LET me make a confession. I was cautious in falling for the charm, glamour and prodigious intellect of Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina when he blew into national limelight as Minister of Agriculture in the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. With his signature dress code of bowtie often worn on white or red strip shirts and ready smiles, he came across as probably a banker or a wheeling and dealing top global consultant, diplomat or a modern senior Pastor. I had imagined that he was just one of these guys desirous of hugging the limelight and that Jonathan goofed in that choice.
My perception was based on my worldview of farmers whose outward appearances are usually dour, conservative, sombre and more often uninspiring.
He did not in any way fit into my stereotype of the non-descript and taciturn people who had earlier occupied that office. I am sure I was not alone in that mindset and perception of him. He was different and poised to shatter the glass ceiling.
I must admit that it was a pleasant surprise to me and perhaps many, that Jonathan was dead right on that score. He probably wanted to remove the veil of dourness and unattractiveness from one of the most critical sectors of the economy. On the contrary, Jonathan strived to bring panache and glitz to agriculture, so that young people can ply the profession with confidence and pride. This was against the practice or scenario where agriculture was more or less a retirement sanctuary for soldiers and top technocrats. So his choice of Adesina who is, as they say, “a fine combination of beauty and brain” was not misplaced but was though-out and commendable. And did he dazzle?
In truth, Adesina, apart from being one of the poster boys of that administration, gave the agricultural sector a new face and more importantly, a new meaning. He introduced, popularised and will be remembered for, the concept of Value Chain in that sector’s matrix. He simplified what my late lecturer Prof Ukwu I. Ukwu fondly termed “input – output matrix” where the output of one sector becomes the input of another sector or industry.
More importantly, he blew away the lid of dourness in agriculture and opened a flood gate of interests and investments by hitherto unimagined, upwardly mobile young men and women in the value chain. I know many who got into animal husbandry, cash and food crop farming on account of how Adesina positioned the industry. He also was not afraid of breaking the category paradigm by introducing technology to solve problems that once seemed intractable. Recall what he did with mobile phone to reduce what was then regarded as endemic corruption in the distribution of fertilizer. Many have been moaning his departure from that strategic ministry.
It was therefore, natural that when Jonathan picked him for the African Development Bank’s top job, and President Buhari quickly endorsed after he took over, I gave them thumbs up and was full of hope that he would make us proud. And I think he did and also did the African owners proud, because they have literally given him a nod for a second term.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo thinks so too. Typical of him, he is not hiding in his closet rooting for Adesina but is engaging his traducers frontally in diplomatic and boardroom wrestling contests of wits. OBJ is not a stranger to such brawls. Obasanjo, who is famous for crafting winning letters, has written his ex- African Presidents colleagues with supporting evidences of the revolutions Adesina has ignited in the bank. I hear that former African Presidents are lining up behind our indomitable Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in defence of Adesina.
This is good and fine as it is equally heartwarming that the federal government is not intimidated by the antics of Adesina’s traducers. If Adesina is a fan of Liverpool FC, he will be comforted that he is not walking alone.
I have kept wondering who the whistleblowers are. Whether they are bad belles who are afraid of the touted “Nigerianisation” of the bank by its biggest shareholder – Nigeria. Majority of their allegations revolve about Nigeria this and Nigeria that. They even alluded that Adesina condoned the amorous affair of one Nigerian employee without giving full disclosure of the allegation. Whoever that dude was sexually harassing was kept a secret. Whistleblowing my foot!
It is possible that Adesina is facing the problem people who know their onions and enjoy good times face. I have never seen him lose his cool at least in public. His smiles are infectious and he comes across as a salesman who can sell anything, an important demand for such top jobs. He comes across too as a nice fella that may not bore if you share a pint or two of beer with in a hangout. Jealousy and avarice may be his cross, but there is nothing you can do about a man’s destiny. Not many have the gift of working very hard and playing hard like our Adesina. There is the Igbo saying that you cannot cover the moon with your palm.
I have never met Akinwumni Adesina. I admire him and I think his best is still yet to come for Nigeria, for Africa and for the world. I stand with OBJ, Nigeria and Africa, on the resolve that he should continue with the top job, because we need this farmer with the bowtie to support Africa’s recovery from the economic challenges spurned by Covid-19.
In conclusion,whether we tell it in Abuja or Washington DC or Abidjan, truth remains that all those whistleblowing distractions are nothing but a storm in a teacup. Tell them!