The founder/chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Jim Ovia, on Monday unveiled his much awaited book ‘Africa Rise and Shine: How a Nigerian Entrepreneur from Humble Beginnings Grew a Business to $16 Billion’.
The book launch, held at Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos, had in attendance dignitaries including Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo; national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu; governors of Lagos, Gombe, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Borno, and Taraba states; governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele; and billionaire businesswoman, Folorunsho Alakija.
Jim Ovia’s book, as stated on Amazon, is about “the story of Ovia’s business and banking success and how he was able to create one of Africa’s largest banks. Spanning decades of both world and Nigerian history, Africa Rise and Shine dives deep into the events that led to Ovia’s triumph.”
Speaking at the event, Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbanjo spoke about his admiration of Jim’s character and determination to succeed, even in the face of towering hardships.
Read the full transcript:
The most economically successful in our midst owe society three taxes; the first is Income Tax (personal income and corporation taxes), and since both the Lagos and Federal tax authorities are represented in their highest capacities here today, it means that the author is an excellent taxpayer or, at least, he has agreed to pay more immediately after this event.
The second obligation is a Social Tax, philanthropy, the obligation of the wealthy to give back to society. It was Andrew Carnegie, at one time, America’s richest man and pioneer of mega philanthropy, who said, “Great fortunes are great blessings to a community.”
I can testify that Jim Ovia is discharging that obligation. Especially his investment in education and in the training of thousands. I can testify also personally because he is the chair of the North East Children’s Fund, a fund for building of comprehensive learning centres for thousands of orphans in the North East of Nigeria.
The third tax is Civic Tax; the obligation of the successful to write their stories, to share their experiences and histories of the phenomena they have become, in order to instruct, to admonish and to inspire the present and the future. The task is a difficult one because, if it is to be useful, the author must be prepared to be vulnerable, because an honest and truthful account of the life of the truly successful may not necessarily be, as we have read from this book, from glory to glory. Indeed, the story may be more gory than glorious.
I am personally impressed, but not surprised, by Jim’s great success in the discharge of this obligation. I am not surprised that he tells the story honestly. He is, despite great wealth and achievement, an exceedingly humble and self-effacing man.
So I am not surprised that he is able to tell the story of the incredibly humble beginnings, a man who lost his father at the age of five, with very little, he discusses all of the poverty, but more importantly his admission that he did not prevail because he was superman or a genius. His story left ample room for grace, time and chance, and sheer providence.
The Nigerian dream is captured here. A man from nowhere, with apologies from all those from Agbor here, including the royal father, from nothing to a N6 trillion enterprise!
The vast majority of Nigeria’s most successful entrepreneurs, did not begin from families of wealth or great education or privilege, most are first generation university degree holders. But they have cracked the ceilings imposed by poverty and deprivation.
This is the true essence of the Nigerian dream. As he writes in the prologue: “The path to success is accessible to every young African person, regardless of background, family, income or education. If I can do it, you can, too.”
But personal business success stories abound here and there. What is rare is the heart and commitment to build others, nurture them without the least apprehension that they could be better than him. We heard of Aig Imoukhuede, the MD of a rival bank, made a difference in his professional career, and in the fortunes of his bank.
Today, we have three governors here; Kassim Shettima, governor of Borno State; Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom State; and Godwin Emefiele, Governor of Central Bank. These are leaders that Jim has nurtured and brought up, and helped them remain comfortable and well where they are.
In “Africa Rise and Shine,” Jim uses his own story, and many others, to describe the trajectory of a continent and a nation that always appeared to be overcome by its challenges and contradictions. But like Jim’s life story, the story of Africa and our nation will go well and end well. We will renew ourselves.
Jim’s story gives us the key: at the end of the day it is not about how much talent or potential, it’s not about how the figures look in the first few days. It is about three things:
It is about the integrity of leadership, fidelity to a cause despite all the distractions, the cause of service over self. Sacrificial leadership.
Neither a financial empire nor a nation can be built successfully if the leadership cannot delay gratification, or keep their hands off the capital or the commonwealth.
It was Craig Lounsbrough who said, “One must give way to the other. Sacrifice of self or sacrifice for self.” The sacrifice ‘of’ self for the greater good is the greatest calling imaginable, and it is the bedrock of the greatest nations and of the greatest men and women. The sacrifice ‘for’ self is the most pathetic calling imaginable, and it is the quicksand within which nations and men and women who would have been great perish.”
The Zenith story is the story of vision and hard work, but Jim lets us know that remaining at the zenith would involve a bit more, it would mean continuously and daily serving the best interest of others. Congratulations Jim. God bless you.