One of Nigeria’s most flamboyant multibillionaires and diplomats, Chief Antonio Oladeinde Fernandez, is dead.
He died on Tuesday in Brussels, Belgium, at the age of 79 from what a source close to his family described as an age-related illness.
The source said he spoke to Fernandez last week and could tell from his breathing that he was very ill, but did not expect that he would die so soon after his conversation with the Lagos-born chief with royal roots.
Fernandez made his mark as a businessman early in life from mining. His business interests cut across oil and gas in Angola and extensive real estate spanning Nigeria, France, the United States, United Kingdom and Belgium.
He was said to own an Island in New York City, a chateau once said to have belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte in France, and a Grade A listed home in Edinburgh.
In addition to being a businessman, he was a renowned diplomat, variously serving as Ambassador Plenipotentiary to a number of countries in Africa.
In 1982 he was an adviser to the Angolan Government on Economic Matters. He held the position of an adviser for two years until his appointment as Deputy Permanent Representative of Mozambique to the United Nations in 1984.
According to Wikipedia, in 1992, he was appointed Special Adviser to the President of Mozambique on International Economic Matters, a position he held for three years.
Before his death, he was also the Permanent Representative of the Central African Republic (CAR) to the United Nations (UN).
Privately, his lifestyle was as colourful as his love for the beautiful things of life, and was once married to late Mrs. Aduke Fernandez, whom he divorced in July 2003 following a £300 million divorce suit in Scotland filled on July 1, 2003, by her counsel. The divorce suit was considered one of the most expensive at the time.
Lord Justice Brodie presided over the case. He was asked by Aduke, through her counsel, Charles Macnair (QC), to compel Fernandez to pay her a huge sum of £5 million and an allowance of £75,000 monthly for three years but the case was dismissed by the court. She died in 2013. He married Halima in 2003.
But he would be most remembered for his public spat with the Erelu Kuti of Lagos, Abiola Dosunmu, a princess of Lagos and a well-known socialite, who claimed that she was married to him, a claim he vehemently denied through a series of advertisements in the local newspapers. In the adverts, he asked her to stop using his surname.
Though his family traces its roots to Brazil and the first European migrants to Lagos, Fernandez was also related to the current Oba of Lagos, Alhaji Rilwan Akiolu, as both of them are from the Olumegbon ruling House.
Fernandez was the father of Ms. Teju Phillps, a former commissioner in Lagos State; Ms. Antoinette Oyinkansola Fernandez, from his relationship with Erelu Dosunmu, and Abimbola Fernandez, a Nigerian musician and model for Vivienne Westwood during Edinburgh Fashion Week.