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Lynching Akin Adesina

 The culture of lynching and genocide is deeply embedded in the gestalt of American race relations. In the Jim Crow South of the sixties, it was the norm for the KKK to hang a young African-American man on a tree for allegedly staring at a white woman. These days, the lynching is done mostly through the police and the criminal justice system. This is how it comes about that there are more black men in prison than in college in the United States.

Last week, an unarmed African-American man, George Floyd, was arrested by white policemen in the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Their kingpin, Derek Chauvin, threw the handcuffed 46-year old to the ground and placed his knee on his neck. The poor man kept pleading, “I can’t breathe”, until life was snuffed out of him. It was a cold-blooded murder. Riots have spread all over the country in protest. A tearful Barack Obama came out to plead for a New America — for a more tolerant and more compassionate America based on fairness, justice and racial harmony.

Racism has remained the defining character of American civilisation. Racial bigotry has, sadly, gotten worse in the Age of Trump. His body language and lugubrious rhetoric have made it acceptable, if not attractive.

I am not anti-American. I am, rather, an admirer of American government, entrepreneurship and can-do spirit. Americans are a generous and warm people. Some of my dearest friends are white Americans. What we see today is a gross travesty of the ideals that define America as a land of hope and glory.

In the seventies, for example, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the neo-pagans in the State Department articulated de-population as the cornerstone of their African policy. There has been a silent population war against our people. It is a well-documented fact that the erstwhile Apartheid regime were deliberately injecting black people with the HIV/AIDS virus. This is how it comes about that the pandemic has wrecked such terrible havoc in Southern Africa. The same may be said of Ebola. Between Washington DC and Beijing, they know more than we do about the origins and provenance of the novel coronavirus “pandemic” that has been inflicted upon a despairing world.

The most recent case of lynching is that of the current serving President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina. As everybody knows, his five-year term comes to an end in August. He has submitted his candidacy for re-election, with full endorsement by the Buhari regime, ECOWAS and the African Union. So far, he is the sole candidate.

And then, out of the blues, a catalogue of alleged misdeeds has been slammed on him by an anonymous “Group of Concerned Staff Members of the AfDB”. The accusations centre on abuse of office, corruption, favouritism, unethical conduct, conflict of interest and impunity. They also claim Adesina has been implementing a policy of “Nigerianisation” of the bank.

The whole thing reeks of bad faith. Without prejudice to the ongoing investigations, I do not think the Americans have a right to exercise veto powers on who becomes President of the African Development Bank. Perhaps we need to remind our friends in Washington that this bank is ours, not theirs

The matter recently came up before the Ethics Committee of the bank, which exonerated him. But the Americans are up in arms. US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has written to the board, demanding an independent inquiry.

Some of the accusations are plainly stupid. Writing a few days ago, a former BBC journalist Larry Madowo claimed that the Trump administration are against Adesina because of his alleged “flamboyance” and for being “a sharp dresser known for his expensive tailored suits, immaculate white shirts and an endless supply of colourful bow ties”. Officials from the Quai d’Orsay, the palace that houses the French Foreign Ministry in Paris, were quoted as complaining that Adesina, a fluent French speaker, rarely speaks the language during important meetings.

Adesina cuts this image of a squeaky-clean Southern Baptist preacher, with a brand that is svelte and debonair. He must be paying quite a fortune to the tailors in Saville Row and Champs d’Elysée for those suits.  But that’s not a crime. Bankers are expected to dress well. And as good dressing goes, Adesina tails, in my view, behind former bank President Wila Mungomba of Zambia. Nobody ever accused Wila of being “flamboyant”. As for the French tantrums, they are the kind of gratuitous insults we would expect from Paris

Akin Adesina has been one of the most successful CEOs of the AfDB. He has doubled the bank’s capitalisation from $100 billion to $208 billion. He has enhanced its knowledge capital and made the institution more relevant to the needs of our continent. He is passionate about industrialisation, technology and innovation, which are, apparently, anathema to the so-called “development partners”.

A first-class graduate of Agricultural Economics with a prized doctorate from Purdue University, Adesina is a former Vice-President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and a successful former Nigerian Minister of Agriculture. He is the 2017 winner of the prestigious World Food Prize. He has attracted bright talents to the bank, one of them being his Chief of Staff, Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, a brilliant technology policy scientist.

It has been rumoured that the real problem is that the Americans feel he has cozied up too warmly to Beijing. For them, their enemy must also be our enemy, whether we like or not.

The whole thing reeks of bad faith. Without prejudice to the ongoing investigations, I do not think the Americans have a right to exercise veto powers on who becomes President of the African Development bank. Perhaps we need to remind our friends in Washington that this bank is ours, not theirs. It is for Africans to decide who has the best fit to lead this great pan-African financial institution. And I do not think the majority shareholders should accept that the existing rules and statutory processes should be set aside in favour of an external panel of investigators.

The AfDB is a multinational finance institution with 80 members, of which 54 are African while 26 are non-regionals. Nigeria is the biggest shareholder, with 9.1 percent; followed by the United States with 6.5 percent; and Egypt in third place with 5.5 percent. Others are Japan (5.4%); South Africa (4.9%); Algeria (4.1%); Germany (4%); Canada (3.8%); Ivory Coast (3.7%); and France (3.6%).

With the largest shareholding in the World Bank and IMF, America permanently keeps the Presidency of the Bank while Europe hangs on to the Managing Directorship of the Fund. Nigeria, the largest shareholder at the AfDB and sole financier of the Nigeria Trust Fund, has never had its national as President until 2015. I was a career economist at the bank. I know that our influence has been very low while ani-Nigerian sentiments run deep in the bank’s institutional culture; much of it orchestrated by non-regionals that see Nigeria as a threat to their hegemonic ambitions on our continent.

It seems the image of the self-confident and well-educated Nigerian grates with the sensibilities of the trans-Atlantic world powers. By our education, self-confidence and capacity for self-exertion, Nigerian professionals upset their image of the African as a mindless Little Black Sambo.

We have beaten them at the topmost Ivy-League institutions. Our civilisation goes back to the Egypt of the Pharaohs. With our intelligence, can-do spirit, natural resources and sheer audacity, we have the potential to become a world power. And this they know. Adesina is a symbol of the new African Personality. This is why they want to cut him down at all costs.

And with a rogue regime in Washington that behaves like a bull in a china shop, they would go so far as to destroy the well-earned Triple A rating of the bank just to score cheap points. Adesina and the Nigerian government would be well advised to meet them behind the scenes and see if this kerfuffle could be settled through a fair compromise.



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