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Tony Elumelu: 60 Diamond Garlands for Africa’s Symbol of Enterprise



By Eric Elezuo
On March 22, 2023, an enigma celebrated another year of positive impact on the surface of the earth. He is Tony Onyemachi Elumelu, the influential name associated with the great United Bank for Africa, Tony Elumelu Foundation and Heirs Holdings Limited. Here is a man who will never cease to create firsts. That is what he was created to do, and has never disappointed. As such, his accolades resonate not just in the Africa sub-regions, but across the globe.
Vintage Tony Elumelu is the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, the United Bank for Africa, Transcorp and founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation. A Nigerian national honours holder, the Commander of the Order of Nigeria (CON), and Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR). It is worth noting that Tony has successfully held various editions of his annual Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurial Forum with not less than 54 African countries participating each time.
Adding another glorious feather to his retinue of feathers, Elumelu and his team of dedicated achievers, also operate new group insurance companies, namely Heirs Insurance and Heirs Life.
For a man, whose only concern is affecting humanity, it is not surprising that encomiums trail every of his step. In faraway Belgium on November 15, 2020, the man many referred to as chairman of chairmen was conferred with Belgium’s oldest and most important national honour titled: “The honorary distinction of Officer in the Order of Leopold.”
The award is said to be in recognition of his commitment to the eradication of poverty and the economic empowerment of young Africans. That’s vintage Tony, and it is no wonder he has been able to coin a new lexicon in the dictionary of entrepreneurial intelligence; Africapitalism!

“…the Kingdom of Belgium conferred on me with the honorary distinction of Officer in the Order of Leopold, the country’s oldest and most important National Honour.

“I am humbled by this recognition of the work @TonyElumeluFDN in catalysing entrepreneurs across Africa and will continue to drive the economic empowerment of our brilliant young #Africanentrepreneurs to propel development in Africa,” the distinguished entrepreneur had reported.

In commemoration of of his diamond jubilee event, a symposium was held in his honour at the Tony Elumelu Amphitheatre in UBA House.

The symposium tagged ’60 for 60’ was attended by 60 young beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme, friends and colleagues.

Born Tony Onyemaechi Elumelu on March 22, 1963, in Jos, Nigeria, the economist by training, visionary entrepreneur and philanthropist, acquired and turned Standard Trust Bank into a top-five player in Nigeria. In 2005, his corporate reputation as an African business leader was sealed when he led the largest merger in the banking sector in Sub-Saharan Africa to acquire United Bank for Africa (UBA). In five years, he transformed it from a single-country bank to a pan-African institution with over seven million customers in nineteen African countries.
In 2011, New African magazine listed him as one of the 100 most influential people in Africa, and a year later (2012), he was recognised as one of “Africa’s 20 Most Powerful People” by Forbes Magazine.
Following his retirement from UBA in 2010, Elumelu 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 dedicated to the promotion of excellence in business leadership and entrepreneurship, and to enhancing the competitiveness of the private sector across Africa.
His stated objective at the formation of Tony Elumelu Foundation was to “prove that the African private sector can itself be the primary generator of economic development.” The Foundation is charged with the mission of driving Africa’s economic development by enhancing the competitiveness of the African private sector. As a premier pan-African-focused not-for-profit institution, the Tony Elumelu Foundation is dedicated to the promotion and celebration of entrepreneurship and excellence in business leadership across the continent, with initiatives like The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP)
In a bid to expand his conglomerate as well as his business horizon, in 2011, through Heirs Holdings, he acquired a controlling interest in the Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc (Transcorp), a publicly quoted conglomerate that has business interests in the agribusiness, energy, and hospitality sectors. Elumelu was subsequently appointed chairman of the corporation.
His enterprise is not limited to self financed enterprises as he serves as an advisor to the USAID’s Private Capital Group for Africa (PCGA) Partners Forum. He also 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.
Elumelu 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.
One will not be wrong to address him as a philosopher as well as he is the originator of the term Africapitalism. According to him, Africapitalism is an economic philosophy that embodies the private sector’s commitment to the economic transformation of Africa through long-term investments that create both economic prosperity and social wealth. Elumelu sees Africans taking charge of the value-adding sectors and ensuring that those value-added processes happen in Africa, not through nationalisation or government policies, but because there is a generation of private sector entrepreneurs who have the vision, the tools and the opportunity to shape the destiny of the continent. He insists that Africapitalism is not capitalism with an African twist; it is a rallying cry for empowering the private sector to drive Africa’s economic and social growth.
Having studied under Professor Porter at Harvard Business School, Elumelu subscribes to Michael Porter’s concept of Creating Shared Value (CSV). Professor Porter is the Founding Patron of The Tony Elumelu Foundation. In the same vein, CSV refers to the idea that “companies must take the lead in bringing business and society back together.” It asserts that “businesses acting as businesses, not as charitable donors, are the most powerful force for addressing the pressing issues (society) face(s).”
In 2003, the Federal Government of Nigeria granted Tony Elumelu the title of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR), a national honour, and in 2006, he was voted African Business Leader of The Year by the Africa Investor magazine and was also recognised as  African Banker of the Year in 2008 by the African Banker magazine. In 2009, the Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar’adua honoured him with a place on the Presidential Committee on the Global Financial Crisis.
In 2012, he was awarded the prestigious National Honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) for his service in promoting private enterprise. Apart from being recognised as one of “Africa’s 20 Most Powerful People in 2012” by Forbes Magazine as well as being featured in the New African Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential Africans in Business”. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Science degree from the Benue State University and an honorary Doctorate of Business Administration from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
In 2013, Elumelu received the Leadership Award in Business and Philanthropy from the Africa-America Institute (AAI) Awards. He was also named African Business Icon at the 2013 African Business Awards.
In addition, ESI-Africa, frequently described as “Africa’s power journal”, named Elumelu in its 2015 ‘ESI Most Influential Figures in African Power’ list, in January 2015.
Elumelu is not just a financial wizard; he also writes as well as provides incredible inspiration to writers. Some works that involves him include: How to Excel at Work – Proven strategies for achieving superior work performance by Bili A. Odum – a book inspired by Elumelu’s work ethics.
Elumelu has contributed to the Nigeria Leadership Initiative White Papers, writing on Leveraging private sector approaches in transforming government delivery.
The Power of Vision: Insights on Tony Elumelu is a testimonial compiled on the occasion of his retirement as Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer at the United Bank for Africa. It contains messages from Aliko Dangote, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Professor Michael Porter, former World Bank managing director and Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, President of Sierra Leone; Ernest Bai Koroma, former United States Comptroller of the Currency, Eugene Ludwig and Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
He has written about his philosophy and the economic development of Africa for several publications around the world including The Economist, the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times.
The TOE Way: A handbook that offers insights into Elumelu’s philosophies, business practices, values and secrets of success, written by the man himself.
Tony Elumelu is happily married to Awele Vivian Elumelu, who he married in 1993, and they are blessed with five wonderful girls; Nneka, Ugo, Ogor, Oge and Onyinye.
It will not be worthwhile to end this article without stating the humble philanthropist’s one of most important quotes:
“Everything I have today is because of Africa, I was born here, went to school here, I work here and I’m achieving some level of financial comfort here.”
Sir, for your steadfastness in business and transformation of lives as well as unleashing the Midas magic to anything you are involved in or touched, you deserve once again to be celebrated.
Congratulations sir and happy 60th birthday!

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Boss Of The Week

Tingo Founder, Dozy Mmobuosi, Revels with New ‘Okpala’ Title




By Eric Elezuo
The Founder and co- Chief Executive Officer, Tingo Group, Mr. Dozy Mmobuosi, has added another feather to his ever flourishing cap. The multi-billionaire businessman and industrialist, was during the weekend conferred with a new title; the Okpala of his immediate community, Onicha-Ugbo, in Delta State.The brief ceremony was conducted by the paramount ruler of Onicha-Ugbo, His Majesty, Obi Victor Chukwumalieze I JP, the Agbogidi of Onicha Ugbo, in a private ceremony in his palace.

According to HRM, the conferment of the title, which bestows the favours of the elder brother status on the businessman, is a response to all the developments Mmobuosi has brought to the community, and continues to bring.

“We acknowledge all the impacts you have made in our community, and community to make, and we are very proud. This title of Okpala is a confirmation of your elder brother status to this community.

“It shall be well with you in the morning; it shall be well with you in the afternoon; it shall be well with you in the evening. Whatever you lay your hands on with continue to prosper for the good of this community, and mankind in general in general,” the paramount ruler pronounced.

It will be recalled that Mmobuosi has gone to the community on a Special Media Tour to Tingo Foods and Processing Facility located in Onicha-Ugbo, Delta State.

Dr. Dozy Mmobuosi was accompanied on the trip by the Deputy Governor of Edo State, Hon. Philip Shaibu, National President, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Dr. Farouk Rabi’u Mudi; CEO, Tingo Media, Mr. Ebuwa Martins Agbonwaneten, and Actor and Comedian, AY, among others.

Dozy Mmobuosi, is not just a businessman, he is an accomplished tech entrepreneur, and a seasoned advocate for technological advancement in Africa.Above all, he is the founder and former CEO of Tingo Inc.

