The complete story of the Rise of Mike Adenuga’s empire.
Mike Adenuga is the second richest man in Nigeria, with an estimated net worth of $5.8 billion dollars in 2017 according to Forbes. This also makes him the 3rd richest man in Africa.
His massive wealth comes mainly from three companies that he founded;
Globacom, Nigeria’s second largest network operator after MTN.
Conoil, an oil Exploration Company he founded in 1990,
And his stakes in Equatorial Trust Bank.
He is also into real estate, food manufacturing & processing (butter, cocoa cake and vegetable oil), domestic & international market activities and aviation.
Dr. Michael Adeniyi Ishola Adenuga Jr. (CON) was born in 1953, in the ancient city of Ibadan, into the family of Chief Mike Adenuga Snr., a school teacher and Madam Oyindamola Adenuga, a successful trader and Yeyeoba of Ijebuland. Adenuga is a native of Ijebu Igbo in Ogun State of Nigeria.
Mike Adenuga’s mother, Madam Juliana Oyindamola Adenuga was a very successful dressmaker. Although she got married at the tender age of 17 years to a school teacher, she didn’t sit back as a house wife, but learnt sewing and became very successful at it.
This enterprising spirit paved way for young Mike Adenuga to attend the famous Ibadan Grammar School (IGS) before jetting out to the US to read Business Administration with a focus on Marketing.
What most people did not know was that even though his parents were able to send him abroad, he had to work as a taxi driver and security guard to fund his education while studying at the University. He eventually graduated from Northwestern Oklahoma State University with a degree in Business Administration. He also earned a Masters degree at Pace University, New York, majoring in Business Administration with emphasis on Marketing.
Although one can succeed in business, without going to a business school, it is very important to study business even informally. Our elders know the importance of business education, and so send their kids for apprenticeship if they could not afford schooling. In case you don’t know, apprenticeship is a very effective albeit informal business training. Fortunately, anyone can now have affordable world class business training on platforms such as Millionaires Academy (www.register.millionaire.ng).
And before we go back to our story, I have always placed a great deal of emphasis on marketing. Understanding marketing and knowing how to conduct market research, is a critical skill that will help you to excel as an entrepreneur. Even if you have the best product, if you fail in marketing, your product will ultimately fail. Millionaires Academy offers a full course on marketing.
THE RISE OF ADENUGA
When Mike Adenuga returned in Nigeria, he was in his early twenties. Though young, Mike Adenuga was already well trained in business. He was an intellectual and excelled in studies. His friends call him “the guru”, because he seems to quickly adapt to every situation and master it to perfection. This is a classic example of the application of the law of “integrative complexity”, Students of Millionaires Academy (www.register.millionaire.ng), understands that the law of integrative complexity states that the individual who can integrate and use the greatest amount of information in any field soon rises to the top of that field. This accurately describes Mike Adenuga.
Instead of looking for a white collar job, which he could have easily landed at that time, he decided to embark on entrepreneurship. Consequently, he took over his mother’s small sawmill business and also started working as a distributor for Coca Cola, Nigerian Breweries, Cadbury, Guinness and Continental Breweries.
Mike Adenuga was always on the lookout for opportunities. He soon noticed that Civil servants awash with the Udoji Commission salary raise were buying cars but thieves would do away with the car stereos. So he started selling detachable car stereos. With Adenuga’s stereos, people could then park their cars, and detach the stereos, and so it became a hot seller, and poured money into the young man’s growing business. He soon became a dealer for Peugeot Automobile of France.
On a trip to New york, he spotted another opportunity, This was how he narrated the encounter to Newswatch,
“I went on a trip to New York and when I was coming back, I missed my flight, being on British Airways, so I had to fly Swiss Air and I sat next to the owner of one of the biggest lace manufacturing factories in Austria. So, we were talking and he got me interested in importing laces, and all sorts of things.” That was how he started importing lace materials. Millionaire Academy students www.register.millionaire.ng, will remember that one of the exercises we conducted under Rejection Therapy, was how to talk with complete strangers especially while idle in the bus or in a queue. Space will not permit me here to elaborate on the benefits of this, but suffice it to say that many great men got their “lucky break” by chance encounters such as this. What you may not know is that there are certain things you can do, to increase your chances of creating such luck.
Sorry for digressing, now back to our story. By the age of 22, Mike Adenuga has delved into the business of commodities, general merchandise, construction, importation (of mainly sawmill equipment, tomato paste, wines, beer and textile materials (especially lace made in Austria).
Mike Adenuga was not an overnight success, but whenever someone succeeds massively, people tend to think it was done overnight. Actually he started building his empire from the 1970’s as a very young man, when he took over his mother’s business. He also began to make powerful friends.
If you have been following my write-ups, you will remember that I once explained that everybody networks and makes friends. However the rich are careful to befriend powerful and rich people or at least people with potential, while the poor are careless about the kind of friends they keep. In fact, the poor don’t choose their friends. They simply accept anybody that comes into their life. The rich on the other hand, guard themselves jealously, they know the value of their time and their life, and will never waste it with wrong associations. They actively seek out and select who their friends will be.
Mike Adenuga is extremely careful about who sees him and who he sees. He will only get across to you when there is the need for it, but you cannot get across to him. And when he wants to get across to you, he does everything possible to track you down. And so just as he was building up his business, he was also building up a list of small but powerful friends.
It was not by accident that he became friends with Ibrahim Babangida in the early 1980’s, long before he became the Military president. Some people ascribe Mike Adenuga’s success to his association with the General, but I beg to disagree. But let’s even look at it this way, if you are a youth today, look around you and tell me the kind of friends you are keeping, and I will tell you what you are, or what you are becoming. Don’t forget that Mike Adenuga was already doing well while Babangida was nowhere near becoming the President as at that time. But those that knew young Babangida, knew that he was a very serious, highly intelligent and ambitious army officer. This was the kind of people Adenuga allowed into his inner circle of friendship. This is not the place to talk about the power of networking, but if you don’t understand the power of friends over your life, let me just tell you this: 90% of your success or failure, will come as a result of your “reference group”. An incredible 90% ! www.register.millionaire.ng
This is what Babangida had to say about Otunba Mike Adenuga,
“We meet, we talk, like the good friends that we are. But I also have one policy that governs my relationship with friends that are very close to me. Whether it was M.K.O Abiola, whether it is Mike Adenuga, and probably five or so others, I don’t get involved in their businesses. You can go and ask them.” The General went ahead to describe Mike Adenuga as a very loyal and reliable friend, and one who never forgets favours, unlike many who abandoned him when he left power in August 1993. He states: “When I left office, a few of my friends honestly stood by me and I remain eternally grateful to them. Mike is one of them. Another man who doesn’t want his name mentioned any time I speak on this issue is one of them. What I like about them is this: they appreciate whatever little effort you did for them and so, they don’t abandon you. Some people will tell you, ‘ah, when I was in the office, a lot of people used to come to me, now I left office, you don’t find anybody.’ This is the Nigerian factor for you. But these characters remain close and I honestly remain grateful.”
In 1990, Babangida’s oil minister, Professor Jubril Aminu came up with a policy to grant licenses to individuals and encourage private sector participation in oil exploration and exploitation. Otunba was one of the first beneficiaries of the Petroleum Act.
Mike Adenuga’s mother was against his son investing any money in this risky venture, but Mike had to go against her will. It is very important to note that Mike Adenuga was fiercely loyal to his mother. He will never disobey his mother and the late matriarch had enormous influence over her son. He only went against her mother’s will on two occasions, on both occasions, he felt it was destiny, and went on against her mother. For our students, remember what we talked about “Personal Mission Statement”?
The first time Mike Adenuga went against her mother’s will was when he wanted to travel abroad. His mother was strongly against this and wanted him to join his brother at the University of Ibadan, where he was studying Biochemistry. I wonder if there would have been a GLOBACOM today, if Mike has agreed to study biochemistry at University of Ibadan. Mike’s mother even reported him to a commissioner of police in Oyo state. It was the police officer that calmed her down, and encouraged her to let him go.
