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Ortom Makes U-Turn, Supports Ayu’s Leadership

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Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has distanced himself from those calling for the removal of Iyorchia Ayu as the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party.

Ortom made his position on the issue clear in a statement issued by Nathaniel Ikyur, his Chief Press Secretary, maintaining that he has confidence in Ayu’s ability to lead the party to victory in next year’s general election.

The governor’s statement was in reaction to the allegations by Jemgbagh Development Association, Abuja that he was plotting the downfall of his fellow Benue man, Ayu.

Ortom’s statement goes in contrast to that of his ally, Nyesom Wike, the governor of Rivers, who leads a section of the PDP to which the Benue governor belongs to.

Since the fallout following the election of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar as the presidential candidate of the party ahead of Wike in May, Wike’s group has been insistent with their call for Ayu’s resignation as a condition for supporting Atiku in the presidential election.

Ortom, in his statement said he worked tirelessly, alongside other prominent Benue citizens, to ensure that Ayu was elected “as the national chairman of our great party even against all odds”.

“The governor could not, therefore, turn around to work against him to be removed from office,” he said.

The statement further read, “Governor Ortom vouched for the integrity and capacity of Dr. Iyorchia Ayu to lead and rebuild the PDP to victory and rescue Nigeria from the misrule of the APC maladministration. That is why Ayu was returned unopposed by the northern caucus of the party and got elected as the national chairman of the PDP at the party’s convention.

“Where was Jemgbagh Development Association when Governor Ortom galvanised support from across the leaders of the party to make Dr. Ayu PDP’s National Chairman? What was their contribution to that project that they now want to use clannish stance to blackmail the governor?

“This amorphous and emergency Jemgbagh Development Association, Abuja, which has never been heard of before, is now masquerading as the voice of Jemgbagh to embark on campaign of calumny against Governor Ortom, who has worked selflessly for the people of Benue State.

“Governor Ortom is more Jemgbagh than most of the people claiming it now. This is fact, because he has done more for Jemgbagh, both in terms of appointments and projects executed as well as patronage in the area, than even one of the Jemgbagh sons, who was governor. Besides, Governor Ortom has consistently worked for the unity of Benue State and will never stand in the way of any of her citizens, either here in the state or in the diaspora

“For those, who claimed to be leaders of this Jemgbagh Development Association, Abuja, we urge them to be truly developmental in their drive to build cohesion among the people and attract real development to their area rather than engaging in mischief or blackmail.”

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UBA Achieves Remarkable 110% Increase in Gross Earnings

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United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA), known as Africa’s Global Bank, has unveiled its first-quarter financial results for the period ending March 31st, 2024.

Demonstrating robust performance, UBA recorded impressive growth across pivotal metrics, with a notable 110% increase in gross earnings and a staggering N156 billion profit for the quarter, marking a remarkable year-on-year growth of 165%.

The Group’s results, which were released to the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX) on Friday May 3rd, 2024, saw outstanding year-on-year increases: Gross Earnings rose by 110%, from N271.1billion to N570.2 billion; Interest Income grew by 130%, to N440.7 billion.  Operating Income increased by 115%, from N175.7 billion in 2023, to N378.59 billion.

Further consolidating the record performance delivered in the Group’s 2023 Full Year Audited Financials, UBA again saw Profit Before Tax rising significantly by 155% from N61.7 billion in Q1 2023, to N156.34 billion in Q1 2024; while Profit After Tax jumped from N53.5 billion to N142.5 billion, representing an impressive rise of 165% year-on-year.

Commenting on the results, UBA’s Group Managing Director, Oliver Alawuba, said the Group delivered strong first quarter performance, building on the solid momentum of 2023, as well as the ongoing execution of its long-held strategy of customer focus, geographic diversification and effective risk management and governance.

He said, “Our record Q1 profit before tax was delivered with triple digit gross earnings growth, supported by very strong interest and non-interest income. Fees and Commissions rose by 118% year-on-year on the back of improved efficiencies and continued digital adoption.  This has helped drive improvement in efficiency and customer satisfaction, with the Group’s cost-to-income ratio held at 57.8%.”

