All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing – Edmund Burke.
This is a popular saying with deep connotations. However in this context, the EVIL is that in which a man “shut up his bowels of compassion towards his fellow man”. This is the state in which the world is. People are reluctant to help their fellow man because of the supposed “backlash” or misinterpretation of their deed, inability to discern those in distress, fraudsters, etc. All of this makes even the most compassionate individual skeptical of providing help . However, people still unconsciously follows a man who has set himself apart to be a blessing to all inspite of how dire and unpredictable the situation may be at times. That is the case with Nigeria’s former minister of Agriculture and now president of African Development Bank (AFDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina
Dr. Adesina’s beginning is synonymous with every striving Nigerians, but unlike most young men, he didn’t allow his limitations to shape his decisions or affect his determination. Born on 6th, February 1960 to a family of unskilled farmers who incidentally were employees, Dr. Akinwumi first came into global spotlight when he played a critical leadership role in organizing the Africa fertilizer summit in Abuja which inadvertently led to the formation of the Alliance for a Green revolution in Africa (AGRA), a multi-million dollar collaboration between the Rockefeller and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations of which he was the Vice-President (Policy and Partnership). A graduate of Agricultural economics from the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) and PHD holder of the same discipline, he led “several policies and innovative finance initiatives leveraging about $4billion in bank finance commitments, one of the largest global efforts to redirect domestic bank finance towards Africa’s agriculture sector”.
He considers himself on a mission to bring about “Green revolution” and combining it with the economic aspect of his discipline, he believed that that it is only way to open new vistas and opportunities for the young ones in Africa. This is evident in his speech to the Worldfolio in 2012. In outlining his vision, he said “The Key for successful reform is to turn agriculture into a business that makes money, with a focus on investment, as opposed to aid and development. We need to move towards focusing on particular value chains in which we have a traditional comparative advantage”.
His passion for the agriculture revolution didn’t go unnoticed and he was recommended by the Former President Olusegun Obasanjo to his successor, President Goodluck Jonathan to become a minister of agriculture. In a country where its history is full of brilliant technocrats who are exceptional in the private sector but never fail to be overwhelmed by the gruesome tasks in the public sector, Dr. Akinwumi who is never one to shy away from a challenge tackled his most daunting challenge yet making a mincemeat of it.
He could not resist infecting everyone around him with his dream and vision; galvanizing them so that a forty year old fertilizer problem in Nigeria was tackled within the five years he was in charge and the same method is adopted in countries around the world. This method had long been posited by him in his masters’ thesis and I bet that if its implementation wasn’t successful, he might have not forgiven himself.
There were many challenges and distractions of course such as the cassava flour and bread import substitution policy which was severely criticized and attacked by various environmental conversationists accusing of him of favoring his western allies. However, he turned those challenges to stepping stones.
Anyone can say what they will about Dr. Akinwumi but he is a pace-setter, he loves challenges, infact he thrives on it and after leaving the Nigeria public service he became the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) carrying on his call that Africa should go to where they have a “Traditional comparative advantage” which is agriculture. In the highlight of his recognition as the 2017, World Food Prize Laureate, the President of the foundation, Kenneth Quinn described Dr. Akinwumi as “ a man who grew up in poverty himself and embarked on a journey to use his academic training to lift up millions of people out of poverty, especially farmers in rural Africa”.
In furtherance of his dream, he donated the cash prize of $250,000 given to him to aid all young Africans interested in doing work that positions agriculture as a business, provide grants, fellowships and finance to young Africans. In his mind, he has probably and secretly vowed to provide opportunities to millions of young minds and he is afraid of not fulfilling it. This gesture didn’t go unnoticed as various donors keyed in and voluntarily support his vision and mission namely John M. Harrington III of Sheffield Corporation who made an additional $250,000 and John Ruan III who made a pledge of $100,000 bringing it to a total of $600,000. Through this, he has leveraged on the goodwill of individuals and corporate bodies to join him and believe in his goals.
Dr. Akinwumi has set himself apart with his dreams and visible work and unconsciously people now look up to him as the man who change their views that there are worthy men in the world worth believing in. his decision to serve humanity with his intellect is extraordinary and just as Mahatma Gandhi said “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service to others”.
I thank you sir for your perseverance and unending belief of the potentials embedded in Africa. I also thank the immediate family for their support. Sir as we faithfully enter the new year, keep believing your dreams because they are infectious and healthily contagious and keep on being the beacon of hope and goodwill.