosity. Dr Adenuga is one of the most generous persons I know. Because he shuns publicity like plaque, many do not realize the quantum of lives he has touched through his generosity. Apart from touching people’s lives, he is also generous to friends, family members and his workers. I had the privilege of doing some media relations works for him in the past. I particularly remember the CIL days when his telecoms license was cancelled. We used to meet in the study of his Oko-Awo, Victoria Island residence with the head of the communications department of CIL at the time. When we met in the morning, he would give me money, after the meeting. We would reconvene in the evening and he would still give me money. We would meet the following morning; he would do the same thing. You cannot see Dr Adenuga and leave without being blessed. And as he was giving me money, he was also giving the CIL guy who was his staff. You may not see Dr. Adenuga for years, but when you least expect it, you would receive a phone call that would make you smile. This ability to make a remarkable intervention in one’s life encouraged people to label him the ‘Spirit of Africa’.

Two examples of his passion for generosity would suffice.

When I wanted to start my newsmagazine, Global Excellence, I took a decision that I must own it. I didn’t want partners because of my experience at Fame magazine. I needed two million naira at the time and I felt the only person that could help me was Dr Adenuga. So, I wrote him a letter asking him to give me N2m loan for me to realize my dream. I sent the letter through a friend who was a top executive in his office. I didn’t get a feedback. But as fate would have it, I was invited by Equatorial Trust Bank, at the time one of his companies, to a cocktail in Victoria Island. When I got to the event, behold the chairman was present. I went to say hello and in the course of discussing with him I asked about the letter I sent to him. “Which letter? I didn’t see any letter,” he replied. He then asked me to discuss the content of the letter. I explained to him that I needed to start another magazine and it would cost me N2m to do it. I told him that I didn’t have any other person that could help me, so I wanted him to give me N2m loan.“What is your collateral,” he asked. “My relationship with you,” I answered. He laughed heartily and said “Mayor wants a loan and he doesn’t have collateral”. My heart sank but immediately he said “you’re our person we have to help you”. He then called my friend that was his staff and told him to bring me to the house on Sunday for us to discuss. I got to my friend’s house on Sunday and he put a call to the chairman’s house to confirm if we could come over. He was told that chairman had traveled to Paris. I felt disappointed. I had to look elsewhere.

A young man whom I met through my colleague and brother, Dele Momodu, assisted me in starting Global Excellence.

To show that Dr Adenuga works like a spirit. The third week of starting Global Excellence in 1999, when things were really tough, I got a message from a friend that worked for Dr Adenuga. He asked if I was in the office, to which I said yes. He then came over and handed me a handsome cheque from the chairman as his support for Global Excellence. I thought he forgot about me, but no. Dr Adenuga always gets in touch with those he loves.

The second experience was even better. When I celebrated my 50th birthday in 2010, many top executives including Alhaji Aliko Dangote, attended the event. I was surprised that Dr Adenuga didn’t wish me a happy birthday. I thought he didn’t remember me. One day, I got a call from Bode Opeseitan who was then working with Dr Adenuga. He told me that chairman said I should come for the dinner party at Civic Centre in Victoria Island, one of the events organized for Bella’s wedding. I told Bode that I didn’t have invitation for the party. He later informed me that chairman said I should go to his house at Oko-Awo to collect an invitation card. I did as I was told but I was not happy. I wasn’t happy because chairman didn’t wish me happy birthday. I got to Civic Centre and as I was entering the hall I met Bode at the entrance. He said; “Lord Mayor, chairman asked me to give you a message, let me give it to you before you enter the party”. So I followed Bode back to his car and he handed me an envelope. I collected it, returned to my car and dropped it in the glove compartment. I went back towards the hall but curiosity was eating me up. So I turned back to my car and opened the envelope to see the content. Herein was an ETB draft a card on which Happy Birthday was written. I almost cried.The amount on that bank draft was so huge that I felt dumbfounded. For a long time, I couldn’t talk. In fact, I was dazed. I later went to thank him at the party, and typical of him, he just laughed; that deep-throat laughter and said “Lord Mayor”.

