If there is one thing billionaires are known for besides their net worth, it is making public appearances at exclusive events and/or living lavish lifestyles that keep the tabloids running. The second-richest man in Nigeria, Chief Michael Adeniyi Agbolade Ishola Adenuga Jr is no such billionaire as he is rarely seen in public and maintains a low profile.
Mike Adenuga as he is popularly called has built a name and an empire for himself through determination, resilience, and hard work. He put his degrees in Business Administration to work because, by the age of 26, he had made his first million from selling lace fabrics and distributing soft drinks. That must have been the moment he knew he was destined for more and now, he is one of the top 5 richest men in Africa with an estimated net worth of $9.6 billion (according to Forbes).
With so much wealth and influence and lest I forget, his Ijebu heritage ( and in case you didn’t know, the Ijebu tribe has a legendary knack for attending parties); you would expect him to be seen at most if not all elite events and exclusive billionaire-club parties but the Globacom founder does the exact opposite. He is rarely seen except on very important occasions; including his birthdays. His 68th birthday witnessed no grand celebration and if there was any, it must have taken place at his ultra-deluxe residence in Ikoyi with his immediate family. His introverted nature and absence from public events have made critics label him as anti-social or elusive.
However, what he lacks by staying away from public events, he makes up for in bold decisions he takes that shatter traditions
moves that shatter traditions in industries and benefit the common man.
He is the founder of Conoil, formerly known as the Consolidated Oil Company. He received a drilling license for the company in 1990 and the following year, he made history as the founder of the first indigenous oil company to strike oil in a commercial quantity after it struck oil in the shallow waters of Ondo State. Presently, Conoil operates 6 oil blocks in the Niger Delta and is one of the largest and most profitable oil companies in Nigeria with Mike Adenuga serving as the chairman.
His entry into the telecommunications market that was dominated by MTN and Econet (now Airtel) changed the history of telecoms in Nigeria. He had been issued a conditional GSM license in 1999 but it was revoked by the Obasanjo-led administration due to some technical issues. Chief Mike Adenuga wasn’t deterred by this. He waited for four years till the Federal Government held another license auction in 2003 and received another license. With his telecoms company, Globacom, he made it possible for an average Nigerian to pay for the actual time spent on calls through the per-second billing strategy. Like that wasn’t enough to shake the industry, Glo, as it is commonly called, crashed the price of Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards from exorbitant costs that ranged from 10,000-30,000 naira to an incredibly affordable rate of 1 naira; a move competitors had deemed impossible. This act endeared Nigerians to the telecoms company and it is still apparent in the number of subscribers Glo has today; Globacom is Nigeria’s second-largest telecom operator, which has a presence in Ghana and Benin.
Glo sparked a revolution in the telecoms industry and was the first telecoms company to introduce remarkable internet services like 3G network, Blackberry, and 4G network to Nigeria; all under the leadership of Mike Adenuga.
The oil and gas industry and the telecoms industry are not the only industries he has conquered. He has stakes in Equitable Trust Bank (ETB) which has now merged with Sterling Bank as of 2014 and he is a major shareholder in the First Bank of Nigeria. He also has businesses in real estate and aviation.
Chief Adenuga may be an introvert but that hasn’t made him shy away from contributing to the development of the country and the continent. He is the only other person after Chief M.K.O Abiola who has been named the Pillar of Football in Africa by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) for his contributions and support for the growth of African Football both at a national and conventional level. At a time when the Nigerian Premier League was suffering from neglect and lack of funding, he made generous contributions to restore the glory of Nigeria’s major football league. Over the years, he has spent over 15 billion naira in supporting football in Nigeria and Ghana.
His philanthropy is not limited to sports; he is a supporter of the Nigerian entertainment industry as most brand ambassadors for Glo are actors, artists, and performers, including veterans. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, he donated 1.5 billion naira to the Nigerian government through Globacom.
To call a man who has done so much “anti-social” simply because he refuses to bask in public adulation and enjoy his solitude is refusing to acknowledge all he has done and is doing by creating employment; directly and indirectly, and contributing his quota to the development of Nigeria and Africa as a whole. Regardless of his critics, his achievements precede him and have garnered him a lot of accolades and recognition at a national level and international level.
He is the first recipient of the African Telecoms Entrepreneur of the Year Award. When Nigeria celebrated her 50th anniversary; he was among the 50 distinguished Nigerians honoured with the Special Golden Jubilee Independence Anniversary Awards by the Federal Government. In 2012, he received the second-highest national award in Nigeria and was named a Grand Commander of the order of Niger. In 2016, he was awarded the highest national award in Ghana, the Companion of the Star of Ghana. Mike Adenuga also received international recognition from President Emmanuel Macron on his first courtesy visit to Nigeria in 2018. He was decorated with the insignia of a Commander of the Legion of Honour; France’s highest national honour, for his support towards the preservation of French culture. All of these national awards make him the most decorated African billionaire.
Chief Mike Adenuga is a symbol of African resilience and a treasure to Nigeria and Africa. He has changed the face of African industrialization and all of his achievements outshine his presumed demure personality. We can say that he hides in plain sight but the moves he makes in the shadows have such phenomenal impact that they can’t be ignored or denied.
If you ask me, I will say his contrasting introvert personality with his bold business moves centred on the best interest of the masses should be studied because it is rare to see such a combination in capitalists. Even with his tremendous success, he knows the importance of solitude and he cherishes it so much that people around him have come to accept him for who he is.
At 69 , it’s my prayer that he continues to shine in good health and wisdom to continually help our dear country to the heights it can attain.
Chief Mike Adenuga is the proud father of successful children and a grandfather as well. The size of his family doesn’t stop him from opening up his heart to the masses and helping those who seek his help. He is a selfless leader who moves like a storm; mostly heard but rarely seen.