The second time Mike went against her mother’s will, was when he decided to take advantage of the oil prospecting license and search for oil. As at that time, no individual in Nigeria has successfully drilled oil on his own. His mother taught this was a senseless gamble, but again Mike’s mind was made up, and like an entrepreneur, he opted to risk everything and drill for oil.
An incorrigible risk taker, he had hired an oil rig for $5 million BUT he recruited only Nigerian oil specialists to do the job (he has always been a patriotic man). Show me a successful entrepreneur, and I will show you a risk taker. We are conditioned by fear, not to take enough risk, but every successful Entrepreneur must learn to increase his/her risk tolerance. This is why we packaged the course “Increasing your Risk Tolerance” under the Millionaires Academy program www.register.millionaire.ng.
Upon getting his oil bloc prospecting license (OPL 113), Adenuga went straight to work in the South Western Niger Delta Region and in less than a year on 24th December, 1991, he struck oil in the shallow (offshore) waters of Ondo State in his first oil well (named Bella-1) becoming the first indigenous oil firm to do so. Other Nigerians could not take the risk, and had sold off their licences to expatriates in 1991. Many of these people, are not known in Nigeria today, so you see that getting the License, was not a gateway to automatic wealth.
With money now pouring in from the oil business, Otunba started looking for another opportunity. Long before GSM came into Nigeria, Mike Adenuga has already seen the need and potential in telecommunication. So he formed CIL (Communication Investments Limited) to pursue this new opportunity.
Under the General Sani Abacha regime, his Communication Investment Limited (CIL) was given a conditional licence and frequencies to operate.
Obasanjo would later cancel all the approvals given to him by previous governments. He suffered many setbacks under the Obasanjo administration, who simply did not like the man. Infact Obasanjo vowed not to give him license despite his many pleas.
But a relentless fighter that he is, he told his men: “Let’s go into this thing. Let us forget going to court and all that. Let’s go under the new system and fight for the licence. We must fight with everything we have to get the licence.”
Consequently, he formed another company GLOBACOM, and made a second deposit of $20 million for Globacom licence. Many scoffed at him and he was told to stop chasing shadows. His brother, Demola says of those dark days: “Mike lost $20 million, but he never lost hope. He never gave up hope. He kept hope alive; that is one thing about my brother: he is an eternal optimist. Something kept propelling him not to give up on the matter. He pursued it and he eventually got the licence.”
For those that still remember, the coming of GLO was a blessing to Nigeria in many ways. For the first time, the masses witnessed the business sagacity of Mike Adenuga combined with a desire to alleviate suffering.
You will remember that in the early days of GSM, MTN was reigning supreme, while ECONET was struggling in the murky waters of Nigerian politics, and kept changing names. MTN was selling Sim card for a whopping N20,000 then (I remember that I bought my current line for N17,800). Worst of all, they told Nigerians that we could not have per second billing for at least the next 10 years. When you make a call then, even if the network was bad, which was common, and you spend less than 5 seconds, you still have to pay for one full minute. Within a year, MTN was “thanking” Nigerians.
GLO came a bit late, but Otunba Mike Adenuga was quick to set things straight, he quickly crashed the cost of sim cards, but the best thing he did for Nigerians, was the introduction of per second billing. It wasn’t long before he overtook Dr Strive Masiyiwa’s Econet to become the second largest network in Nigeria (although Dr Strive had already pulled out by then). MTN only continued to surpass GLO because of their first mover advantage.
Glo was also the first to embark on the ambitious project of laying a submarine cable connecting Nigeria to United Kingdom.
Earlier in February 1990, Mike Adenuga floated Equatorial Trust Bank, a bold entry into the banking industry. Of course, before the era of Soludo’s consolidation, Individuals could easily open banks and Nigeria had over 80 banks.
Close friends and relatives of Otunba Mike Adenuga, gives us more insight into the character of the Ijebu man.
