Adenuga at 71: Epiphany of Perfection in Imperfections By Olabode Opeseitan

Close your eyes for a moment to all the noise and distractions and picture the towering accomplishments of Dr. Mike Adenuga, the enigmatic Chairman of Globacom and the Mike Adenuga Group, from a blank canvas.

From being the only individual in Africa to singularly own a telecommunication network with over 62 million subscribers, to his key roles in the downstream and upstream sectors of the oil and gas industry where his companies not only own some of the largest number of fuel stations in Nigeria but also own some of the largest gas reserves in the continent; and his other thriving investments in banking where he has substantial shares at First Bank and Sterling Bank; construction, where he owns the dominant shares at one of the country’s construction giants; and real estate, where his asset is estimated at billions of dollars, then, you will start seeing the helicopter view of the gargantuan Mike Adenuga business empire.

If it’s still hazy, just remember that three years ago, the Federal Government declared that the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) earned over $114 billion in revenue over the preceding decade, and then envision what an asset with greater gas reserves could mean for any key stakeholder of such an asset, particularly when optimized Yet, at some point in Nigeria, Adenuga’s Consolidated Oil was the largest indigenous oil producer. Reports said he is still one of the largest indigenous oil producers with some of the richest oil blocks either currently in production or ramping up to extract the black gold in commercial quantities.His achievements are so vast and too multidimensional for anyone with smoggy binoculars to comprehend.

You need a clear vision to contextualize the depth, impact and essence. How personalities who control such enormous resources manage to remain cool under the intense furnace of daily pressures is a subject deserving of further seminal interrogation by the academia.As this esteemed Colossus marks his 71st birthday, what has caught my interest, having been privileged to work for him at close quarters for about one and a half decades, is how he strives to redefine the astuteness of perfection in imperfections. I’m also fascinated by how everything he has done, since Globacom brought him into the limelight and he could no longer blend into the vastness of Nigeria undetected, has been subject to the strictest scrutiny.

He is held to the highest realistic and surreal standards by friends, foes, family, and frenemies, from the way he talks harshly or kindly to his staff to the way he runs his personal affairs. As hard as he tries to remain under the radar and live a life of normalcy and tranquility, he is permanently under the scrutiny of genuine societal assessors, armchair critics, and outright traducers.

As a realist who exerts himself vigorously in all endeavors, Dr. Adenuga knows that no man is perfect. His mantra, probably to those who expect perfection from him, is to either ignore outlandish expectations or, by his body language, ask assessors to show him just one perfect leader anywhere in the world and the world will instantly crown such a person as the ultimate emblem of perfection.

As smart and intellectually savvy personalities, leaders don’t bother to chase the shadows of perfection. They would rather carve their niche and set new benchmarks. Nothing accentuates the roles of leaders as the Pathfinders more than a submission by John C. Maxwell, a renowned leadership expert, when he said, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”This quote emphasizes the importance of a leader’s ability to guide and inspire others, rather than focusing on the idealism of perfection.

Yet, Dr. Adenuga is a leader who has chosen to live in the precinct of his own realities, perfecting his strategies as he navigates his enterprises in a world stymied by imperfections. Everything he does, he executes with his signature imprimatur of differentiation and distinction.

As a leader, he has been both vulnerable and very distinguished.In his inscrutable characteristics, he deliberately makes it extremely difficult for people to predict how he will react in every situation. He probably holds tenaciously to the philosophy that a man has lost his mystic aura the moment just anyone can predict his moves.

Even at that, there are confidants and acquaintances who knew that the Chairman would expect people around him to extend the same courtesy they show him to his close family and friends.But how would Adenuga want his friends to treat his team, particularly his special emissaries on specific missions? Nobody could hazard a guess until reality dawned in a defining episode.I doubt if this story has ever been told.

The exact date I could not remember, but the setting was in the Boardroom on the third floor of Mike Adenuga Towers, the corporate headquarters of Nigeria’s meteoric telecommunication network, Globacom in Victoria Island, Lagos.What stood out in that experience was how the Globacom Chairman stood up for his team when his friend treated them condescendingly.

Like a wounded bull, Adenuga fought back, charging with his “bullitude” as he defended the dignity of his team.As one of the biggest advertisers in Nigeria, Globacom had commissioned a notable advertising agency which enjoyed dominance in the outdoor advertising space in the airport environment In the 2010s to flight its campaigns at selected locations in different airports running into 7-digit billings.

Then, a dispute arose. Fortuitously, a top executive of the agency with links to a country with a city fondly celebrated as the Paris of the Middle East, was a good friend of Dr. Adenuga. The Chairman empaneled a senior management team from Globacom led by Muhammed Jameel, then the Group Chief Operating Officer of the company, to meet with the agency’s team to resolve the debacle.

The Executive led the agency’s team to the meeting. Having encountered him a few times before the meeting, my impression of the Executive was that of a gentleman who understood the significance of diplomacy in resolving corporate disputes. Not at this instance. He attended the meeting with a blazing gun, firing from all cylinders. There were moments when his remarks were borderline condescending.Conversant with his relationship with Dr. Mike Adenuga, the Glo team treated the Executive with the utmost respect throughout. When Jameel gave Dr. Adenuga the report of what transpired, Adenuga was miffed.

“I will not tolerate anyone disrespecting my team,” he said. He stood by the team and insisted they be accorded all deserving honor.With Dr. Adenuga, you can never be sure what to expect. You may do what in your own estimation is a routine official act and Adenuga may reward you bountifully beyond your wildest imagination. Yet, you may think you have executed an assignment exceptionally well and it may not measure up to his exacting standards.

However, in the issue involving the agency Executive, everyone was enthralled by the Chairman’s response. It emboldened the management team that the boss will stand by them if anyone tries to mess up with them in the line of duty.

It also sent a powerful message to the corporate world that one should never mess with the Globacom team, even if you are a chummy friend of the Chairman. He will choose his team over friendship. In leadership, leaders who stand up for their teams and preserve their integrity against friends who treat the teams condescendingly are advocates or defenders worthy of all adulations.

Through that “I’ve got your back” moment, Adenuga sent a clear message that he prioritizes the well-being and dignity of his staff. By taking such a stand, he demonstrated his commitment to creating a positive and supportive work environment, fostering trust and loyalty within the team, and promoting a culture of respect and fairness.

This action also shows that the Chairman values the contributions of each staff member and believes in their capabilities, ultimately building morale and fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie. It was a moment of pride for all those who knew about what happened.For a leader who believes that leadership is not a popularity contest where leaders must courageously take the toughest of decisions even if it makes them unpopular among the staff, it means that deep down in him is a milk of human kindness and deep appreciation for every member of staff who braves all the odds to grind through their work and deliver the value that keeps the business going.

Happy birthday to the Bull and a defender of his workforce. The epiphany of perfection in imperfections doesn’t shine brighter.

Yes, perfection doesn’t always have to be flawless to be truly remarkable.

Opeseitan is a highly skilled Business Developer, PR Advisor, and Digital Business Consultant with a proven track record of success locally and internationally.

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