May 18, 2024

MIKE ADENUGA’S 71 RESILIENT STEPS

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We were in Abuja on an official assignment; one of the entertainment engagements of Globacom then. The phone rang. The leader of the team, a Director in the Marketing Communications Department, looked at all of us sitting at the table, brainstorming on the evening’s assignment. We got the message. The Big Man was at the other end. Silence! We could hear the voice from the other end, though the phone was not on speaker. “Awe o, we need you to be in Johannesburg this evening or first flight tomorrow. Do you have a South African visa?” Our Director responded: “No sir.” “Ok”. The line went off and we resumed our talk.

A few minutes later, the phone rang again and the Director jumped up, picking the phone and moving away from us. We were by the pool side of the hotel. I prayed silently that our boss would not fall inside the pool. He was just nodding his head, with intermittent “Yes sir”; “Mo ngbo yin sir”- I can hear you sir. The call ended and the Director returned to our table. “I need to take my passport in the room. Suyi, tell Tosin (one of the drivers attached to the project) to get the Hilux. We are going to the South African Embassy”, he announced. Minutes later, we were on our way to the embassy. I asked our boss what was in the offing. He responded: “Baba said someone will be waiting at the embassy.”

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To cut the long story short, we got to the embassy, and we met a woman waiting for us. We were ushered in and the Director was taken into an inner office. Half an hour later, he came to join me at the waiting room. I asked him again (curiosity won’t kill my cat sha): “Are you getting the visa, today?” He answered that he was asked to wait. We didn’t have to wait long.  A young man stepped out of one of the offices and asked our Director to follow him. A few minutes later, the man came out of the office and beckoned on me. In the car, he showed me his passport with the visa approval. Wao! Then, the director sent a message to the Big Man thus: “Thank you sir. I got the visa. Agba yin a dale -may you live long- sir.” The simple response from the Big Man reads: “That is why I am the Chairman. My name opens the door for you.” God, I must be a big man!

Age grades are in three categories in my native place. The first set is known as “Boranje”, which literally means those who don’t give a damn about the consequences of their actions. They have the energy and they represent the restive segment of the society. Those in this category are materials for recruitment into the community’s army. The middle class is the Elekurupa. They are the moderates. They fill the gap between the first and the last categories. They are the intermediate class. The last group are those we call Agba Ule – Council of Elders. This categorisation is at the family level. They are the elders. Their first selling point is their wisdom. Whatever the Elekurupa cannot resolve, the Agba Ule class handles. They only refer very knotty issues to the Agba Ulu- council of community elders. Agba Ulu is presided over by the oba of the town. Incidentally, most Agba Ule are also members of Agba Ulu. So, whatever decisions taken at the level of Agba Ule are mostly sustained by the rulings of Agba Ulu. To get to this last grade, age counts. Depending on the level of longevity in a family, there are cases where people in their early 60s are still in the Elekurupa age grade. Whereas, in some families where they are not blessed with long life, some people in their 50s are already Agba Ule. However, anybody who has crossed the age of 70 is an Agba Ule. One unique mystery about Agba Ule is their ability to stand where others fail and fall. How is it?

There is a saying that illustrates that. It goes thus: Nnkan ti agba fi nje eko ti o ra lowo wa labe ewe. I attempt a transliteration here: what the elder uses in eating eko (corn meal) without smearing his fingers is underneath the leaf. Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr, the Chairman of Globacom, turned 71 years old yesterday, Monday, April 29, 2024. At 71, the man known as Mr. Chairman, is a qualified member of Agba Ule and Agba Ulu. Many things qualify him for that position. I would not be dwelling on those ones here, but, as an eminent Agba Ule, Dr. Adenuga has demonstrated over and over again that the mystery of the successes of his business empire lies only with him. Nothing demonstrates this more than the recent breakdown of the underwater cable services across the West African sub-region a few weeks ago. Globacom, the telecommunication outfit of the Ijebu businessman, has one of the independent, and the only single underwater cable owned solely by an individual, the Glo 1 Submarine cable that runs from Lagos through 13 different countries to the United Kingdom with a point of reference in New York, United States of America.

Whatever it was that happened to other international underwater cables, such as the West Africa Cable System (WACS), the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) and MainOne, Glo 1 remained standing. The company, Globacom, came up with a statement to reaffirm that its facility was not in any way affected by the damage that caused a lot of disruptions in the telecommunications industry with companies having huge bandwidth suffering unmitigated losses. In a discussion with some people while the submarine cable crisis lasted, someone asked why Glo 1 was spared. My immediate response to that is that the fortune or misfortune of any business concerns depends largely on the mission and vision of the promoter(s) of the business. And this is true with Globacom. It is practically impossible to divorce the resilience of the owner, Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr. from the success of the company.

The underlying principles of “People, Power, Possibilities”, on which the business was established cannot but speak for it when things are tough. If you have ever passed through Globacom, you would realise that ‘impossibility’ means “I’m Possible” in the system. Theirs’ is a diehard, never-say-no spirit which empowers them to navigate through the cruellest terrains.  An average mid-level manager in Globacom is a super CEO of any other company. Why? Because Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr. ‘roasts’, ‘cooks’, ‘fries’ and ‘fires’ every fibre of his employees till they become the best anyone can be. The working environment may not be the best; it is no doubt an institution that brings the best out of the individuals in its employ.

In the introductory story of this piece, the Big Man, Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr. was quoted to have said his name opens doors. I think it does more than that. Nigerians will never forget that it is the name, Adenuga, that bailed them out of the financial enslavement of the earlier entrants into the nation’s GSM business by introducing the Per Second Billing System (PSB), at a time they were told it was not technically possible. What about the BlackBerry revolution: didn’t Adenuga’s name open that door? Do we talk about the first deployment of 3G network, rural telephony and cheapest acquisition of telephone and people-friendly and affordable tariffs? Nigeria’s entertainment industry today is what it is because a Dr. Mike Adenuga opened the door of bountiful corporate endorsements for our artistes.

So, if you have ever wondered why Glo 1 stood gidigba while others fell yakata, know that the man behind the business, Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr. is a complete Agba Ule. And as such, know also that Nnkan ti agba fi nje eko ti o ra lowo wa labe ewe!

Here is my toast to the epitome of Nigeria’s resilience at 71! Here is wishing Mr. Chairman many more years in sound health. Happy birthday, the Great Guru himself! Agba yin a dale sir!

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