On his elusiveness, Wole Soyinka has this to say,
““I can’t remember when last I saw him or spoke to him. Adenuga has a vanishing habit. He would just disappear.” At a time, there was supposed to be a meeting with the Bull in London but Wole Soyinka never saw him and so left in anger. Soyinka continues: “All I know is that I see Globacom advertisement everywhere. I also know that Adenuga supports sports, especially football. I wish he could do more for the arts. I have sat him down once. I told him: ‘Listen, you have the money and the enthusiasm, but we have the ideas. Let’s sit down and work together and let us do more for the arts. He would agree, but I said, he would then disappear. He has this vanishing habit. My wish for Globacom is that they would do more for the arts. I feel envious about the amount Globacom is committing to sports. I wish I could get his attention sufficiently to do even half for the arts. If Adenuga is reading this, he should stop running away. He should come and sit down with me so that we can do something for the arts.” Otunba later apologized and they made up.
Stanley Ebochukwu, Editor-in-Chief of BusinessDay says: “Adenuga is somebody one would call an enigma. You can’t see him, if you want to see him. If you call him, he can’t take your calls. But if he wants to see you, he would see you. And if he wants you to see him, you would see him.”
On his hard work and work ethic, ex-Military President, General Babangida said,
“….Adenuga is a very serious businessman. And he is not a flamboyant who goes to sleep, folds his arms, saying business is doing well. No, he works very hard. I think he is worthy of emulation.”
On another occasion, Wole Soyinka said of Otunba,
‘He is a young entrepreneur I have come to admire. I like his drive. He sought me out when he was to begin his Globacom business. I thereafter made enquiries about him. I was actually told by somebody whose judgment I respect that Mike Adenuga is somebody with enormous drive and ideas. And he said I should give him as much help as I could. I checked him out and I discovered that he likes challenges. He has the drive to deliver.’
His elder brother, Otunba Demola Adenuga says of him:
“Mike is the star of the family. Not just our family but the whole of Nigeria. I see him as my benefactor. I should not be ashamed to say that. He has helped me in all facets of life.”
In another piece written by Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe , they narrate the words of one of Adenuga’s closest associates, Dr. Rafiu Ladipo: “He takes risks and he is ready to stick it to the end. He never gives up. Is there anything he touches that doesn’t turn into gold? He is such a determined person. He is always charging like a bull. When he wakes up in the morning, he thinks about his business and nothing but his business. He is not a socialite. You can never catch him attending parties. He works Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday…He goes on and on like that facing his business.”
Even more illuminating, was what GLO’s chief operating officer Mohammed Jameel said about him,
“Two, three days after joining Globacom, he called me to his office. The first day I met him, he was very quiet. And I didn’t want to say anything. I just watched him. Of course, a lot of my colleagues were there. I was very impressed with him. He was planning to launch the brand Globacom. I saw in him a lot of passion. I saw in him a lot of commitment. I saw in him a lot of vision. He wanted the brand to succeed. And the kind of figures he was talking about in terms of subscribers and putting in infrastructure did really surprise me. Jameel continues: ‘He is a very successful entrepreneur who can turn any venture into good. He is a very, very aggressive manager. He is a very target-oriented manager. He is a manager who has a huge vision. He always thinks big. If you are hearing him for the first time, you would think this man is just joking. But he is not joking. Whatever he says, he is determined to achieve it. He is very passionate about whatever you do with the business you do for the brand. Even things like branding the street, he gets into the details to get things right. And he doesn’t take instant or spontaneous decisions. He has to think it across. He doesn’t take decisions on his own. He respects the views of others. He calls all of us and gives us the opportunity to air our own views, share our thoughts, share our ideas. He also makes his own input and we end up coming up with a collective decision. He lends his ears and mind to whatever is being talked about; irrespective of whether it is the COO or the person employed in the customer service.”
Orji Uzor Kalu says of him: “We have been friends from a long time. I became Aliko’s friend right in the early ‘80s when I was a student at the University of Maiduguri. With Mike, our friendship started when he was living close to me on 6A Adeleke Adedoyin Street in Victoria Island, Lagos. This is where all of us came to become friends. Dangote and Mike were not close, but I was close to both of them. I was a kind of bridge between two of them.”