“The Group’s balance sheet grew steadily with Total Assets increasing by 23% to N25.4 trillion. Customer deposits closed at N18.4 trillion, recording a 23% increase year-on-year, largely attributed to growth in current accounts and savings accounts.”

“Our unwavering commitment to sound governance, robust risk management, and financial strength positions us for continued growth, while we contribute meaningfully to inclusive economic development across our network.”

Also speaking on the performance, UBA’s Executive Director, Finance and Risk, Ugo Nwaghodoh, said the Group’s operating results for the quarter showed the actions taken to enhance the Group’s performance continued to deliver.

He said, “Our first quarter results highlight our relentless customer focus and the strength of UBA’s geographic and product diversification, with good performance across all our regions.  We continue to differentiate ourselves across all key financial metrics, with a keen focus on high-quality risk adjusted revenues and cost discipline, while maintaining very sound asset quality.“

“We remain committed to reducing both interest expense and operating expenses and expect to make steady progress as we move through the year toward our stated profitability targets,” Nwaghodoh stated.

United Bank for Africa Plc is a leading Pan-African financial institution, offering banking services to more than twenty-five million customers, across over 1,000 business offices and customer touch points, in 20 African countries and across 4 continents.

With presence in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France and the United Arab Emirates, UBA connects people and businesses across Africa through retail; commercial and corporate banking; innovative cross-border payments and remittances; trade finance and ancillary banking services.

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Governor Umo Eno and Dignitaries Celebrate Apostle Gboyega Shitta’s 25th Anniversary

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The 25th wedding anniversary celebration of Apostle Gboyega Shitta and his wife, Pastor (Mrs.) Wunmi Shitta, at Radisson Blu Hotel, Lagos, was graced by dignitaries including Akwa Ibom State Governor, Pastor Umo Eno, and his immediate predecessor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, CON.

Pastor Eno who was accompanied by his deputy, Senator Akon Eyakenyi, applauded the couple for their dedication and commitment to the vineyard of the Lord

He described the celebrants as passionate ambassadors of God’s kingdom and beacons of hope who have impacted many lives across the globe.

Referring to Apostle Shitta as a prayer warrior, the State Chief Executive said, ” I am here to identify with Apostle Shitta and his beloved wife on this special occasion.

“I thank God for what He has done in their lives. ”

Gov. Eno also prayed that their marriage and lives would continue to be a blessing, noting that after their silver jubilee, they would have cause to celebrate many more anniversaries.

In his own remarks at the event tagged, GW25: Praise and Thanksgiving Service, immediate past Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Udom Emmanauel noted that Apostle Shitta was one of the priests who stood by him while in government.

While acknowledging that leadership was not by age but by Grace, the former governor stated that Apostle Shitta was a leader in deed, in words, and in his way of life.

He prayed that God would continue to bless the celebrants with years of marital bliss.

In his exhortation, President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria ( PFN), Bishop Francis Wale Oke, said that from his personal observation of the couple, they have been true servants of God.

He said that the couple’s marriage has stood the test of time because of three elements, the word of God, they have been praying ceaselessly and have been looking on to God.

He advised everyone to ensure that their families, like that of the celebrants, should stand on a tripod: husband, wife, and Christ.

Other dignitaries at the event included Akwa Ibom State Deputy Governor, Senator Akon Eyakenyi, Managing Director of Hensek Integrated Services, Engr. Uwem Okoko, Bishop Lawrence Achudume, Prince Bisi Olatilo, and many men of God from across Nigeria.

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Awo Leadership Prize: Akinwumi Adesina Gets Honour Well Deserved

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By Eric Elezuo

“The choice of Dr Akinwumi Adesina can only be described as having been very well done. He represents the best of Nigeria, hardworking, diligent, brilliant, forward-looking, and deeply patriotic” – Yakubu Gowon

Here is a man, who is not new to awards owing to years of stainless performances, and timely delivery of people and welfare oriented achievements. Here’s the President, African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina CON, who by every indication qualified to be awarded the 2023 Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership Award.

The former Minister of Agriculture, who served between 2011 and 2015, won and was presented the coveted prize on Wednesday, March 6, 2024 at the Lagos Continental Hotel, Victoria Island, before a crowd of dignitaries from across the African continent. Adesina is not just a brand; he is a top-notch brand.

