Otunba Demola Adenuga, the older brother of Globacom boss and African business giant Dr. Mike Adenuga has paid a rare, moving tribute to their immediate elder sister Chief Mrs. Margaret Afolashade Akande who will be 80 on Wednesday, January 27.
He painted the portrait of a selfless sister, kind, philanthropic, with a sharp business acumen learnt under the mentorship of their mum, the matriarch Chief Mrs. Juliana Oyindamola Adenuga, a wealthy businesswoman of her era. He described her sister as a highly principled woman, a no-nonsense writer who fights with her powerful pen when provoked.
At 80, Mrs. Akande is still an active businesswoman who has the Adenuga spirit, work ethic, energy and drive, even at her age. Added to that is the spirit of generosity embedded in the family DNA. Mama Akande is the second in the family of five children that God blessed Pa Michael Agbola Adenuga Sr. and her beloved wife Juliana Oyindamola both of blessed memory. The children are: The late Mrs. E.O. Osunsade popularly called Aunty Olu, Mrs. Margaret Afolashade Akande who will be 80 on Wednesday, Otunba Demola Adenuga, Otunba Yetunde Adegbola and Mike Adenuga, the last born and the most famous.
As Mike Adenuga’s biographer, I had the rare privilege and honour of interviewing all the Adenuga siblings while researching my book on this great man. I found a close-knit family, children brought up with the fear of God, amazing humility, mentored by their mum who taught them business from the school of hard knocks. I found an organ-playing headmaster-father, man of deep faith who instilled in his children discipline, courtesy, education and hard work at school. As a fresher at the University of Ibadan, Ademola Adenuga was to travel to the UK for the first time, but his father objected: “Demola, you are in your first year, face your studies first and come out with flying colours!”
Ademola recalls: “We had this programme whereby we go abroad on holidays for three months. The Students Union arranged our passports and the flight. Dad said I should not go. My dear sister Shade and my mother arranged seventy pounds in those days and paid on my behalf to travel to the UK. She even arranged where I would stay with Mr. and Mrs. Adepoju. That’s my sister for you. When she has made up her mind to do anything for you, whether you are a family member or outsider, she would even carry it to your backyard.”
It was Shakespeare who said “the good men do is oft interred with their bones” meaning good deeds are easily forgotten. Not so with Ademola and his brother Mike who hardly forget good deeds. On his part, Mike is forever grateful to her sister and Mama for their moral and material assistance in the early years of his business.
Another unforgettable experience was when in his final year, Nigerian Breweries came to the campus to recruit some of the best students. Demola got the Nigerian Breweries job and a big surprise from his sister and Mum. He recalls: “The Nigerian Breweries came around March and gave me a job. My sister Shade and Mama, without telling my father, bought me a brand new Toyota Corona. They bought a Toyota Corona and they didn’t tell me too. I started work with Nigerian Breweries on 5th July, 1974 with the brand new car, courtesy of my sister and Mum. And when I wanted to get my Guinness dealership, Sister Shade was the livewire, the one who got it for me. She was very close to our mum. In the dying days of my mother, they slept on the same bed. On the eve of her death, they slept on the same bed. And they usually wore the same dress when Mama was alive. She would buy clothes for herself and for Mama. There was a time Mum owned a tipper and my sister copied my mother to buy her own tipper. When I was building my house behind Gen. Akinrinade’s house in Opebi, I used my mother’s tipper and my sister’s tipper on that project.
“My sister is nice to all of us. But if you offend her, she will pick up her pen to write you to express her feelings. In the days of NITEL when there was no GSM, whenever anything happened to her telephone line, she would write them. She is a nice, positively stubborn sister. Very nice to me. I am very close to her. Before COVID-19, I used to spend almost the whole of Saturday in her house in Ikoyi. And we would sit down and look back at the good old times and share our stories.
“My mother had one credo: that what she had in her lifetime should go to all her children. She bought houses for all of us, apart from the ones we shared after her death. She bought houses and warehouses in Ibadan for her children. For Xmas, she normally gave us fat cheques to help us in our lives and in our businesses. I remember there was a time each child got forty thousand pounds which was a very big amount. And there was a time each child got 1.5 million before she died. Even when she died, we distributed money too. She was the best mother ever. We cannot forget her and our father. May their souls rest in peace. And that of my late elder sister too. I wish my sister a happy 80th birthday. I pray that as she ages, she would remain in good health, peace and the joy of the Lord. The Lord will not forsake her in old age, the Lord will be her strength. There are many positive stories around my sister. A column is not enough. You need a whole book. Maybe you should write her biography too.” Of course, this column on Mrs. Akande will find a place in my collection of my Mike Adenuga writings all through the years. My fellow citizens, help me wish Mama happy 80th birthday.