Dozy Mmobuosi was born on the April 7, 1979, in Lagos. He had his higher education at Ambrose Alli University in Ekpoma, Edo State, after a meritorious primary and secondary education, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science.

The billionaire businessman, concerned with capturing the golden fleece through education, stretched his academic journey, obtaining a Master of Science degree in Economics, also from the Ambrose Alli University.

In 2007, he was reputed to have obtained a doctorate in Rural Advancement from the Universiti Putra Malaysia.

In March 2022, Mmobuosi successfully completed the Advanced Management and Leadership Programme at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, demonstrating his commitment to further enhancing his skills and knowledge in the field.

Concerned with welfare oriented ventures, Mmobuosi, in 2001, founded Tingo Mobile to provide mobile technology and Fintech solutions to rural communities in Nigeria. In 2015, Mmobuosi founded Tingo Inc., a publicly traded company on the OTC Markets Group.

Again, in January 2019, he launched Nwassa, a digital Agri-Marketplace that is Africa’s first agricultural technology and digital platform. Mmobuosi’s investment in rural development has continued to attract accolades, making a force to reckon with in Nigeria’s tech Innovation. 

Not done with affecting the lives of people, he, in December 2022, unveiled the Dozy Mmobuosi Leadership Centre (DMLC), housed in Oxford, United Kingdom, with the aim of developing African leaders skills to help them transform their private and public sector services. In February 2023, it was reported that Mmobuosi was close to completing a £90 million takeover of English football club Sheffield United, but Mmobuosi later discontinued his bid and was planning to set up a new football club in Lagos called Club 1472. Amid his attempted Sheffield United takeover, it was reported that Mmobuosi had been sued in the US and UK over unpaid debts; in a $300,000 Connecticut lawsuit, Mmobuosi was sued by a Tingo Mobile executives for failing to pay wages for at least half a year’s work; in February 2022, a UK court ordered Tingo International Holdings Inc. to pay a UK property firm £87,000 ($105,000) in unpaid rent for a home he used as his private residence in Radlett near London.

In June 2023, NASDAQ-listed shares in Tingo Group plunged in value after a report from short seller Hindenburg Research said the company was an “exceptionally obvious scam”. The company denied the Hindenburg report claims, which it said contained “errors of fact” and “misleading and libellous content”, and appointed lawyers White & Case to review the report’s claims.

In November 2023, dealing in Tingo and Agri-Fintech Holdings shares was suspended by the SEC over concerns about the accuracy of information about the companies. Almost three months later, Tingo Group declared itself innocent of Hindenburg’s allegations based on an investigation by its own outside counsel “and further investigative work of its own”.

On 18 September 2023, Tingo Group appointed Mmobuosi and Kenneth Denos interim Co-CEOs.

On 13 November 2023, the US Securities and Exchange Commission halted trading in Tingo Group shares and those of related entity Agri-Fintech Securities after finding inaccuracies in their disclosures. The SEC asserted there were “questions and concerns regarding the adequacy and accuracy of publicly available information in the marketplace … since at least May 10, 2022, about the financial statements and business operations of Tingo Group and its wholly-owned subsidiaries, including Tingo Mobile Ltd,” and “since at least February 9, 2023, about the financial statements and business operations of its wholly-owned subsidiary, Tingo Foods PLC.”

While the SEC suspension of shares expired in late November, Nasdaq chose to keep trading of Tingo securities halted pending a review of provided information. Tingo shares traded as high as $5.45 in May, before the Hindenburg report, then slumped to $0.69 prior to suspension. Notwithstanding, the strength of entrepreneurship, and experience in the field has sustained the 45 year old entrepreneur as he continues to dig into the intricate factors that make life livable for the average Nigerian. 

Tingo, in the short response to the SEC said: 

“Mr. Mmobuosi wishes to make it unequivocally clear that these allegations are baseless and he will contest them with unwavering resolve. As this matter is currently under legal scrutiny, and following the advice of legal counsel, Mr. Mmobuosi will refrain from making any further public statements regarding this issue.

“It is Mr. Mmobuosi’s intention to address and resolve these allegations within the appropriate legal framework. He is committed to cooperating with the legal process to ensure a thorough and fair examination of the facts, which he believes will ultimately lead to his exoneration.

“We appreciate the understanding of the media and the public during this time and request respect for the legal process and the principles of justice.”

Mmobuosi has remained a member of the crop of young Nigerians making a difference in the new dispensation. His intention to buy English Premier League side, Sheffield United, has lent credence to his ever increasing profile.

He is married to his beautiful wife, Oluwatosin, and they are blessed with three adorable children.

