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Cheering news from Tony Elumelu

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Tony O. Elumelu

Sir: Nigeria, the supposed ‘‘Giant of Africa’’ has been in the news lately for the wrong reasons. The never-ending Boko Haram insurgency which started in 2009, mind-boggling corruption where billions of dollars are being frittered away by heartless public servants and their politician accomplices, all manner of internet scams being perpetrated by fraudsters popularly known as yahoo boys, the denial of salaries to some workers which saw the protests by some magistrates in Cross Rivers State over two years unpaid salaries etc. I was very elated when the news broke recently of the acquisition of OML 17 by Heirs Holding and Transcorp through their sister company, TNOG Oil and Gas Limited. The 45 per cent stake in the oil bloc was acquired from Shell, Total, and Eni for the princely sum of $1.1 billion.

This is indeed great news away from the clutter of the negative stereotypes that have tragically come to define the Nigerian state. The oil industry – the goose that lays the golden egg for the nation is dominated by the foreign international oil companies with the indigenous players playing a mere fringe role despite decades of the product being with us.

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Tony Elumelu’s meteoric rise from grass to grace should be the subject of critical study in the world’s top business schools as he greatly represents the can-do mentality and spirit of an average Nigerian entrepreneur. He is a visionary who sees what the Man on the Clapham Omnibus cannot envision and dares to dream in a gargantuan manner.

He performed exceptionally well as a youth corps member and Union Bank offered to retain him. He did the unthinkable by turning down the offer and taking a huge risk in pitching his tent with the now-defunct All States Trust Bank owned by King Ebitimi Banigo. The new generation banks were rather shaky as they had a very high mortality rate. At barely 26 he was the Port Harcourt branch manager of the bank and aggressively expanded it. He convinced a group of investors to invest in his grand idea which led to the formation of Standard Trust Bank in 1997 with his becoming the pioneer Chief Executive Officer at 34.

He later acquired major shares in United Bank for Africa and led the bank to the rebound of profitability within a relatively short space of time.

Always thinking ahead of his time, he launched the Tony Elumelu Foundation with the bold ambition to train 10,000 African entrepreneurs who will in turn create one million jobs and $10 billion worth of wealth in the African continent. We need more economic visionaries like Elumelu to take Africa out of the woods.

Tony Ademiluyi wrote from Lagos.

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