How much Nigerians truly know about ‘his excellency’, Antonio Deinde Fernandez

Ambassador Chief Antonio Deinde Fernandez, Nigerian billionaire business magnate and diplomat, died in Belgium on Tuesday, September 1, at the age of 79. The cause of his death has been ruled as ‘age-related illness’ by an unnamed source close to his family. According to Ovation Magazine publisher, Mr. Dele Momodu “Nigeria, and indeed Africa, has just lost one of its greatest sons.”

Antonio Deinde Fernandez’s renowned ventures in diplomacy began in as early as 1966 with his appointment as the Consul of the Republic of Dahomey. As a businessman, his company, Petro Inett (registered in France), is focused in the trading of oil and gas, and in mining. With an added interest in real estate, his business deals with different African countries, even though his influence and recognition stretches to Europe and the United States.

While his death is presently being mourned by the country, it simultaneously calls to mind how much Nigerians truly know Fernandez and his life achievements. Popularly referred to as “His Excellency”, Antonio Deinde Fernandez was viewed by Nigerians as a man who valued his privacy but lived life to the fullest. Admiration for him was on a high level.

A 40-page feature done by Ovation Magazine in March of 2013 had a lot of Nigerians talking about him for a while; his net worth, his material possessions, his personal life, his style, and much more. Many Nigerians were endeared to him because of his personality and achievements, even though most never knew him personally. He was admired for being one of the few wealthy men in the country who did not loot national funds or engage in questionable businesses to get where they were.

Like most wealthy men, Fernandez did not spare any expenses when it came to spending. Houses, mansions, towers, and fleets of luxurious cars, amongst other such material purchases both home and abroad, carry his name. He was however not without his fair share of publicly broadcasted ‘personal issues’. In both 1989 and 2003, Fernandez was involved in divorce suits with ex-wives Barbara .J. Fernandez and Aduke Fernandez. Both divorces cost him millions in pounds and dollars.

In the world of business and foreign relations, Ambassador Chief Fernandez proved that it was possible to hold several titles and positions, focus on several businesses together, and still be worth six billion pounds. Again, not even his career was spared from controversy. In May 1999, a scandalous story involving the business tycoon and Nelson Mandela – a well-known acquaintance of his – made the news.

Two cheques with a total of 170, 000 pounds were said to have exchanged hands between the two, involving an oil contract. Accusations of corruption were made against Mandela, as a previous similar issue faced by Fernandez in 1984 was brought up. The entire case was written off as a ploy to taint Nelson Mandela’s image before the South African elections of 1999.

In general, Ambassador Chief Antonio Deinde Fernandez was a true force to be reckoned with in life and an example of an achiever. He will be remembered in death for all the things he did that Nigerians and other nationalities loved and admired him for.

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