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Adenuga @ 65: Why the Gold Digger Remains the Real McCoy

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By Olabode Opeseitan

It was around mid-day on June 29, 2012. I was neck-deep in work when the call I dreaded most came through. The pleasantry was unusual, very curt. The voice at the other end advised me to be strong and take it like a man. Even without saying it, I knew instantly I had lost my dad who had been on admission at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Ill-Ife.

When I visited him one week before his demise, I had a morbid fear he might not make it but I shrugged the thought off and cast my burden on God, hoping that by some strokes of luck, he could pull through. He never did.

I was completely rattled. The macho man in me melted like a bowl of ice cream under a scorching sun. I wept uncontrollably in the private rest room in my office. Our office assistant, Tosin (who later acquired a university degree and became our receptionist), coincidentally came to my office while I was sobbing. Alarmed, having never seen me in that condition, she asked, “Oga, ki lo se yin” (Boss, what’s the matter?).

The seemingly harmless question triggered even a bigger meltdown. As I attempted to answer her, I burst into a ball of tears and sobbed like a baby. Scared, she dashed out and within what seemed like seconds, my office was bursting at the seams with my colleagues. I hated to be seen in that circumstance but I couldn’t help it. I was an emotional wreck. They consoled me and insisted I must leave the office immediately. They arranged for a driver to take me home, insisting I could not drive in that situation. As the driver pulled up in my house about 30 minutes later, my phone rang and it was my Chairman, Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr on the line. I picked the call with a stoic resolve never to give any inclination of the tragedy that just befell me. “Ah. Bode, pele, pele (sorry, sorry, referrencing my loss).

What happened? Was he sick? How old was he?, he asked several questions in quick succession. As I answered him, what was racing through my mind was how did he hear about it so swiftly? I remembered him saying sometime in the past that, “the walls have ears. You cannot be in my position and be oblivious of developments around you”. Quite instructive! He assured me he would stand by me all the way and asked me to let him know when the burial arrangement had been firmed up. Until we did the burial a month later, Dr. Adenuga, who I fondly called Baba, kept a close tab on the arrangements we were making. He shocked me when he said repeatedly even at official meetings that he would attend the event. Though he eventually did not, he supported me morally and financially.

After the event, he asked me to give him the list of all those who supported me financially so that he could say thank you to them. I did not bother him with that but his gesture spoke volume about the genuine heart of a man many had come to love, loathe or dread. That was not the first time Dr. Adenuga would go beyond the call of duty to show unfeigned care for either my humble self or numerous other people working for him. In another personal instance, he had asked the trio of Yinka Akande, Celestine Amucha and my humble self to represent him at the commissioning of House of Ovation, Accra in October 2006 as a reciprocal and appreciative gesture to the Ovation Publisher, Bashorun Dele Momodu for his steadfast loyalty over the years. Unfortunately, we could not get a flight to Accra as all the flights were fully booked. We decided to go by road. Somehow, Chairman, who Dele Momodu incidentally calls the Spirit of Africa, got wind of our plan. He could not believe that young executives in this era could voluntarily opt to go through such an arduous journey in order to fulfill their boss’ mandate.

Right from when we got to Mile 2 to board a public transport till we got to Accra, Dr Adenuga was checking up on us at regular intervals. As if he had a crystal ball through which he was gazing at us (I knew it couldn’t have been any tracking device because back then, Mr. Chairman at best enjoyed using his legendary Nokia Communicator for only calls and text messages until in later years when he added internet browsing), he was calling either by the time we were just reaching or leaving a border point. “You should be at Seme now”, “How is the journey going, are you at Ilaconji now?”, “Are you in Aflao now?”, he kept checking up on us till we got to Accra safely when he finally heaved a sigh of relief and said, “Thank God”. How many bosses would send their staff on assignments and keep checking up on them to find out about their safety and welfare? One of his closest aides then, Prince Tunde Akinyera said Chairman was not at ease until he knew we had reached Accra. He knew the route very well, having traversed it severally when he was building his business empire, crisscrossing from Nigeria to Cote d’Ivoire, the headquarters of African Development Bank. Corroborating that, Chairman would share stories of his experience in those days at each of the borders.