The event was graced by former heads of state from within and outside Nigeria, state governors, royal fathers and other distinguished Nigerians.

His acceptance speech at the occasion captured the vrry essence of his personality, the award and his passion for the growth of the African continent.

ADESINA’S ACCEPTANCE SPEECH IN FULL:

Making a New Nigeria: Welfarist Policies and People-Centered Development

Your Excellencies.

Ladies and gentlemen.

My darling wife, Grace (Yemisi) and I are simply overwhelmed with emotion, overjoyed and filled with very deep and sincere appreciation, for your being here on this occasion, and for all your heartfelt well wishes.

I am greatly honored and humbled by the very large and significant presence of leaders from my home country Nigeria, from Africa, and other parts of the world.

I wish to recognize H.E. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, ably represented by H.E. Kashim Shettima, GCON, Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; H.E. General Gowon, GCFR, former Head of State; H.E. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR; H.E. former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, my boss and H.E. former Vice President Namadi Sambo, GCON.

I am enormously honored and humbled that Excellencies Presidents and Heads of State of African countries have travelled to be here, specially, for this occasion.

I would like to specially appreciate and thank H.E. Samia Suluhu-Hassan, the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, and my dear sister and friend, who gladly agreed to be the Chairperson of this occasion.

I would like to immensely thank H.E. Azali Assoumani, President of the Republic of the Union of Comoros and former Chairperson of the African Union, my dear brother and friend; and H.E. Sahle-Work Zewde, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, my dear big sister and friend; H.E. Faure Gnassingbe, President of the Republic of Togo, my dear brother and friend, represented by the Prime Minister H.E. Victoire Dogbe; and former President of the Republic of Ghana, H.E. John Dramami Mahama; for your taking time to all be here today.

What a great honor for Nigeria and Africa.

I am also greatly honored to have here at this event, your Excellencies, the President of the Senate of Nigeria, the Speaker of the House of Representatives,

Executive Governors, distinguished senators, members of the House of Representatives, as well as Honorable Ministers from Nigeria and other African countries.

My special thanks go to H.E. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Governor of Lagos State, for your extraordinary hospitality in welcoming all of us to Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital and center of excellence.

Thank you very much.

I wish to express my deepest appreciation and gratitude to the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation for selecting me to receive this distinguished award.

My special thanks go to Ambassador Dosumu-Awolowo, Executive Director, Obafemi Awolowo Foundation; the Chair of the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation, former Head of State General H.E. Yakubu Gowon, as well as the Chairman of the Selection Committee, Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership, and H.E. Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, and members of the Technical Committee for the Prize.

My immense gratitude goes to H.E. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who nominated me for the Prize. He was my boss as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and it was my greatest honor to serve Nigeria under him as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.

My immense appreciation also goes to several global leaders who supported my nomination, including the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon; Rt. Honorable Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, former United States Ambassador to Vietnam and President Emeritus of the World Food Prize Foundation; Professor Soji Adelaja, Distinguished Professor of Land Policy, Michigan State University, USA; and Professor Patrick Verkooijen, Chief Executive Officer, Global Center on Adaptation.

The conferment of this award today, March 6, 2024, coincides with what would have marked Chief Awolowo’s 115th birthday, and 37 years since his passing.

May Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s soul continue to rest in peace, even as we draw inspiring lessons from his life, policies and philosophy.

I have received several global awards, for which I am very grateful. Receiving the Awolowo Prize for Leadership is particularly very special.

That’s because it brings back so many personal memories.

Growing up in the old Western Region of Nigeria in the 1960s, only one name was synonymous with people-centered development: Awolowo. We lived in the same community as the sage, in Okebola, Ibadan. As a young child, passing by the frontage of his house was a favorite pastime. I remember peering over its low walls, to see if I could just catch a glimpse of the man who transformed the lives of millions in the then Western region. My father was enamored by Chief Awolowo: he devoured his books, writings and articles. The name “Awolowo” was a constant guidepost for every discussion in our home.

