How Mike Adenuga Jnr left the Lion’s Den to Become the Bull in Nigeria’s Economy

This story is told in celebration of Mike Adenuga Jnr as he turns 71 today. It is meant to show to the world that part of the reason for his soar-away success is his never-say-die spirit and his willingness and to accept new ideas, refine them and make them bigger, better and bolder.

How Mike Adenuga left the Lion’s Den to Become the Bull in Nigeria’s Economy
Mike Adenuga Jnr GCON

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How mike adenuga left the lion’s den to become the bull in nigeria’s economy
Mike adenuga jnr gcon

By Nnanke Harry Willie

Not many people remember that before 2001, Dr. Mike Adenuga was ascribed to the domineering features of the Lion. His personalized memorabilia and stationery were emblazoned with the golden palette of a Lion’s head. It portrayed him as the man with the Midas touch, who dominates his environment and of course, the man who generates immeasurable value in all his endeavours.

However, all that changed with an unlikely gift in 2001!

This writer who was then the advertising and promotions manager for Communication Investments Limited (CIL), the precursor to Globacom, whose GSM licence had then been revoked by the Obasanjo administration, embarked on a trip with a colleague, Okon Iyanam (may God bless his departed soul), to South Africa to meet with some South African branding and advertising agencies and brainstorm on brand-building strategies for our new telecom brand. Remember, I just said, the CIL licence had been revoked.

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Beyond the multitude of media interventions and high-octane public relations and corporate communications that I superintended over time to seek understanding and hoping to ultimately win the seemingly unlikely battle of restoring our licence, the only man who I recall firmly believed we would get back our licence was Mike Adenga Jnr, every other person hoped he was right. No one else saw the path to such a wonderful end so lucidly. Not when the other foreign operators were pulling every string, including using their home governments to ensure that CIL never got back its GSM licence.


Back to my South African trip with Okon Iyanam. We discussed the need to buy our boss a gift, a special one. We mulled many options, then we agreed that a nice keepsake would be just fine. The next issue was what kind of keepsake would some struggling young men present to a billionaire boss to make him happy. Every option seemed incredibly beyond reach. Then, we had a breakthrough!


One Saturday, our hosts offered to take us to Kruger Park and Sun City. So, we embarked on the trip. On our way, we stopped by a place where some wood and metal carvings were displayed. A rugged-looking wooden Bull caught my attention. The artist did such an exemplary job, one could actually feel the ‘fire’ coming out from the Bull’s nostrils. I beckoned on Okon and said to him “That’s the gift”. “What Gift?” he asked, looking genuinely lost. “Chairman’s gift” I said.


Okon was silent. He also took some time to study the Bull some more. He said, “well I see your point…that looks like a charging Bull but Chairman has been associated more with the image of a Lion”. I cut in immediately “and that Bull…represents the true attributes of Mike Adenuga. That Lion thing is a cliché. The Lion simply roars, attacks and devours. The Bull clears the path to success, that’s why when stocks rise, they say it was a Bullish day. As you can see, against all odds, Chairman is still spending so much money paying staff and working behind the scenes because he believes without equivocation that he will get his licence back.  That is Bullish determination, bro.”


Okon heaves a huge sigh. “But we can’t just present it like this you know.” “Of course not, I will come up with a inscription and the guys at Brown KSDP (A branding Agency that took us on the trip to Kruger Park) will lay it on a special base and do a special packaging for us”.


Okon was elated, by now our hosts had joined us. They immediately saw the brand benefits as I elucidated. So, What should be the inscription, one of them asked. “There’s No Stopping The Bull!” I responded. Everyone agreed that it was an excellent copy. We quickly whisked the wooded animal into the luxury van and enjoyed the rest of our trip in very high spirits.


Back in Nigeria, Adenuga looked at the gift suspiciously when we presented it. As we gradually unwrapped it, there was a distinctive glow in his eyes. It was one of those few moments when the ever effervescent and boisterous Adenuga was really excited. He loved it! Okon and I congratulated ourselves. We were later to be very blessed with some mind-blowing cash appreciation for the gift by Adenuga.


“There’s No Stopping the Bull” however struck the right chord with Mike Adenuga, He later on made it his preferred insignia making various versions in gold and other precious metals for the interior and exterior of his office buildings.


As we all know, Adenuga, through Globacom, moved on to win the Second National Operator (SNO) Licence which included a GSM licence and 3 other telecom licences. All assets and staff of CIL were subsumed under Globacom, so technically, Adenuga was right, CIL did get back its licence. I would leave the story for another day of how fellow Nigerians routinely derided, castigated and taunted me and my Chairman for pushing the CIL position but as with all things in life, they all rushed to share in the glory when Adenuga made the impossible possible…in true Bullish tradition!


This story is told in celebration of Mike Adenuga Jnr as he turns 71 today. It is meant to show to the world that part of the reason for his soar-away success is his never-say-die spirit and his willingness and to accept new ideas, refine them and make them bigger, better and bolder.


As Nigeria celebrates one of our most renowned business leaders, Dr. Mike Adenuga, it is an opportune time to reflect on the immense value he has brought to the country and why Nigeria needs more individuals like him.


Dr. Adenuga is a true embodiment of the Nigerian entrepreneurial spirit. From humble beginnings, he has built a diverse business empire that spans telecommunications, oil and gas, real estate, banking and more.


His flagship company, Globacom revolutionized the Nigerian telecommunications industry, providing affordable and reliable services to millions of Nigerians and forcing the existing foreign telcos to stop exploitative marketing tendencies with the introduction of Per Second Billing (PSB) which they had hitherto sworn was not possible until at least 5 years after operations commenced.


Nigeria needs more individuals like Mike Adenuga Jnr – visionary entrepreneurs who are not only driven by profit but also by a deep sense of social responsibility and a desire to uplift their fellow citizens as well as rescue them from greedy foreign operators. By fostering an environment that nurtures and supports such individuals, Nigeria can unlock its full potential and proceed on the path towards sustainable economic and social development.


One gift I pray for Mike Adenuga Jnr at 71 is that he lives on in pristine health and luxuriates in service to humanity well into his old age. Happy Birthday Sir!

Nnanke Harry Willie, a brand and marketing communications consultant writes from Lagos. contact: [email protected]