By Eric Elezuo
“I will stay calm and resolute. I will not be distracted. No amount of lies can ever cover up the truth. Soon the truth will come out” – Akinwunmi Adesina
The re-election of the President of African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, for another five years tenure, has proved that challenges are created to build the man of honour. Much as detractors meant it for his downfall, posterity elevated the man of candour to a fame of indescribable height.
It is not every day that spotlessly honest Nigerians walk the space of leadership within the country’s administrative sphere. Akinwunmi Adesina is one Nigerian who has left the footprint of achievements, nostalgia, accomplishment and determination in the sands of time, culminating in his unequivocal acceptance by well meaning peoples of the earth, the distraction created by the United States of America notwithstanding.
Born to a Nigerian farmer in Ibadan, Oyo State, on February 6, 1960, Adesina attended a village school and graduated with a Bachelors in Agricultural Economics with First Class Honors from the University of Ife, Nigeria in 1981. He was basically the first student to be awarded this distinction by the university. He followed up his studies at Purdue University in Indiana, briefly returning to Nigeria in 1984 to get married.
Afterwards, he returned to school, obtaining his PhD (Agricultural Economics) in 1988 from Purdue, winning the Outstanding Ph.D Thesis for his research work in the bargain.
Adesina’s professional career kicked off proper in 1990, when he served as a Senior Economist at West African Rice Development Association (WARDA) in Bouaké, Ivory Coast. He served till 1995.
He worked at the Rockefeller Foundation since winning a fellowship from the Foundation as a senior scientist in 1988. From 1999 to 2003 he was the representative of the Foundation for the southern African area. And from 2003 until 2008, he was an Associate Director for food security.
In 2010, he was appointed Nigerian Agriculture Minister, a post he held till 2015 when the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan ended.
Adesina was named as Forbes African Man of the Year for his reform of Nigerian agriculture. He introduced more transparency into the fertiliser supply chain. He also said that he would give away mobile phones to farmers but this proved too difficult as a result of lack of mobile network in rural areas.
In 2010, United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon appointed him as one of 17 global leaders to spearhead the Millennium Development Goals.
On May 28, 2015, just before he completed his tenure as the Nigerian Minister of Agriculture, a position he had held for four years, Adesina was elected the presumptive President of the African Development Bank. He began his tenure of the office on September 1 2015. He is the eighth president in the organization’s history, and the first Nigerian to hold the post.
On resumption at the AfDB, He launched a strategy based on energy, agriculture, industrialization, regional integration and bettering Africans’ lives. The Board of Executive Directors approved the reorganization of the structure around these five priorities.
In September 2016, Adesina was appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to serve as member of the Lead Group of the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement.
In 2017, he was awarded 2017 World Food Prize. Upon receiving the prize on October 21, 2017. Adesina donated the $250,000 he received to the development of African youth in agriculture. That is how generous and benevolent he is.
Adesina is not all work; he is reportedly very close to his God. While at Purdue University, he, his wife, along with another couple, started a Christian group called the African Student Fellowship. He and his wife Grace have two children, Rotimi and Segun.
As an Agricultural Economist, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina has been a leader in agricultural innovation for over 30 years. He has contributed greatly to food security in Africa, aimed at improving the lives of millions currently living in poverty, throughout the African continent. The Sunhak Committee acknowledges Dr. Akinwumi Adesina’s achievements in promoting Good Governance of Africa, which boosts Africa’s capacity to feed itself and transform its total economies for generating wealth for millions of rural and poor African farmers.
At the Cape Town International Convention Center, the Sunhak Peace Prize Committee announced him as a co-winner of the 2019 Laureates for the Sunhak Peace Prize, the other person is Waris Dirie, 53 year-old world-class supermodel and anti-FGM activist.
Dr. Akinwumi Adesina has been a leader in agricultural innovation in Africa for over 30 years, bringing great improvement to Africa’s food security. contributing to Africa’s dynamic growth. His leadership is building stepping-stones for Africa’s dynamic growth.
Chairman of the Sunhak Peace Prize Committee, Dr. Il Sik Hong, stated that “the Sunhak Peace Prize was established based upon the vision of “One Family Under God.” The 2019 Sunhak Peace Prize gives special attention to peace and human development in Africa.”