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Boss Of The Week

With Love from Senegal: Billionaire Industrialist, Aliko Dangote Bags Country’s Highest Honour




By Eric Elezuo

In recognition and appreciation of the services that billionaire businessman and industrialist, Aliko Dangote, had rendered to the Republic of Senegal as well as a tribute to his business acumen, philanthropy, and developmental projects, which are capable of transforming Africa as a whole, the President of Senegal, Macky Sall, on behalf of the government and people of Senegal, has bestowed the country’s highest honour due a civilian on the President/CEO, Dangote Group.

Dangote, at an elaborate ceremony on Friday, was conferred with the prestigious award of the National Order of the Lion by President Macky Sall of the Republic of Senegal.

According to statement earlier issued on Thursday, the National Order of the Lion Award is the highest civilian laurel to be bestowed on any individual in Senegal, and it will be recalled that the Dangote Group has a Cement Plant in Pout, Senegal, from where it positively affects the Senegalese people and economy.

The National Order of the Lion is an Order from Senegal instituted on October 22, 1960, and awarded for both civil and military distinguished contributions. It is one of the two Senegalese National Orders – the other one being the Order of Merit.

Dangote is not new to receiving high honours in countries. He was also recently conferred with the Commander of the Order of Merit of Niger award by Mohamed Bazoum, the then President of the Republic of Niger, in Niamey.

Also, Dangote bagged Nigeria’s second highest national honour, Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON), after the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic. The GCFR is an award reserved only for Nigerian Presidents and Heads of State. But Dangote became one of the first individuals outside government to receive GCON national honor. The GCON honour has only been awarded to Vice-Presidents, Chief Justices of the country, and Senate Presidents.

Consequently, encomiums have continued to pour out for the man of means, whose singular effort has created thousands of jobs for Africans across the continent.

Among the early callers to celebrate with Dangote on the lofty height is President Bola Tinubu, who rejoiced with the A-list entrepreneur.

President Tinubu, according to a release issued by his Media Adviser, Ajuri Ngelale, hailed the industrialist for his enterprise and ingenuity.

He praised Dangote for creating jobs and opportunities for many in Nigeria and across West Africa, as well as contributing to their economies, which he said the award further affirms. Tinubu further commended Dangote and wished him the very best in his various other endeavours.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Abbas Tajudeen, also felicitated with the President, Dangote Group.on the latest achievement. 

Abbas noted that the Senegal’s highest national honour bestowed on Dangote was a testimony of his attributes as a worthy business ambassador of not just Nigeria but the entire African continent.

“The recognition showed Senegal’s appreciation of the fact that Alhaji Aliko Dangote is not just a business mogul but an outstanding industrialist with a far-reaching impact both within and outside his country of origin, Nigeria.

“I applaud Alhaji Aliko Dangote for his industry, enterprise and commitment to creating jobs and economic opportunities for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria and across Africa, as well as contributing to their economies, which this honour further affirms.

“These impacts have provided the needed shock absorbers for individuals and families as a buffer complementing socioeconomic drive of governments in the subregion,” the Speaker said.

Abbas further noted that “I, therefore, congratulate Alhaji Dangote for this honour and recognition, and wish him the very best in his endeavours.”

The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu, was not left out in the avalanche of felicitations trailing the honour.

Kalu, who admitted that the honour is awarded to certain individuals in recognition of their outstanding feats and contributions to Senegalese national development, noted in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Levinus Nwabughiogu, that the conferment of the country’s highest national award on Dangote was a testament to his industrial spirit and entrepreneurial sagacity.

Describing Dangote as Africa’s foremost industrialist, Hon. Kalu lauded his commitment to job creation and employments beyond the shores of Nigeria, stressing that the entrepreneur has through his largest industrial conglomerate in West Africa contributed immensely to the economic growth and development of many countries.

“The award was deserving,” Kalu noted.

The Deputy Speaker who also recalled Dangote’s contributions during the unveiling of Peace In South East Project (PISE-P) in December, 2023, applauded the patriotic spirit of the businessman, urging him not to be weary in his philanthropic gestures.


For the President of the Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, and his multifaceted group, playing second fiddle has never been an option. Both the enterprise and the entrepreneur have maintained market leadership to the extent that Dangote himself has appropriated the richest man in Africa status to himself, and has hardworkingly sustained the tag for as long as anyone can remember.

Since 2014, when Forbes magazine named him the world’s 23rd billionaire, jumping 20 spots on the scale from his previous 43rd position among the elite club of the world’s richest people, Dangote has not looked back, winning back to back the accolade among African billionaires, and never slipping from the world ranking, except for a few weeks, when a South African billionaire in the second place, made an attempt.

