Tony Elumelu: Self-Actualization In Flesh

Tony Elumelu: Self-Actualization In Flesh

I looked at him keenly. I remember that it hurts looking at him. I could feel a tightening sense of inadequacy around my chest. It was obvious no one else in the audience was in my state of mind. This was evident from the loud cheers that filled the air as he took the podium to speak. He had been invited as a guest speaker to the Young African Leadership Initiative program where I was selected as a fellow. This is supposed to be a good thing, a great thing even, but not for me. I could not figure out, for the life of me, how a man can be so self-actualized that my life seems bland in comparison to his. I have admired him for the longest time and sometimes, admiration hurts!

Flashback to a year ago when I stumbled upon the name, ‘Tony Elumelu’ while searching Google for great Nigerian entrepreneurs. I had not heard about him until my search engine decided to cure my ignorance. Combing through his profile, I acknowledged that he is a man of substance. He got me intrigued and I decided to do a full blown research on him. With a net worth of 700 million USD and frequent mentions in the media, it is safe to say that this man has reached the peak of his career. I am further convinced that he has, also, reached the peak of the Maslow’s pyramidal hierarchy of needs. How he made this transition can be seen in his business achievements, ideas and awards/recognitions.

Tall, tactical, affable and energetic, it is clear that Elumelu was born to be a chairman of chief executive officers.[i] When he acquired Standard Trust Bank (STB) during his early years as a banker, he was able to turn the bank into the fifth largest financial institution in the country.[ii]This feat was, well, expected from a Harvard Business School graduate. In 2005, he made history again when he led the biggest merger in sub-Saharan Africa at the time, combining STB with the older, more established United Bank for Africa (UBA).[iii] According to Forbes, UBA operates in 19 African countries with over 7 million customers. Heir Holdings, in a press release, boasts of employing over 30,000 people across Africa, USA, Paris and London. This is an investment company he formed after his retirement from banking in 2010 at the age of 47. I guess Billi Odum was awe-stricken by Elumelu’s business prowess when he wrote the book, ‘How to Excel at Work’ about him.

A fascinating discovery about Mr. Elumelu is that, despite his busy schedule, he takes time out to read. I guess this is why his ideas are so brilliant and polish. He is the sole originator of the term, Africapitalism. He posits that Africapitalism is not capitalism with an African twist but a rallying cry for empowering the private sector to drive Africa’s economic and social growth.[iv] This idea gave birth to the formation of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), a non-profit organization through which he pilots his philanthropic works. Founded in 2010, the year of his retirement, TEF empowers 1,000 young African entrepreneurs every year. He has certainly touched a towering number of lives. I am sure of this because my sister is a beneficiary of the TEF empowerment scheme and it has transformed her life positively ever since.

Married to beautiful Dr. Awele Elumelu and a proud father of 7 children, Mr. Elumelu does not need extra company to several award ceremonies hosted just for him. In 2016, at the end of the annual Economic Forum of the Ivorian National Council of Employers, CGECI Academy in Abidjan, he was handed a Lifetime Achievement Award.[v] Also, he has earned the respect of several African leaders, the most notable one of these scenarios was when the late Nigerian President, U.M Yar’adua asked him to serve on the Presidential Committee on Global Financial Crisis in 2009.[vi] Oh, how pleased I was with my search engine after I made these discoveries.

I was yanked back to reality by a tap from my seatmate when she noticed my absent-minded state. I placed my focus on Mr. Elumelu once again and I remember mumbling these words, “He is Mr. Self-Actualization, he will die with no regrets, he has totally maximized his potentials”. As he concluded his speech, I made a solemn promise to myself that I was going to be better than him or die trying.


[i] Akinremi A. (2018, May 4). Chasing Elumelu: On the road with big-hearted billionaire. Retrieved from

 [ii] Abass C. (2017, February 10). Tony Elumelu: Net Worth, Investments, and Biography. Retrieved from biography/.

[iii] Ukwe O. (2018, June 4). Tony Elumelu: From Banking Hall to Varsity Boardroom. Retrieved from

[iv] Omoh G. (2014, January 1).  Business Personality of the Year: Tony Elumelu, High Priest of African Capitalism. Vanguard Newspaper. Retrieved from

[v] Samuel K. (2015, September 30). UBA Chairman, Elumelu receives recognition for entrepreneurship and support. Retrieved from

[vi] Onyelobi B. (2018, March 6). Full Biography and Net Worth of Tony Elumelu. Retrieved from

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