Do not accept the roles that society foists on you. Re-create yourself by forging a new identity, one that commands attention and never bores the audience. Be the master of your own image rather than letting others define it for you. Incorporate dramatic devices into your public gestures and actions—your power will be enhanced and your character will seem larger than life.
Of all the 48 Laws of power, this one is arguably the most pertinent to the typical Lagosian. Law 25 can be summed up quite easily in one word – packaging. And this packaging can and should range from a person’s accent to dress sense, choice of shoes, walk, and carriage. The swag.
The erstwhile CEO of Standard Trust Bank and then UBA Plc. came from humble beginnings. He attended St Pius Secondary School Onicha-Ugbo in Delta State. It is unlike many people have heard of this school, and more unlikely that many people will ever visit. From St Pius, he proceeded to the Ambrose Alli University where he studied economics. So far so humble.
But more than a few people can still remember the heady days of Crystal Bank which went on to become Standard Trust Bank under Mr. Elumelu. They were known then as ‘cowboy bankers’ largely because of the kinds of risks they took, and the daring and unorthodox approach they had to Banking. Yet, for the era, they did what they had to do.
While bankers of the time were expected to be conservative, Mr. Elumelu and the STB cowboys turned convention on its head. They ‘packaged’ themselves and their bank to attract maximum attention and steer business away from the old banks. With considerably smaller balance sheets than the more established banks, STB under Mr. Elumelu was able to compete and grow. This at a time when small banks suffered liquidity problems and fell by the wayside one after the other.
And this was total packaging. He dressed sharply and had defined a persona for himself which simply said ‘no nonsense’. In recreating himself, Mr. Elumelu quickly laundered his academic image by attending the prestigious Harvard Business School and made a point of being recognized as one oof the school’s alumni. So complete was the repackaging, that there is virtually no mention of St Pius Onicha-Ugbo anywhere in Mr. Elumelu’s biography online.
Drop one toga, wear another
Mr. Elumelu would not allow the toga of a small provincial secondary school slow him down. In his greatest escapade, he wrestled the considerably larger United Bank for Africa from Mr. Bello Osagie. Their profiles could not be more different. If any 2 corporate titans could have come from different worlds, it was Mr. Elumelu and Mr. Bello Osagie.
The latter had attended the prestigious Kings College Lagos, Oxford University, and Harvard – where he completed an M.B.A. and not a short course. He had grown up literally in the corridors of power. His father was the personal physician to Nigerian Presidents, while Bello Osagie himself was a special assistant to President Shagari.
Contrast this profile to that of Mr. Elumelu. Yet, at the end of proceedings, Mr. Elumelu emerged as the Chairman of UBA Plc. His work life had culminated in this unbelievable ascension to corporate glory. And why? He had recreated himself and simply refused to allow society pigeon-hole him into a role he didn’t want.
Today, he is once again repackaged. This time as a statesman. He is no longer the wheeling-dealing cowboy of yore. No, today Mr. Elumelu is an international speaker who addresses world leaders at world forums such as the United Nations and other such platforms. He is a business motivator looking to give back to society and grow the next crop of entrepreneurs across Africa.
And to complete the new look, Mr. Elumelu has ditched the tight suits for more tailored suits. He even wears bowties now to accentuate the erudite look. If ever there was a true master of Law 25 it is Mr. Tony Elumelu whose character is now truly larger than life.