by Dele Momodu
I’ve known Dr Tony Elumelu, the Chairman of United Bank of Africa for about two decades. I first noticed his wizardry as the boss of Standard Trust Bank. There was something refreshingly different and elegant about the branches of the bank. I operated an account at their Allen Avenue Branch then and was hooked on their brilliant services. Behind that spectacular performance was a prodigiously gifted CEO who truly knew his onions. Like a true navigator, Elumelu charted his path and followed his course all the way. He faced challenges like all great people but he never looked back. Even when he was maligned regularly by those who hated his guts, he responded with more earth-shaking successes.
I was shocked to my bones one bright afternoon when news reached me that he was bidding for UBA, the third biggest bank in Nigeria at the time. We wondered how a small bank could swallow a bigger one. It was like saying Jonah swallowed the whale instead of the whale swallowing Jonah. The incredible take-over reverberated beyond Nigeria. I was in Accra, Ghana when the big news of the mega deal landed thunderously. Elumelu soon invaded other African countries and sought to conquer the world. Before our very eyes, he realised his dreams.
As at today, his exploits have led to his foray into about 20 countries, thus creating a global enterprise. He has extended his fingers into many more pies in different fields of human endeavours, including power, oil and gas, and so on. His economic philosophy and concept of Africapitalism have been hailed as one of the most original thoughts in modern times in Africa since Kwame Nkrumah and Nwalimu Julius Nyerere. He has backed his words with action, establishing The Tony Elumelu Foundation and setting aside a stupendous sum of US$100 million over a period of ten years to raise new sets of entrepreneurs in every part of Africa.
Now, not everyone achieves his dreams in life. And not all those who make it in life remember their fellow humans. I knew Elumelu as a man with Midas touch but didn’t know of his kind heart until we approached him in 2007 to get UBA to support the first-ever Ovation Red Carol. Once he read our proposal and found that we were planning to give something back to a society that has given us so much, he approved without much ado. I see the excitement on his face every time he attends our events. At the 2007 edition, he approved the next one right from inside the venue. Elumelu loves anything that would help empower mankind and Africans in particular.
Today, he’s empowering thousands of African youths to find their bearings in life. He’s teaching them to fish instead of giving them fish to eat. He has surpassed the expectations of every one by his large out. All I can offer him and his family are my prayers and tributes such as this to encourage to march on in a world where good deeds are often misconstrued.
I truly doff my cap to this unstoppable, caring genius … May his tribes increase…
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