Fellow Africans, let me assure you that I have met many extraordinary personalities in my personal capacity as well as in my career as a journalist, but none is as enigmatic as Dr Michael Adeniyi Agbolade Isola Adenuga. Just in case you think I’m being hyperbolic, please calm down and come with me on this exciting voyage to discover an embodiment of the true African spirit, the story of a man who in many ways can be likened to a Spirit. It is not by accident therefore that one of his many sobriquets is “Spirit”, which lends to his further moniker as the “Spirit of Africa”!
Let me quickly warn that what I’m doing today is practically tantamount to heresy because Dr Adenuga does not fancy anyone invading his much cherished, closely guarded and jealously protected life and lifestyle. It is not because he has anything to hide like most Nigerian men of affluence and influence nowadays, but because he is truly a private, almost reclusive man, whose main interest is to avail himself to family and friends behind closed doors. He truly does not expect thanks and praise for the silent way in which he affects the lives of many. However, it is merely right that this great icon and patriarchal man is constantly honoured and celebrated with effusive praise and fulsome gratitude. It is therefore befitting that as he turns 68 on Thursday, April 29, 2021, I owe and dedicate to him this one piece, as a man who touches too many lives from behind his private and exclusive circumvallation.
No man is perfect, and every soul is often misunderstood but I am reasonably convinced that Dr Adenuga’s generosity is out of this world, beyond this realm. He is a pre-eminent African that I have studied as a book and I’m sure I can produce a magnum opus on his life history. His is a life that should have spawned countless autobiographies especially form financial, entrepreneurial and philanthropic historians. I cannot do justice to this monumental human being by trying to capture his life within a single paged column, but I can provide a glimpse into a little of what makes him tick form my personal interaction with him.
Therefore, let me just give you some of the amazing snippets of our encounters and my uncommon knowledge of him. Please, ignore some of the concocted stories you read about him from time to time. Most are conceived by fiction writers who know that his name can change your fortunes or misfortunes instantly on a good day. Some also try their luck via subliminal messages that are tantamount to blackmail. Trouble is Dr Adenuga is too complicated for most people to unravel. His stories have thus become like fables, the stuff of legends.
A few months ago, I saw endless missed phone calls from a close friend and professional colleague. By the time I called back, I was very anxious because it was quite unlike my friend to call so frantically and desperately. I conjured a million images in my head about what could have been amiss. I soon discovered what the matter was all about. Apparently, my friend had lamented and grumbled to me about how he used to be very close to Dr Adenuga, but it seemed he had fallen out of favour with the stupendously generous man. I tried to reassure my dear friend that Dr Adenuga never forgets a favour and I’m certain his plate is always full with all sorts which is why he hadn’t yet responded to his attempts at contact and entreaties. His business model is such that he likes to be on top of his game by being hands on. While this may appear strange to many, it has worked so well for him. It is not that he micromanages. It is impossible to micromanage a huge conglomerate such as Dr Adenuga oversees. Indeed, formulating and directing policy, principle and strategy for such a consortium of companies is an arduous task at the best of times. For a man who is fastidious and meticulous in his planning and organisation like Dr Mike Adenuga, it is even more so. Furthermore, I know that Dr Adenuga prefers to deal with people on his own terms and at his own time, probably dictated by his hectic and busy schedule. I therefore advised my friend to be patient knowing that he would be pleasantly surprised.
Anyway, my friend was in a different mood this time around. “Bod Dee, please, I need a big favour from you Sir!” This further heightened the suspense! “What can I do please, you know I’ll gladly do it if I can…”, I confirmed this to my friend. What he then told me was like I had become a prophet! “Haaa, Bob Dee, ore yin ti fowo semi lese. You don’t want to imagine how much he sent to me…” He was clearly over-excited, almost at the point of giddiness. That’s Dr Mike Adenuga for you. It was one of the reasons I added to his usual monikers The Guru, because of his great intellect and natural flair, and The Bull, because of his physical appearance coupled with the manner in which he brainstorms, barnstorms and battles through prosperity and adversity alike, as well as his zodiac sign and symbol. I coined the appellation “The Spirit of Africa” because he is a man you very rarely see but feel his presence around you in an unmistakable, distinctive and remarkable manner.
