My first encounter with Dr. Mike Adenuga, the Chairman of Globacom, was in Awujale: The Autobiography of Oba S. K Adetona Ogbagba II. While relishing the profound narrative of how the young Sikiru weathered the storms of his ascension to the throne of his forefathers, one narration caught my attention. It was how then President Olusegun Obasanjo attempted to run this unexampled entrepreneur out of town. Obasanjo’s target was probably to make him a fugitive out of Nigeria. Awujale’s bravery and commitment to Adenuga, at the risk of Obasanjo’s renowned petulance, struck me as the stuff of heroes.
That book deconstructed Obasanjo as a man driven by petty jealousy and unbridled vengeance. When, a few years after, military general, Ibrahim Babangida, placed a spread advertorial in some national dailies on the occasion of Adenuga’s birthday, thanking the man known as the Bull for his Omoluwabi (innate humanism), especially his enduring pain and privation in the hands of “those who wanted him to implicate me” – my paraphrase – the whole picture of vengeful rough tackles of Obasanjo struck a chord.
Since then, I have taken interest in Adenuga. His magnificent sense of industry is a daily projection in the media and need not detain us here. It embodies how he runs the awesome machine of his global business empire. Adenuga’s art and philanthropy arrest my imagination the most. I have heard the near-mythic story of how he, some years ago, transformed the life of a top-notch Yoruba musical icon. He has since, on a yearly basis, been deepening this uncommon human empathy, so much that, for this iconic musical star, Adenuga is God on earth.
It will seem that Adenuga’s turf and forte are returning life to those at the edge of their tethers. Footballer Peter Fregene recently felt the huge palm of his mystique. So have so many others. I am told as well that most of Nigeria’s young musicians whose stars shine on the global musical firmament today got the initial prod into stardom through the empowerment startups that Adenuga’s Globacom offers them. It will seem as well that Adenuga is first and foremost an art enthusiast. This is manifest in the way his network brand prioritizes thespians and musicians as props of its brand advertisement.
Many unsung people have taken awesome bites of Adenuga’s unending crave to leave imprints in the lives of people. In doing this, his unique traits of abhorrence of the klieg, in spite of his stupendous wealth, have not ceased to marvel those who study his persona. Many shrimps inside the ocean of wealth, who do not have a tenth of his God-given worldly acquisition, strut the rivers like sharks. Adenuga is not only quiet and unassuming, he personifies that biblical injunction of keeping off the left what the right hand gives under wraps. He seems to be one man who sees giving from his humongous wealth as the major assignment providence entrusted into his hands.
Close to four years ago, a strange call sieved into my phone. From it whooshed out a very musical voice which greeted me as if we were once adolescent buddies. Humble to a fault and prefixing my name at every point with “Dr” and the Yoruba tonal respect for someone older than one, when the voice identified itself as Mike Adenuga Jr., it took divine intervention for me not to suffer asphyxiation. Adenuga must have got his kicks from my shocking shout of disbelief. He was a regular reader of my column and my fan – can you beat that humility! – he said, and had just read my piece that referenced a strange ancient bird Yoruba call Akalamagbo.ⓘ
Wealth is nothing if it does not have the Jeremy Bentham utilitarian touch. Two sovereigns, in the submission of this British philosopher, govern humanity – pain and pleasure. Mike Adenuga’s drive, from all I have heard about him, will seem to be a desire for decrease of pain and increase of a pleasurable life for humanity. His establishment of Globacom and introduction of the per-second billing, at a time when his foreign competitors were literally draining verve off Nigerian phone users, as well as his interventions in the lives of innumerable people in Nigeria, signpost his belief in the utilitarian functionality of wealth.
As he marks his 70th birthday this Saturday, April 29, this is a felicitation of a wprthy Nigerian patriot and iconic entrepreneur.