Dr. Hong added “in order for us to build an era of peace and coexistence in the 21st century, we want to encourage continuous development in Africa. Africa is a rising star and its growth will contribute global progress and development throughout the 21st century.”
The Sunhak Peace Prize honors individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to the peace and the welfare of the future generations. The Sunhak Peace Prize includes a cash prize totaling one million dollars. The 2019 Sunhak Peace Prize Award Ceremony will take place in February, 2019 in Seoul, Korea.
Dr. Akinwumi Adesina pioneered major transformations in the agricultural field, including expanding rice production by introducing high yielding technologies, designing and implementing policies to support farmers’ access to technologies at scale, increasing the availability of credit for millions of smallholder farmers, attracting private investments for the agricultural sector, rooting out the corrupt elements in the fertilizer industry, and assisting in establishment of major agricultural policies for Africa’s green revolution.
The “Africa Fertilizer Summit,” which he organized in 2006, was one of the largest high-level meetings in Africa’s history that had a focus on solving Africa’s food issues. During this Summit, Dr. Adesina was instrumental in developing the “Abuja Declaration on Fertilizer for the African Green Revolution,” whereby the participants stated their commitment to the “eradication of hunger in Africa, by 2030.”
Dr. Adesina worked with various banks and international NGOs in order to create an innovative financing system, providing loans to small farmers, providing a way for them to rise out of poverty. This move leveraged $100 million in loans and provided opportunities for small farmers to increase their agricultural productivity, and their income.
Dr. Akinwumi Adesina currently serves as the president of the African Development Bank Group which plays a central role in Africa’s development. As an “economic commander” of Africa, he promotes the “High 5 Strategy” that include: light up and power Africa, feed Africa, industrialize Africa, integrate Africa and improve the quality of life for the people of Africa. As a result of his work, the lives of millions of people throughout Africa have been improved.
He was instrumental in gathering no fewer than 200 leading African political, business, and diplomatic leaders in Johannesburg for the 8th African Leadership Magazine Persons of the Year Award dinner. He was the cynosure of all eyes. Adesina’s achievements shone like a million stars as he was named and honored as the African of the Year 2019, the most popular vote-based third-party endorsement in Africa.
The event which was themed ‘Africa for Africans – Exploring the Gains of a Connected Continent’, brought together dignitaries including South African Deputy President, David D Mabuza, South AfricanMinisters Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Lindiwe Zulu, and Dr. Ken Giami, Publisher of African Leadership Magazine.
In the keynote speech he delivered on the night, Adesina’s passion for the continent was seen as palpable, connecting with the attentive audience. Much as he deserved the honour by every standard, he nonetheless expressed deep humility in being recognised, clasifying his giant strides as ‘modest achievements and contributions to Africa’.
“Humbled to be nominated by what I gather to be 60% of the votes cast by some 1 million people, humbled to be at the helm of an organisation that is making a tremendous difference across Africa – the African Development Bank. An organisation that is daily making prosperity a reality,” he said.
He dedicated the award to his wife, Grace, the Board, staff, and colleagues at the bank, his mother, and “to the young mothers, struggling to bring up a child, to the farmer in search of a better tomorrow, to the youth of Africa longing for a better future, and to Africa’s journalists who risk their lives in helping to tell Africa’s true story.”
Seen as the visionary behind the African Development Bank’s High 5 strategy, he noted that the primary focus of the African Development Bank is “to light up and power Africa, to feed Africa, to industrialise Africa, to integrate Africa, and to improve the quality of life of the people of Africa. Five simple, strategic, and highly focused objectives.” The truth is he has never reneged in achieving the feats.
The African Leadership Magazine Persons of the Year Awards is now the most popular vote-based third-party endorsement in Africa.
Under his leadership, the bank has helped 18 million people get electricity, 141 million people get agricultural technologies, 13 million people get finance through private sector investee companies, 101 million people get improved transport services, and 60 million people get better water and sanitation.
“Africa does not need anyone to believe in her or to affirm her place and position in history. Africa will and must develop with pride. For right on the inside of us, as Africans, lies our greatest instrument of successes: confidence!” Here is a man who loves Africa with an undying passion.