So much was the admiration that when I was 19 years old and Chief Awolowo ran for President under the Unity Party of Nigeria in 1979, myself and a close friend desperately wanted to simply catch a glimpse of him. When we arrived at Tafawa Balewa in Lagos, the stands and the grounds were packed to capacity. The gates were locked. But we were absolutely undeterred. We had traveled all the way from Ife and would not be denied. So, we climbed the tall steel gates of the Square. An unbelievable height when I look at it today.

Once we scaled through, we ran up close to the stage where he was speaking from and proudly stood just one arms length from him and his dear wife, Mama Hannah Dideolu Awolowo. Just a glimpse was enough. We listened with rapt attention to the exposition of his plans for Nigeria. We were mesmerized.

Like a fragrance, his words took our breath away: we could smell hope in the air. Hope that Nigeria would be great. Hope that education would be free at all levels. Hope that there would be health for all. Hope that the remarkable transformation witnessed in the Western region of Nigeria, in education, agriculture, health, and infrastructure, undergirded by a highly professional and disciplined civil service, would soon take hold in Nigeria.

Like the refrains of an orchestra, the sounds of Awo, Awo, filled the air, as our hopes were raised. We could see a new Nigeria. Alas, this was not to be. Nigeria missed its best opportunity to be great under a “President” Awolowo. Chief Emeka Ojukwu said of him, “The best President that Nigeria never had.”

Let me say clearly: Chief Awolowo was bigger than Nigeria. He was the pace setter and forerunner for development in Africa. His intellectual capacity, vision, pragmatic social welfarism, helped him accomplish what was seemingly unimaginable at the time.

He built the first skyscraper in Africa—the Cocoa House. He built the first television station in Africa, WNTV. He built the Liberty Stadium, the first of its kind in Africa. He implemented a blueprint for development that focused on building human capacity through massive programs to educate the people, develop skills, lift people out of poverty, provide massive rural infrastructure, and develop institutions that turned farmers into wealthy entrepreneurs.

I dare say that Chief Awolowo implemented the sustainable development goals decades long before the phrase was coined. He was an inspiration for Africa, far beyond the shores of Nigeria. His philosophy “Awoism” was studied globally and helped shape programs and policies in other countries.

Today, my lecture is titled: Making a New Nigeria: Welfarist Policies and People-Centered Development.

From my early days, I was influenced by the same drive as Chief Awolowo. I promised myself then that if I ever got into any public position, I would run welfarist and people-centric policies.

My heartbeat has always been about people. Nothing more. Nothing less. My life is only as useful to the extent that it is used of God to do my utmost to transform the lives of people.

Awo inspired me. Decades ago, the perfume of building hope rubbed off on me. It’s a fragrance that still lingers today. So, as I stand before you to receive the Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership, I am humbled, inspired and motivated.

I feel a new sense of responsibility. I am reminded today of the words of Martin Luther King Jnr, “History has thrust upon me a responsibility from which I cannot turn away.”

Yes, I have a dream of a better and prosperous Nigeria.

Yes, I have a dream of a globally respected Africa.

Yes, I have a dream that Africa will not be condemned to the bottom rungs of the global economic ladder.

I refuse to accept poverty’s imprint on Africa.

I still believe that Nigeria will rise again.

I still believe that Africa will shine and fulfill destiny.

I still believe that we shall be who we are meant to be.

Today, I accept this Prize as a trustee of hope for millions of our people.

You bestow upon me this honor at a momentous period of great global challenges, from rising debt, climate change, fragilities and vulnerabilities.

Your honor is a call to do more amid these challenges.

So, I celebrate with measure, as I know with all humility the work of making Nigeria great, and by implication making Africa great, is still in progress. It is my lifelong mission to do all I can to improve the lives of all Africans. The wind of challenges may sometimes shift us away from our destined path, albeit momentarily, but we shall overcome our challenges.

Nigeria must dream. Africa must dream. Yes, we may have challenges, yet all I see tells me we will get there.

We must start by unleashing our full potential, while managing our challenges. We must make poverty history in Nigeria.

We must make poverty history in Africa.

We must deliver a better Nigeria, and a better Africa, for this generation and generations to come.

Given the high level of poverty in Africa, and Nigeria, what is needed are welfarist policies that exponentially expand opportunities for all, reduce inequalities, improve the quality of life of people. These must be anchored on public-centric policies and private sector wealth creation for all.

