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MIKE ADENUGA’S UNYIELDING SPIRIT BY KEEM ABDUL

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Sitting proudly on the shores of Victoria Island in the ever-busy city of Lagos is a magnificent 13-storey building – a glorious landmark. This building is the Mike Adenuga Towers, built in 2004, symbolic of the greatness of the man whose name it bears. The Bull, a totem of Adenuga, stands plated in gold, most visible at night when the night lights beam against the towering building. 

Without effort, it is a regal sight to behold.

In today’s socio-political space, the quest to be looked upon as some sort of icon or role model has become the ambition of many persons. Brands experts, thought influencers, even political figures do everything they can to put themselves in front of people’s faces. This quest for physical recognition is based upon the idea that for one to have relevance or influence, one must put himself out for the world to see. For this fame, many have done dastardly things. Yet, Mike Adenuga wears a different hat; his past and present are impressed upon with his unyielding spirit and commitment to a dream and calling.

Chief Michael Adeniyi Agbolade Ishola Adenuga Jr, or simply Mike Adenuga, if you care, is a man worth many accolades. The Nigerian Billionaire businessman has solidly etched his name in the timeline of Nigeria, dare I say, Africa’s economic and political history, so much so that it is difficult, if not impossible, to tell the story of Nigeria’s oil and telecommunications evolution without recognising the pivotal role he plays in it and several other industries. His influence cannot be divested from the politics and economics of the continent. There’s no mistaking his well-deserved position as the second richest man in Nigeria, fifth richest in Africa.1  

After decades on the African corporate scene, Mike Adenuga simply cannot be detached from it. Better still, the corporate scene cannot be detached from him. Indeed, playing him small is skating on thin ice. Ask the Forbes reporter who visited the Adenuga Towers in 2011, a day after Forbes list tagged Mike Adenuga with a net worth of $2 billion and a world rank as the 595th richest man in the world – that reporter had a mouthful from the staff. The point is, Adenuga’s wealth has grown exponentially, and over time, his multiple ventures have been a major catalyst for this multiplication, and it is the work of meticulous planning and execution.

When he first ventured into business, Adenuga saw things from a unique perspective. He was born in 1953, a crucial time in Nigeria’s history which was characterised by the struggle for power. His father, a chief, was a secondary school teacher, while his mother carried the business brains in the family. Adenuga made his first million at the age of 26, selling lace and distributing soft drinks. In 1990, he struck a deal and delved into the oil industry with Consolidated Oil and then into Telecommunications, an industry that would distinguish the Adenuga name for life. By 2019, he was named one of the Top 100 Most Influential Africans. 

Before this fame came, however, he had several hurdles to cross. Telecommunication was still an unfamiliar territory in Nigeria, and the quest to bring it in was highly contested, considering the enormous potential it held. It is said that his position on the ongoing political discourse at the time – the Third Term Agenda — did not help his situation. For several reasons, Adenuga remained opposed to the Third Term Agenda of the then government, the same which would have given him an easy ticket into what he wanted. Writing about Courage when celebrating Adenuga’s 63rd birthday, renowned journalist, Louis Odion, opened the lid on the now-forgotten issue of the Third Term Agenda, writing about ‘the power of silence’. 

Mike Adenuga’s resistance provoked many people in high places. As the story goes, many had collected bribes running into hundreds of millions to jump on the gravy train which the significant change in Nigeria’s constitution was poised to bring. It was key industry giants like Adenuga who brought the train to a stop in its tracks. The clap back that came did not leave Mike Adenuga’s estate untouched; the antagonism against his bid to acquire Globacom operation licenses increased, and he was thrown harshly into the public’s eye. The highlight of that article was Adenuga’s resilience in the face of these many challenges. 

In fact, resilience is the highlight of Mike Adenuga’s life at sixty-eight and his expansive enterprise. In Nigeria, anyone who is not living under a rock, aloof from the workings in the political and economic space would agree that building any enterprise is such an uphill task. By having the backing of rich sponsors or any level of government on their side, some have found it easy to build multi-million naira monopolies, shelving other players with the influence compromise has bought them, yet Adenuga’s estate has blossomed through sheer irrepressible, strategic work.

Mike Adenuga goes by several pseudonyms, many probably even unknown to Adenuga himself. Titles such as the Bull, the guru, master of national, continental, and global investment, and many others place the icon as the unwavering businessman that he is. His influence has reached daunting heights and has continued to grow. For everything it is worth, it doesn’t seem to be declining any time soon. Rumours about him ‘retiring’ have been rebutted by the man, further proof that he is strictly in the game to last. Mike Adenuga is surrounded by several ironies; a resilient achiever, he is known by everyone but little is known about him. One thing everyone cannot deny is the fact that it is an unyielding spirit that has brought him this far. The daunting Bull moulded in front of the Adenuga Towers, frozen in a fierce but silent trot, is quintessential light in which Adenuga can be observed. Powerful, fierce, and capable of disrupting things by one aggressive move, yet, maintaining a lot of power even while silent. 

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