Tony Elumelu, The Enigma

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Tony Elumelu

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

Those words are words on Marble that have remained enduring, since it was made by the renowned Reverend Desmond Tutu.

Without a doubt, the quote aptly mirrors the life of a rare breed whose enduring legacy of giving has continued to transform Nigeria and Africa.

Only very few people in this part of our world who have been fortunate to climb out of our Crab Bucket Syndrome and made immense success, genuinely give back with a deep sense of helping others climb as they have.

One highly selfless man, who has been honoured across the world for his sincere empathy, humanity and deep passion to empower others especially the youth in their entrepreneurial sojourn to achieving their dreams is the Founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation, Heirs Holdings and Chairman of United Bank for Africa; Tony Onyemaechi Elumelu.

His philanthropy, we gather, is imbued with his personal values, and the deep commitment to social justice which could also be seen in the different social and business aspects of his life.

He acknowledged the powerful influence of family example in his own development as a philanthropist, and that ‘he was brought up by his mother to believe that as members of society, we have responsibilities to each other a core value that was drummed into him in his youth, before he attained his present height of success and one which has continued to guide him in his support of humanity.

Evidence of those humanitarian and business instincts coming together can be seen in his passion for Africa’s rapid economic prosperity as he continues to walk the talk.

His firm believe in this vision informed the Tony Elumelu Foundation, that supports 1,000 entrepreneurs yearly and has informed his Africapitalism vision, a term coined by the Nigerian banker and economist – is an economic philosophy that embodies the private sector’s commitment to the economic transformation of Africa through investments that generate both economic prosperity and social wealth which is what he hopes to achieve and is already doing.

With Elumelu’s approach by empowering young entrepreneurs across Africa with seed money every year, the expected outcomes include job creation and economic prosperity, similar to the vision of Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank.

Nigeria and Africa, without any iota of doubts, need more Tony Elumelu’s who can and have the capacity to change the narrative and boldly do so, because indeed our continent is overwhelmed by a plethora of problems including, poverty, insecurity, crime, Infrastructure deficit, and lack of visionary leadership for this reason, most economies in Sub-Saharan Africa continue to move at a snail pace.

And the indices are not encouraging.

Although the poverty rate is falling, it’s not as fast as the population is rising. The number of people living below a dollar a day, in Africa has continued to creep upwards from 358 million in 1996 to 415 million in 2011.

Income inequality joins this long list of challenges. In Nigeria and Kenya for instance, less than 10 percent of the population control nearly 90 % of the wealth.

These and other political concerns have prevented Africa from realising her enormous potential. Over the years, there have been several calls for a roadmap out of this quagmire. But they have been without favourable outcomes.

There have been calls by concerned individuals across the continent for people who want to harvest crops, to first, do the needful i.e plough the ground, because the struggle must clearly include that which is both moral and physical.

“Ultimately success concedes nothing without a demand for it. It never did and it never will.”

Undoubtedly, the future of any nation rests on the younger generation. Hence the legacy passed on, by the preceding generation could make or mar the nation.

Therefore, Investing in the future of the youths is key to redeeming the economy for the collective good.

That is why renowned scholars have continued to reiterate the need for all hands to be on deck, particularly those that are integral to the growth of the Nigerian child; namely schools, parents, religious and private organizations, and the government.

Speaking about African potential, one African that stands tall and whose impact continues to transcend generations as he hearkens to the call of contributing his quota in liberating the continent from the shackles of stagnation through his personal ideology, is our Enigmatic Tony.

Armed with this philosophy, Tony Elumelu continues to traverse the continent with an unwavering commitment that is rare to find and is seeing him gradually change the face of Africa for good by empowering the continent through this laudable initiative.

In his pursuit of these goals across the continent, Elumelu has continued to echo these words, “The future we all want for ourselves is one of our own making.”

His assertion, according to him, is firmly hinged on the fact that economic development, though highly desired, is often out of reach for many countries.

As such, he notes that all stakeholders in the society have important roles to play in ensuring that this desired outcome is achieved.

For a long time, matters pertaining to development have been viewed as the exclusive preserve of government.

“Certainly, the government has important roles to play in facilitating the process of development including the protection of property rights for businesses and individuals, the enforcement of contracts and the rule of law, and finally, the provision of security and other public goods. However, beyond the provision of these basic institutional underpinnings, to be globally competitive, governments must take on other critical responsibilities to ensure economic diversification, industrial development, research & development, human capital development, investment in infrastructure and other critical sectors of the economy.”

But the reality, Elumelu avers is that with the sluggish global growth, it has become increasingly difficult for many governments across the world to meet these responsibilities as they are hard pressed for financial and technical resources.

This is particularly true in Africa and other emerging regions where many countries have been hard hit by the fall in oil and other commodity prices.

Therefore, the need to engage other development actors, particularly the private sector has become more urgent than ever before.