On January 16, 2020, Adesina came face to face with can arguably be termed the greatest challenge of his career if not his life when allegations of ethical breaches were leveled against him by whistleblowers with the backing of the United States of America. The complaint was conveniently leaked paving the way for assault and a smear campaign.
Consequently, a high powered Ethics Committee, comprising Executive Directors representing shareholder nations, deliberated over every single dot and cross of the allegations, and in May 2020 gave Adesina a clean bill of health. In their words, the allegations were frivolous, baseless, and without merit or evidence. The report and conclusive deliberations of the Ethics Committee was subsequently sent to all Finance Ministers, better referred to as Governors of the Bank’s 81 shareholder counties, including the United States for ratification.
Not even one of the allegations stuck, making the originators bow their faces in shame. A cross section of respondents told the Boss that Adesina would have to be removed as President of the Bank and made ineligible for re-election originally scheduled for May 2020 if one allegation has scaled through.
Adesina’s watertight innocent was upheld by almost everyone that has a voice from across his country of birth, Nigeria, and across Africa.
The Nigerian government protested that the governance procedures of the Bank during the investigation were followed to the letter including painstaking analysis of facts, evidence and documents. It noted that the whistleblowers were even prevailed upon to produce any more evidence at their disposal, but they failed they do so. It therefore, wondered at the sudden turnaround of the United States to call for another ‘independent investigation’.
“The Ethics Committee, following three months of work to examine the whistleblowers’ allegations made against the President, dismissed each and every one of the allegations of the whistleblowers against the President as unsubstantiated and baseless.
“The Nigerian Government welcomes this conclusion of the Ethics Committee and the decision of the Chair of the Board of Governors”, the statement read. The probe committee was headed by Takuji Yano, the institution’s Japanese Executive Director.
Towing the line of the Nigeria government, a former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, mobilised former African leaders to the rescue of the embattled president. In a letter, the former leader personally signed and copied about 13 former heads of state, cutting across all regions of Africa, Obasanjo proposed that the leaders jointly issue a press statement to support the laid down procedures embarked upon to evaluate the allegations against the President of the Bank.
Just as the Nigerian government, Obasanjo went further to highlight Adesina’s achievements, noting that under his leadership AfDB “has been actively positioned as an effective global institution ranked fourth globally in terms of transparency among 45 multilateral and bilateral institutions.”
Other achievements include taking bold measures to ensure the bank can respond proactively to support African countries and got its board of directors to approve a $10 billion crisis response facility to support African countries during the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as successfully launching a $53 billion ‘Fight COVID-19’ social impact bond on the international capital market at 0.75 per cent interest rate.”
Africa Leaders, on their part, under the aegis of Concerned African Leaders, released a statement titled Leadership of the African Development Bank: A Need for Caution, announcing their solidarity with Adesina, stating inter alia:
“The African Development Bank is a pride for all of Africa, and its President, Dr. Adesina, has taken the Bank to enviable heights. At this critical time that Africa is battling with COVID-19, the Bank and its President should not be distracted.”
Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, personally assured him that he would stand by him, and was so elated at the announcement of his reelection, saying ‘you deserve it’. He also thanked the African Union for its endorsement of Adesina, and to the shareholders of the bank.
Also on the trail of congratulatory messages were former Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila among others.
Adesina has been fearless in the discharge of his duties, creating many firsts and stepping on supposedly powerful toes.
“In 2019, he successfully led the Bank’s shareholder General Capital Increase from $93 billion to $208 billion. In the process, he became the first Bank President to take the risk of championing a case for increasing capital for Africa’s development during a first term in office. It was a gambit that paid off in spite of initial strong American opposition.
“In 2018, Adesina championed and helped create the Bank-sponsored Africa Investment Forum which in 2018 and 2019 attracted more than $80 billion in infrastructure investment interests into the continent. This was an unprecedented initiative. The U.S. representative was said to have considered the Forum a departure from the Bank’s original mandate. Some also saw this as an attempt by Adesina to help wean African nations off a dependency on foreign aid. Some critics also suggested that Adesina was attempting to burnish his credentials among African Heads of State via the investment forum.
In the next five years, when his tenure will climax, the accomplished technocrat and reputable entrepreneur is sure to quadruple his achievements of the last five years.