On Tuesday, September 1, 2015, the world woke up to the shocking news that the enigmatic Amb. Antonio Oladeinde Fernandez had died in far way Belgium-and one year after, many, especially his family members,are still trying to process the fact that this giant of a man is no more.
Very little is known about his early childhood in Lagos, but Amb. Fernandez was one of the very few individuals whose life was the stuff of tales. Many stories were woven around his fashion, his fame and his fortune-and some even swore that Fernandez was a fable and was nonexistent, this was the story in town until he began to actually make some form of personal appearances at high-profile events in Lagos and his marriage to Lagos Princess Erelu Abiola Dosunmu became public knowledge.
A business magnate, diplomat, mining tycoon and Permanent Representative of Central African Republic to the United Nations, Fernandez was a man who lived life in absolute style and class. He was one of Nigeria’s most mysterious and reclusive billionaires with properties in several African countries as well as in Europe and America.
Legendary for his flamboyant dressing, Fernandez was one of those men who lived life to the fullest. He lived big anywhere he lands in the world. He never settles for anything but the very best-in terms of class, taste and luxury.
His intimating height, booming voice and fine taste endeared him to many. He was friends with many world leaders and men of means, and his luxurious homes located played host to many of these first-rate international celebrities.
Of course, whenever he was in town, his presence was felt. He oftentimes arrives in his private jet and is received regally like a royal in exotic automobiles.
His royal carriage was not acquired, he is indeed a blue blooded because he hailed from the Olumegbon Ruling House of Lagos and his family motto is “agbomeji kii momi nikoto”, meaning “two rams cannot drink from the same bucket.
In 1982, he shot to monumental prominence as he was appointed an Advisor to the Angolan Government on Economic Matters.
Two years later, he became a Deputy Permanent Representative of Mozambique to the United Nations.
In 1992, he was made a Special Adviser to the President of Mozambique on International Economic Matters, a position he held till 1995.
In addition to his diplomatic duties, Mr. Fernandez ran a string of companies such as Petro Inett, a mining firm that had extensive oil, gold, and diamond interests in Angola as well as in the Central African Republic.
He also owned Sandcat Enterprises, View, Grantdale, Inuola, Sandcat Goldfields, Voguehope, Woods, Goldfields, and Petro-Inett Equatorial Guinea.
Fernandez also owned a string of properties, including a £3 million seven storey Gerogian town house in Edinburgh; a £4 million New York estate; a 25-acre £1 million 19th-century Chateau de Bois Feuillette in Paris; a £10 million property on the Premium Point peninsula, New York, among others.
Amb. Fernandez was once described by Ovation International as “the guardian of panache and prosperity” who surrounded himself “with exquisite things only money can buy”.
One year after his death remembering Amb. Deinde Fernandez His fashion & fortune
As much as he tried to shield his affairs, and personal life from the public, a messy, record-breaking N90 billion divorce suit parted the veil in 2003, and gave the public a peep into the privacy of one of the richest persons in the world. It was one of the biggest divorce cases in British legal history! The case which was tried in Scotland supposedly cost him £5m (five million pounds) and some properties.
Popular celebrity journal, Ovation International Magazine some years back was given an exclusive access to his private Island off the Coast of New York, the awe-inspiring pictures were a wonder to behold. His yacht, Yemoja was topnotch in terms of its sheer magnificence.
According leading Scottish paper, The Scotsman, his house in Scotland, Drumsheugh Gardens, was reportedly one of Edinburgh’s more prestigious addresses.
It went further to state thus: “The billionaire African diplomat Antonio Deinde Fernandez has already spent more than £200,000 transforming his seven-storey townhouse by applying 1,000 books of gold leaf to the ornate cornicing and balusters.
“The Central African Republic’s Ambassador to the United Nations travels across the world in one of six private jets and enjoys being chauffeured around in a pink Rolls-Royce. When dining out, he takes over the entire restaurants to avoid encountering riffraffs” He also asked and was granted permission to build an orangery in his backyard.
At his burial in London, Popular man of God, Pastor Tunde Bakare joined his immediate family, close friends and associates to pay their last respects.
The choice of his final resting place actually caused a rift in the family. His wife, Halima, and some of his children were not on the same page. His children wanted him as an African High Chief to be buried in Lagos but Halima would not hear of it-and so the great Deinde Fernandez is not resting in the land of his forebears.
This burial palaver really blew over days later with spats over his will and fortune-till date, the matter has remained unresolved, though many prominent Nigerians have been making efforts to unite the family.
Ambassador Fernandez’s eldest child is former Lagos State Commissioner, Chief (Mrs.) Olateju Phillips. His other children include Gbemi, Anthony, Akin, Titi, Oyinkan, Atinuke, Koye and Abimbola Fernandez, who is an artiste (known as ‘Bim’ Fernandez, she is based in New York and released a single “Let’s take it naked” in 2014. One of his grandchildren, DJ Caise, (Derin Phillips) is also making his mark in the entertainment industry.