Ekeh, Africa’s Digital Militant Comes of Age
Jim Rohn, I bet you may never have heard about him, but he was an American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker. He shared a history that perfectly mirrored the American dream. Talk about rags to riches narrative, and his name pops up. He is reputed to have influenced scores of people in the personal development industry. Rohn himself was influenced by another American entrepreneur and motivational speaker, John Earl Shoaff, by just listening to Shoaff speak at a programme in the 50’s.
As years rolled by, the influenced became the influencer of men and women. He made himself available for service to humanity. He transformed from a mere store clerk in a department store to an employer of labour, creator of wealth and entrepreneurial role model. He once said: “Whoever renders service to many puts himself in line for greatness – great wealth, great return, great satisfaction, great reputation, and great joy”.
Such is often the story of most great men. They humble themselves to learn from others; they submit themselves to be challenged and influenced by persons already at the cusp of success. Such is also the story of a profoundly restless and daring Nigerian who after listening to a presentation by computer guru, the late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computers in the 80’s in the United Kingdom, caught the bug of digital entrepreneurship. As the story goes, Nigeria’s Leo Stan Ekeh, who turns 60 tomorrow, February 22, 2016, only had a chance meeting with Steve Jobs as part of an audience of mostly university students whom Jobs shared his thoughts with. That encounter with Steve Jobs, albeit subliminal, fired up the innate derring-do potentials in the young Nigerian who vowed to do for Africa what Jobs did for America.
And it was only a matter of time when the Steve Jobs influence began to manifest in the Nigerian. Armed with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from Panjab University, Chandigarh, India and a post-graduate diploma in Risk Management from Nottingham/ City University, London, young Ekeh considered himself primed to take on the challenge of causing a digital revolution in Africa, starting from his native Nigeria. This was after he discontinued his Postgraduate programme in Computer Science at Corkcity University, Ireland in 1984 spending only just three months on the programme. He would later abandon his Master Degree programme in Business Law after eight months at what is today known as London Metropolitan University. The reason was not because he wanted to be that high-profile school dropout but he wanted to use his school fees to launch his first computer company as a precursor to making the Steve Jobs-induced dream become a reality. And he did when he returned to Nigeria. From that start-up has sprouted a fully integrated information communications technology conglomerate with local and offshore offices.
Leo Stan at 60 is the story of the proverbial rolling stone. Legendary writer Publilius Syrus, who was credited with the proverb – a rolling stone gathers no moss – must have meant that people who are always on the move, who avoid taking on responsibilities end up achieving nothing. But latter day interpretation juxtaposes “moss” with “stagnation”. This modern day interpretation means that those who keep moving, never stagnating, achieve more because they are full of ideas, take the next risk, are never bogged down by conventions and never afraid to fail hence they dare and keep daring and ultimately keep succeeding.
This best illustrates the twists and turns that highlight the career trajectory of this illustrious son of Africa. He is your ideal upwardly mobile man; taking entrepreneurial risks in ICT, oil and gas, banking, e-commerce and property. Plus, he was once a Disc Jockey (DJ), yes, this non-smoking teetotaler (never smoked cigarette or tasted alcohol in his life because as he said “they never appealed to me”) was once a freak on the console.
And if American molecular biologist and Nobel Prize winner, James Watson, is still steeped in his controversial theory that black people are less intelligent than their white folks, he has a ready counteracting response in Leo Stan, a man once described by Adams Oshiomhole, the comrade Governor of Edo State as a ‘Digital Militant’. In his chosen field of ICT, he has not only debunked the demeaning and vexatious illogic by breaking frontiers, he has also earned the recognition of the white man for his listless exertions, entrepreneurial acuity and excellent leadership exemplum. Microsoft was left with no choice than to make him a Microsoft Global Advisor. Global ICT brands namely Hewlett Packard, Lenovo, Apple, Dell, Acer among others thought it wise to partner with him rather than compete with him. And as he has maintained a strong foothold in the hardware marketplace, so he has ramped up his hold in software engineering making his Zinox Group a fully integrated ICT solutions conglomerate and clearly one of the largest in Africa.
At 60, Leo Stan has given so much to society. He has created jobs, created wealth, given knowledge to African youths, influenced generations and above all rendered service to many and has ipso facto put himself in line for greatness . Today, he enjoys great wealth, great return, great satisfaction, great reputation, and great joy. The once-upon-time little lad – a mass servant and choir boy – from Ubomiri, near Owerri, Imo State has worked his way to the global club of influencers.
Journalism has exposed me to many people, some great, some not so great but in all I am yet to encounter any Nigerian who is as passionate about Nigeria as Leo Stan. His patriotic fervour for his country is cast on iron – unshakable! He is not one to latch on to the divisive strands of ethnicity; highly detribalized and makes no pretence about it. He gave full expression to this when he gave out his first daughter in marriage to the Ijogun family from Igbara Oke, Ondo State.
Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, is noted for his frugality with praise and laudatory plaudits for men but not when the subject is Leo Stan. Obasanjo never ceased to speak good of him and on October 1, 2002 he decorated the ICT magnate with Icon of Hope Award as a testament for his exemplary digital revolution. He is also a recipient of many awards, national honours and honourary doctorate degrees.
He has served the Nigerian government in several strategic Presidential Committees including the strategic seven-man Committee under President Obasanjo administration – The Nigeria Thinkers – headed by the President and involved in visioning the Nigeria road map and possible dominance in select sectors in Africa and the world.
As Rohn said, “whoever renders service to many puts himself in line for greatness”. Leo Stan has rendered service to many, he has put himself in line for greatness; therefore, he deserves 60 thrills for his great service.
Author: KEN UGBECHIE…First published in Sun newspaper on Sunday, February 21, 2016.