By Akeem Lasisi
As business giant and founder of Globacom Nigeria, Dr Mike Adenuga, clocks 69, many people will have different great things to say about him. For one, they will note the fact that he has been able to transfer part of his blessings to a lot of people, especially through employment he offers via his businesses, corporate social responsibility, direct empowerment and mentoring. Such observers of his trajectories will approach the appraisal from different perspectives but there is one that, I believe, little is often said about: Adenuga’s direct and indirect contributions to the development of Nigerian/African literature.
Yes, Globacom actively gets involved in the promotion of African tradition and culture through its sponsorship of the likes of Ojude Oba and Ofala Festival, while it has supported many musicians and other creative workers via various projects, often culminating in making a good number of them Glo Ambassadors. In sports, it has also helped to grow talents and deepen the enjoyment that millions derive form such. Perhaps because I am a writer, however, I am in a position to observe that not much has been said about Adenuga’s interventions in literary arts.
Also being a poet, I, for instance, never forget the fact that Globacom courted poetry right from the day it launched business in August 2003. At an unprecedented level, it had organised ‘An Evening with WS’, where it hosted the Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, at the Golden Gate Hotel, Ikoyi, Lagos.
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What an evening of elegant verses it was, with some of us younger poets too having an opportunity to either read or perform alongside the legendary WS. I remember I did one or two poems on the historic day, in my own performance style. But the climax was seeing Soyinka read at the event that attracted many dignitaries, with Adenuga himself present. To demonstrate that the poetry show was not a gimmick, it was later invoked to be a regular show although one or two accidental factors had affected some of the schedules. Each time one misses it, there is cause to greatly miss it because it is a programme that tends to prove wrong the fact that poetry does not put food on the table.
Another significant way Glo has powered literature is through the sponsorship of the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature, which rewards the winning author with $20,000. The competition founded by the Lumina Foundation is thus one of the few awards denominated in dollars, going by Nigeria’s example, and some of the country’s beautiful writers have relished it.
The Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa is a pan-African writing prize awarded biennially to the best literary work produced by an African. It was established by the Lumina Foundation in 2005 in honour of Africa’s first Nobel laureate in Literature, Professor Wole Soyinka. It is decided by an international jury of literary experts. With the winner receiving $20,000 at the awards ceremony, the prize accepts entries in English or French. Lumina was founded by award-winning writer, Promise Okekwe.
In terms of its essence, it not only enriches winners, it also brings glamour into the literary sector, which many corporations have yet to pay attention to. It offers opportunity for networking at the continental level, while also gingering writers to improve on their trade. It also helps to attract top stakeholders from other sectors. For instance, when South African author, Sifizo Nzobe, won the prize with his novel, Young Blood, a former Ghanaian President, Mr. John Kuffour, and two governors (serving then) – Babatunde Fashola of Lagos and Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun states – attended the award ceremony in Lagos, alongside the Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, who used the occasion to enjoin youths to project their cultural heritage.
Commending the Lumina Foundation’s effort in promoting reading culture in Africa, Soyinka said Literature had would continue to grow with the encouragement from organisations like Globacom and Lumina. In his goodwill message on the occasion, Globacom Chairman, Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr., saluted Lumina for keeping the flag flying very high since it was established in 2005 as a Biennial Award for the best literary work produced by an African.
Adenuga had enthused, “Like the Colossus that he is, Professor Wole Soyinka has towered above the global cultural and literary milieu to emerge as the first African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. He is not only one of the world’s greatest writers of all times, he is also Africa’s most credible advocate of culture, due process, democracy and social justice.”
Others who have won the Glo-powered Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa are Sefi Atta (Everything Good will Come), Nnedi Okorafor (Zarah the Windseeker), Akin Bello (The Egbon of Lagos), and Wale Okediran, who shared the prize with Kopano Maltwa, respectively with Tenants of the House and Coconut. As Adenuga adds another year, therefore, it is not a bad idea to give a shout out from the house of the muse. Interestingly, I have just concluded work on the video of ‘The Game Changer’, a poem I dedicated to him in my Phenomena Nigeria/African Citation series, capturing achievements in various fields, while experimenting with the Yoruba eulogy tradition. The work, premiering on Phenomenal Nigeria Channel on YouTube, is aimed at not only enriching African literature but also expanding research scope.
It should also be noted that one of the industries that have benefitted mostly from the revolution that Globacom sparked in Nigeria is the entertainment sector. Directly and otherwise, Glo has immensely boosted the finances of a good number of Nigerian and African musicians, actors/actresses, comedians and practitioners in some other related areas. Footballers are of course not out. A major way the company does this is through the Globacom ambassadorship which crowns the top-notch with cool millions while also imbuing them with exposure – and the impetus/challenge to continue to do well and better.
And the Glo bridge links the old and the young. That is why as much as a young Teni is connected by Glo as an ambassador, veterans such as King Sunny Ade and Ebenezer Obey are also constantly on its radar. Some of those who have been Glo Amassadors are Funke Akindele, Nelly Uchendu, Onyeka Onwenu, D’Banj, MI Abaga, PSquare, Rita Dominic, Ini Edo, Juliet Ibrahim, Matter Ankomah, Davido, Wizkid, Flavour and Gordons. Others are Basketmouth, I go Dye, Brother Shaggi, Mikel Obi, Victor Moses, Osaze Odemwingie, Joselyn Dumas, Michael Essien and Anthony Joshua.
In terms of talent hunt, Glo has demonstrated its interest in catching stars young by sponsoring projects and programmes that include GloNaija Sings, X Factor, Laffta Fest, Rock ‘n’ Rule, Glo Mega Music Show and Slide and Bounce. While it has also expanded the industry with its GloTV, another major fiesta the telecoms giant has powered is the global Battle of the Year, which rewards dancers with millions. In thus wishing Dr Mike Adenuga a happy 69th birthday, one hopes that literature, a veritable vehicle for projecting people’s tradition, culture, dreams, trials, triumphs – and their humanity in general – will continue to enjoy Globacom’s interventions.