– How he became one of Nigeria’s richest and most powerful men
Mr. Anthony Onyemaechi Elumelu has always been rich. The only addendum is that he’s now richer. Not just richer, but also one of Nigeria’s richest men. Equally very powerful, he only circulates in the big leagues, travelling with President Goodluck Jonathan and even advising him in an unofficial capacity. On the same page with nearly all the people that are controlling Nigeria’s economy, he’s been trapping some business opportunities that catch his fancy. From taking over Transcorp (as chairman) to the Falomo Shopping Complex, Ikoyi, Lagos (where he’s planning to erect a wonder on land) to the emerging energy sector where he’s ready to play big, Elumelu has continued to evolve.
Married to a Awele, a medical doctor and blessed with five daughters (Oge, Ogor, Ugo, Onyinye and Nneka), the dandy wasn’t born into wealth. He actually built his. And from the scratch. From a humble background, in Idumu Ado, Onicha Uku, in Aniocha North LGA of Delta State, TOE was born on March 22, 1963. A 1985 Economics graduate of Bendel State University, he also has a Master’s degree from the University of Lagos.
He began his career in the Operations & Foreign Exchange Department of Union Bank. And was here between 1985 and 1986. He crossed over to All States Trust Bank in 1988, as a Financial Analyst. He rose to become the Head, Energy & Export Unit of the bank in 1989. Then, the Head, Multinational Unit, in 1990. From where he was transferred to Port-Harcourt, Rivers State as a Branch Manager. Between 1992 and 1994, he functioned as the Head, Corporate Banking. And in 1995, he switched over to Linkage Assurance as an Executive Director.
Months later, he moved again to Merchant Bank of Commerce Limited, where he was until 1997 when he shocked the whole world by emerging as the MD/CEO of Standard Trust Bank. A bigger shock was however to follow – when in what has come to be known as one of the biggest board room coups, Elumelu’s STB brought over UBA (United Bank for Africa). He piloted the affairs of UBA very, very well until years back when the CBN policy of not permitting an MD of a bank to stay beyond certain years led to his stepping aside. In love with sleeping and reading autobiographies, leadership and strategy development books, he also cherishes gisting and exercising. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electronics and Michael Dell (of Dell Computers) are two of his models.
The UK-based publishers of African Business Magazine, days back, announced that he had been selected as the winner of the African Business Icon Award.
Now in its sixth year, the awards, which took place on September 20, at the Mandarin Oriental in New York, celebrate the outstanding achievements of businesses and business leaders. Elumelu was praised for his “vision and exemplary achievements” and was commended for his role in ‘Africa’s improved reputation today’. “It’s a great honour to be given the title of ‘Africa’s Icon’ and it is extremely encouraging to be recognized for delivering on a mission for which I am passionate,” said Elumelu, who is Chairman of the proprietary pan-African investment company, Heirs Holdings, and founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation. “This award is a reflection of the hard work and dedication of the group of talented and equally passionate Africapitalists with whom I work. The award recognizes the role we are all playing in creating jobs, driving prosperity and ultimately transforming the lives of ordinary Africans through the investments and philanthropic interventions we are making”. Elumelu also received the Leadership Award in Business and Philanthropy from the Africa-America Institute (AAI) at a gala dinner on September 25 in front of an audience that included, among others, the Presidents of Nigeria, H.E. Goodluck Jonathan, Ghana, H.E. John Dramani Mahama, Tanzania, H.E.Jakaya Kikwete, and H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chair of the African Union Commission. At the high-profile GGI event, Elumelu shared the stage with Bill Gates and at the UN MDG Success Event with Mo Ibrahim and Strive Masiyiwa. He will be the keynote speaker at a Liberian philanthropy event organized by President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson and will participate in a panel discussion on investment at the Havard Club, with the Nigerian Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Aliko Dangote and James Nwangi of Equity Bank. Elumelu equally joined the Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan as one of two private sector leaders asked to ring the bell with the President at the New York Stock Exchange. Talking about his numerous speaking engagements, Elumelu commented: “These platforms provide me with the opportunity to drive the African agenda. I plan to share my thoughts on the more strategic and focused type of philanthropy I believe Africa needs and the work that we do in that field through the Tony Elumelu Foundation. I will also talk about Africapitalism, a private sector-led African development plan which I believe will create economic prosperity and social wealth for all on the continent.”
One of his siblings, Ndudi, is a member of the House of Representatives. The others are Paul, Peter, Henry, Mary, Chiejina, Agatha and Lauretta.