It was a birthday wish befitting of Mrs. Awele Elumelu, revered medical doctor, wife of philanthropist and businessman Tony Elumelu, who has maintained a quiet profile since she got married, writes Ferdinand Ekechukwu
Birthdays come once in a year. Such momentous occasion is much more than a day to receive gifts. For Mrs. Awele Elumelu, it was a day that slipped by perhaps for the simple reason being who she is; that is one known for low profile. But such memorable day wouldn’t just pass by without the kind words a beautiful, humble, faithful and pious wife could get from her appreciative husband, Tony Elumelu.
The Philanthropist and businessman, on Sunday June 23 had called his wife, Awele, his quiet backbone, to celebrate her birthday. Mr. Elumelu also called his wife of 26 years his ‘mom extraordinaire’ in a tweet which accompanied several pictures of the big family. “Celebrating Queen of House TOE; my quiet backbone; and mom extraordinaire. Happy birthday Awele! #DrMrsTOE,” he wrote.
Such was the height of the appreciation of her memorable day that UBA Group, a conglomerate headed by her gentle billionaire banker husband, extended it on its Facebook page: “Happy birthday to the CEO of Avon Medical Practice and Chairperson of Avon HMO; Dr. Awele Vivian Elumelu. Wishing you many more years of happiness, good health, and further success.”
Elumelu got married to Awele in 1993. The pair have seven children – five girls and two boys. Awele, a medical doctor, has maintained a quiet profile since they got married. She cherishes her privacy greatly and usually makes lasting statements especially with her unique ways and whenever she steps out with her husband at corporate and social events. An encounter with the respected medical doctor at social event attests to the fact that she is not a snub.
The media promotes various wealthy men without putting in mind that these men have pillars called women who helped in nurturing the billionaire dreams. Awele is one of success stories. Talk about beauty and brain and the wife of the businessman comes to mind. She plays an active part in her husband’s conglomerate as the Chief Executive Officer of Avon Medical Services Limited and oversees the healthcare investments of the group.
As they say, behind every successful man, there is a woman. It is no longer behind, but beside. How has it been supporting her husband and the journey so far? To her it’s has been a journey, it has been a ride, and it has not been easy but she is someone who believes strongly in whatever goals and dreams Tony believes in. “This makes it easy for me to believe along with him because he does not give up, he does not get tired, and he is tireless. It has been one hell of a ride as they say,” Awele said earlier.
With a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree from the University of Benin, Awele had worked with the Grantham and District Hospital, Grantham, United Kingdom. She had also worked with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. With positions like the Chairman, Heirs Holdings, UBA, Transcorp and The Tony Elumelu Foundation, the Elumelus quite have a great conglomerate in their hands.
As the Chairperson of Avon Healthcare Limited and the Founder/CEO of Avon Medical Practice, a growing network of full-service clinics and onsite facilities with corporate institutions, Awele is focused on expanding and improving access to quality healthcare in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation.
In January 2018, Awele was appointed as Private Sector Champion for Immunisation in Africa by GAVI, the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation. In this role, she leverages her knowledge, corporate networks, and expertise from the healthcare and business sectors to champion vaccination and immunisation in Africa, where almost 10 million children are yet to be fully immunised
As GAVI Champion in Africa, Dr. Elumelu is a strong advocate for innovative public-private partnership models that bring together the expertise and resources of governments, private donors, industry, and international organisations to deliver life-saving vaccination programmes while ensuring maximum cost efficiency.
As an African ambassador, Dr. Elumelu is championing proper healthcare right now in terms of saving the lives of children that need vaccination in Nigeria and Africa at large. “There is a lot of work going on. You know GAVI does not actually have offices in any country, so they work with the government. The organisation that we work through here is the Nigerian Primary Health Care Development Authority (NPHCDA). They are doing a lot of work so we keep working with them, having regular meetings with them and they are getting the word out there.
“So, it is just about doing more work with them to ensure proper coverage, that’s basically it. We also need to continue to get the message out; we need more companies to come in and support, we need parents to be enlightened as to the importance of vaccines, we also need the government to provide more support,” she said.
A gender advocate, she describes the secret of her success and would like women toeing her part to be much better than her possibly as she encourages them thus: “Actually, better, because we always want them to be better. I think first of all, you should be genuinely interested in improving yourself and improving the society around you. A bit of selfless interest, I would say. I want to talk about contentment but then, I would say even though you should be content with what you have, at the same time, don’t be content. This is especially when you see that things are not going the way they should, with mediocrity or with things that you feel could be better.
“Also, persevere and do not give up. I know we have a lot of challenges in our society, in our country, but persevere. It is only through persevering that we will get there. If we all fold our arms and say there are too many challenges and there is nothing we can do, we will not make any progress. I want to encourage women to continue to do what we can, support our men, support our children, and believe in ourselves that we too can do it!”