Dangote is a businessman, who understands that no man rest on his oars if turnovers have to continue to turn over. With marked differentiation, he has demystified the business terrain, and proved that if it can be done, then it must done. His establishment of the humongous fertilizer and sugar plants and the ambitious refinery in Lekki, Lagos, Nigeria, are testimonies of the trajectory of one who knows his onions.

Worth $19.8 by the last Forbes ranking, which sustained him as the richest man in African, the entrepreneur extraordinaire  has the following to his name:

  • Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest person, founded and chairs Dangote Cement, the continent’s largest cement producer.
  • He owns 85% of publicly-traded Dangote Cement through a holding company.
  • Dangote Cement has the capacity to produce 48.6 million metric tons annually and has operations in 10 countries across Africa.
  • After many years in development, Dangote’s fertilizer plant in Nigeria began operations in mid-2021.
  • Dangote Refinery has been under construction since 2016 and is expected to be one of the world’s largest oil refineries once complete.

The above and many has remained the factors that have made it easy for the billionaire to remain in the top echelon of world’s money men, and the supremo among African businessmen. Like wonder, he is one of the few recipients of the GCON national honours reserved for top politicians of vice president ranking and top government appointees. He has never been any of the above.

In 2021 when his 3.0 million metric tonnes of Urea per annum Dangote Fertiliser Plant, sited at the Dangote Industries Free Zone, Ibeju Lekki, was commissioned. During his speech, at The Fertiliser Complex, which occupies 500 hectares, and built at a cost of $2.5 Billion, Dangote said in part:

“…Our goal is to make fertiliser available in sufficient quantities and quality for our teeming farmers assuring greater agricultural output. To help realise this potential, we are rolling out initiatives that will transform the agricultural sector, including extension services for small and medium scale farmers. We have also established well-equipped soil-testing laboratories to ensure that the appropriate fertiliser blends are applied to specific soil and/or crop types. This will boost productivity, enhancing output across the Nation.

“Dangote Fertiliser will partner with key stakeholders in the industry, including Farmer Associations, NPK Blenders, NGO/Development Partners and State Governments across Nigeria, who are committed to a sustainable approach to improving soil quality and farm yields.

“Our continuous efforts to innovate, create value and invest in Nigeria are borne out of our firm belief in the vast economic potential of our dear country. This has also informed our desire to continue with our investment strategy, with a focus on driving import substitution, ensuring that we increase local production to achieve self-sufficiency, and even export excess production.”

He proved that his entrepreneurial skills are not just geared towards uplifting him as a person, but to create an enabling environment for the Nigeria youth and child to grow and develop in an environment he can proudly co-own. His vision is practically for the greater good of the world, and Nigeria in particular.

Born in Kano in 1957, Dangote proudly shuttles between three wonderful tags as the richest man in Nigeria; the richest man in Africa and the richest Black man in the world. He has paid his dues, and mankind is the better for it.

Releasing impacts, Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF), the private charitable foundation of Alhaji Aliko Dangote. Incorporated in 1994, as Dangote Foundation, is saddled with the mission to enhance opportunities for social change through strategic investments that improve health and wellbeing, promote quality education, and broaden economic empowerment opportunities. 20 years later, the Foundation has become the largest private Foundation in sub-Saharan Africa, with the largest endowment by a single African donor.

The primary focus of ADF is child nutrition, with wraparound interventions centered on health, education and empowerment, and disaster relief. The Foundation also supports stand-alone projects with the potential for significant social impact.

The Foundation works with state and national governments and many highly reputable international and domestic charities, non-governmental organizations and international agencies to advance its humanitarian agenda.

In one of its biggest collaboration to date, Aliko Dangote Foundation started working in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and key northern State Governments in Nigeria from 2013 to eradicate polio and strengthen routine immunization in Nigeria.

Worthy of praise is the fact that nearly a decade, the Foundation has spent over N7 Billion in the course of feeding, clothing and the general welfare of the Internally Displaced Persons in the Northeast.

To make his host communities feel at ease, and the impact of his presence, Dangote embarked on an initiative to provide further support to improving educational systems in Ibeju-Lekki and Epe locality. The educational support initiative is a tripartite programme consisting of scholarship, capacity building for teachers and school infrastructure projects.

Additionally, Scholarships were awarded to 52 secondary school students whilst some financial support was provided to their parents and/or guardians. Tertiary students will be included in the next batch of the scheme.

Furthermore, about 100 teachers, principals and school administrators were trained in teaching techniques for the 21st century. After which they were monitored in class on how they were using the skills acquired.

