Dr. Akinwumi Adesina: Grand salute to a worthy ambassador (2)

I am pained to resume this piece on a sad note. “My darling mother, Eunice O. Adesina passed away today at the age of 92. I am blessed you were my mother. You gave birth to me, nursed me, cared for me, and brought me up. I am forever grateful Mum. So long sweet Mum, greet Dad and sleep well. I love you. Your loving baby, Akins”. This was the announcement made by Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina to the world via his Twitter handle, which indicates his brevity and bravery in handling emergencies.

Blessed with famous children including the worthy ambassador and passing away at the nonagenarian age of 92, Mama Eunice lived a well-fulfilled life of blessings. May her soul rest in perfect peace, and may God, the Almighty give the family fortitude to bear the irreplaceable loss, amen. My heartfelt condolences, to Dr. Adesina and his family. 

In continuation of last week’s article, how Adesina touched the lives of millions of vulnerable people was to be addressed. As mentioned, Adesina’s story can be segmented into two phases. His formative period to when he finished his assignment as the Nigerian Minister of Agriculture, and the second phase, his current position as the 8th President of the Africa Development Bank.

The first phase included over two decades (1988-2015) of hard work, commitment, perseverance and determination to eradicate poverty and make food available to all and sundry in all parts of the African continent. Thus, Adesina passionately led major policies of comprehensive support for millions of farmers, including access to financial and extension services.  

Adesina’s working career is adorned with excellent results in international organizations and earned him the 2017 World Food Prize. He worked with the West African Rice Development Association (1990-1995), IITA, Ibadan (1995-1998), Rockefeller Foundation (1998-2002) and AGRA before he became the Minister of Agriculture (2011-2015). Time and space may not permit x-raying of Adesina’s achievements but three major events brought him to a spectacular limelight. 

The first was the 2006 African Fertilizer Summit in Nigeria. With President Olusegun Obasanjo’s support, Adesina gathered world leaders interested in African Agriculture. They included Dr. Norman Borlaug of blessed memory, the Rockefeller Foundation and the heads of IFAD and the African Commission among others. The Summit was aimed at finding solutions to Africa’s fertilizer crisis.

President Obasanjo, the host, was so moved by Dr. Borlaug’s passionate speech that he reportedly damned protocols and joined the old man at the podium, gazed at the teeming audience and said “We’ve been chastised by Norman and, we have to move forward and get our agriculture moving.” It was the most inspiring and motivating message from a respectable elder and dogged hunger fighter who provided food on the dining tables of 100s of millions of people before his demise. 

The outcome of the summit was the adoption of the “Abuja Declaration on Fertilizer for the African Green Revolution”. The commitment was to “combat poverty and food and nutrition insecurity in Africa and to direct our attention to key decisions that can move us forward to eradicate hunger by 2030”. 

The second was borne out of an outcome of the Fertilizer Summit which was the formation of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) where he subsequently served as Vice-President. AGRA was formed to achieve the desires and wishes of Dr. Norman Borlaug as expressed during his keynote address. As the Vice President of AGRA for Policy and Partnerships, Adesina mobilized banks to make a massive investment of over $4 billion in financial commitments to Africa’s agriculture. 

The third was his term as the Nigeria Minister of Agriculture. Here, Adesina’s horizon of serving farmers expanded exponentially. As Minister, he increased Nigeria’s food production by additional 21 million tons and attracted $5.6 billion private-sector investments in agriculture. 

He negotiated with the Central Bank of Nigeria to use $350 million to create a loan facility that leveraged $3.5 billion from commercial banks into agriculture. Adesina’s most impressive performance was on distribution of inputs, especially fertilizer. He introduced e–wallet system, which dismantled four decades of corruption in the distribution system. 15 million farmers benefited directly from this innovation. 

The efficient delivery of improved inputs to farmers combined with extension services resulted in a sharp combined growth of $2 billion in five value chains of cassava, rice, sorghum, maize and cotton. The impact of Adesina’s innovation on farmers was beyond imagination especially, the e–wallet. A sound reason why a woman irrigation farmer, broke protocol and hugged the Minister to show her deep appreciation during his visit to a farming community in Kano. “Honorable Minister, we sincerely and immensely thank you for this”, showing her small, Nokia handset signifying e-wallet. 

Adesina’s second phase of performance is the current epoch as the 8th President of AfDB. He was unanimously re-elected for a second five-year term on 27 August 2020 by 81 member countries (54 Africans and 27 non-regional). This was after his extraordinary performance in his first term that made the AfDB focus on “vigorous catalyzation of African Development”. This earned Adesina a nickname as “Africa’s Optimist-in-Chief”. 

His first five-year term witnessed a new agenda based on five development priorities known as the High 5s: Light up and Power Africa; Feed Africa; Industrialize Africa; Integrate Africa; and Improve the Quality of Life for the People of Africa. He made the gigantic achievement of these priorities.

Thus, 18 million Africans gained access to electricity, 15 million benefited from investors’ finance, 60 million enjoyed new access to water, 141 million people had improved agricultural technologies for food and 101 million people had access to improved transport from infrastructure.

Furthermore, during Adesina’s first tenure, AfDB achieved the highest capital increase since its establishment in 1964 when on 31 October 2019, the shareholders from 81 member countries raised the general capital from $93 billion to a historic $208 billion. Similarly, the bank maintained its AAA rating by all four major global rating agencies. So far, under Adesina’s watch, the AfDB has maintained sound financial and risk management, excellent liquidity and strong shareholder support. In addition, the bank’s income has seen a significant increase.

The loan income of the bank rose from $563 million in 2015, when he took over, to $803 million in 2017, an increase of 42.6per cent. The net operating income also increased from $492 million in 2015 to $781 million by the end of 2017. At the same time, the highest allocation from net income to reserves ever in the history of the bank was reached in 2017, for an amount of $190.35 million.

Today, Dr. Adesina is one of the most distinguished Nigerians who have attracted voluminous accolades nationally and internationally. Dr. Adesina is a recipient of nine Honorary Doctorate Degrees- 3 from USA (Purdue University, Franklin and Marshall College and Michigan State University) 1 from Canada (University of Alberta) and 5 from Nigeria- Obafemi Awolowo University, Federal University of Technology, Akure, National Defence Academy, Afe Babalola University and Bowen University. Similarly, he is a beneficiary of the highest national honors of Senegal, Cameroon, Madagascar, Togo, Liberia, Tunisia and Niger. 

While his count of awards and honors continues, I wish Nigerians will one day allow this illustrious son, African patriot and a passionate achiever to occupy the presidential seat in Aso-Rock, to bring the country out of the woods and chart it to a glorious, promising and assured future. I doff my cap for a grand Salute to a worthy ambassador.