Remember what I said earlier about friendship. Is it by accident that these three young friends Dangote, Adenuga and Kalu are now billionaires? Do you think they were going for parties every weekend, drinking and taking hard drugs? I doubt. Birds of the same feathers flock together.
In December 1982, armed robbers attacked him in his residence and he sustained some bullet wounds. In a confused and tense atmosphere, an argument broke out among the robbers, with Adenuga still groaning on the floor and moaning in the pool of his own blood. A defiant robber said: “Let’s finish the job. We have to finish this job. We must kill him. We must kill him.” Then he pulled the trigger. God saved him that day. But this left a lasting impact on the young man. Today, he is the most heavily guarded billionaire in Nigeria. What a gem Nigeria would have lost!
And so goes the story of Otunba Mike Adenuga, I believe his story will continue, as he keeps jetting all over the world in his N8 billion Dassault Falcon 7X Private jet.
Otunba Mike Adenuga is called the Bull because of his large size, other friends also call him the Guru, because of his mental sagacity. But it seems that he prefers the bull, since it has become the official symbol of his empire.
Otunba Adenuga is one of Nigeria’s most generous philanthropists. Dele Momodu, in his piece, narrates a story by Seyi Roberts: “He’s one of the most generous people that I have ever met. He doesn’t give and make noise about it. He does his giving quietly. I remember one of our school friends who needed surgery in London. All the man did was to tell Adenuga and he sponsored the operation with about 25,000 pounds and nobody knew, but the person told me.” The following are some of his donations, many of which were made through his Mike Adenuga Foundation. N150 million to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Not too long ago, he doled out N500 million to the victims of flooding in Bayelsa State. I can remember Governor Dickson saying the money would be judiciously spent and that Adenuga was a Bayelsan. When there was the Ikeja Cantonment explosions, he dropped N20 million.
An ardent supporter of sports, he recently gave the triumphant Super Eagles a sum of $1 million and when Nigeria hired Berti Vogts of Germany as Super Eagles’ technical adviser, it was Adenuga who single-handedly funded it.
Finally, let us hear the bull himself,
“I have worked hard most of my life and I believe I have been very fortunate; although I must say I am a great believer in the man who said “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” ‘Africa has a real wealth of opportunity. And who better to explore that opportunity than young Africans themselves? ‘. He continues: ‘But if there is one thing that I have learnt in business, it is that it never pays to make your targets too small. There will be problems and roadblocks, but we will deal with them in the same way as we have dealt every business challenge we have ever faced. With a mind open to all possibilities, and with clear focused determination.”
Otunba Mike Adenuga is a great Nigerian, and someone we should be proud of. Young people should emulate the enterprising spirit of this billionaire. Nigerian graduates think that their certificate give them right to get work from the government, look at a man with foreign degrees, that still came back and went into small business before growing it big.
Stop looking for work and start creating wealth. You want to succeed ? Take a leaf from the BULL, and find the bull in yourself. Charge forward like our dear Otunba, and don’t give any excuse for your failure.
With Hardwork, God and some luck, you will succeed.
Remember what Otunba said, “The harder you work, the luckier you get”.
Maybe you do not have business training like Mike Adenuga, but you have the opportunity today, to join the no 1 online entrepreneurship training in Nigeria THE MILLIONAIRES ACADEMY www.register.millionaire.ng
There is a lot of work to be done in Nigeria. Every challenge you see today in Nigeria, is an opportunity waiting for someone like Mike Adenuga to find a solution for, and make billions. So one way of looking at our challenges in Nigeria, is also to recognize that they are opportunities you can exploit. If you run to America, what do you think you can offer them ? Nothing. They have everything. Do you think Mike Adenuga would have succeeded if he launched GLO in America ? I doubt.
I hope you learnt something from the story of this great man.
Please share your thoughts with us below.
Engr Ifeanyi Okoro