The Secrets of Tony Elumelu’s Success

Buhari and Elumelu

By Femi Adesina

What a delightful week it has been for Mr Tony Elumelu, Chairman of United Bank for Africa (UBA), Heirs Holdings, and the Tony Elumelu Foundation.

Last Monday, he stood tall in Sokoto at the Chief of Army Staff Annual Conference to receive a Recognition Award, handed out by no less a person than President Muhammadu Buhari himself.

Elumelu was recognized alongside Chairman of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Chairman of BUA Group, Alhaji Abdulsamad Rabiu, Founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank, Jim Ovia, Col Hameed Ali, Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service, and Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, a former Chief of Army Staff. All these people had made salutary impact on the Nigerian Army in different ways.

What qualified Elumelu, particularly, through his Foundation? Entrepreneurial and philanthropic activities for our soldiers, both living and dead. He organizes and funds skill acquisition trainings for the army, extending his bowels of mercy to both the living and the dead. The Foundation cares for widows and children of deceased soldiers, and no less than 220 widows have been given succor, without a prompting.

After being trained, each widow is given a start up capital of two thousand dollars, while job opportunities are also given to retired and ex-service personnel in the conglomerate headed by Elumelu. This goes a long way to boost the morale of serving troops.

The next day after Sokoto, what news did we hear again about Elumelu, this worthy son of Nigeria, and of Africa? He had been named one of the winners of TIME 100 Impact Awards for 2022, for his selfless humanitarian activities and support for business upscaling for Africans in Africa. He had in 2020 also been named on TIME’s list of 100 most influential people in the world.

Of course, we know what Elumelu does for youths in Africa, spending millions of dollars annually to empower them for entrepreneurship. At a time people are bringing out smelly currencies from damp and dank places, to avoid the trap of naira redesign deadline, this Chairman of Elumelu Foundation is receiving National and global recognition for making money a servant, rather than a master.

What are the secrets of his success? This master investor with the touch of Midas gave a glimpse in a recent thread on Twitter. He said he is where he is today because of luck, noting: “luck is important but that doesn’t make it a substitute for hard work or labor.”
He added: “hard work and passion are the two most important ingredients for luck.
“I am where I am today because of luck. Let me be clear, luck is important, but it is not a substitute for hard work or labor. Luck is part of the cocktail that you need for success.
“There are two ingredients for luck – hard work and passion. The more work you put into something and the more passion you apply, the ‘luckier’ you find yourself.
You have to work hard and be more passionate and committed about what you do, to be successful and make your own luck.

“Hard work and passion are within your power and control, and you should apply them to earn your own luck and to help us foster a better and more prosperous world.”
Elumelu has successful investments in banking, power, oil and gas, hospitality industry, and many others. Self-effacing and hardly one to throw his weight around, he is a model, an icon for Nigerian and African youths.

In June this year, we were in Kigali, Rwanda, for the 26th edition of Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, and among the many world leaders that President Buhari met privately was Jamaican Prime Minister, Andrew Holness.

Before the bilateral meeting started, Holness disclosed that he had just finished meeting with Tony Elumelu from Nigeria.

And with a chuckle, the Nigerian leader said: “Tony? He’s a restless young man. Quite irrepressible. I see him all over the place.”

That’s our President for you. He does his things quietly, unobtrusively, but he notices everything. He sees people all over the place. He cares for the big, and the small. The billionaire investors, and the start-up farmer. He keeps tabs on everyone under his care, including the Dangotes, the Rabiu Abdulsamads, the Jim Ovias, and the Tony Onyemaechi Elumelus.

*Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity