Though the war of words between two former Nigerian presidents; Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida might have ceased, memories of the “Fool at 70” statements made by the two septuagenarian leaders continue to linger and there are indications that another battle might commence soon.
As one of Nigeria’s richest businessmen, Otunba Mike Adenuga Jr. celebrated his 60th birthday; General Babangida took time to pass a message across. The message came in form of an advertorial in which he eulogized the Globacom boss for his loyalty. In the advert, placed in one of the national dailies, signed by the former military president, it was stated that Adenuga prevented IBB from being nailed by a certain regime he nurtured.
Babangida and Adenuga have a friendship that started decades back. Adenuga is seen as a businessman who often dares to do what others would not. His business also blossomed during IBB’s 8-year rule, for instance, his Consolidated Oil got oil prospecting licenses during that time and it was around that time too that he struck oil. The “Gold Digger’s Place”, Otunba Mike Adenuga’s GRA home in Ibadan hosted IBB a couple of times, while he was Nigeria’s number one citizen leading to speculations that the Ijebu-born Otunba is holding some investments in trust for IBB.
Analysts have also opined that after the dark cloud that hovered over Nigeria’s political climate after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections, Generals Babangida, Danjuma, Abdulsalami Abubakar and Aliyu Gusau were the ones who convinced Obasanjo to run for presidency, having put him on the agenda ever before he was released from prison. Back in 1998, Obasanjo had said he didn’t think he was the “Messiah” Nigerians were waiting for. He did not give any indication that he would run for office.
A visit by the self-styled “Evil Genius” however changed the political calculation as Obasanjo changed gear and moved swiftly into the political field. To many, IBB was simply making it easy to stage a comeback to the presidential villa, having “stepped aside” in August 1993.
The birthday message signed by General Babangida reads “Mike, truly you epitomize hard-work, perseverance, doggedness, humility, diligence and patriotism. The fact that you treasure the virtue of true friendship and loyalty to any cause you believe in gives you the cutting edge. I am eternally grateful for all the troubles you had to go through because of me in the hands of a regime that tried to derail our friendship and relationship.
Even when you came under severe pressure by that same regime which I helped to nurture, to blackmail me in order to hang me, you remained eternally loyal and steadfast. Only a businessman of character, sound upbringing and virtue could choose friendship instead of his economic empire. Only a man of delectable poise, with an open mind and fear of God would choose to sustain an age-long relationship instead of sacrificing same at the altar of avarice, greed and economic interest.
Such tribulations are prices we have to pay for true friendship. Your ability to remain focused in the face of pressure coupled with your capacity to identify and nurture talents is the reason why you are MIKE ADENUGA. There can never be another Mike Adenuga of your orientation.”