It’s sixty garlands for the boardroom colossus and corporate generalissimo, Anthony Onyemaechi Elumelu, CFR, born 22 March 1963, the frontline Nigerian economist, and philanthropist who graciously chairs Heirs Holdings, Transcorp and the founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation.
Otherwise known as Tony Elumelu, tributes have continued to pour in torrents, not necessarily because he witnessed his diamond jubilee hale and hearty, but for his remarkable milestones in the global business firmament.
The Maverick was recently hailed by some of the world’s great including; President Muhammadu Buhari, President-elect Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, United States former president Bill Clinton, ex-British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, French President, Emmanuel Macron; Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana; Namibia’s Hage Geingob; President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Felix-Antoine Tshilombo and his Liberian counterpart, George Weah.
Commemorating Elumelu’s 60th birthday, President Muhammadu Buhari was joined by his colleagues across the world recently where global leaders commended the impact of the foremost entrepreneur and Chairman of United Bank for Africa Plc on the African economy.
Clinton, who joined the symposium held in honour of the retired banker in Lagos, via a video call, described Elumelu as one of the most successful Nigerian entrepreneurs, noting that Africa, indeed, has found a true pan-Africanist in him.
Aliko Dangote of Dangote Group, Femi Otedola and Abdul Samad Rabiu also joined the pantheon of corporate titans who had survived the tortuous expedition to greatness like Elumelu to send message and participated in the symposium to extol his virtues and laud audacity exemplified by the sexagenarian.
Elumelu had also relished commendations from international development institution leaders like the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina; Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and President of African Export-Import Bank, Prof. Okey Oramah.
Buhari recalled the Delta State native’s philanthropy, which has seen many struggling Africans emerging as successful entrepreneurs, noting that his contribution to Nigeria’s banking sector has helped to strengthen the economy.
Tinubu described him as “a class above the rest” and hailed his simplicity and generosity, which he said could not be quantified.
“Tony’s business acumen is a gift to Nigeria… I have no doubt that his foundation continues to be one of the factors that contribute to the development of youth potential and businesses across our great nation, Nigeria,” he stated.
Lover of men and great ideas, Elumelu is one of the most influential Nigerians across the globe. Little wonder after the presidential elections, he was the only bank CEO the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu paid a courtesy visit at home.
Excited, he’d recognised the august visit sometime in March; “Last night, I was honoured to receive the Nigerian President-elect at my home. We discussed ways in which the incoming administration must empower and support our immensely talented Nigerian youth. We have so much young potential to unleash!”
From Kenya to Nigeria and The Gambia to Angola, beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s (TEF) yearly entrepreneurship grant gathered in Lagos to share their success stories and the impacts the Nigerian banker is making across the continent.
About 18,000 Africans have benefited from the foundation since its inception, with over $100 million in seed capital disbursed. The foundation said over 400,000 direct jobs have been created with 58 per cent going to females. This largely explains why many Nigerian youths have ceaselessly admonished him to throw his hat into the political ring for a presidential race.
To the teeming youth rooting for Elumelu to become Nigeria’s president, there’s hardly anyone else who understands human capacity development like him. And his inimitable exploits are loud testament to this claim.
Thousands of young adults who have been economically armed against the gruesome grip of poverty through his foundation have also continued to task other African leading capitalists to take a cue from the man who has become a tremendous blessing to the youth in more ways than one.
Elumelu’s success story reads like a fairy tale. Fresh off the mandatory National Youth Service, bubbling with ideas and incredible zest for greatness, he worked at the Union Bank as a Youth Corp member in 1985, before starting his career as a salesman.
Elumelu joined the defunct Allstates Trust Bank at 27 years, and grew to the position of a branch manager in 12 months, the youngest to hold such position, in those days. Alongside other young bankers, he took over the struggling Crystal Bank years after.
Interestingly so, at 34, he’d already become bank’s Chief Executive Officer after rebranding Standard Trust Bank which would later merge with the legacy United Bank for Africa- that was how he pioneered modern Nigeria’s financial system.
