TOE’s Keynote Lecture at the Maiden Convocation Ceremony for the Admiralty University, Ibusa Delta State
“Ladies and Gentlemen I welcome you all to this convocation The Chief of Defense staff has presented, the Chief of Naval staff my friend, the Pro-chancellor of the University of Nigeria, the Vice Chancellor UNN, the representative of Delta state government, Secretary to the Government, all directors and principals of the university our great fathers here well dressed, young graduands, our future our youth our true leaders, among these parents and well-wishers of graduands, also members of UBA (United bank of Africa) group here and Heirs Holdings group present. I am delighted to be back home and delighted to be in Admiralty University.
Let me also use this opportunity to thank the President of Nigeria his excellency Muhammad Buhari GCFR for the opportunity for this university to be opened in Delta state. I am a proud indigene of Delta State and a strong supporter of businesses, institutions, and residents, and of course our government. Ladies and gentlemen, I have been asked to speak on leadership, on the prosperity of preliminary leadership. So, I would like to start by saying “what is leadership?”
We know a good leader when we see one. They stand out, they command attention, they get respect and mobilise their people. A good leader brings out the best, good leadership drives us to do better in everything we find ourselves in and good leadership is defined by results. We see leadership in our armed forces, in business globally and here in Nigeria as well. I come from a very humble background and I am an optimist I built UBA in Nigeria from Lagos and today we have branches across 20 African countries. We are the only bank with operating access in USA. We operate in UK, in France and recently in Dubai. All of these from Nigeria all of these from here in Africa. We built in Nigeria indeed an African multinational. A complex reminder of successful business, it took leadership to accomplish this. My colleagues and I took over Transcorp Transnational Corporation of Nigeria from the state to where it is today creating about 15% of our daily electricity consumption in Nigeria and exporting power to countries.
That is leadership. You see how leadership can change countries in Singapore. In Rwanda, you see how leadership can change the world. I was there 5 years ago and if you go there today it is totally different. You see in India; India is changing the world not only are they changing the world economically they are redefining the curricular scheme of the world. That is leadership when leadership is strong at home your people excel everywhere.
Ladies and gentlemen change does not just happen, change does not happen without leadership and change is what is needed in Africa and not just Africa globally, and let us be frank about our continent, our beloved continent. In the 2000s there was growth, economic growth.
In fact, a leader once said he did not know what to do with the wealth of his country. There was a political dynamic which to a large extent had begun in Africa and we saw GDP rise in Africa, and peace and stability restored in Africa. But today we have challenges, we need to fix the insecurity and senseless killing of our people in some parts of Nigeria Ethiopia, Mali different countries.
In Nigeria, we need to end the oil theft that is robbing us of our commonwealth we can’t prosper with that continuing. We need action on climate change where Africa suffers the most consequences of others pollution from around the planet. We bear the brunt when the levels of carbon emission is almost 0. We see challenges to security but also to our environment. Troubles in almost every part of the world. It is a lack of leadership. Leadership again is imperative to something that is so critical to human survival.
I created the TEF which supports entrepreneurs across all African countries to produce leaders.
Entrepreneurs are leaders. They are being inspired to drive to push and to succeed because their success is translated not only to themselves and their families but to nations, societies, and humanity everywhere. In this institution we are in today I have been able to bring our navy and our private sector together. Leadership is part of your DNA. So, I commend every stakeholder in this University that makes it work.
To our graduands, as you graduate today a lot must be going on in your mind on what the future holds for you. I have been here before when I was sitting where you are now, I could not imagine where I would be in 10, 20 or 30 years’ time. You have my confidence and you have my hope.
Let me continue with an important thing. Napoleon is quoted as saying “I know he is a good general but is he lucky?”
We all know about success we have learned about leadership in our schools, and textbooks everywhere.
We all know about failure some of us have felt and experienced it. But let’s talk about luck, let us talk about this interesting phenomenon. In business in life at home, everything luck is often overlooked. Business schools do not teach luck. Luck is humbling it is not spread equally, luck is not an entitlement, and it comes in many forms. It can be by chanced meeting, an inheritance, or a choice of direction between two paths that can change your life forever.
Personally, I reflect on the years since I graduated, since I sat in the way you are sitting right now. There are many reasons why I am where I am now. I owe one of my first promotions to luck. Yes, I was determined, resilient, and intelligent but let me be frank. Luck played an important part in my life. We are all Africans we know life is tough in fact it gets tougher we need that extra resilience, and that determination but we also need luck.
In what we do at the Tony Elumelu Foundation we try to spread luck because we are the beneficiaries of luck. We do not shy away from saying we are where we are today because of luck. We are not the most intelligent in our class. We are not the most talented, but we are here because of luck so we owe it to others to spread luck with our resources so that others can get it and become lucky. We know many do not have a network but networking is a key aspect of success in life. We know many do not have access to capital or training we try at the Tony Elumelu Foundation to make this available. Access to training ad mentoring. Today at the Tony Elumelu Foundation we have economically empowered over 17,000 African men and women each will get a non-refundable capital between 3,000-5,000 dollars.
The lady who introduced me spoke about the 100-million-dollar commitment. Today we have spent over 85 million dollars on this trying to democratise luck and help to uplift Africa and play our own role in the sustainable development of Africa. Of these 17,000 people about half are Nigerians and out of these half it is spread across the 36 states including the FCT.
I do not know any of the beneficiaries personally, and none from my family. If I look at my own legacy that is what I want and not about billions in my bank account, it is about democratising luck, especially for our promising young ones who do not have godfathers to help them succeed in life. But let me be clear luck is not a substitute for hard work. Luck is not a substitute for labour. Luck is not a substitute for persistence but luck is part of the properties of success that you need to thrive.
There are 2 ingredients for luck there is hard work and there is passion. The more work you put into something and the more passion you apply the luckier you would find yourself. There have been moments in my business life where I felt I got lucky but when you take a closer look maybe I was actually earning my luck and not being lucky.
Luck is important but not a substitute for hard work and passion. So go graduands with these words in mind; you have to work hard you have to be passionate about whatever you are doing. So be successful and make your own luck, earn your own luck.
The world needs luminary leaders, and it could be you. The graduands we see today hard work and passion are within your own powers and control. There are things you do not have control but hard work is you determining that you will work hard. Passion is you embracing it and applying it to what you do. So hard work and passion since they are within your control you should apply them to earn your own luck and to help us foster a better and more prosperous world. The world is in dire need of leaders, our community is in dire need of leaders, and humanity is also in dire need of leaders and those leaders can be you, the graduands.
So rise from today enter the new world and play your own role in creating a more prosperous society.