• Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Adesina: Awo Leadership Award is well-deserved

Africa gathers in Lagos to honour its Chief Optimist, Akinwunmi Adesina

“The true mark of a leader is the willingness to stickwith a bold course of action”-Bill Taylor

He remains the exception rather than the rule. The redolent rule of course, is about the successive crop of self-serving, unpatriotic and conscienceless political leaders, whose stock-in-trade is that of vaulting ambition to have a firm grip on the pedestal of political power, with the aim to satiate their epicurean tastes at the expense of the long-groaning Nigerians, who they drag deeper into the pitiable pit of preventable poverty, every blessed day.

Unfortunately, they are helped by the current bloated administrative and payment structures that place the leaders as the all-conquering kings, to be faired and worshipped by the led majority, as their mentally mesmerised and acquiescent slaves. But this one iconic patriot stands head and shoulders above the crowd, as a true servant-leader, with empirical evidences of his sterling performance in and outside the country. He is none other than the President of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, who was recently announced as the winner of the 2023 Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership.

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According to the Chairman of the Selection Committee, Emeka Anyaoku, who disclosed this at a recent press conference held in Gbagada Phase 2, Lagos State, Adesina has emerged the fourth recipient of the prestigious award since the commencement of the Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership in 2013.The award comes as an initiative of the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation, an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organisation which was set up in April 1992 to serve as the custodian of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s intellectual and leadership legacy.

Anyaoku noted that nominations were received about many eminent persons who have made tremendous contributions in various spheres of life. After a careful, detailed and rigorous screening process, the selection committee was unanimous in deciding the recipient of this year’s prize as he proudly declared that: “The recipient of the 2023 Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership is Dr. Akinwunmi Ayodeji Adesina, CON, president of the African Development Bank”. Anyaoku described Adesina as “a Pan-Africanist with enthusiastic commitment to the positive transformation of the continent.”

For instance, as the Minister of Agriculture during the tenure of the then President Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria, Adesina introduced innovative reforms such as the fertilizer sector reforms, “which virtually eliminated corruption in the sector and ensured that farmers actually benefitted from government’s subsidised fertilizers.

Furthermore, he developed a system that allowed farmers to receive electronic vouchers for seeds and fertilizers directly on their mobile phones, thereby cutting off the middlemen in the system. Not less than 15 million farmers benefitted from this scheme within four years. Phenomenal, one would admit. But there were more of his excellent leadership qualities to showcase to the world.

It is on record that since assuming office as President of the African Development Bank (AfDB). Dr. Adesina has worked assiduously to contribute to the positive transformation of the continent. These include leading and supporting innovative efforts to fight hunger and poverty. This is honestly so, and it all brings to mind my opinion essay titled: “Adesina’s World Food Prize: An honour well deserved” severally published on 4th July 2017 as a testimony to his outstanding leadership attributes.

Reproduced below are some excerpts from that tribute, for us to glean from his constancy of purpose, which as Sam Walton rightly noted is the ingredient of success.

With Nigeria experiencing a turbulent econo-political period, the award comes as a breath of fresh air. What makes it more cheering is the fact that it is a well-deserved laurel for a distinguished Nigerian. Adesina epitomises a bright beacon of hope in our long, dark tunnel of ignorance, poverty, apathy and self-inflicted woes.

As one of his consistent admirers over the years, the focus is on the lasting lessons we all could learn from him on professionalism, pragmatic leadership, selfless service, patriotism and can-do-it spirit.

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It would be recalled, that back in 2008 when yours truly was the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of Strata Media Organisation, Adesina granted our rich and colourful FoodBusiness International Magazine, a two-page, pull-out interview. It was through the then Assistant Editor, Lanre Agboola. The then editor, Zebulon Agomuo was thrilled. In fact, that incisive interview not only sold out the Vol.1, No7 Edition but got the members of staff academically enriched and thoroughly inspired. Adesina was then the Vice President (Policy and Partnerships), Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

He used that opportunity to canvass subsidy for African farmers. Said he: “When I say smart subsidies, I mean the private sector has to distribute the inputs, the government supports the farmers together. We also have to make sure it is a targeted subsidy” that would benefit the poor farmers.

“The government has to make sure that the farmers are provided with proper extension services, to be very efficient.”

What made him sad was when: ‘‘I see so many graduates of agriculture all across Africa roaming the streets, looking for jobs. It is a bizarre thing.”

Good enough, he walked the talk when he eventually became the minister of Agriculture. As aptly captured by Kenneth Quinn, the President, the World Food Prize, the Hall of Laureates, described Adesina as “someone who grew out of poverty, but whose life mission is to lift up millions of people out of poverty.” Inspiring, is it not? Of course, it is.

These are reflected in his breakthrough achievements all through his career. The list is long but let us have a taste of the pudding. For instance, as the Vice President of AGRA he introduced initiatives to exponentially increase the availability of credit for smallholder farmers across the African continent. Not done, he galvanized the political will to transform African agriculture. Back in 2006, as the Associate Director for Food Security at the Rockefeller Foundation, Adesina played a critical leadership role in organising the Africa Fertilizer Summit in Abuja. That summit was described as absolutely essential in igniting the campaign to spread a new Green Revolution across Africa, which led to the creation of AGRA.

Furthermore, as minister of Agriculture in Nigeria, from 2011 to 2015 he successfully transformed the country’s agriculture sector through bold reforms. He it was who introduced the E-Wallet system which broke the back of the corrupt elements that had controlled the fertilizer distribution system for 40 odd years! In addition, was the creation of programmes to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production, as well as to make cassava become a major cash crop.

The related value chain he clamoured for saw the input of 20 per cent cassava flour to 80 per cent wheat flour in the making of composite bread. Also, the ‘Nagroprenuers’ scheme he introduced made way for the training of 750,000 young graduates in commercial farming.

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As Quinn rightly noted the reforms he implemented increased food production by 21 million metric tonnes and attracted 5.6 billion dollars in private sector investments. This earned him the reputation as the ‘Farmer’s Minister.’” Incidentally, Adesina has become the first person from the agriculture sector to ever lead a regional development bank. His receiving the World Food Nobel Laureate Prize “would give impetus in the coming decade to his profound vision.” Adesina is also the 46th person and the sixth African to win the World Food Prize. Are we not immensely proud of him? Yes, we are!

That explains the presence of the former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Nigeria’s Acting Ambassador to the U.S. and Chargé d ‘ Affaires, Ambassador Hakeem Balogun to savour the momentous occasion. Note that they were not there as Igbo, Yoruba or whatever but as proud Nigerians to identify with a son of the soil, holding the green-white-flag of unity and progress, peace and prosperity for the whole world to see. That is another lesson for us all.