This is the story of how a dropout from postgraduate courses in Computer Science and Business Law metamorphosed into the biggest name in Nigeria’s digital ecosystem. Olubayo Abiodun provides the details in this lucid prose
NIGERIA’S first locally produced computer system was not made by a computer engineer. It was not even the handiwork of a computer scientist. It is the product of Leo-Stan Ekeh, a ‘technopreneur’ who trained first and foremost as an Economist having obtained his B.Sc (Hons) from Punjab University, India and later followed it up with a post graduate diploma in Risk Management from Nottingham City University, London. But through dogged determination and zeal as well as uncommon passion for taking risks, he developed Zinox Customer Premise Equipment (CPE), a brand that is now known as the Nigerian made computer.
This man who clocked 60 years in February had the singular honour of lifting Nigeria’s name into the super bowl of computer manufacturing. Here is a man who loves plunging into risk avenues. No surprise that twice he terminated post graduate programmes that most pundits would have considered booster for his entrepreneurship passion in computer manufacturing. In the first instance, Leo-Stan terminated his post graduate degree in Computer Science at Cork City University, Ireland in 1984 after spending three months. The decision was based on agreement between his parents and the University as his parents did not see a future in IT in Africa since Leo-Stan insisted on returning home after graduation. Secondly, he also abandoned his Masters’ Degree in Business Law after eight months at what is known today as London Metropolitan University. He thereafter used his school fees to launch his first Company “Task Systems Limited”. It is with this ‘risky decision’ that he caused digital revolution in Nigeria by pioneering Desktop Publishing and Computer Graphics in West Africa. This is the platform he used in computerizing over 95 per cent of Media and Multimedia houses as well as book publishing firms in Nigeria.
Leo-Stan has been in the fore front of digital emancipation of Africans. He sure knows the business terrain with uncanny agility and he tries to project the future. He paved the way for leading foreign brands to gain traction in the Nigerian market.He inspired Apple Computers, Hewlett Packard, Compaq, Microsoft, and Lenovo among others to establish offices in Nigeria. And determined to give a sense of mission and accomplishment to local entrepreneurship, rather than continue to flourish with foreign brands, Leo-Stan decided with radical thinking to build his own machine. By the token of his initiative, he launched the first local and internationally certified Computer brand in Sub-Saharan Africa – Zinox Technologies Group – Manufacturers of Zinox brand of Computers and mobile devices. He did that with a dedicated team including assistants, who carried out the entire task of design, construction and then application design and programming.
He has also disrupted the popular adage about the honour for a prophet in his homestead. In his case, Nigerian government and Africans at large have accorded him deserved respect in the course of time. He had previously served the federal government of Nigeria in several strategic Presidential Committees including: “The Nigeria Thinkers”, the most strategic seven-man Committee under former President Obasanjo administration. This was the strategy and tact committee headed by the President that visualized the Nigeria global roadmap and possible dominance in select sectors in Africa and the world.
This digital investment titan equally has an ambition to build the first and largest 360 degrees ICT conglomerate in Africa and with his Group’s investment in Xputer; a 21st century Software company.He is also an acclaimed leader in the ICTs ecosphere with the active roles of his companies in the digital re-engineering of the society. These companies include Task Systems Limited, ICT Distribution (Technology Distributions), Digital Hardware manufacturing and Hybrid ICT solutions, Retail (Yudala by relationship), Enterprise Digital Internet Hub (Zinox Telecoms Ltd, Nigeria and Ashour Corporation, Dubai) just to mention a few.
Leo-Stan has a reputation for being very advanced when it comes to what could be described as business processes. He is not operating in silos because he is also building a generation of future talents. He is not an innovator who lives and perishes with his noble ideas. He has forged a strategic partnership with his wife of 30 years standing; Mrs. Chioma Ekeh. This brilliant and consummate business leader is equipped with with B.Sc. degree in Mathematics, MBA and she is also a chartered Accountant. She is the CEO of Technology Distributions Ltd – the largest ICT Distribution Company in Sub-Saharan Africa with branches in other African Countries.