The most poignant was when he missed the closing time at the Lome-Ghana border on his way back to Lagos by a few minutes. The gendarmes snubbed all his earnest entreaties   and he had to pass the night in his car right at the border crossing. What made his gesture more significant was that Dr Adenuga himself was going through his personal travails about this time. He was on self exile after ceaseless harrassments by  Nuhu Ribadu’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission who we later heard, had the mandate to nail him at all cost. Time after time, Chairman showed that he was not a General who would send his men to the war front and go to sleep. I ran several errands locally and internationally for him. More than fifty percent of the time, he would call to find out about one’s welfare and the trip. “Awe o”, he would utter in his rich baritone voice even at 5.30am. “Did you make it to the airport in good time? Safe flight and good luck”, he would say as his signature way of giving one moral support. Dr. Adenuga treated me more like his son than an employee. When I wanted to leave Globacom last year to run a family business, Chairman was displeased. Somehow, he felt I would stay with the business longer. However, having spent 14 years supporting in my own little way our much appreciated Chairman’s vision, I pleaded to be excused. Chairman took it harder than I envisaged. Since I made my intention known in April last year until I left in July of the same year, all channels of communication came to a near screeching halt. Knowing that I was not doing anything deliberately to hurt Baba or his business, I stuck to my plan. A few days before my departure from the system, he gave a directive that I should lead a delegation on an international assignment. I carried out the assignment diligently but left as scheduled afterwards.

Almost one year later, Dr Adenuga reached out to me and said the unthinkable. One of Africa’s richest men apologized for the way the system took my decision to leave. He painted my modest contributions glowingly and asked me to return if I wished. I deeply expressed my gratitude to him for his support over the years. He is the quintessential leader with an unimaginable capacity to ride above the storm of the past and reset his relationships with people when he felt the need to do so. Severally, he has recalled or reabsorbed former members of staff who left in the most dramatic circumstances. Some came back voluntarily while he himself reached out to others. For him, it is not about the sentiment but the value the individual has to offer. Yet, there were exceptional instances when he reabsorbed people mainly because he pitied their prevailing circumstances. He epitomizes the deep Yoruba axiom that, “ti a o ba gbagbe oro ana, a o ni ri eni ba sere”, meaning that one needs to banish past disputes into distant memories in order to continually have people to play (or work) with. A couple of years back, Dr. Adenuga shared with me the rationale behind some of his actions. He said at the end of the day when everyone would have retired to their respective homes, he would play back the events of the day in his mind and ask himself hard questions, “Am I fair to him/her? Was he/she fair to me?” He said this was a routine he regularly observed in order to set matters right. Whoever knows Dr. Adenuga would readily concur that he is a genius who has a memory as sharp as a tack. He only needs to meet you once and if he sees you years later, he would recall every detail about you. When he uploads you with various assignments, you would only have yourself to blame to think he has forgotten any of them. Don’t be shocked if you get a call from his office asking you for an update. That alone is triple-filtered trouble. Chairman wants you to be ahead of him. He will spare no rod if he is always the one “chasing after you” for results.

In one of his informal mentoring classes, Dr. Adenuga told me that, “Never rely exclusively on human memory. No matter how sharp, it fails sometimes. As often as possible, once I’m giving someone an assignment, I’m writing it down and posting it somewhere as a stark reminder until the job is done”. In his heart, Adenuga has selected some people as his circle of brothers, friends and family. He has taken it upon himself to sort such people out in life. At intervals, he reaches out and takes care of them in a “life-liberating manner” as a popular writer who later joined politics once described his unconventional generous disposition. In that circle are family members, friends, former Presidents within and outside Nigeria, celebrities, traditional rulers, some members of staff and a mixed grill of other people decided exclusively based on his own parametres.

This often includes indigent people or people totally unknown to him but who are in dire straits. From the blues (as he did severally), Chairman once called me to find out how a media personality who had been supportive in the past was doing. When I enquired and reverted to him that the person was going through a rough patch, he got his office to send the person a ‘hefty’ cheque in the hope that it would help the person to “fill some holes”. He sets his   standards high and abides by the standards no matter whose ox is gored. He hardly attends functions. His priorities have always been his business and in later years, he has opted to strike more delicate balance between business and family. You will never see Dr. Adenuga confronting government even when he has enough reasons to fight. His philosophy is that Nigerian governments are too powerful. As such, any businessman who has too much at stake can only fight a sitting government at his peril. Intrinsically, he has internalized that profound saying amplified by King Sunny Ade’s song, “Ojo ni wa a o b’enikan s’ota, eni eji ri leji n pa (we are raindrops, we bear no grudge against anyone, rain falls on everyone). He is friendly with any government of the day. Much more importantly, he minds his own business.

He also has an almost unimpeachable understanding of the political and business terrains of Africa. He has friends in high places across the continent. In business, Chairman adopted the famous Michelle Obama philosophy of when they go low, we go high to his investment in oil and gas. About three years ago, the price of oil headed for a free fall in the international market. Discouraged, many big players stopped investing. Several oil rigs which hitheto were hard to come by became readily available. He wasted no time to strike when the iron was red hot, pumping millions of dollars into the business to develop oil fields allotted his company. The gold digger made the right choice. From the $20s per barrel in 2016, the price of oil is now inching nearer the  $80  mark in 2018. Talk about vision, wisdom and pressing the hot button at the right moment.

