Book that inspired Elumelu to become a banker

By Frederick Mordi

“If we encounter a man of rare intellect,” Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “we should ask him what books he reads.”

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Tony Elumelu, the immediate past Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA), is without a doubt, a man of remarkable accomplishments. Perhaps, one of the most consummate bankers on the continent in the last decade, he became the chief executive of a Nigerian bank at the age of 33—the youngest in the history of the country. This spectacular record has yet to be broken by his peers.

Elumelu took the banking industry by storm when he initiated the merger of the then Standard Trust Bank Plc (STB) with UBA. He transformed the new entity into a leading commercial bank with presence in about 20 African countries. Reputed to be one of the most influential corporate strategists in Nigeria, Elumelu represents a new generation of intrepid entrepreneurs who are fast changing negative stereotypes about the continent.

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Only last week, Forbes listed him among ‘Africa’s 50 Richest Billionaires’ with a networth of $1billion. There are indications that this valuation will increase when Forbes publishes its annual List of Billionaires in March 2015, as his venture into business, following his retirement from banking in July 2010, has not been unrewarding.

He is currently Chairman of Heirs Holding, an African proprietary investment company with a focus on financial services, power, oil and gas, real estate and hospitality, agribusiness and healthcare. He is also promoting what he terms: ‘Africapitalism,’ an economic philosophy that advocates transformation of the continent by the African private sector, through investments. He is actively involved in corporate social responsibility using the Tony Elumelu Foundation as vehicle.

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It all started when he read Jeffrey Archer’s Kane and Abel. He became so fascinated with the gripping novel that he decided he would be a banker. From all indications, it was a decision he has not regretted. If you ventured into his office, you would likely find a hardbound copy of the novel adorning a shelf.

Indeed, Kane and Abel, is a classic masterpiece. It tells the story of two men—William Lowell Kane and Abel Rosnovski—born on the same day, on opposite sides of the world. They are brought together by fate and the quest of a dream. Driven by unbridled ambition and power, these men become locked in an unrelenting struggle for supremacy. Kane and Abel takes the reader through 60 years and three generations, war, marriage, fortune, and ultimately, disaster. The novel is ranked among the best literary works of all time and has sold over 33 million copies worldwide.

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Here are what reviewers had to say about Kane and Abel:

“If there were a Nobel Prize for storytelling, Archer would win” –Daily Telegraph

“The ultimate novel of sibling rivalry” – Dan Brown

“Probably the greatest storyteller of our age” –Mail on Sunday

Commenting on the book during its 30th anniversary edition, Archer had this to say:

Kane and Abel was the breakthrough in my career as a writer and remains the most popular of my works to date. That was the reason why, 30 years after its publication, I set about the task of rewriting it. Re-crafting turned out to be a more accurate description of what took place during the next nine months, because despite making considerable revisions, the plot remains unchanged.”

Indeed, books have the power to transform lives. That is why they say readers are leaders.

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3 responses to “Book that inspired Elumelu to become a banker”

  1. Mindat says :

    Strange what individual perspectives are. I read the book as well, and didn’t get inspired to be a banker. I thought it was a vey good story spanning generations.

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