I would like to focus on five areas.

First, rural economic transformation and food security.

Second, health care security for all.

Third, education for all.

Fourth, access to affordable housing for all.

Fifth, government accountability and fiscal decentralization for a true federalism.

First, Nigeria must completely transform its rural economies to ensure food security for all.

A better Africa must start with the transformation of rural economies. That is because some 70% of the population live there. Rural poverty is extremely high. At the heart of transforming rural economies is agriculture, the main source of livelihoods.

When agriculture moves away from being a way of life to a business, everything changes. Higher incomes and wages from agribusinesses will support education and health, and spur even greater job creation for millions of youths.

As a young student who attended high school in the village, I witnessed the high correlation of agricultural performance with education.

Several of my classmates were children of farmers. I noticed then that when the agricultural season was good, they stayed in school and performed well, but when the season was poor, several dropped out or attended intermittently.

The decision by Chief Awolowo to start with the transformation of the rural economy was a very sound policy.

The establishment of farm estates, and the expansion of rural roads, supported by professionally run marketing boards helped stabilize the prices of farm produce. It is worth noting that the prudent fiscal management of the cocoa revenues powered the economies of the States that then constituted the Western Region. These revenues allowed the government to embark on an unprecedented idea—free education and free basic health care services. It was common then to hear the phrase “Agbe lo ba” (farmers are kings), uttered with great pride.

We must give new life to our rural areas.

If Chief Awolowo could do this in the 1960s, there is no reason why rural economies today should be immersed in extreme poverty. Clearly, rural economies have been abandoned, by politicians, planning and policies. Today, they have become zones of economic misery. The pauperization of rural economies is what is causing the implosion of many countries across Africa. When rural economies (the fulcrum of the African society) falter, nations falter. This leads to the spread of anarchy, banditry, and terrorism. This troika of social disruption takes advantage of the economic misery to entrench themselves.

The transformation of rural economies must therefore be structural, systemic, strategic and comprehensive. Doing so, means agriculture must be turned into a wealth creating sector.

I aggressively pursued this philosophy when I served as minister of agriculture and rural development of Nigeria from 2011 to 2015. Many call this period the “farm revolution” years, as Nigeria witnessed an impressive transformation of its agricultural sector.

With farmer-centric policies, we delivered improved seeds and fertilizers for 15 million farmers. We delivered millions of cocoa seedlings across southern Nigeria. We delivered a cotton transformation across the north. We provided millions of oil palm seedlings to farm estates, including small farmers and large farm estates, across the East, South and West. We accelerated the delivery of improved rice seeds across Nigeria and sparked a rice revolution that transformed several regions across Nigeria.

Sound public policies transform the lives of people.

I fondly remember one of my farm trips in the company of the then Governor of Kebbi State, H.E. Usman Dakingari. Amazed by the revolution happening, I recall him saying, “Minister, thank you, we no longer measure our rice yields in hectares of land, but in kilometers.”

Rural economies boomed. Local well-packaged rice took over the market. The price of rice at the time was N6,000 per bag, which helped to stem food price inflation. Unfortunately, today, that same bag of rice, just nine years later, is N77,000 per bag. That 12-fold price increase unfortunately puts rice, a basic staple, beyond the reach of millions of people.

In several parts of Africa today, farm revolutions are happening at scale, with the support of the African Development Bank. Over the last seven years, we have invested over $8.5 billion in agriculture, which has impacted 250 million people.

At the core of the Africa-wide strategy to revamp rural economies and turn them into zones of economic prosperity is the development of special agro-industrial processing zones across the continent.

These zones are being provided with critical supportive infrastructure, including water, roads, processing infrastructure and logistics. The African Development Bank and its partners are providing $1.4 billion for the development of 25 of Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones in eleven countries.

Right here in Nigeria, we are developing these zones in 8 states with $518 million. The second phase of the program in Nigeria, which will cover 23 more States, will be financed with $1 billion. The Bank and partners recently launched a $3 billion Alliance for Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones.

Feeding Africa is serious business.