Without any iota of doubt, youths are the greatest assets of a nation.

It would be recalled that Pope John Paul the Second, lent credence to this fact, in one of his messages to the youths of Philippine, when he said that “the youths are the most vital treasure of life.”

It follows therefore, that youths are the most active segment of the society. Imbued with enduring energy and vigor- they are the major catalyst for development in any given society.

As future leaders and key determinants of peace and stability in the society, they are indeed greatly valuable to a future of bliss for Nigeria and the continent.

With this in mind, Elumelu has evidently incorporated this belief into his Africapitalism ideology and has done commendably well too in giving flight to the dreams of many as testimonies abound to any success stories recorded.

He was also recently honoured for the Fight against COVID-19 alongside others, including the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Chairman of Dangote Group, Mr. Aliko Dangote, and some other Nigerians among 40 individuals listed on the Neusroom 100, a global list of 100 people, organisations, countries, and things that are helping the world conquer COVID-19 pandemic.

The donation of a whooping N5bn which is the highest among its peers, according to his bank, UBA, will provide significant and much-needed support to Nigeria and 19 other African countries, by supplying relief materials, critical care facilities, and financial support to Governments.

The UBA support programme the Bank said, will be allocated as follows:

N1 billion (USD2.8 million) to Lagos State Government in NigeriaN500 million (USD1.4 million) to Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, AbujaN1 billion (USD2.8 million) to the remaining 35 states in NigeriaN1.5 billion (USD4.2 million) to UBA’s presence countries in AfricaN1 billion (USD2.8 million) for Medical Centres with equipment and suppliesFree Telemedicine call centre facility

This unprecedented gesture, the pan-African bank said, will also fund a medical centre immediately in Lagos, Nigeria, with beds for isolation and ICU facilities, managed and operated in partnership with Heirs Holdings’ healthcare subsidiary, Avon Medical Hospital.

In addition, UBA is provided a free telemedicine platform, that is physician-led, to provide direct access to medical advice for citizens, in compliance with social distancing requirements.

UBA Group Chairman Tony O. Elumelu, stated “This is a time when we must all play our part.”

This global pandemic must bring citizens, governments and business leaders together – and quickly.

As we see a rapidly increasing number of cases of the coronavirus in Nigeria and Africa, the private sector must work hand in hand with various Governments, in stemming the spread of the global pandemic.

We commend the efforts of governments and we are keen to partner and contribute our resources to the collective effort, that will ensure adequate and effective response to the pandemic is swift and effective’.

This support without a doubt is far reaching and is one that does well to show that Tony Elumelu is indeed one individual with a large heart who stands out in giving hope to humanity even in the darkest of times.

From making investments in critical sectors like agriculture, education, healthcare etc., to enacting quotas to increasing women’s representation on company boards which is what his chain of companies have been doing and continue to do ahead of its contemporaries across all sectors.

The success of the companies within the Elumelu dynasty is clearly planned.

The businessman strongly believes in mapping and executing a strong succession plan.

Very recent appointments he made to lead strategic companies in his fold were people who have excelled in receiving mentorship and exhibiting excellence.

Owen Omogiafo, was recently appointed as President/GCEO of Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc, hospitality. She had received multiple awards and been named as one of Africa’s top 100 Female CEOs.

Dupe Olusola, MD/CEO of Transcorp Hotels Plc, was until now the group head, marketing at United Bank for Africa.

Helen Iwuchukwu, who is the executive director/chief operating officer of Transcorp Hotels Plc, also served as the group company secretary of Transcorp Plc.

Okaima Ohizua, who was appointed as executive director/chief operating officer of Transcorp Power Ltd, was also a part of the company’s fabric.

Another outstanding woman who holds sway as the Group Head of Marketing is Bola Atta, who has done well in bolstering the UBA brand.

She is a seasoned professional par excellence who has helped shore up the banks brand equity, positive perception as well as market share following which the bank now stands tall among the Top 4 banks in the country and Africa today.

“We remain committed to diversity and inclusion; and are delighted by the depth and quality of experience that this leadership team brings to our group. These appointments further indicate our internal succession capacity and strong corporate governance practices.It comes to investments, entrepreneurs do not only need money, they need networks, mentoring and for corporations and the government to buy their services. They are not looking for handouts but hand ups!”

The UBA Chairman was quoted as saying “Let us remind ourselves of the power of individuals and what potent capacities and opportunities lie in this. No one, but us will develop Africa. What matters is the legacy we leave behind.”

In all of this, he has continued to match all his words with action transforming lives and Africa’s economy in the best possible way Africans can fathom.

African leaders and other private sector leaders must jump on this train of growth Tony Elumelu has kick-started as it can all move us to the desired height we crave.

To this end, acknowledging a man who has done so much and is still doing for humanity should be with the loudest ovation possible that aptly appreciates the giant he personifies.

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