by Wilfred Okiche
Now, everyone has local stars as brand ambassadors. Mike Adenuga made it so.
The reclusive billionaire re-started a trend that has imploded into the endorsement fever, that was all the rage this year, afflicting every brand worth their balance sheet and celebrity worth their status. This largesse was not limited to today’s celebrities – as the Globacom sponsored Evergreen series saw the return of music legends like Ebenezer Obey to the stage.
That isn’t all he was pioneering this year though. His Globacom remains Nigeria’s second largest telecom operator and largest indigenous, controlling an intimidating portion of the market. With stakes in Eqitorial Trust Bank and oil giants Conoil as well as an estimated net worth of $4.3 billion, Adenuga enjoys a now permanent slot on Forbes listings of Africa’s richest.
This year, Globacom celebrated 10 years of doing business and in doing so, Nigerians were reminded to reflect on the company’s impact on the culture. The ingenious introduction of per second billing at a time everyone else said it wouldn’t work, the crashing of sim card prices to the nearest 1 Naira, the direct (and indirect) employment of thousands of graduates are only some of the ways Globacom (and chief Adenuga) have identified positively with national development.
The critics might be right, and some (or much) of Adenuga’s wealth was made possible by friends in high places, yet has he been that rare specie that ploughs back resources into the continent, developing sustainable businesses moulding strong businessmen, and adding value.
There is a recurring theme of pride in nation and continent that rus through his work, from the ‘little’ like the company’s sponsorship of the landmark ‘African voices’ programme on CNN to the major – how Adenuga has been a recurring decimal as his contributions have been (in)directly responsible for Nigeria’s Cup of Nations victory earlier in the year. Going beyond throwing cash gifts at triumphant sportsmen, Globacom’s sponsorship of the local leagues against all odds in both Nigeria and Ghana. And then the Glo Soccer Academy are examples of his stubborn determination to develop his country even when the number doesn’t crunch that way.
Fiercely private and reclusive to the point of eccentricity, Adenuga once famously walked out of a lavish birthday thrown in his honour by his staff for his 60th birthday.
It doesn’t matter, Africa already sees him everywhere.
In entertainment, in sports, in philanthropy, in the culture, Adenuga’s presence looms large. Which is as it should be.
– Okiche is a medical doctor and one of Nigeria’s most respected culture critics