By Peter Egwuatu
LAGOS—EMINENT Nigerians, including President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, yesterday, commended the founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank, Mr Jim Ovia, for his contributions to entrepreneurship in Nigeria.
They also described him as a gifted, innovative and the godfather of banking technology in Nigeria.
They said this at the public presentation and launch of Ovia’s book titled: ‘Africa: Arise and Shine’, in Lagos.
The book launch attracted dignitaries including Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno, Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State, Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe State, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State; former United Nations Secretary General, Emeka Anyaoku and Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu.
Others are former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi; founder of Akintola William Deloitte, Chief Akintola Williams; Alhaji Aliko Dangote, President Dangote Group, represented by his daughter, Alima Dangote; Dr. Christopher Kolade, publisher of Vanguard Newspapers, Mr. Sam Amuka-Pemu; publisher of Thisday Newspaper, Nduka Obaigbena; Chairman/CEO, Channels Television, John Momoh; founder, Heirs Holding, Tony Elumelu; former President of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede; former Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos, Prof Ibidapo Obe, among others.
Buhari commends Ovia
Buhari, who was represented by the Vice President, said Ovia had contributed so much in inspiring entrepreneurs, particularly the Nigerian youths.
He said: “It is my pleasure to convey my congratulations to you on the publication of the book ‘Africa rise and shine,’ which you authored.
“I commend you for this contribution to the knowledge base of Nigeria’s entrepreneurs, particularly the Nigerian youth.
“Your journey in building one of our country’s most iconic enterprises is an encouragement to our fellow citizens. Congratulations on this achievement.”
He has done extremely well — Osinbajo
Also commending Ovia, Prof Osinbajo said: “The most economically successful in our midst owe us three taxes. I must apologize for bringing up the subject of taxes in the company of business people. First the Income tax; the author is an excellent tax payer. Secondly is Social Tax, the obligation to give back to society. I can testify that Jim Ovia has discharged that obligation, especially in education with the establishment of James Hope College in Agbor. The third is Civic Tax; the obligation to inspire the young ones. The obligation of the successful person is to write their stories, to share their experiences and the history of the phenomena that they have become in order to instruct, to admonish and to decide the present and the future. The task is a difficult one. If it is to be used the author must be prepared to be honest because an honest and truthful are part of the lives of the truly successful. I am personally impressed and not surprised that he is telling his story as a humble person. For a man that lost his father at the age of 5, he has done extremely well. The Nigeria dream is captured here, a man from no where to a N6 trillion enterprise.”
In his opening remarks, Chairman of the occasion, Dr Christopher Kolade, Nigeria’s former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom said: “He has been successful in the field of enterprise. It is an interesting story for us to read and hear. The author said if he can do it other people can do it. I hope other people will practise what is written in the book. He feels a sense of responsibility to tell this story as there is something to learn from this story.”
He’s a true giant of our time — CBN
Commending Ovia, the Governor of CBN, said: “As many of you who know my background would expect, I am very delighted to be in your midst today. Indeed, it would have taken a lot to keep me away from such a gathering, not because of the array of admittedly distinguished guests here present, the wonderful ambience of this venue, or the edifying choice of refreshment. No, the depths of my delights emanate uniquely and directly from the person we are all here to celebrate, Mr. Jim Ovia, a true giant of our time, obviously not in size, but in all else.”
He’s a mentor—Dangote
Represented by his daughter, Aliko Dangote, said: “Jim Ovia is a mentor. He is the most gifted and innovative banker in Nigeria. Jim’s inspirational tale of success against all odds is an important lesson of how adversity can always be surmounted. His principles of doing business can be applied globally as demonstrated by Zenith Bank’s London Stock Exchange Listing. The book is an essential read for any one that wants to do business in Africa.”
Chief Akintola Williams said: “At age over 99, it is a great privilege to see this gathering of people who came to honour Ovia. I am happy that Jim Ovia has done well in writing this book. I accepted not only to read the book, but to do a little bit of write up of the book. I thank Jim Ovia for doing the right thing in the book despite being over loaded with work in his office. I would appeal to everyone to find time to read the book. I hope this is not the only book that would come from him.”
He’s a pace setter— Elumelu
The founder of Heir Holding and chairman of United Bank for Africa, Tony Elumelu, said: “Jim is a big brother, a pace setter. Most of us in the banking sector admire him for what he did, and is doing. From zero, the bank has grown to $16 billion worth of investment, he knows the technology. When Zenith Bank opened for operations there was no Automated Teller Machine, ATM, no internet but Jim transformed the banking system through technology.”
He’s godfather of the banking industry—Tinubu
The former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Tinubu described Ovia as the godfather of the Nigerian Banking industry. He does not portray himself as an hero that could not be emulated, but one that his footpath could be followed to achieve greatness.
“This title is fitting and proper because not because he was born into the sector but he properly acquired it. The book explained his journey to greatness despite the challenges he faced.
“This is a man that believes in Nigeria and Africa. And that is why I want to thank you for writing this book to show others of what is necessary for the continent to grow. You have opened the door to success and your life teaches many wonderful lessons.”
Why I wrote the book— Ovia
In a brief presentation, the author and Zenith Bank chairman explained that the narrative of Africa being a pathetic continent and regarded as a dark continent inspired the title of the book.
He said he has been called upon to write more and most especially a new memoir in continuation of the book.
Jim Ovia narrated how he started the business with N20 million ($4 million) at an exchange rate of N5 to a dollar. He said the bank now has a total asset base of $16 billion.