One of Nigeria’s most decorated men, Elumelu is a holder of a kitty rich with laurels, some of which include but not limited to:
– Member of the Order of the Federal Republic MFR (2003)
– National Honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger CON (2012)
– Daily Times, Nigerian Man of the Year (2016)
– All-Africa Business Leaders Awards (AABLA) Philanthropist of the Year Award (2018-2019)
– Bayero University Kano (BUK) – Honorary Doctor of Business degree (2019)
– National Productivity Order of Merit Award (2019)
– TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People (2020)
– National honour of Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic, CFR (2022)
Personable to all and even warmer towards other captains of industry capable of challenging him, Tony Elumelu recently welcomed his billionaire friend, Femi Otedola, when the latter made significant investment into Transcorp.
Elumelu, who expressed his delight in welcoming Otedola’s investment into the company was quoted to have said;
“We are thrilled to have Femi Otedola invest in Transcorp…his investment is a testament to the strength of our business and the potential we have to grow and expand in Nigeria and beyond.”
On the other hand, Otedola, whose claim to fame and fortune is in oil and gas industry, has his fingers in other pies including; banking, real estate, and hospitality. He expressed optimism towards the new venture;
“I am excited to invest in Transcorp, a company that has a proven track record of success and a commitment to making a positive impact in Nigeria. I believe that together, we can achieve great things and create value for our shareholders and the Nigerian economy as a whole.”
Only close allies recognise his moniker- The Lion King, a sobriquet earned from identifying his unique strength. He is agile, big, and extremely fast when hunting just like the lion, king of the jungle. Same explains his commitment to staying incredible fit always. A lover of lawn tennis, quality entertainment and a lifestyle connoisseur- Elumelu remains one of the best-dressed CEOs in the world. An ardent supporter of arts and entertainment, through one of his affiliate companies in collaboration with Africa No Filter, recently gave $30,000 grants to 60% females and 40% males to undergo projects ranging from film to visual arts, journalism, and digital content creation.
The Tony Elumelu Storytellers Fund is a CSR initiative of Heirs Insurance Limited and Heirs Life Assurance in partnership with Africa No Filter. The Fund is a standalone initiative, not affiliated with the Tony Elumelu Foundation.
Some of his favourite Nigerian entertainers are the self-styled Afrobeat exponent, Wizkid and the highlife maestro, Flavour.
Effortlessly, Elumelu turns head everywhere he goes. And this isn’t because of his net-worth or influence but the charm in his dress sense. This explains why in one of their songs, Lord Vino and MI Abaga sang about him, referring to him as; “Soft like Tony” and that they want to be like him.
Often adorning a black suit and red tie, Elumelu is unmistakable in the awesomely cut-to-fit suit. With his routine work-out, whenever in a suit, his upper torso fills it out. Known with trouser length that always stops at his ankles and reveals his ‘red’ socks, Elumelu remains a delight to watch for fashion guide even on occasions he chooses to dress down. No Nigerian CEO does it better!
Elumelu works hard and plays even harder. This part of him manifests mostly during the yuletide season where a select guest enjoys an up-close with him at the private UBA Christmas party.
Blessed beyond description, Elumelu isn’t only prolific in business; he’s got seven lovely children with his other half, Awele Vivien Elumelu, a medical doctor, whom he married in 1993.
Elumelu is an avid supporter of women’s cause and has demonstrated this through gender balancing in programmes sponsored by Heirs Holdings and its affiliates.
Just like her husband, Dr. Awele Vivien Elumelu is also a philanthropist committed to providing healthcare support to people. She’s the chairperson of Avon Healthcare.
And if Elumelu is the Lion King, his wife, Vivien, is the Lioness. From medicine to boardroom meetings, philanthropy and the herculean tasks of managing the home-front, she juggles all the roles and appears always unruffled.
CNN International had graciously referenced Elumelu and his wife as Africa’s power couple.