By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU
We count by changes and events within us. Not by years. -Charles Dickens
It is difficult to describe Mr. Tony Elumelu who turned 58 last week. The difficulty with the description is precisely because he is a man of many parts; and the ease with which he glides through the banking and business world has put him in a class of his own.
Charles Dicken says what matters is the chain of events and change wrought by an individual and not age.
For Elumelu, this could not have been truer for he conquered a chunk of his dream very early in life; and for many in this part of the world, 58 is just an active struggling midlife but for Tony he has achieved a large chunk of his dream; having built a banking empire and a chain of businesses that have had positive impact on many lives, even beyond the shores of the country.
For measure, Elumelu does not come across as a superman in the ordinary run of life, it happens that he is possessed of grand vision and a larger than life determination to make a volcanic impact that can touch lives.
When he speaks his tone and pitch belies a steely determination to build a banking empire from the rubbles that the United Bank of Africa, UBA was before merger with Standard Trust – to become a behemoth that UBA has become today.
Calm, soft-spoken, and genial with a poise that can be disarming, yet this is façade, for beyond this surface is an incredibly sharp wit, intelligence that make him a resolute strategist and a much focused playmaker.
Without fear of contradiction, Elumelu has become a sort of colossal achiever that the global community cannot ignore.
He has over the years built for himself a fast-rising reputation as one of Africas leading investors and philanthropists that cannot be disputed.
The founder and Chairman of Heirs Holdings, his family- owned investment company that has since branched out to establish a firm foothold across the continent, first came into reckoning when he led a team of young Turks to take up the commanding heights at Standard Trust Bank, STB.
With a very structured market focus and a daring zeal to rise to the top, Team Elumelu was also well-positioned to take up the very significant step of taking over the leadership pie at the United Bank for Africa, UBA when the opportunity presented itself.
With much aplomb, he helped lead the bigger institution into becoming a giant of banking, as he worked hard to drive a strong brand plank to help UBA glide over the challenge of banking sector consolidation and then position it as the pan-African bank.
Across two decades of working at it, the bank is now firmly established in over one third of the nations of Africa.
A sturdy pan-African financial services group, the United Bank for Africa (UBA), now operates in 20 countries in Africa, the United Kingdom and France. It is also the only African bank with a commercial deposit taking presence in the United States.
Today, UBA provides corporate, commercial, SME and consumer banking services to more than 21 million customers globally across a variety of physical and electronic platforms.
When he eventually left the UBA management, the bank has become one of the big five financial institution with a solid institutional capacity.
He left as managing director of the bank due to new regulations from Central Bank that banks managing directors should not stay beyond 10 years in the saddle. Elumelu thereafter moved upstairs to the Chairmans suite. In his new role as Chairman of UBA, Tony has continued to vigorously drive the banks forays across multiple markets.
As a restless spirit that cannot be held down under any circumstance, Elumelu used the opportunity of his standing down as MD/CEO of UBA as a challenge to explore new and perhaps even bigger frontiers. Indeed, since Tony Elumelu left UBA MD he has not rested.
And one of his engagements has had to do with the Nigerias largest quoted conglomerate, the planned chaebol, Transcorp Plc. Under his leadership, Transcorp whose subsidiaries include Transcorp Power, one of the largest generators of electricity in Nigeria and Transcorp Hotels Plc., Nigerias foremost hospitality brand has continued to drive for market advantage.
Dr. Olufemi Omoyele said ,” Elumelu is a gift to the banking world and a man with larger than life empathy for young entrepreneurs.”
Indeed this much can be attested to in his quite daring push in recent times to take on the grand jewel of the Nigerian economy: hydrocarbons exploration through his operating as the Founder and Chairman of Trans-Niger Oil & Gas Limited (TNOG), an upstream oil and gas company that is committed to creating resource based added value on the African continent.
Taking to his twitter handle to announce the stride, Elumelu had announced: Im thrilled to announce the $1.1 billion transaction by @Heirs Holdings on the acquisition of a 45% participating interest in Nigerian oil licence OML17,& related assets, from Shell, Total & ENI through TNOG Oil and Gas (@heirsoilandgas). TNOG is also the sole operator of OML
17.Industry sources say OML17 may very well contain a whooping 2P reserves of 1.3 billion barrels of oil equivalent.
Over the years, he has shown uncommon commitment to improving lives and transforming his African continent, not just through long-term investments in strategic sectors of the African economy including financial services, hospitality, power, energy, technology and healthcare, he also most actively engaged in mentorship schemes to raise even more African entrepreneurs and help them stand.
Along this line, Elumelu is a most prominent champion of entrepreneurship in Africa who has in the past decade of founding and running The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), helped to empower over 9000 young African entrepreneurs across 54 African nations while his TEFConnect online platform has equally impacted about a million Africans.
This has come alongside his championing an Africapitalism philosophical model to help catalyse economic growth, drive poverty eradication and enhance job creation in a continent where the median age is in the neighbourhood of 20.
He was born 22 March 1963 in Delta State of Nigeria.
His biographical sketch reads like A-list. He hails from Onicha-Ukwu in Aniocha North Local government area of Delta state Nigeria. He has two degrees in economics from Nigerian universities, a bachelor’s degree from Ambrose Alli University and a Master of Science degree from the University of Lagos.
Elumelu married Awele Vivien Elumelu, a medical doctor, in 1993, and they have seven children together. He has four siblings, one of whom is Ndudi Elumelu, a member of the Nigerian Federal House of Representatives.
Elumelu started his career in Union Bank as a Youth Corp member of the National Youth Service Corps in 1985. In his early career, he acquired Standard Trust Bank in 2005 and United Bank for Africa (UBA) was acquired afterwards.
Following his retirement from UBA in 2010, he founded Heirs Holdings, which invests in the financial services, energy, real estate and hospitality, agribusiness, and healthcare sectors. In the same year, he established the Tony Elumelu Foundation, an Africa-based and African- funded philanthropic organisation.
He serves as an advisor to the USAID’s Private Capital Group for Africa (PCGA) Partners Forum. He sits on the Nigerian President’s Agricultural Transformation Implementation Council (ATIC). He is also vice-chairman of the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria (NCCN) whose formation he was a key driver in, and serves as Co- Chair of the Aspen Institute Dialogue Series on Global Food Security.
He additionally chairs the Ministerial Committee to establish world-class hospitals and diagnostic centres
across Nigeria, at the invitation of the Federal Government and the Presidential Jobs Board, engineered to create 3 million jobs in one year.  He also serves as a member of the Global Advisory Board of the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4ALL) and USAID’s Private Capital Group for Africa Partners Forum.
He was one of the co-chairs of the 26th World Economic Forum on Africa in Kigali, Rwanda, from 11 to 13 May 2016. He was named in TIME 100 most influential people in the world.
Following his retirement from United Bank for Africa in July 2010, Elumelu founded TheTony Elumelu Foundation.
In 2003, the Federal Government of Nigeria granted Elumelu the title of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR), a national honour. In 2006, he won the African Business Leader of The Year award conferred by the United Kingdom-based magazine, Africa Investor.
In 2009, the Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar’adua asked him to serve on the Presidential Committee on the Global Financial Crisis. In 2012, he was awarded the National Honour of Commander of Order of the Niger, CON.
At the 5th edition of the annual Economic Forum of the Ivorian National Council of Employers, CGECI Academy, (CGECI) in Abidjan in April 2016, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Also, in 2016, he was awarded the ‘daily times, Nigerian man of the year.’ in 2020, TIME Magazine named him one of Africa’s leading investors and philanthropists, in the 2020 TIME100, the annual list of the 100 most influential people.