There is hardly any sector that has not felt the milk of human kindness running through Aliko Dangote; the military, media, politicians, governments across boards and more.

Dangote is surely an asset to this world!

As at today, there is no space for slowing down for Dangote as he continues to trudge on, creating firsts after first for himself and for humanity. He is blessed with three wonderful daughters, who have followed the rewarding footprints of entrepreneurship.

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Boss Of The Week

Femi Otedola: The Return of a Billionaire




By Eric Elezuo

Deft touch is one of the strategies of doing business, and it became a game changer when accomplished business man and Chairman, Geregu Power Plc, Femi Otedola, put it to full use thereby paving his way to return to parity with Africa and world billionaires, after a seven-year hiatus.

The 61-year-old entrepreneur presently occupies number 20 on the list of African billionaires with a net worth of $1.1bn.

According to Forbes, the wealth of the 2024 list of 20 billionaires rose to $82.4bn from last year’s $81.5bn, partly as a result of Otedola’s return. Before then, the last time the business mogul appeared on the Forbes Africa list was in 2017. This year, he took the 20th spot on the list.

Recall that a few daya ago, Otedola had announced a significant acquisition of shares in Dangote Cement, the only cement company in Nigeria with two export terminals, with a combined export capacity of eight million tons per annum.

The strategic investment not only underscores Otedola’s confidence in Dangote Cement’s potential to generate foreign exchange for the country and his dedication to supporting businesses that contribute to Nigeria’s economic resilience, but shows his ability to measure business timing. Economic stakeholders have said that the deft move contributed in no small measures to catapulting him into the Forbes Billionaires’ list as well as return Aliko Dangote back to the number one position

While Otedola did not however, disclose the volume of shares he acquired, industry stakeholders said that he bought N6 billion worth of stocks in the company.

The Chancellor of Augustine University, Epe, Lagos State, who could not hide his excitement at the achievement took to his social page to express his heartfelt gratitude, posting ‘interesting’ with some emojis following.

Otedola, only a few months ago, when he was inaugurated as Chancellor, doled out a total of the N750 million to 750 students at the ratio of N1m per student in scholarship for the 2023/2024 academic session, including new and returning students.

The total sum of the scholarship donation amounts to N750 million (Seven Hundred and Fifty Million Naira). In a addition, the silent billionaire boosted the furnishing of the Engineering Faculty with a N140 million donation, and another N110 million for street lights across the campus. He therefore, made a whopping N1 billion donation to the institution. The Geregu chairman had earlier committed N2 billion for the building of the Engineering Faculty.

The donations were considered historic, and a new precedent for private philanthropy in the academic sector.

Call him the simplest and most easy going Nigerian billionaire, you won’t be wrong. The likes of Femi Otedola, as he is simply referred, to, are rare. Some schools of thoughts believe his likes are even extinct.

He is an enigma and a worthy philanthropist, even to a fault. His stupendous flow of human touch and attachment to people and humanity are his greatest endearment. He even went a notch ahead when he against all odds acquired 5.5 per cent shares at the prestigious Transcorp Plc, a conglomerate that accommodates the best of business concerns in the country, dishing out unquantified services to mankind. He therefore, becomes the second largest shareholder of the company.

Otedola’s Geregu Power went public in the third quarter of 2022, and he owns 2.388 billion worth of shares indirectly through Amperion Power Distribution Limited, which is 95.56 percent of the company’s total ordinary shares of 2.50 billion, according to data from the NGX website. His business networking is admirable, and that has placed him on the pedestal of Nigeria and Africa’s business greats.

Otedola, early in 2022, also acquired significant control of FBN Holdings when he announced he had acquired shareholdings above the 5 percent threshold, a development that triggered a bidding contest for stocks. He is a game changer.

In addition to his network of gigantic strides, the billionaire businessman was appointed as a Vice President of popular UK-based charity, Save The Children, a position that further portrayed his philanthropic worldview.

“I am elated to be associated with the organisation. We have to save our children from all manner of challenges and deprivations. And giving to the needy, particularly children, is the greatest love of all,” the father of four said excitedly.

According to a statement by the organisation, “Save the Children’s vice presidents are a group of high-level supporters and critical friends of the organisation, actively involved in advancing the work of Save the Children, through advocacy, volunteerism, introductions, and philanthropy.

“Mr. Femi Otedola’s addition to the vice presidents group is a testament to his long-standing support to the organisation. Since 2019, Mr. Femi Otedola has supported Save the Children’s programmes on prevention and treatment of malnutrition and on advocating access to quality education for Nigerian children, impacting over 6000 children in Adamawa, Borno, and Katsina States.