To ensure that the continent can feed itself and achieve food sovereignty, we organized the Feed Africa Summit in January of 2023, which had 34 African Heads of State and the President of Ireland in attendance, as well as global leaders. In what is a remarkable global development, we were able to secure $72 billion in financial commitments towards the delivery of national food compacts.

Second, Nigeria needs health care for all.

Smart governments provide universal basic health coverage for their citizens. Africa loses $2.6 trillion annually in productivity, due to sicknesses and diseases. Just as every nation has a national defense system to protect its citizens against all forms of aggression, the same is true for health care systems. A nation without a sound health care system is a nation that is defenseless against the invasion of all forms of disease or epidemics.

Covid-19 exposed the weakness of Africa’s health systems.

While developed economies spent $19 trillion in fiscal stimulus programmes, approximately 19% of the world’s GDP, Africa spent only $89 billion. Africa’s urgent need for basic vaccines was pushed to the bottom of global vaccines supply chains. At a time when Africa was unable to provide one basic shot of vaccine, developed countries were providing second, third and more booster shots. It was alarming watching an unprotected Africa grapple with this insidious virus. Some even projected that as many as 3 million Africans would die from the pandemic. Africa had just two testing centers, no medical gloves, no face masks, no medications, no vaccines. The African Development Bank immediately put in place a $10 billion facility to support African countries in their fight against the pandemic.

What is not acceptable or sustainable is an Africa that imports 70 to 80% of its medicines and produces just 1% of its vaccines. The health security of Africa’s 1.4 billion people cannot be subjugated to global supply chains or the generosity of others.

That’s why the African Development Bank also launched a $3 billion program to revamp Africa’s pharmaceutical industries and why it established the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation to support access to proprietary technologies from global pharmaceutical companies.

The Bank also launched another $3 billion program to develop quality health infrastructure across the continent, with special emphasis on primary health care systems, which if well fixed can assure basic health care for hundreds of millions of people.

We will continue to invest heavily in Nigeria to support its pharmaceutical industry and develop better health infrastructure.

It is imperative that Nigeria secures the health of all its population. This will require ensuring that no citizen travels more than a few kilometers to find a health care center. The widespread use of mobile health centers, e-health facilities, the digitalization of health systems, especially in all primary health care centers, health insurance policies for all, including innovative micro-health insurance pay-as-you-go systems, will capture the bulk of the population that is in the informal sector.

Third, Nigeria needs education for all.

Nigeria accounts for 15% of the total population of out-of-school children, according to UNICEF, with over 10.2 million at the primary school level, and 8.1 million at the Junior Secondary School. This is not a gold medal Nigeria should be proud of.

The problem is both acute and alarming in Northern Nigeria. Urgent public policies, coupled with community sensitization and incentives for schooling are needed, if this trend is to be reversed. Public incentives such as free and compulsory primary and secondary education should be put in place, along with massive investments in training and better salaries for teachers, building quality and safe classrooms, and school feeding programs.

A well-educated citizenry is critical for technological growth and development, and for fostering creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship and global competitiveness. We do no have a choice. A highly educated Nigeria is not an option. It is an imperative.

With only 1% of the population enrolled, Nigeria is currently not educating enough of its people at the university level. The poor funding of universities, a lack of basic infrastructure, poor incentives for faculty and staff, and incessant strikes due to wage disputes, have almost crippled the university system.

As a result, there is a mass exodus out of Nigerian universities, with 128,770 Nigerian students “Japa-ing” (moving) to study in UK Universities alone, between 2015 and 2022, according to the Higher Education Agency of the United Kingdom.

The mass exodus of students pales when compared to those of skilled professionals. From doctors to engineers, architects, lawyers, IT specialists, bankers, and medical technicians, Nigeria is witnessing a massive depletion of its human capital. This human capital hemorrhage will slow down economic growth, performance and overall development and competitiveness of the economy.

While one might argue that a growing diaspora is good as they send home some $ billions which is higher than the oil export earnings, this clearly is not the way to develop sustainably.

Nations that develop do all they can to keep their best human capital at home, and additionally source skills from elsewhere with flexible immigration and labor policies. We must make Nigeria a viable place for people to stay, and not a place to run away from. The same applies for other countries.