Just as he touched my life in a special way, he does same for a lot of his staff. Many received brand new exotic cars, huge amount of money, expensive wristwatches and special gifts. But he does not suffer fools gladly. He may be generous, and kind but as his staff he expects certain standards of performance from you. Failure of which would attract consequences. Again, two examples would suffice. When we used to meet with Dr Adenuga during the CIL days, before Globacom became a reality, he used to give myself and the head of Globacom corporate communications money. And the guy used to say “what kind of boss is this that gives you money every time you see him?” one day, we were to do some media works and later meet with chairman in his study at his home in Oko-Awo. We had finished the meeting and as usual, he had given us some money. We were about leaving when he asked the corporate communications guy about the remaining money we didn’t use for the assignment. The guy said “oh I’m sorry sir, this is it”. Dr Adenuga exploded in rage. “Why didn’t you hand it over before I asked you? Do you think I’m stupid? Do you think I don’t know what I’m doing? This ‘baga’ has to be fired!” The guy was so scared that he almost peed in his pants. I was stunned myself. I just said the first thing that came to my mind. “I’m sorry sir, it was my fault. I felt since we’re going out tomorrow to continue with the assignment, there’s no need to hand over what we didn’t use yet.” The chairman was calmed. He looked at both of us and said the guy should have said so instead of shaking. I learnt a big lesson that day and something about Dr Adenuga. Yes, he is generous. Yes, he can give money to his staff even more that their salary, but don’t think you can advantage of his generosity to fool him. When it comes to working for him, his standards are quite high. Many of his workers are scared to have meeting with him.

There was a day he summoned me to his office in Oko-Awo. There was a conference room opposite his office where he met with his staff. I was summoned upstairs and asked to sit just before the door to the conference room. One lady who was a top executive in Globacom was invited to attend the meeting. When she arrived she greeted me and did the sign of The Cross before entering the conference room.

Dr Adenuga is a very shy personality. He doesn’t like crowd. There was one of his close aides that celebrated his birthday. The wife organized a surprise party for him in Ikoyi, Lagos. Aiyefele was on the bandstand. When the guy was informed about the arrangement minutes into the surprise party, he informed Dr Adenuga and then left for the party. Chairman does not attend parties. But, surprisingly, he decided to shock his aide by showing up at the party. Nobody knew he was coming!

DrAdenuga got to the venue and took the lift to the floor where the party was going on. As the lift opened, he saw that it was a big party with a band. He just called for the lift, entered and went back. We were at the party when someone rushed upstairs to inform us that chairman just left. Some of us, including the celebrator, rushed downstairs. Chairman was gone. If you see Dr Adenuga at a party, even his own party, you would find him sitting alone, straight-faced. He would hardly eat or drink. He would just be playing with his gold rosary. The only time I saw him letting his hairs down at a party was during the rites of passage for his mother. There was a party at Jogor Centre, Ibadan. It wasn’t as crowded as Lagos or Ijebu parties. Chairman was at home here. He drank Crystal Champagne, and even gave money to the musician on the bandstand. He stayed for a long time at the party. Dr Adenuga is also a family man. He dots on his wife and kids. He finds time for family dinner. The last time I saw him was at his favourite Italian restaurant in Victoria Island. I had been invited to a party in honour of a journalist friend. I was leaving the restaurant and saw chairman and his family having dinner. Dr Adenuga is my hero and mentor. I’m one of the privileged few that have a plaque espousing his Philosophy on Achieving. I have it on my office desk. It is exclusively for his admirers and disciples.

It gives me great pleasure to join millions of other well-wishers to wish Dr Mike Adenuga a happy, fulfilling 70th birthday. You’re a gift to the world. Nigeria is blessed to have you. The world is a better place with you.

Happy birthday, the Spirit of Africa. Best wishes for peace profound.

From an admirer and disciple.




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