Tributes are pouring in as Dr. Mike Adeniyi Agbolade Ishola Adenuga, GCON celebrates his 70th.
But most have focused on the indelible footprints he has left on the sands of Nigeria’s corporate landscape. This is a more personal tribute that will riff on the little-known aspects of this giant of a man.
The gushing tributes are without a doubt fitting for a man who has impacted millions across the world. Admirers may call him the Spirit of Africa but he is indeed a Spirit of the World, a global icon courted and feted by captains of industry and kings and presidents.
Like millions of Nigerians, I knew of Mike Adenuga; a billionaire, serial entrepreneur, quiet philanthropist, captain of industry, and one of the richest men in the world. (Forget Forbes Africa rich list.)
But I finally got to KNOW Mike Adenuga when I went to work for him in February 2022. The year had started off well. I had just turned 50 and had bought myself a car I had dreamt of since I was eight years old. I had also moved into a lovely house on Victoria Island. I had, as they say in Nigeria, arrived. By the middle of January 2022, I could say, without equivocation, that the year was already good.
Little did I know that it was going to get better!
Mike Adenuga offered me a job and suddenly I was not just singing empty words when I sang Timi Dakolo’s lines – “Adenuga go be my guy!”
What does it mean for Adenuga to be your guy? It is a heady and almost intoxicating feeling. It is to bask in the aura of a highly cerebral, deeply intelligent, large-hearted bon vivant and very funny raconteur.
It is to be paid well and to enjoy and experience fine dining, choice liquor, and lavish gifts in cash and kind.
Mike Adenuga is one of the most generous people in Nigeria.
He is also a very funny man, full of stories and imbued with an infinite capacity for yabis, what Igbo people call njakiri. He will yab you and yab himself without blinking.
Sit with Mike Adenuga to an intimate dinner and you will be regaled with tales of hilarious escapades that usually begin in Ibadan, extend to Lagos, make landfall in New Orleans and the smoky bars of New York, continue in Owerri, and unravel in other exciting and exotic locales around the world.
As people read this tribute and the abundance of others penned by those who have felt the Adenuga magic, many would scoff and accuse us of hagiography. They will call us ass lickers or hacks for hire.
But even in their skepticism, they will nonetheless agree that Mike Adenuga is one of the most generous wealthy men in the world and you have to believe me because I have worked with many wealthy men and women.
Many of the skeptics will also quickly point out that he is a hard taskmaster who drives his staff hard.
Those who call Mike Adenuga a taskmaster, especially those who have worked at close proximity with him, are right but they tell only half the truth. They are right in the sense that to work with Mike Adenuga you have to learn how to borrow one extra hour per day. You don’t work 24/7. You work 25/7.
This would be terrible if you worked for a man who spent his time attending parties and gallivanting around the world. Mike Adenuga works like his staff; 25/7. He is not a member of the “do as I say” gang. No sir! He is a “do as I do” kinda guy, one who leads by example, sleeves rolled, eye perpetually on the ball.
Igbo people say the disease that gives you a warning will not kill you. When you come to work with Mike Adenuga three things are made clear from the day you meet him; he demands loyalty, he wants you to work hard and he will pay you far better than the competition.
So, if you know the terms of engagement why turn around and call him a taskmaster?
Mike Adenuga is a workaholic who has a finger in different corporate pies baked with ingredients from banking to hospitality, telecoms to aviation, and oil and gas.
Working with Mike Adenuga is to marvel at his prodigious power of recall, it is to be enthralled daily by a man who is fully plugged in with a finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist.
He knows the current hit songs, box office movies, and trending celebrities. He is at home when it comes to discussing geopolitics, youthe money and capital markets, advances in telecoms and technology, and the latest developments in the oil and gas ecosystem.
How does a seventy-year-old man remember the names of the top management staff of his companies without missing a beat? And he doesn’t just remember names; he remembers your designation and JD as well as your provenance. He will take his time, before meetings, to greet everyone in their own native language from Igbo to Hausa, Yoruba to Edo, Swahili to Xhosa, and Urdu to Arabic.
As he turns 70, those who know him well do not expect that he will take his foot off the gas pedal. Mike Adenuga does not know how to go slow; he is like a Formula One driver, speed and precision are his hallmarks, and full throttle is the name of the game.
As one who has worked with him and enjoyed his kindness and generosity, I want to make a toast to the business maverick and corporate genius – “Baba as you turn 70, here is a toast to lost shirts and fond memories. God bless you and give you many more years.” Signed – Bad Boy Toni!
- Toni Kan is a former Head of PR and Communications at Globacom.