“In November 2019, Mr. Otedola hosted a gala in Abuja where he made a personal donation of N5 billion,” the statement explained.

To some, it is still a mystery how the son of a prolific politician, who rose to become the governor of Lagos State, did not dabble into politics as is the standard in his clime.

However, one thing is clear, and that is the fact that the billionaire businessman, simply addressed as Femi Otedola (CON), is a focused and determined man. He made his choice from day one, and has refused to be derailed. This explains his prolific nature in the world of entrepreneurship, which has directed his life.

But one thing is very obvious before all and sundry, and that is the fact that the dotting father of four adorable children is really an Epicurus son, and has no place for half measures when it comes to giving himself, and of course everyone around him the good life. It was no surprise therefore, when the philanthropist lavished a whopping Three Million Pounds to rent a cruise boat in celebration of his 60th birthday in 2022.

Born on November 4, 1962, in Ibadan to the family of the late Sir Michael Otedola, a former governor of Lagos State, Otedola is a definition of everything good, positive and encouraging. He has lived his life representing the very essence of living, affecting lives as a philanthropist, developing careers and manpower as a businessman, industrialists and entrepreneur, and raising biological children, who has stood their own in the society. There is hardly anywhere this tall, handsome phenomenon of a personality can be faulted.

The billionaire businessman started his education at the University of Lagos Staff School before attending Olivet Baptist High School from where he was admitted into the university. 

A former chairman of Forte Oil Plc, the Chancellor of St Augustine University, Epe, Lagos, is the founder of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, and the owner of a number of other businesses across shipping, real estate and finance. He has recently invested in power generation as part of the liberalisation of the sector in Nigeria.

He never leaves anything to chance, and so used his 60th birthday to fulfill a childhood fantasy and lifelong ambition of cruising on the most expensive boat in the world, the Christina Onassis. The yacht is owned by late Greek billionaire, Aristotle Onassis. He had adopted the Greek Shipping guru, as his role model since he was 13. It was a dream come true.

The man, who has homes in Lagos, Abuja, Dubai, London and New York City has a much impressive existence since he set out to take the bull by the horns in the field of enterprise. This is as chronicled by wikipedia.

In 2003, having identified an opportunity in the fuel retail market, Otedola secured the finance to set up Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, a petroleum products marketing and distribution company.

As owner and chairman of Zenon, in 2004 he invested N15 billion in downstream infrastructure development and acquired storage depots at Ibafon, Apapa as well as four cargo vessels, amounting to a combined total storage capacity of 147,000 metric tonnes. The same year he acquired a fleet of 100 DAF fuel-tanker trucks for N1.4 billion.

By 2005, Zenon controlled a major share of the Nigerian diesel market, supplying fuel to most of the major manufacturers in the country including Dangote Group, Cadbury, Coca-Cola, Nigerian Breweries, MTN, Unilever, Nestle and Guinness.

In March 2007, it was announced that ten banks had approved a syndicated loan of US$1.5 billion (N193.5 billion) to Zenon as working capital to build the largest premium motor spirit storage facility in Africa. Later that year Zenon acquired a 28.7 per cent stake in African Petroleum, one of Nigeria’s largest fuel marketers. Zenon also invested across the financial sector, becoming the largest shareholder in a number of Nigerian banks including Zenith Bank and United Bank for Africa (UBA). As well as diesel, Zenon also became an important player in the kerosene market.

In 2012, Zenon was among a number of companies named in a report into an alleged fuel subsidy scam. According to the report Zenon owed the government $1.4 million. It was further reported that Farouk Lawan, the Nigerian legislator who compiled the report, had apparently been filmed collecting $500,000 of a supposed total sum of $3 million from Femi Otedola to remove Zenon from the list. It subsequently emerged that Otedola had previously reported Lawan’s harassment and demands for bribes to the State Security Services, who had orchestrated a sting operation. Lawan was charged with corruption in February 2013.

In 2007, Otedola was appointed chairman and chief executive of Africa Petroleum through the acquisition of a controlling stake in the business. In December that year he personally acquired a further 29.3 per cent of the company for N40 billion. A merger of this personal holding with Zenon’s brought Otedola’s total stake to 55.3 per cent.

Following Otedola’s entry into the company African Petroleum’s share price rose sharply, increasing the market capitalisation from N36 billion to N217 billion in six months. In 2008, in response to public concerns over the availability and pricing of kerosene, African Petroleum launched an initiative to saturate the market and sell fuel at N50 per litre from more than 500 service stations across Nigeria.

