Some world leaders, Presidents of African countries, business moguls in Nigeria, beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP) and his family members have extolled the leadership and entrepreneurial spirit of the Chairman of the United Bank for Africa Plc, Mr. Tony Elumelu, as he marked his 60th birthday yesterday.
Speaking during a symposium organised to honour him on Wednesday, in Lagos, the TEEP beneficiaries from several countries in Africa, took turn to testify to how their businesses were transformed after going through the programme and were provided with seed capital. Also, other notable Nigerians praised Elumelu for his contributions towards youth empowerment.
In their remarks, his wife, Dr. Awele Elumelu and children prayed that God would continue to strengthen and empower Elumelu, who is also the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, to do more for the continent.
In his goodwill message, the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, wrote: “It is a great pleasure for me to write to you on this very special occasion, as it allows me to once again acknowledge the outstanding efforts put in place by your Foundation and yourself to support a vision of African entrepreneurship that we both share and to strengthen the continent’s position in the global economy.
“In particular, your empowerment of the youth across the African continent, by enabling them to fulfil their ambitions in business and academia, bears a pivotal role for Africa’s future. I can therefore only commend the Tony Elumelu Foundation for the numerous initiatives and unquestionable positive impact it has as a leading philanthropic organisation.
“Thanks to you, your companies have appointed many women at the highest positions and your Foundation has engaged in several initiatives with major stakeholders, including the European Union, to drive women’s leadership and entrepreneurship in Africa.”
Also, for US President, Bill Clinton in his goodwill message to the Founder of TEF, wrote: “Hilary and I are glad to join your family, friends and admirers from the world in wishing you a very happy 60th birthday. From your successful career in business to your amazing work with your Foundation, you have accomplished so very much throughout your first remarkable six decades.
“It has been very inspiring for us to see your passion for philanthropy up close, and to watch as you empower a rising generation of entrepreneurs across Africa.”
Similarly, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, said, “I have had the great privilege of working with Tony in the past, through our Foundations and in particular the Blair-Elumelu Fellowship Programme. I have always come away from spending time with him, inspired, energised and grateful for his wisdom and insights.
“Our thinking aligns in so many ways. We have a shared optimism for the future. We believe in the transformative power of tech and innovation and the importance of entrepreneurialism as a means of solving many of the world’s problems, from healthcare to education to climate. Above all, we all believe in the importance of clear priorities, clear strategy and clear mechanisms for delivery; to put it simply, the importance of getting things done.”
The President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, told Elumelu that, “year 60 is a moment to reflect on lessons accrued over the course of your life and pass this wisdom to the next generation. That has been the focus of your philanthropic work and it would be an understatement to say that the TEF has had an impact.”
He added: “By funding, training and mentoring young African entreprenuers, the Foundation is creating jobs, driving innovation and building self-reliance. The Foundation’s biggest contribution is empowering young women and men to lead, reminding them that Africa’s future rests in their hands. On this day, and looking back on over a decade of knowing you, I can only encourage you to continue the good work and hope that others are inspired to emulate your example.”
President of Ghana, Nana Akuffo-Addo, said he was happy to join well-wishers around the world in wishing a patriotic Nigerian and an extraordinary son of Africa a happy birthday.
“His reach has surpassed the boundaries of Jos, in Plateau State, where he was born, and he has impacted positively the lives of thousands and thousands of youths all over the continent,” he added.
Football legend and President of Liberia, George Weah, in his goodwill message to Elumelu wrote: “I have known you for many years, Tony, and our paths have cross many times. On each and every one of those occasions, I have been impressed with the breadth of your passion, you have been able to establish and grow to prominence one of Africa’s largest and most successful pan-African financial services group, the United Bank for Africa. We applaud you for this singular achievement.”
Former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, congratulated Elumelu on the occasion of his 60th birthday anniversary.
“This is a milestone and I join your family, friends and well-wishers in recognising a life characterised by outstanding accomplishments, visible productivity and remarkable experiences throughout your 60 years on this earth under God’s grace. Over the years, since I was elected President of Nigeria in 1999, I have watched you grow in life and in business with much admiration,” Obasanjo added.
He also commenced Elumelu’s visionary leadership through the transformation of UBA from a single-country bank to a Pan-African financial institution present in 20 African countries, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and United Arab Emirates as well as the TEF.
Nigeria’s President-elect, Bola Tinubu, described Elumelu as a principled man of character, adding that “one of his primary attributes is courage. He never backs down from a challenge and will not entertain the idea that a thing is impossible. Tony strives from the stars through difficulty and that is how he reached where he is.”
Founder and Chairman of BUA Group, Abdul Samad Rabiu, pointed out that Elumelu’s visionary leadership in business, philanthropy and many other areas, continue to inspire and motivate millions of people, especially young people, to follow their dreams and aspire for excellence.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila rejoiced with the business mogul.
Gbajabiamila said Elumelu was worthy of being celebrated owing to his humanitarian services to Nigeria and Africa.
Describing Elumelu as a longstanding friend, Gbajabiamila recalled how the business tycoon started from a humble beginnings and grew in leaps and bounds over the years.
He said Nigeria needs the likes of Elumelu, who dedicated himself to philanthropic activities and changed the lives of many.
At 60, Gbajabiamila said, Elumelu must be satisfied with his achievements.
“Despite what Tony has achieved, he remains humble, which is quite commendable. Nigerians should emulate Tony not just in his way of life but also in his service to humanity,” Gbajabiamila said.
Also, the Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives congratulated the entrepreneur and philanthropist.
The caucus in a statement by its leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu described Elumelu as an exceptionally patriotic Nigerian; resilient spirit; an undisputed trailblazer with astonishing insight and extraordinary capacity to achieve success even in the face of daunting challenges.
The lawmakers said they were proud of Elumelu’s outstanding contributions towards the economic stability and development of our country especially in stimulating greater productivity in critical sectors of our national economy.
The statement read, “As representatives of the people, our Caucus extols Tony Elumelu’s dedication in raising, mentoring and empowering thousands of young entrepreneurs across the 54 African countries through his Tony Elumelu Foundation and other platforms, for which he has received numerous global recognitions including being named in Times list of 100 most influential people in the world.
“The Minority Caucus also acknowledges his untiring philanthropic activities with which he continues to touch humanity in many special ways.
‘On this auspicious day, the Minority Caucus celebrates this great Nigerian and prays to God to continue to bless him with many more years in good health and greater insight in his service to our nation and humanity in general.”
They were also goodwill messages from the President of Namibia, President of Democratic Republic of Congo, Prime Minister of Jamaica, Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Akinwumi Adesina, Okey Oramah, Femi Otedola, Aliko Dangote and King Ebitimi Banigo.
Obinna Chima in Lagos and Udora Orizu in Abuja