The Sun News

Adesina and the Nigerian paradox

The announcement that Nigeria’s Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina has won the 2017 World Food Prize did not come to me as a surprise. Since its establishment in 1986, the Prize, generally regarded as the Agriculture Laureate,  has honoured 45 individuals for their exemplary contributions to food security around the world. This is not a Nigerian award. The selection committee for this award is not a bunch of politicians drawn from Nigeria’s ruling class or political parties. It is made up of sound, reasonable and rational persons from around the world.  Adesina is the 46th person and the sixth African to win the World Food Prize in the last three decades.

So, why did he win? He won because of the outstanding stunt he pulled in the nation’s agricultural sector during his four years as minister of Agriculture under the immediate past President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. During his tenure as minister, the first class agriculture and development economist, was so consumed in his duty, he never drew attention to himself or mounted the soapbox to denigrate his predecessors. He drew a clear roadmap, traversed the entire Nigerian labyrinth to educate farmers and rouse a national consciousness on new ways to achieve higher productivity and yield in the value chain. He was not a card-carrying member of the ruling PDP or any political party, just a genuine technocrat. He was not nominated by any politician, not even by his state governor, to the ministerial position.

President Jonathan merely heard about him, read his profile and sent for him. The multiple award winner including Forbes  African Man of the Year 2013 once recalled how his journey to public service in Nigeria as minister started: “Obviously, you cannot serve unless somebody calls you to come and serve. I want to thank His Excellency, Goodluck Jonathan, for his extra-ordinary gesture in actually asking me to leave my international career and come back home to serve my country. I never knew him and I never met him. He simply heard about me and he brought me home to come and serve my fatherland”.

From serving his fatherland and leaving an imprint as one of the best ministers in his era, Adesina is today the President of Africa Development Bank (AfDB), an honour that came his way on account of his stellar performance as minister of Agriculture.

All winners of the food prize, according to the organisers are people who have led the “single greatest period of food production and hunger reduction in all human history”. Nigeria’s Adesina made this prestigious list of outliers during his tenure in a government some Nigerians termed ineffective and clueless. And that is the problem with Nigeria. We have always elevated political expediency above merit; we see good and call it evil and when the real evil comes, we invent a fib and call it good.

What Adesina did under Jonathan was simply revolutionary. He birthed the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) under which the e-Wallet system of distribution of agricultural inputs, the first of its kind, was introduced. The local rice revolution and improved agriculture value chain which has significantly reduced imports on agricultural products as we know it today were the gains of his vision and actions. He was the lone ranger who busted the fertilizer racket; introduced ICT to farmers and got farmers in the remotest parts of the country to access their respective markets via the phone. A good 14 million Nigerian farmers have Adesina to thank for making them the centre of attraction of both the government and the market. Under Adesina, farmers in Nigeria received alerts on their phones to collect their allocation of agricultural inputs. It was both innovative and historical as no Nigerian government has ever achieved such. This effectively cut off the almighty middlemen (usually politicians and their proxies) who often turned the distribution of inputs into a bazaar.

Let’s not forget that before his appointment, the nation’s agricultural sector was gasping for breath. It had been on a steady decline since we found out that cheap money comes from crude oil and more because past leaders played politics with it. Just a few stats here:  Agriculture in Nigeria accounted for 65-70 per cent of total exports in the 1960s; it dropped to about 40 per cent in the 1970s and crashed to less than two per cent in the late 1990s and late 2000. But under Adesina as minister of agriculture, things changed. Agriculture bounced back as the major driver of growth recording a 7.50 per cent increase much in contrast to the oil sector, which contracted by 0.73 per cent in the second quarter of 2012. Under him, agriculture for the first time attracted over $5.6 billion in private investments. Under him, food was democratized and it reflected in accessibility, availability and affordability of foodstuff across the nation.

During his tenure, our national food production expanded by an additional 21million metric tonnes of food within three years and this led to a decline in Nigeria’s food import bill by N466billion from one trillion naira. Yet, in all of this, Adesina never mounted the rostrum to berate his predecessors. He just got down to work and charted a new path.

The triumph of Adesina and his international recognition should awaken a fresh paradigm for all serving public servants. Do not turn your office to a campaign ground for the ruling party or those that appointed you. Appointment into any public office is a call to serve; an opportunity to make a difference and contribute to the development of humanity.  The auguries of life and living for most Nigerians are extremely atrocious; they do not need politicians to add to it. If you are appointed into any public office at any level and you discovered that you are incapable of delivering service, take the honourable path: resign!

Adesina was appointed by Jonathan on account of his antecedent. He walked into the AfDB job because of his matchless performance as Nigeria’s minister of agriculture which also earned him the strong backing of Nigerian government. Now, the whole world has recognised all of this, not because he lobbied for such recognition but because he earned it through consistent delivery of service.

This is a lesson for the likes of Rotimi Amaechi, Audu Ogbeh, Babatunde Fashola, Solomon Dalung (the grossly incompetent sports minister), Rochas Okorocha and those who have found it most convenient to indulge in blame game.  The problem with blaming your predecessor on the job is that when you do so, you take your own eyes off the ball and at the end you will never score a goal.

Jonathan government was not the best for Nigerians but it was not totally bad hence all the propaganda to hang the nation’s woes on it by the Buhari government will always wash off. The recognition of Adesina as a global success story for his activity under Jonathan is an indictment of those who blame the same government for their own obvious inefficiency. 

Two years is gone, tell me, who in the federal cabinet of this current administration would be singled out as being worthy of his or her badge? Save for the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, who has been dispassionately discharging his duty, I see no oasis of stellar performance worthy of adulation in this current assembly of political choristers whose major preoccupation is to read and decode the body language of President Buhari; nothing more.

Every Nigerian should take pride in Adesina’s recognition because it paints the nation in the most brilliant kaleidoscope of colours. Congratulations to a good man fated to doing great things.


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1 Comment

  1. ANIFOWOSE SOLOMON 3rd July 2017 at 12:49 pm

    great write up with pen of audacity despite truthful jiggling of the bells of the article,entity support still spotted which was not the brilliant Adesina.

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