Also in the lineage for his present and future technology disruption is his first daughter; Gozy Ijogun, Head of TDMobile, the largest Mobile Phones/Devices Distributors in Nigeria. Just like his father, Gozy is not an engineer but a Master’s Degree holder in Accounting from London School of Economics. And her brilliance is already making waves across the ICT marketing chains. Included in the digital dynasty is Prince Nnamdi Ekeh; a brilliant and very humble 23-yearold Digital Entrepreneur. He is the Founder of Yudala, the trend-setting and first true composite e-commerce Company in Africa. Following on the footstep of his father, he earned a second class Upper degree in Economics from Lancaster University with a stint at Harvard.
Alas the tale of the technology innovation in Africa, particularly in Nigeria, will not be complete without the compendium engendered by the legend Leo Stan Ekeh who is pulling all the vital stops in the socio-economic landscape of Nigeria and beyond. The huge success of Leo-Stan’s brand in the technology space is underscored by the fact that he was not out gunned by the popular brands from the West since he was able to compete on a greater scale not only in Nigeria but some other African countries.
He confronted fears and uncertainty with tenacity of purpose. In the process, he has continued to open new frontiers as a famous disrupter of technology for the future. “My strategy from childhood as a poor fellow was to cause disruptions hence the decision to venture into technology which allows room for constant innovation. Nevertheless, I have always held fast to integrity as my biggest collateral. This has gone a long way in helping me gain the confidence of various multinational partners we do business with. Added to this is the over 18 hours I put in every day together with my wife which has helped us build the business to its present status. I have discovered the only way I can sustain my dominance in the market place is through constant innovation and this is tied to sleeping less and eating healthily. It is important that in that hunger to be successful, you institute strong auditable system and structure which sustain your business,” he said. Today, if the technology innovation Hall of Fame is to be instituted on the continent, the name Leo Stan Ekeh will sure be a forerunner among those to be garlanded. He contributed mightily to the massive surge in technological innovation that is trending in Nigeria today. Leo-Stan has consistently pioneered exciting new technologies for his audiences. He continues to push the frontiers of innovation by expanding the boundaries of ICTs devices and services. In short, innovation is part of Leo-Stan’s DNA.
He was not the first of the family comprised of four brothers and two sisters, where the first son of the family, His Royal Highness Eze George Ekeh is the King of his town,but this Nigerian digital business wizard has recorded many firsts to his credit. He pioneered Desktop Publishing and Computer Graphics in Nigeria in 1987 with his first Company – Task Systems Ltd; pioneered the deployment of digital dispensing pumps in Nigeria in partnership with Elf Petroleum and Schlumberger, France through his company Stanoil. His business mind jumped at this after he was cheated by a petrol station attendant in Ikeja, Nigeria who used analogue pumps to dispense fuel into his car.
He also launched the first ICT support Company in Nigeria – ITEC Solutions Ltd; launched the First ICT Distribution Company in West Africa – Technology Distributions Ltd –Nigeria, Liberia and Ghana etc.; launched the first local and internationally certified Computer brand in Sub-Saharan Africa – Zinox Technologies Group – Manufacturers of Zinox brand of Computers and mobile devices etc. Leo-Stan also caused the biometric digital revolution in Nigeria with the nation’s electoral umpire; the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) voter’s registration in 2006 when foreign contractors could not deliver after months of promises. Again, he supervised the largest single ICT digital rollout in Africa with INEC in 2010 through his company Zinox Technologies that won over N27b contract. Through Zinox Technologies, he also deployed the largest single e-Library and Wireless cloud rollout in Africa.
Leo-Stan has received more than 85 awards, prominent of which is the “Icon of Hope Award” by President Olusegun Obasanjo on the 1st of October 2002 for his exemplary digital vision and as a Model for modern Nigeria. He also bagged “Order of the Federal Republic – (OFR) for his incisive digital Entrepreneurship; Pioneer ICT Personality of the year by Nigeria Computer Society – the Umbrella body of all Computer Associations in Nigeria; Fellow of the Nigeria Computer Society; distinguished Fellow of the Nigeria Law School; Over six Doctor of Science Degrees (Honoris causa) from FUTO, UNIJOS, FUAM, IMSU etc.; Microsoft Inc. Global Adviser ETC.
His life is sculptured in Spartan discipline as a deeply religious catholic folk. This is exemplified by the fact that from the onset of his life, he has neither tasted alcohol nor smoke and keeping fit has become part of his daily chores. This Africa’s foremost digital entrepreneur once attributed his numerous pioneering efforts and continued relevance over the past 30 years in the technology sector to God and hard work, while sensationally declaring himself an orphan of sorts in the business world.