In March 2009, Otedola became the second Nigerian after Aliko Dangote to appear on the Forbes list of dollar-denominated billionaires, with an estimated net worth of $1.2 billion. In October 2009, Otedola announced a move to upgrade African Petroleum’s liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) storage terminals in Lagos, Kano and Port Harcourt. Difficult economic conditions caused by the slump in world oil prices and credit squeeze of 2008–09 led African Petroleum to record a loss in 2009.

In December 2010, African Petroleum rebranded, changing its name to Forte Oil PLC. Otedola carried out a restructuring of the business, focusing on technology and improved corporate governance. Forte Oil returned to profit in 2012.

In 2013, as part of the Federal Government’s push to liberalise Nigeria’s ailing power sector, Otedola financed 57% of Forte Oil subsidiary Amperion Ltd, which acquired the 414 MW Geregu Power Plant for $132 million.

Forte’s improved financial position and diversification into power generation resulted in a 1,321 per cent rise in its share price during 2013. The first half of 2014 saw the company’s pre-tax profit more than double year-on-year to 4.19 billion naira ($25.7 million). Revenue growth for the whole year was 33 per cent. In November 2014, Otedola returned to the Forbes rich list having dropped off it following the fall in share price during 2009.

In September 2015 Forte Oil sold 17 per cent of its equity to Swiss commodity trader Mercuria Energy Group, giving Forte access to global commodity markets. The deal was thought to have given Otedola an estimated $200 million. In 2019, Femi Otedola sold Forte Oil Plc and announced plans to change focus from oil to power with his company, Geregu Power Plc.

In 1994, Otedola established CentreForce Ltd, specialising in finance, investments and trading. Otedola is also the owner of Swift Insurance.

Otedola is Chief Executive and President of SeaForce Shipping Company Ltd and was at one point Nigeria’s largest ship owner after extending control over the distribution of diesel products. One of his ships, a flat bottomed bunker vessel with a storage capacity of 16,000 metric tonnes, was the first of its kind in Africa.

In January 2006, Otedola was appointed a non-executive director of Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc, a multi-sectoral conglomerate established in 2004 by then-President Olusegun Obasanjo to respond to market opportunities requiring heavy capital investment in Nigeria and across sub-Saharan Africa. He held this post until February 2011.

Otedola has made a number of real estate investments, including a N2.3 billion acquisition in February 2007 by Zenon of Stallion House in Victoria Island in Lagos, from the Federal Government. The following month he was appointed chairman of the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja and tasked with driving its expansion and upgrade to a seven star facility. He is the owner of FO Properties Ltd. Otedola has been reported to be a financier of the People’s Democratic Party and is said to have contributed N100 million to President Obasanjo’s re-election expenses in 2003. He has served as a member of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Council (NIPC) since 2004, and the same year was appointed to a committee tasked with developing commercial relations with South Africa. In 2011, Femi Otedola was appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan to Nigeria’s National Economic Management Team.

In 2020, Forte Oil rebranded to Adrova PLC.

He is known to have made several donations to the Michael Otedola University Scholarship Scheme, which was established in 1985 to give underprivileged students in Lagos State access to higher education. In 2005 Zenon donated N200 million to the scheme’s fund. Since its inception, the scheme has benefited more than 1,000 students.

In 2005, Otedola made a N300 million personal donation to the completion of the National Ecumenical Centre; Nigeria’s primary place of Christian worship, in Abuja. In 2007 he was among a group of donors who gave N200 million to the State Security Trust Fund in a drive to reduce crime in Lagos State. Later that year he donated N100 million to the Otedola College of Primary Education in Noforija, Epe. In 2008 he donated N80 million to the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Port Harcourt. He also promised and fulfilled his pledge of 25,000 dollars to the Super Eagles in the match against Algeria in the 2019 AFCON.

In September, 2022, Otedola was appointed as a member of the National Peace Committee (NPC), headed by former Head of State, Abdulsalam Abubakar, ahead of the 2023 elections.

Highly blessed of God, Otedola, who holds a National Honour of the Commander of the Niger (CON), owns a private jet and a few of his caravan of cars include Mercedes Benz AMG G63 worth N73 million; G–wagon costing N53 million; Mercedes SLR McLaren worth N250 million; Rolls–Royce Phantom worth N162 million and BMW 6 series worth N30 million. In the recent past, he gifted his three daughters a costly Ferrari sport cars each.

An unrepentant dotting father, husband and family man, Otedola is married to Nana, and has three daughters and one son. They are Tolani, a singer, Florence Ifeoluwa and Elizabeth Temi, and a son, Fewa. Florence Otedola, aka DJ Cuppy, is a Disc Jockey and music producer, as well as a tourism ambassador for Nigeria while Temi is an actress, a style blogger and aspiring designer.

The world welcomes the billionaire back to the club!

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