Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of social networking website, Facebook, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg, yesterday found an admirer in President Muhammadu Buhari on account of his simplicity.
Zuckerberg yesterday hurried back to Nigeria from Kenya after an earlier visit to keep an appointment with Buhari.
The president told Zuckerberg, who visited him at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, that he was impressed by the American multi-billionaire’s “simplicity in sharing your knowledge and wealth with those with less income.”
The simplicity and magnanimity of the entrepreneur, who is among the world’s richest men, has, according to Buhari, challenged what he called the culture of lavish wealth display and impulsive spending among many Nigerians.
He said: “In our culture, we are not used to seeing successful people appear like you. We are not used to seeing successful people jogging and sweating on the streets.
“We are more used to seeing successful people in air-conditioned places. We are happy you are well-off and simple enough to always share.”
Besides, Buhari said that the various meetings which Zuckerberg held with Nigerian youths since his arrival were timely as the country was already exploring opportunities to spur development through entrepreneurship.
“Nigeria has always been identified as a country with great potentials for growth, especially with our youthful population, but now we are moving beyond the potentials to reality,” Special Adviser (Media) to the President, Femi Adesina, quoted him as saying.
Nigerians were shocked to see Zuckerberg, dressed in a pair of jeans and t-shirt, walking the streets of Yaba, Lagos, interacting freely with ordinary Nigerians and even jogging on the Ikoyi link bridge.
In his remarks, Zuckerberg said he was impressed by the interest, energy and entrepreneurial spirit displayed by young Nigerians in all the ICT camps that he visited. “I was highly impressed by the talent of the youths in the Co-creation Hub in Yaba. I was blown away by their talent and the level of energy that I saw.”
Zuckerberg said he was in the country to promote the penetration of “fast and cheap” internet connectivity, Express-wifi that would help people create online businesses and reduce poverty.
After the meeting with the president, Zuckerberg and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo went to the old Banquet Hall of the State House for the Aso Villa Demo Day where the three finalists from a total of 4,000 that competed in innovative and technology ideas relevant to solving Nigerian problems, Tracology, Recycle point, and Mass shuttle, were announced to the public.
Airtel gave N3 million to each of the first three winners, while Sahara Energy gave each of them N500, 000. Dell also gave them an undisclosed amount.
Speaking at the event, Zukerberg said: “It’s so inspiring to see what you have built here. This trip has really blown me away by the talents of young entrepreneurs and developers in this country, and making a difference and making a change.
“It reminds me of when I wanted to start Facebook. I wasn’t starting a company at the time but wanted to build something to see if it would work. And that is what I see people here do, pushing through challenges, building things that you want to see in the world, if it will help the company great, if it will help the country great.
“You are not just going to shape Nigeria and the whole of Africa but the whole world. So what I will say to the winners today and all the people that participated that I’m blown away by what you are doing, I believe in you and I look forward to seeing what you do, and congratulations.”
Vice President Osinbajo said: “It’s really exciting to have Mark Zuckerberg with us. I think one of the great things you have demonstrated is that it is possible to live your dream, it is possible to make your dreams not just come true but so fabulously that it will not only influence your environment but you will influence the whole world.
“One of the things you have done is really to create connectivity across the world so that people are really able to interact across tribe, race, countries and feel as part of one family and one faith.
“So I think that it’s one of great things that you have done. And your coming to Nigeria has been especially energising not just for the young people but for everyone else. As you can see, I’m on Facebook and the president is also on Facebook.