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Thursday, June 8, 2023

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Happy Birthday To Sir Tony Elumelu (UBA Group)

Tony Elumelu has his flaws—many of them.

But one thing you cannot change about him is that he is an extraordinary man who changed the outcome of his life on his terms.

Tony arrived Lagos with nothing but his dreams and incredible faith in the almighty God.

He started his career as a salesman with a photography company copier before coming across an All States Job Bank newspaper ad looking for data entry staff.

The advertisement said you must have a 2:1, and while he was not qualified for the advertised criteria because he had a 2:1, being a man of courage and faith, he still applied with the following statement:

“I know I may not have met the qualifying criteria for the advertised roles, but I am intelligent, driven, and ambitious, and I will make the bank proud.” “My 2:2 degree does not demonstrate the full extent of my intelligence and ability, and I know I can do so much more.”

By a stroke of luck, his application was reviewed by the Chairman and CEO, Ebitimi Banigo. He read those words and took a chance on me. Though “unqualified,” he decided to throw me a lifeline and an opportunity by employing young Tony as an entry-level analyst.

In his quiet moments, Tony used to wonder:

M What if the founder had not personally gone through my application? What if my application was rejected at the very beginning? What if I never got the opportunity to work at Allstates Trust Bank?

The story continues: within 12 months at the bank, aged 27, I went from analyst to branch manager—the youngest ever bank branch manager at the time.

He later went on with his friends to acquire a dead bank called Crystal Bank, which was branded Standard Bank of Nigeria and later merged with the present UBA.

From his humble beginnings, Tony is the majority shareholder in UBA and has gone on to own, found, or acquire other businesses that include

Trannscorp Hotel (Lagos, Calabar, and Abuja)

Heir insurance

Transcorp Power (the owners of Afam power stations)

A real estate company

and many others.

Having understood the role that luck played in his life at the early stage of his career, Tony went ahead to democratize access to smart young entrepreneurs by providing $5,000 in seed capital to over 1,000 young entrepreneurs every year as a way of saying thank you to the universe that changed his life when he was not deserving.

He has been consistent in giving out this small grant of $5,000 for the past 10 years.

It was Apotsle Salman who taught about the ministry of honor, and I found that relatable.

This is why I honor Tony Elumelu, not because he is infallible but because a man has done well.

He has changed the outcome of his life and has changed the outcome of other people’s destiny as well because he dared to believe.

His story is the typical Nigerian success story.

“A man who started with nothing but today; he inspires us with his wife.”

One more thing about him is his love for family and his bias for girls, which are values I share as a person.

I have written several times about how he is grooming his daughter, Oge, who will be his first child to take over from him.

It does not matter that Oge is a girl; what matters to him is that she is enough.

“He is a human being and has the competence to be his worthy successor.”

It was MI who sang softly like Tony.

And indeed, man is living a baby boy life, reminding me and my generation that we can live the same soft life if we work hard enough now and then have big ambitions to do big things.

This is the story of Tony Elumelu and why today is an incredibly important day in the African business ecosystem.

Happy birthday to you, sir. Tony Onyemachi Elumelu

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