For over two and half decades, Dr. Adenuga has been digging gold in oil and gas, telecoms, banking, construction and in the process has become the real McCoy, the real deal. In numerous instances, he has made unimaginable successes while on few occasions, things didn’t go quite as well as planned. A man of immense resources and extensive knowledge, he is also ready to admit that he does not know it all. As an imperfect creation, he knows he is not without blemish. He draws substantially from the lessons of his triumphs and shortcomings to shape his actions. As he marks his 65th birthday, one can only wish Dr. Adenuga many happy returns.

Olabode Opeseitan is the Founding Partner of SA&B Mega Resources.

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We’re Not ‘Officially Aware’ of Anyone Working Against Tinubu’s Victory – FG

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The Federal Government, on Wednesday, said it was not “officially aware” of any entity in the Presidential Villa working against the victory of the All Progressives Congress’ flag bearer, Bola Tinubu. It also said that President, Muhammadu Buhari was neither favouring nor disfavouring any presidential candidate ahead of the February 25 election.

“If there’s anybody who is working against any candidate, we don’t know officially,” the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, told State House Correspondents after this week’s Federal Executive Council meeting chaired by the President at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.

The Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, alleged that some “elements” in Aso Rock are working against Tinubu’s emergence as President.

El-Rufai, who spoke on a Channels Television breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, explained that the persons in question were aggrieved that Tinubu defeated their candidate in the June 2022 APC presidential primary.

He cited the naira redesign policy as one of several schemes targeted at the APC presidential candidate, Tinubu, who also made a similar claim a week earlier.

According to El-Rufai, “I believe there are elements in the Villa that want us to lose the election because they didn’t get their way; they had their candidate. Their candidate did not win the primaries.

“They are trying to get us to lose the election, and they are hiding behind the President’s desire to do what he thinks is right. I will give two examples: this petroleum subsidy, which is costing the country trillions of Naira, was something that we all agreed would be removed.

“In fact, I discussed with the President and showed him why it had to go. Because how can you have a capital budget of N200b for federal roads and then spend N2 Trillion on petroleum subsidy? This was a conversation I had with the President in 2021 when the subsidy thing started rising. He was convinced. We left. It changed. Everyone in the government agreed, and it changed.

“The second example I will give is this currency redesign. You have to understand the President. People are blaming the Governor of the Central Bank for the currency redesign, but No. You have to go back and look at the first outing of Buhari as President.

“He did this; the Buhari-Idiagbon regime changed our currency and did it in secrecy with a view to catching those that are stashing away illicit funds. It is a very good intention. The President has his right. But doing it at this time within the allotted time does not make any political or economic sense.”

But fielding a question on the issue on Wednesday, Mohammed argued that the Buhari-led government has been fair to all candidates regardless of party affiliations.

He said, “On a more serious note, one thing I can assure you is that, no matter who, this administration is focused and determined to ensure a free and fair election. And I think this administration, and for that matter now, the most important person in this regard is Mr. President.

“I think he has shown by words and deed that he is committed to a free, fair and credible election. And fair, free and credible elections mean not favouring or disfavouring anybody.

“Everywhere he goes, he makes that very clear, even as recently as Friday, when he was in Daura. He said the same thing. So if there’s anybody who’s working against any candidate, we don’t know officially.”

Speaking in Ogun State last Wednesday, the APC presidential candidate alleged plans to sabotage the coming election.

Tinubu cited the naira redesign policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria and the lingering fuel crisis and as part of plots to thwart the polls and his expected victory.

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2023 Elections: INEC Deploys 707,384 Presiding Officers

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The Independent National Electoral Commission will deploy 707,384 presiding officers for the general elections scheduled to commence on February 25.

The commission also said that since electoral education was important, there was a need to infuse it into the National Values Curriculum of primary schools in Nigeria.

INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, stated these during the public presentation of the Electoral Education Curriculum and Teachers’ Guide for primary schools.

The curriculum which was developed by the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening  – Sustaining Electoral Engagement for Democracy project funded by USAID and FCDO and implemented by National Democratic Institute and IFES, was in partnership with the Nigeria Educational Research and Development Council, INEC (through the Voter Education Department), National Orientation Agency, Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All and academia from across the country.

Okoye said, “We believe that electoral education is important in the goals of our nation. Electoral education is a specialized area and that is why we have this curriculum being infused into the National Values Curriculum in our primary schools.

“For instance, for the 2023 general elections in Nigeria, the commission will deploy a total of 707, 384 presiding officers and assistant presiding officers.

