-By Azuh Arinze
Iconic businessman and legendary philanthropist, Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr., is 70 years old today, Saturday, April 29, 2023 – and even though I have not had a one-on-one encounter with him, here are 70 things I have come to know and marvel about him:
1. He is a very, very mysterious and unusual personality who rarely socializes, even with fellow billionaires.
2. Reaching him on phone or even bumping into him at events could be likened to the Biblical camel passing through the eye of a needle. However, whenever he needs to see you, it’s at the snap of his finger.
3. He is one of the luckiest Nigerians and Africans to be decorated with the highest national honours of his country, Nigeria (Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger); Companion of the Star of Ghana and Commander of the Legion of Honour in France.
4. He was born on Wednesday, April 29, 1953.
5. His parents were Michael Agbolade Adenuga, Snr. and Juliana Oyindamola Adenuga (nee Onashile).
6. His father was a teacher and his mother a businesswoman.
7. His siblings are Olushola Osunsade, Folashade Akande, Demola Adenuga and Bunmi Adegbola.
8. They are Ijebus (in Ogun State), but grew up in Ibadan, Oyo State.
9. He attended Ebenezer Primary School, Oke-Ado, Ibadan; Ibadan Grammar School and then Northwest Oklahoma University and Pace University, both in America where he read Business Administration.
10. As a child, his nickname was Belly (pronounced Bellair) – and back then in school, he was a good goalkeeper.
11. He was the first of his father’s children to learn how to drive.
12. Among his children – Oyin, Jide, Paddy, Bella, Eniola, Bimbo, Sade and Niyi.
13. Currently married to Titi Joyce Adenuga, his first marriage to Adefolake Emilia Marquis failed after some years and producing five children.
14. He reportedly likes his women fleshy.
15. He used to be a taxi driver in America.
16. He once owned two banks – Equitorial Trust Bank and Devcom Merchant Bank.
17. In his multi billion business empire are Glo, Conoil Producing, Conoil Plc, Cobblestones Properties and Estates, etc.
18. His telecommunications company, Globacom, pioneered per second billing in Nigeria.
19. A master strategist and quintessential marketer, to usher Glo into the market, he convinced three national icons – Ezeigbo Gburugburu, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka and diplomat extraordinaire, Alhaji Maitama Sule to model for the brand.
20. He was also the first Nigerian to strike oil in large quantity via his company – Consolidated Oil.
21. The first two businesses he did when he returned from America were importation of lace materials and sale of detachable car stereos.
22. His current sobriquets include Spirit of Africa, The Guru and Chairman.
23. A very, very shy man, you will find him on the very few occasions he steps out, sitting all alone, but with his bodyguards not far away.
24. Also a warrior, those who incur his wrath hardly go scot-free – and a typical example is his former confidential secretary, Nora Olumide, whom he fought to a standstill in 2021. Another example is how hard he fought to reclaim his telecoms license after losing millions of Dollars to the government over the initially complicated license.
25. He hardly eats outside, except at his favorite Italian restaurant on Victoria Island, Lagos.
26. He dots on his family and sometimes takes them out for dinner to this same restaurant where a special place is usually reserved for them.
27. His favorite drinks are Crystal champagne and exquisite cognac.
28. All his shirts are customized, with his initials (MAJ) neatly printed on them.
29. Letters, no matter how important and wherefrom, are not accepted in his office.
30. He is an extremely generous man whose gifts, both financially and otherwise, usually leave beneficiaries speechless.
31. Working for him is a 24-hour job as there are hardly holidays, especially for his inner members of staff. In fact, he can call staffers at the dead of the night, with instructions to proceed on assignments outside the country at once.
32. He is one hands-on business owner who is unapologetic about micromanaging his workers.
33. He goes to any length to keep and retain his key members of staff.
34. Politically and economically savvy, he smells and spots business opportunities from miles away.
35. A powerful storyteller, one of his business philosophies is striking when it’s hottest and before the terrain becomes saturated.
36. A disciplinarian, perfectionist and voracious reader, he is said to be always on top of happenings in all the sectors he plays in.
37. A workaholic, it’s not unusual for visitors and workers to still be in his office around 2 a.m!
38. He is said to sleep for just three to four hours daily.
39. Among his favourite quotes are “Everyone to himself, God for us all”, “You can’t do that here. This is the office of the Chairman”, “Everyone must fight for his shirt”, “We may laugh and play together, but don’t let the hierarchy be lost on you”, “Big businesses don’t fight government. They work with government”, “If God has given you this kind of resources, it is not for you and your family alone”…
40. Two major events that shook him greatly and also contributed to his reclusive lifestyle: (1) the armed robbery attack at his Adeniyi Jones, Ikeja, Lagos home (in 1982) and (2) the shocking invasion of his home and subsequent arrest by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) under ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo (in 2006).
41. He went on exile as soon as he was granted bail and only returned after late President Umaru Yar’Adua had succeeded Obasanjo.
42. He has palatial homes in Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja, Accra, London and Johannesburg. His home in Banana Island, Lagos is called “Bellisima on the Waterfront.” Bella is an Italian word for gorgeous while issima means superlative.
43. His favorite automobiles include Mercedes Benz G-Wagon, Range Rover, Toyota Land cruiser, Bentley and sports cars. His latest private jet is a Dassault Falcon, which he calls Sisi Paris.
44. Among his buddies and confidants are General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, Sir Gabriel Igbinedion and his former governor son, Lucky, Mr. Bode Emmanuel, General IBM Haruna (rtd), Chief Obi Adimora, General Alani Akinrinade (rtd), Brigadier General Tunde Ogbeha (rtd), General David Jemibewon (rtd)…
45. One of the biggest supporters of anything entertainment and football, he sometimes invites leading entertainers (music and comedy) to thrill him and a few friends in the cinema hall inside his Banana Island home.
46. In Ijebu, he holds the chieftaincy title of Apesin and annually sponsors the Ojude Oba Festival.
47. His favorite animal is bull and his favorite colour, gold. As a matter of fact, nearly everything in his office is coated in gold while his door, letterhead and envelope have a bull emblazoned on them.
48. A book written on him (Mike Adenuga – Africa’s Business Guru – by Mike Awoyinfa & Dimgba Igwe) was allegedly mopped up on his instructions because he felt it was too revealing.
49. Without having met, he sends me a Christmas and New Year card every year. Interestingly, his card is usually the first one I receive for the year.
50. He equally gave me a Glo line which his company credits every month – and this has been so for over 10 years.
51-70 – Haba! A man should have some secrets. So, let’s spare him and wish him a happy 70th birthday.
Lastly, here’s a toast to the Chairman!
– Azuh Arinze is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine and author of bestselling books like The CEO’s Bible 1& 2, Success Is Not Served A La Carte and A Taste Of Success