When you see the word “bull”, what comes to mind? Strength, tenacity, ferocity, and the list goes on. These are the attributes of the self-made billionaire, Chief Michael Adeniyi Adenuga Jr. that earned him the moniker, “The Bull”. However, he is not just an astute businessman; he has given us reasons to believe he is a good man; not as some sort of eye-service, but by default.
The founder of African telecoms giant, Globacom, was born on the 29th of April, 1953 to school teacher; Oloye Michael Agbolade Adenuga Sr. and businesswoman; Princess Juliana Oyindamola Adenuga. While his parents can be described as fairly successful, Mike Adenuga isn’t a typical “rich kid”. He immigrated to the United States after obtaining his high school certificate from the Comprehensive High School, Aiyetoro. To fund his university education, he worked as a taxi driver and went on to get a degree in Business Administration from the North-western Oklahoma State University and proceeded to obtain an MBA from the Pace University, New York.
You may be familiar with the story of how he made his first million at the age of 26 by selling lace fabrics and distributing soft drinks. I guess we could say that was the beginning of the greatness to come. In 1990, he obtained a drilling license for his oil marketing company, the then Consolidated Oil Company, now known as Conoil. The company made history as the first Indigenous African Company to strike oil in a commercial quantity in 1991; a tip of the iceberg that has grown into an indigenous business empire today.
Mike Adenuga has since gone on to conquer not just the oil and gas industry but the telecoms industry with Globacom, and the banking industry with Equitable Trust Bank (ETB) which merged with Sterling Bank in 2014. He remains a stakeholder of the bank and is also a major stakeholder in the First Bank of Nigeria (FBN). The real estate and aviation sectors are also feeling the effect of his golden touch with his business investments.
You must be wondering how all that has been said sets him apart from other capitalists. He has built a business empire and he is creating employment and making a profit like every other businessman out there, so why is he any special?
His unusual ability to ensure that he doesn’t make a profit at the expense of the masses is what sets him apart. Mike Adenuga is a businessman with a conscience and this can only mean that he is a good man by default.
Before Globacom, there were 2 major telecoms companies in Nigeria; MTN and Econet (now known as Airtel) and the cost of owning a GSM was so high that the average Nigerian couldn’t afford it. To make it worse, the cost of making calls was also high as calls could not be made per second. This was disheartening for many Nigerians who saw these two companies as their saviours from the long-term monopoly of the market by the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL). For the years that they dominated the telecoms space, they told Nigerians that it would take years for per-second billing to be made available. With the launch of Globacom in 2003, the farce was exposed and Nigerians could make calls and be charged the exact amount based on the amount of time spent on calls. It was a breath of fresh air and the competition was delightful to Nigerians. In its first year, Glo as it is popularly called had over a million subscribers and now, it can boast of over 50 million subscribers spread across the continent while it continues to expand its reach to other African countries.
Chief Mike Adenuga continued to set the pace with Glo when the price of Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards crashed from as high as 25,000 naira to 1 naira; making them more accessible and affordable for the common man and to date, SIM cards are very affordable. Many have termed this the “Adenuga factor” and such business moves can only stem from a good heart with pure intentions. Thanks to his intentions, internet services are cheaper and accessible to all. Glo has arguably the cheapest data plans and it continues to be innovative and competitive.
In 2010, he made history yet again with Glo by launching the GLO-1 submarine cable; the first successful cable from the UK to Nigeria. Glo was the first private African company to dare take on the project. This move improved the quality of internet services and also made it easier for Nigerians and Africans to access cheaper telecom services.
The latest of Mike Adenuga’s achievements in the telecoms space is the business deal between Glo and Eutelsat, a French satellite conglomerate; in a move to support the Nigerian government’s decision to extend internet services to rural areas in the country. The deal was signed in Paris and it is expected to open up rural communities in Nigeria to broadband internet.
All of these innovations are people-oriented as opposed to profit-oriented solutions most capitalists come up with. His innovations in business and his philanthropy are proof of his good nature.
About a decade ago, when the Nigerian Football League was in dire straits, he stepped up and shouldered the responsibility of sponsoring the league and the national football team till they could stand on their own. After that, he has continued to make generous contributions to the development of the sports sector not only in Nigeria but in Africa. He is also deeply invested in the growth of the entertainment industry and he is always ready to offer help like in the case of a sick veteran actor who needed surgery; he donated over five times the amount needed. He also displayed his generosity when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in Nigeria by donating 1.5 billion naira to the Federal Government as his contributions towards tackling the spread of the virus.
These are just a few of the numerous things he has done and while some critics turn a blind eye to them and choose to focus on his shy personality and presumed elusive nature, the world recognizes and honours him for his meritorious acts of innovation and kindness.
The 68 year old billionaire is the recipient of numerous national and international awards including the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON), the Companion of the Star of Ghana, the Commander of the legion of Honour (France) and others. He was voted as the Silverbird Man of the Year Award in 2009 with over 75% of the votes.
He has no doubt proven that one can build an empire, become one of the richest men on the continent and at the same time, still have a conscience. And it is refreshing to know that businessmen who haven’t sold their souls for wealth and power still exist.
Mike Adenuga might be a bull in the world of business but he remains compassionate, kind and empathetic and these attributes reflect in his business practices. He is a capitalist with a pure heart and a good man by default.