“These presiding officers will be drawn from the crop of young men and women doing their National Youth Service Corps, while the assistant presiding officers will be drawn from students from federal tertiary institutions.

“It is therefore important for us to understand the importance of electoral education in the development of our democracy.

“A national civic education curriculum and teachers’ guide with a specific focus on electoral education will prepare our children for the challenges ahead and also prepare them on how to respect other people’s races and also prepare them to assume leadership in future.”

The President of IFES, Anthony Banbury, said its contribution to the project was to strengthen Nigeria’s electoral process through effective teaching and learning of civic education in primary schools.

“To catch them young, the revised curriculum is a hallmark innovation that will introduce children and youth very early to the concept, processes, ethics, and values of democratic systems and governance.

“It will be essential for the young people’s orientation to initiate a shift from the existing norms. In the long term, it will increase civic participation and knowledge of democratic systems and values, as the children of today become the adults and the voters of tomorrow,” Banbury said.

The Executive Secretary of NERDC, Prof. Ismail Junaidu, said the aim was to strengthen the fabric of the nation’s democracy for sustainable growth and development.

According to him, since the return of democracy in 1999, citizens’ participation in elections and the electoral process had remained an issue of concern.

He also said that a known reason for this was the lack of adequate electoral knowledge.

“Hence, promoting democratic electoral culture and developing civic skills are therefore necessary for well-informed and responsible participation in elections and in the electoral process,” Junaidu said.

He said that the above informed the initiative of the NERDC in collaboration with IFES to develop the Electoral Education Curriculum for primary schools in Nigeria.

According to him, the curriculum, generally, is developed to expose young learners to the rudiments of democracy and inculcate in them the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for active citizens’ participation in the democratic process.

“Specifically, the curriculum is designed to achieve five key objectives, which are to: equip learners with basic knowledge of the concept of democracy, the role of elections in democracy and good governance.

He said the choice of primary school learners was hinged on the core principle of using education as an instrument of socialisation for the young to assume adult roles for the good of society.

“Thus, the teaching of electoral education at this level will ensure that when children reach voting age, they would have already understood the fundamentals of active participation in the political and electoral process,” Junaidu said.

While commending the management of NERDC for the initiative, the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, represented by his Senior Technical Assistant, Dr Claris Ujam, said the curriculum had become a dynamic process for sustainable national development.

He said, “Every time, there are changes or developments happening around the world, the school curricula are affected.

“Therefore, the inclusion of concepts and contents of electoral education under Civic Education is in line with the drive under the Ministry’s Education for Change: A Ministerial Strategic Plan.

“This is to enable the acquisition of citizenship values and skills through quality education. The electoral education curricular contents constitute a remarkable step to create positive change in the election landscape and political development.”

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Pro, Anti Ekweremadu Protesters Storm UK Trial

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The human trafficking case against a former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, and his wife, Beatrice, resumed in a London court on Tuesday.

However, anti- and pro-Ekweremadu protests were staged in front of the court ahead of the proceedings.

AFP reported that before court proceedings, there was a gathering of protesters, some of whom were in support of the lawmaker while others were against him.

The lawmaker was in June 2022 arrested alongside his wife at Heathrow Airport in London on the allegation that they flew a young man from Nigeria to the UK to harvest his organ.

The allegation added that the organ was meant for Ekweremadu’s daughter, Sonia, who is currently hospitalised with a kidney-related illness.

Some Nigerians had in October 2022 protested in Abuja against the continued detention of the lawmaker who has now spent 223 days in the custody of UK authorities.

Protesters, once again, gathered at the court on Tuesday to either support the embattled lawmaker or protest his continued detention in UK custody.

“I mean, this case is unbelievable,” one protester, Citizen Gbola, was quoted by AFP as saying.

“Where else in the world would you have a deputy senate president, who is still a serving senator, he’s still getting his regular wage?”

According to Daily Mail, Sonia couldn’t make it to court on Tuesday but sought permission with a psychological report by her team claiming she was not fit to stand trial.

She had pleaded not guilty to the allegation of trafficking a homeless man into the UK to harvest his organs for herself, when she appeared in court on November 7, 2022.

The young man, who levelled the allegation against the Ekweremadus, told Staines Police Station that he was made to undergo some medical tests, none of which he consented to.

A 50-year-old medical doctor from South London, Obinna Obeta, was also arrested in connection to the allegation.

During proceedings at the Old Bailey court, Ekweremadu who wore a grey tracksuit top only said “Yes, miss” when asked to confirm his name.

Seated beside the lawmaker in the dock and dressed in black was his wife who was granted bail in July 2022 while her husband was said to be a flight risk.

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