Dr Adenuga’s morals, mores and proclivity are dictated by his abundant wealth of experience of life. He’s a very intelligent man who is vastly read and widely travelled. As a result, he not only understands the innate cruelty of man to fellow man, he has also on occasions experienced this first-hand to his surprise and chagrin. These experiences have shaped his thoughts and actions.
Aside from this, He has had to navigate his way through the murky waters of Nigerian politics. Dr Adenuga avoids and shuns politics like the plague. He does not believe that he must be involved with politics in order for his businesses to survive or thrive. All he campaigns for is an avenue to do business on a level playing field because he knows that he can survive and outlast most people. He considers himself one of the fittest and the best, if not the fittest and the best since he is methodical, calculating and highly industrious and energetic. As he says often, he is hiding his head under the parapet as he is non-aligned and does not want this to be mistaken for support for one side or the other. He knows Nigeria and Nigerians very intimately and does not want to attract unnecessary attention to himself or his business.
So, after making all this money, how does he enjoy it, I once asked him. He smiled heartily and told me: “Bob Dee, how much money can one individual or his family enjoy? You must spread it and touch lives…that is what brings true happiness and joy. What’s the point if your friend is wealthy and it doesn’t show on you his friends…?” I concurred, words of wisdom from a sage, indeed.
Everyman should wake up and pray to meet and become good friends with the Spirit of Africa. Trust me, it is worth every second of it. Just imagine a man who dashes out the same kind of cars he drives to friends. He buys these expensive cars in multiples. I have been a beneficiary a few times, so I know. I have a friend who got a Range Rover while his wife got another jeep. How nicer and kinder can one be? No amount of money is too much for Adenuga to shell out on his family and friends. And he really does not expect anything in return. If you have done him a favour then you are truly triply, not doubly blessed, since Dr Adenuga never forgets such favours and offers recompense even beyond your wildest dreams. Dr Adenuga believes that his friends are entitled to the same kind of material things that he wishes for and buys for himself. He has no jealous or mean streak in him in that respect.
I remember that a few years ago, I had just landed in Dubai on a Saturday morning and promptly checked into my hotel when a call came through from Lagos that I was being invited to dinner with Chairman, as I often call Dr Adenuga, the following evening in Lagos. Confusion instantly set in. A dinner with Chairman is always a treat and privilege. How would I miss such an amazing opportunity? I called the Emirate Airlines and was told the two flights to Lagos and Accra had already departed and the one to Lagos the day after was already overbooked. Based on the lessons I took from Dr Adenuga and Basorun MKO Abiola, that time wastes for nobody and that you must always think outside the box to be able to achieve what others would consider seemingly impossible, I wasn’t going to give up so easily. I called The Emirate Airline again and asked if any of their flights could get me to London the same day before 8pm. They told me I could get one if I was ready to downgrade. No worries. I would even sit on a jump seat if necessary. I then called Virgin Atlantic and asked if I could get a seat to Lagos. I was told that this was possible, and I was confirmed. That was how I landed Lagos in the morning of the following day having travelled back to London from Dubai. Needless to say, I made the dinner in the evening. He loves it when you make the impossible possible. It was the portent of good fortune for me since I was able to seal some important deals that evening. Our relationship is truly spiritual, and this has been tested many times. He always knows the right times to send the goodies, almost miraculously.
His love for the youths of Africa is palpable and they love him too. Nigerians will forever be grateful to him for breaking the seemingly impossible per second billing on telephone services. His heavy investments in laying submarine cables from Europe to Africa also stretches the imagination. The number of our youths who became GLO Ambassadors and superstars on CNN run into hundreds. He has also really done so much too for African football. He has taken our football to greater heights and African football has suddenly become a global phenomenon that can no longer be held back. It is no wonder that Africa continues to get more slots in the FIFA World Cup competition. Despite his unmatched support for the media, Dr Adenuga often suffer savage attacks from those seeking his attention but he has a solid principle: never indulge a blackmailer!
On a personal note, he has been my mentor and benefactor, brother and friend combined. He’s been a great teacher and I have been his steadfast student. I thank God always for this uncommon grace.
Please, help a raise a toast and give him a standing ovation.
- Popular columnist, Basorun Dele Momodu first published via thebossnewspapers.com