Paddy Adenuga, Catalan Corporation and Chevron: Adventures of the Wealthy and Privileged

Many privileged kids don’t really understand that the greatest weapon one needs to move ahead in life is goodwill or reputation, which comes best from family or a benefactor or oneself. Nigerian politicians understand this better than many other category of people. Imagine you know President Buhari who has the wherewithal to refer you to the petroleum minister to give you oil contracts. He need not give you money, but the goodwill he offers in terms of referral can be translated into financial success when utilized appropriately. That is why Nigerian politicians practice “do or die”” politics and can kill for their preferred candidate to garner this referral.

I have this friend from a wealthy family in Abuja who always laments during our conversations how he is hustling. After finishing higher education up to masters in the United Kingdom, the dad made him the director in over two companies of their conglomerate, and is currently spending 10s of millions of Naira on his PhD in the United States. Gradually, a succession plan is under way for him to take over the entire business as they mentor him. He has founded two other companies. Last time I met him in Abuja, he uses a 2016 Range Rover Sports, but he feels he is hustling like me, a lower middle class entrepreneur. I often tell him to thank his father as many times as possible in a day because he doesn’t know the advantage his father’s wealth and family name has given him in life. If he knows, he won’t be dragging the hustler status with me. He is not even middle class, he is upper class. He is feted by the rich and mighty. Sitting governors call on him to befriend him as a way of getting across to chief (what we call his dad) because his father is a big time politician. This my friend is like Paddy Adenuga, born with a golden spoon or it materialized while he grew up, most times he lives in denial of the influence of his family name on his business successes because he has not tasted the other side like me who has for many years thrown proposals up and down Nigeria to government agencies and ministries and state governments and have not recorded substantial success because I don’t have a person who will make that call.

First, when you are Paddy Adenuga, people don’t really talk to you because you are that business genius or alpha male. Your father’s name clears the road for you. Many people fete you because they know the family you represent. Second, I am not discounting personal business acumen and capabilities of this category of people but such is enhanced by the platform which is provided for the person to thrive. Having a town house in London is not “beans” if I will resort to street language and pidgin colloquial. Assembling the kind of names and dignitaries on the board of Catalan Corporation, Paddy’s oil firm isn’t for a nobody. Having one of “Africa’s biggest business giants” as a mentor doesn’t come that easy. In fact, that my friend’s mentor is a current minister under the president government. You need family connection or rare stroke of luck to find yourself at this coveted level in life. Lounging in Swiss resorts, one of the most expensive places for the top 1% comes for those operating within the shadow of their family empires or self made billionaires. Having meetings in a lush green or snow covered Swiss village with one of the richest men in Africa in such exclusive privacy can only be accorded a lucky few. Leading the acquisition of an OML is something people work up the ladder for many years to achieve but here was Paddy probably like 25 or 26 leading a multi-million dollars acquisition. The Adenuga name alone is an insurance policy. The whole acquisition of Chevron business is just one of the high profile money adventures of the rich and wealthy. While he was almost at the point of acquiring a part of one of the biggest oil companies in the world, not many would have that opportunity to engage in such expensive bargain without a wealthy background.

Trump was bequeathed his father’s real estate business but he moved away from his father’s business model of low cost housing to apartment buildings and high risings in the business districts and most exclusive part of the cities. Though Paddy chose to venture outside the traditional area of the family business, his business adventures mirror the realities of being the son of a billionaire like Trump. Other sons of the wealthy can learn from his experience as he is setting himself up as one that can manage the business concerns of the Adenuga dynasty if his father wants to anoint a successor. For the less privileged, the lesson here is to use your guts given the opportunities available to you. But to throw such huge money and resources into a wild goose chase — that is if it’s available — like buying a subsidiary of a multinational oil company with little experience and structure is most likely a futile venture. Paddy Adenuga has the latitude to take such risks, but not everyone can follow that model. This isn’t the kind of business motivation over 99% of young people in Nigeria need. There are so many success stories of those that rose from grass to grace that can teach a lot on how to acquire the resilience to navigate the leader of success of the difficult business environment in Nigeria.

Team Member, Core Programmers at Union Bank of Nigeria.