I refuse to believe that the future of Nigeria’s and Africa’s youth lie in Europe, North America, Asia or anywhere else.

I firmly believe that their future lies in a rapidly developing Nigeria, and Africa, that is able to generate quality jobs with competitive wages and a decent quality of life for millions of youths. That is why the African Development Bank Group and partners have provided $614 million to Nigeria for the i-DICE program to support the development of digital and creative enterprises, which are expected to create 6.3 million jobs and add an estimated $6.4 billion to the Nigerian economy.

To support the businesses of young Nigerians, the African Development Bank Group is also planning to establish a Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Bank in Nigeria which will provide financial instruments to create youth-based wealth.

Fourth, Nigeria needs housing for all.

A better quality of life requires access to decent and affordable housing for all. I remember growing up, how hard my father worked to be able to build us a decent house to stay in, after living for years in high-density areas, in what is called face-me-I-face you. What a joy it was to finally have our own rooms with baths and toilets. This joy eludes hundreds of millions of people in Africa, yet several governments stand watch undeterred and unflinching as millions of their citizens live in slums. Today over 65% of people in sub-Saharan Africa live in slums.

Let me bring this closer home.

In Nigeria, 49% of the population live in slums, according to data by UN-Habitat. That is a staggering 102 million people!

These trends need to change, rapidly.

Welfarist policies are urgently needed to ensure that 100% of citizens have access to basic and affordable housing. The opprobrious policies that seek to upgrade slums should be jettisoned. There is nothing like a 5-Star Slum: a slum is a slum. Urgent actions are needed to support mortgage financing and refinancing and use of innovative financing structures to raise long-term capital for closing the housing deficits.

Fifth, Nigeria needs government accountability and fiscal decentralization for a true federalism.

Democracy is more than the right to cast a vote. It is the right of citizens to hold governments accountable for improvements in their welfare. Citizen accountability forums are needed in order  to have a say in how their nation’s resources are being used and how their governments are performing. Governments must show concrete and transparent evidence of fiscal responsibility.

Governments without citizen accountability become synonyms for democratic dictatorship.

Today, therefore, there is a greater need for e-governance systems to enhance transparency and accountability of governments, in service of the people. That is what people-centered governance is all about.

That is why the African Development Bank is developing a public service delivery index that will rate governments on the quality-of-service delivery for citizens.

Development clearly requires a significant amount of financing, which governments need to raise. A primary tool for doing so is through taxation. The rationale for raising taxes in Nigeria is that the nation’s tax-to-GDP ratio is low compared to other African or non-African countries. However, taxation in the absence of a social contract between governments and citizens is simply fiscal extortion.

Participatory tax-based financing systems demand participatory governance.

Take the case of Norway for instance. Its tax to GDP ratio is 39%. It is easy to make the comparison and say Nigeria needs to raise its taxes from 6.1% of GDP to a similar level as Norway.

But consider that in Norway, like all the Nordic countries, education is free through university. And if you finish your course on time, any loans you took to feed yourself, clothe yourself and maintain yourself, are converted into grants.

We must distinguish between nominal taxes and implicit taxes—taxes that are borne by the people but are not seen or recorded.

Truth be told, Nigerians pay one of the highest implicit tax rates in the world. Most of the citizens provide electricity for themselves via generators; they repair roads in their neighborhoods if they can afford to. They provide boreholes for drinking water with their own monies. In the 21st century, this is incredulous as every household should have pipe borne water!

Sadly, the abnormal has been normalized.

If people pay taxes, governments must deliver services to citizens and be held accountable for their ability to do so or not. Governments should not transfer their responsibility to citizens. When governments or institutions fail to provide basic services, the people bear the burden of a heavy implicit tax.

To succeed with much needed welfarist and people-centered policies across Nigeria, it is necessary to change the governance system and decentralize governance to States in order to provide greater autonomy.

States have tremendous potential to become even more financially autonomous through greater fiscal prudence. If States focus on unlocking the huge resources they have, based on areas of comparative advantage, they will rapidly expand wealth for their people. With such increased wealth, they will be able to access capital markets and secure long-term financing to fast-track their growth and development.

