Akinwunmi Adesina: Struggling With The Image of Nigeria

The Independent review reports submitted to the Head of the Bureau of the Board of Governors of the Board of Directors of the African Development Bank, Hon. Ms. Niale Kaba by the Ethics Committee constituted Mary Robinson-led investigative panel vindicating the nation’s representative, a reputable compatriot who currently heads the African Development Bank (AfDB) – Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina – is a silver lining amidst dark clouds. A High-powered delegation which included Chief Justice of Gambia, Justice Hassan Jallow, retired Irish Supreme Court Judge Nial Fennelly, World Bank Integrity Vice President, Leonard F McCarthy, after their thorough independent findings against the 60-year-old Economic Juggernaut, acquitted him of any corruption charges or high-handedness as alleged by the whistleblowers. The panel met virtually not less than 6 times to x-ray the sixteen charges brought against the Ethic Committee of the African Development Bank (AfDB) by anonymous whistleblowers on 19 January, 2020.

Akinwunmi is one of the few Nigerians within the towers of governance who have earned blemish-free and unalloyed respect in the last decade. Having bagged a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics from the prestigious University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife) in 1981 with distinction, he continues as a shining star. The Ogun State-born continued on the ladder of progress, furthering his education at Purdue University in Indiana, USA and eventually came out on top of his PhD class in 1988. It is on record that his high commendable Thesis research earned him the class at Purdue University, Indiana, USA.

His records of good stewardship at West African Rice Development (WARDA) in Bouaké, Ivory Coast and the Rockefeller Foundation prepared him for the smooth transition for the post of a Federal Minister for Agriculture (2010-2015) during the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency. During his five-year stint at the presidency, a sizeable number of policies were introduced and implemented in salvaging the Agricultural sector in the country. I should not fail to mention that he was amongst the 17 global leaders appointed to ‘spearhead the Millennium Development Goals’. Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina was elected as the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) on 28 May 2015 and assumed office on 1st September 2015.

To the naysayers and so-called Whistleblowers, Adesina was just like ‘every Nigerian’ who must have bribed their way up the rung of the ladder. He was considered to be a self-serving, tyrannical, back-biting, despotic leader that must be shown the way out of the door by every possible means. They must have for a moment thought aloud, why should he, a Nigerian, be in such a position? This ‘group of concerned employees of the AfDB’ in line with the January 2007 Whistleblowing policy of AfDB which was meant to serve the purpose of ‘strengthening the bank’s integrity and fighting against corruption and similar practices’ wanted to be sure that Adesina is not another ‘hushpuppy’ of some sort.

The establishment of the African Development Bank was signed on 4 August 1963 and became operational on 10 September 1964. As a continental financial institution, the Bank is meant to ‘contribute to the sustainable economic development and social progress of the regional members individually and jointly,’ focusing on financing Health, Agriculture, Energy, Education, Transport and Development – short-, medium- and long-term projects. In order to ensure transparency and separation of powers, Article 29 (1) of the Agreement., vested requisite powers in the Board of Governors to act accordingly.

According to the group of concerned employees of the AfDB, the president of the AfDB is guilty of the following: non -respect of Internal Rules and Regulations in recruitment; appointment of a named staff member; appointment and promotion of a named person; alleged mismanagement of a named Agricultural Technology Programme; appointments and promotions of a named person; direct contracting and appointment of a named person; contracting of a named person, appointment of a named individual preferential treatment for Nigeria and Nigerians; awards received by The President; settlements for staff separations; resignation of a named staff member; the appointment of a named individual to a Senior Position in the Bank; disregard of Rules Concerning Leave of Absence of Vice Presidents or Travel of Management and political lobbying of Heads Of State.

The oversight by the whistle-blowers seems to have gone a bit overboard, unmindful of the Bank’s purpose and vision for the Black continent when they shot the salvo of baseless accusations. Stating in their reply on 7 February, they claimed that they could not provide evidence of their allegations against Adesina on two grounds:

i. That ‘most of them,’ presumably meaning evidence in support of the allegations ‘would expose their identity.’

ii. They added that they feared that the validity of such evidence would ultimately be contested because they were ‘obtained illegally.’

Defending the reports submitted by the Committee of the complaints, the accused President of AfDB, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina had, on 8 April 2020, presented a report to the Ethics Committee, where he contended the unjustified allegations by the ‘Unidentified Concerned Staff’ of the Bank. In one of his several responses to the Whistleblowers’ allegations, Dr. Adesina made a pointed remark when he said: ‘Following the wobbly logic of whistleblowers, one could deduce that I bribed all 55 African presidents. This allegation shows a degrading contempt for Africa, Africans and African leaders.’

On the preferential treatment for Nigeria as shown in the newly introduced organisational chart of the AfDB, the President of AfDB declared that ‘The decision to open a country department in Nigeria was taken by the Board of Directors under the leadership of President Kaberuka, my predecessor. I cannot have violated the Code of Ethics for implementing a decision of the Board taken before I took office. Such an allegation bears the deepest marks of gratuitousness.’

Reading beyond the letters of the whistleblowers, it is possible to see and perceive that the whistleblowers know Nigeria and Nigerians for one thing only: fraud, crime, misrule and a circus of misconceptions. It is clear that Akinwunmi Adesina ’s luxuriant dress sense was mistaken for looting of public funds and extravagance for pride. His mild-mannered persona is misconstrued for a character that loves power, lobbies to top government functionaries and one who diverts other people’s resources for selfish ends. Do these qualities sound familiar? The reader’s answer may be as good as any observer’s. It is true that the 27 July 2020 is one of the best things that have happened to Nigerians on the global scene in a long while. Aside the flourishing efforts of Nigerian entertainers who brought home international awards, taking the world by storm and introducing some fashionable styles, dance patterns, and making applaudable visuals for international audience, the Nigerian political elite has made little or no contributions to promoting Nigeria in good light. Would anyone have blamed the said whistleblowers for their erroneous perception of this Nigerian fine gentleman?

Just a few months ago, the country was writhing in pains at the loss of her compatriots in South Africa’s Xenophobic attacks. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs made frantic efforts to airlift some of the affected Nigerians in xenophobic South Africa. Out of high regard for the ‘Big Brother’, apologising President Cyril Ramaphosa jetted in to meet his Nigerian counterpart in Aso Rock to avert a diplomatic row. As many would comment, it was not enough to close one’s eyes to the many able-bodied men and women of Nigerian origin whose lives were snuffed out in the South African attacks.

Like Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina , many innocent Nigerians suffer equal maltreatment in the hands of foreigners either at different embassies, High Commissions, port of entries and international business transactions. In fact, some of them have lost their lives and integrity in the process. It is good that Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina has scaled this hurdle, thereby bringing home good honour and pedigree. He has also written off some of the negativities recorded against the country.

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The Nigerian State must embark on a journey to redeem her image. If this is partly or fully achieved, there would be a leeway for her citizens to ride upon. With the likes of Dr. Akimwunmi Adesina , Nigeria is on the sure way to self-redemption. Before anything could be done, we have to undertake ethical revolution which will snowball into an all-round forward march to the land of paradise.

Babatunde Odubanwo

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