I remember my first day of being ushered into the presence of this great man. It was on April 28, 1998. Fresh from NYSC, where I had served in Federal Polytechnic, Bida, Niger State, as a Lecturer Assistant, and looking forward to a job placement. My friend, Hope, had given me the address of Equitorial Trust on Adeola Odeku, Victoria Island, to send my application.
Equitorial Bank Limited’s TV and Radio advertisement, “Give My Tally Number” had rent the airwave a few years prior, so, the bank had name recognition among Nigerians.
I wrote my application and sent it through the Local Post Office Shop in Jakande Estate, Isolo, with the hope that I would be called. In truth, I did not know if I would be called since I did not know anybody in the bank. I posted my application all the same. I learnt, after I had been employed, that Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr. was an equal-opportunity employer. His companies are open to all Nigerians, irrespective of tribe, gender or social class. I digress.
I was pleasantly surprised when I received an invitation for an aptitude test at the bank’s Training School, on Wharf Road, Apapa, on February 16, 1998. The problem, however, was that the test had been held on February 14, 1998, which meant I got the invitation two days too late.
Not giving up, I quickly put on my jacket, which I had borrowed from a friend, and off I went to Apapa.
To cut the long story short, I was mercifully allowed to write the aptitude test and to the glory of God, I scored 65%, which was the cut-off mark.
Then my doubts returned: will they call me for an interview? My doubt was borne out of the fact that I believed that to be employed by a company in the mold of ETB, you will have to know somebody high up in the company who will recommend you, you know, “the Nigerian Factor”. Was I wrong? I was invited for interviews between March 1998 and April 1998 without knowing a soul in the bank.
Now came the final interview with Mr. Chairman. The tension was palpable among the ten of us that were invited to meet with him, and the then Human Resources Manager, Mrs Okpala. Apart from reading about him in magazines and once seeing his picture on the cover page of Newswatch Magazine, I believe the title of the Newswatch edition was “The Oil Man”, I did not know what to expect.
It was therefore with fear and trepidation that I was ushered into his Conference Room on Oko Awo Close, Victoria Island. Seated in one of the seats was Mr. Olusola Taiwo, a General Manager in Equitorial Trust Bank. With my voice shaking out of fear and my body trembling, I greeted him. Without looking up, he said: “Have your seat”.
The first question he asked was: “Mefun, why do you want to leave teaching for banking?” For the non-Yoruba, Mefun means the holder of chalk, which translates to mean a teacher. In my trembling voice, I answered: Sir, teaching is my hobby but I will like to be banker as a profession. He then asked, “Are you related to Mr. Taiwo”. I answered in the negative. That was all. Finally, he directed that I should go and wait for Mr. Taiwo at the reception.
I did not know whether I passed the interview or not. But being ushered in to see the great man I have been reading about in magazines was a dream come true. By the time the 10th candidate came out from the Chairman’s Conference Room, the Human Resources Manager announced, joyfully, that we had all been employed. The next day, being April 29, 1998, I resumed at the Head Office of Equitorial Trust Bank Limited as a Staff. It was after I resumed in the Department I was posted to, that I realized that that same day was Mr. Chairman’s birthday.
25 years after, and by the grace of God, I am still in the Group, having traversed the banking, telecommunications and oil and gas segments of the Group.
Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr. has been a blessing to thousands of us that have had, and still have, the privilege of working in his companies. He has been a father figure and a teacher to many of us.
I once told a Director in a bank that I was going to learn at the feet of Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr. That was a decade ago. It was what I had always prayed for. God has since granted my wish, and I have had the opportunity to be a student in “The Dr. Mike Adenuga School of Business”. This is a business school without borders, the curricula, which you cannot get in any of the world’s best universities. I believe that universities in Nigeria, Africa and the world would one day commission a course to study this great man that has been a gift from God to the world. He has been a gift that keeps giving.
As my Chairman, Dr. Mike Adenuga, joins the septuagenarian rank, I thank God for his life and for the millions of lives he has touched, directly and indirectly, all over the world.
May the LORD, continue to uphold him and may he continue to be a blessing to the world for many years to come.
Happy birthday, my Chairman. E tubo pe fun wa sir.