States that adopt this strategy would have less of a need for monthly trips to Abuja for grants. Instead, part of their federal revenue allocations can be saved as internal “state sovereign wealth funds”. This can then be used as guarantees against borrowings from capital markets. In essence, they would be free from needing to exclusively rely on the federal government.

To get out of the economic quagmire, there is a compelling need for the restructuring of Nigeria. Restructuring should not be driven by political expediency, but by economic and financial viability. Economic and financial viability are the necessary and sufficient conditions for political viability.

If there was one attribute that defined Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and there were many, it would be his visionary boldness. He went where others feared or failed to go. In the process, decades later, his footprints remain in the sands of time.

Likewise today, in Nigeria, we need men and women with vision, who are willing to take bold decisions.

Surgeries are tough. They are better done well, the first time. The resources found in each state or state groupings should belong to them. The constituent entities should pay federal taxes or royalties for those resources.

But let’s be clear. The achievement of economically viable entities and the viability of the national entity requires constitutional changes to devolve more economic and fiscal powers to the states or regions. The stronger the states, or regions, the stronger the federated units.

In the process, our union would be renewed.

Our union would be stronger.

Our union would be equitable.

Our union would be fully participatory.

Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen. We must be audacious!

Instead of a Federal Government of Nigeria, we could think of The United States of Nigeria.

The old would give way to the new.

We would change the relational mindset between the states and Abuja: the fulcrum would be the states, while the center would support them, not lord over them.

With good governance and better accountability systems, and a zero tolerance for corruption, more economically stronger constituent states would emerge!

We would unleash massive wealth across the states.

A New Nigeria would arise!

To do so, we will need all of us—not some of us.

From our forgotten rural villages, to our boisterous and dynamic urban areas.

From the sparks of desire in the eyes of our children, to the lingering hope in the hearts of our youth.

From the yearnings of our women and mothers and our men and fathers for a better tomorrow, and the desires of the old that our end would be better than our past.

From the hardworking street vendors and small businesses to the largest business conglomerates … we must create a movement of hope.

Hope for a better Nigeria!

Not a Muslim Nigeria.

Not a Christian Nigeria.

Not Eastern Nigeria, Western Nigeria, or Northern or Southern Nigeria.

But one Nigeria—a New Nigeria, created by a renewed commitment to turn our amazing diversity into exceptional strength.

A New Nigeria, powered by torrents of hope, trust, equity, fairness, and wealth at every level, in every state … by all and for all.

We have the capacity to do this and make it happen.

We must rise above mistrust and divisions and make history.

Not the history that is written about us, about Northern Nigeria, Southern Nigeria, Eastern Nigeria, or Western Nigeria.

Not the history of divisive political parties; but a new history that we commit to write for ourselves—the history of a New Nigeria.

We are the history makers. So, let us commit to make history for a New Nigeria!

For the darkness of today will soon fade.

It will not be long before our star shines brighter as a nation, as welfarist policies and people-centered policies spur shared wealth.

A nation where majority prosper, not just a privileged few.

A nation that provides real opportunities for the youth.

A nation where equality of opportunities for women is a reality, not a dream.

A nation where hope is ignited, and dreams are realized.

A nation known for wealth, not poverty.

A nation set on a hill whose light will never be hidden.

A New Nigeria that we all are proud to call home.

So, help us God!

Thank you very much.

THE MAN AKINWUNMI ADESINA

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.

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 2011, 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.

Also 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.

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, with Waris Dirie, 53 year-old world-class supermodel and anti-FGM activist.

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. He received the award in February, 2019 in Seoul, Korea.

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.

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 has 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.

His stewardship as the president of the African Development Bank Group, has continued to ensure 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 African Ministers Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Lindiwe Zulu, and Dr. Ken Giami, Publisher of African Leadership Magazine.

In his usual self, he delivered a keynote speech on the night that speaks of his passion for the continent. 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.”

The truth remains that Adeaina has never reneged in achieving the feats.

Under his leadership, the AfDB 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 on hia behalf 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 then 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.

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.

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 he trudges forward to 2025, when his tenure will climax, the accomplished technocrat and reputable entrepreneur is sure to quadruple his achievements of the last couple of years. He is one AfDB president many would wish he continues in office even after the expiration of his 10 years stewardship.

Congratulations sir!

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