Rich men here don’t dress like you, Buhari tells Facebook founder

Zuckerberg attends Aso Villa Demo Day

CO-FOUNDER and the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of social networking website, Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, returned to Nigeria on Friday to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

At the meeting, the president noted the simple lifestyle of Zukerberg saying rich men in Nigeria were not known for such low profile.

The American businessmen had left Lagos earlier in the week for Kenya amidst speculation that he had been shunned by government officials who had no contact with him during his stay in Lagos.

But Zuckerberg returned from Kenya and was ushered into the president’s office for a meeting, also attended by numerous ministers, including Adebayo Shittu, Ogbonnaya Onu, Okechukwu Enalemah and Lai Mohammed of Communications, Science and Technology, Trade and Investments and Information and Culture, respectively.

At the meeting, Buhari commended Zuckerberg for sharing his wealth of knowledge with Nigerian youths, and inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs.

President Buhari said the various meetings held with Nigerian youths since his arrival were most timely as the country was already exploring opportunities to spur development through entrepreneurship.

He said: “Nigeria has always been identified as a country with great potential for growth, especially with our youthful population, but now we are moving beyond the potential to reality.”

Famous for appearing in T-shirts, jeans trousers and sneakers, Buhari told Zuckerberg that Nigerians were not used to seeing wealthy people like that.

“I am impressed by your simplicity in sharing your knowledge and wealth with those with less income,” he added.

The President noted that the simplicity and magnanimity of the entrepreneur, who is among the world’s richest men, had also challenged the culture of lavish wealth display and impulsive spending that had become peculiar to Nigerians.

“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.”

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 had 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,” he said.

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.

Zuckerberg, who was dressed in black suit and neck tie, later attended Aso Villa Demo Day, a programme organised to pick winners of innovative ideas in start-up businesses organised at the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa.

The American entrepreneur said he was impressed by what he has seen on his trip to Nigeria.

He 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 is 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.”

In his remarks, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo noted that Zuckerberg had demonstrated that it was possible to live “your dream, influence the environment and the world.”

“Your coming to Nigeria has been especially energising, not just for the young people, but for everyone else,” he said.

He commended the 30 persons who made the shortlist of the Aso Villa Demo Day and the three eventual winners who went home with various sums of money.