Some great men walk through life laurel-less, unrewarded for their contributions to the unending advance of humanity. Others acquire too many feathers unto their undeserving cap, bogus honours which are soon stripped off by the revealing eyes of time.
The President of the African Development Bank, Nigeria’s very own Akin Adesina, however, gets his due recognition. His achievements are so great, and the arena so public, that everything he does to improve the continent’s fortunes in agriculture is laid bare for an approving audience.
It was yet another honour for the agriculture czar this week as the president of Tunisia; His Excellency Beji Caid Essebsi warmly welcomed him and others with a grand ceremony at the presidential palace. Essebsi even awarded the Ibadan-bred technocrat Tunisia’s highest official honor, the Grand Officer of the Tunisian Order of Merit.
In a continent notorious for putting square political pegs into round technocratic holes, Adesina remains a breath of fresh air. He eats, drinks and breathes agriculture and with the African Development Bank as a platform, he has taken his crusading for an agricultural revolution everywhere on the continent. He galvanized the political will among African leaders to transform the agricultural sector and lobbied for effective policies to modernize farming and make the sector an attractive proposition for the young while easing the burdens of product distribution on small-scale farmers.
Little wonder the minister of agriculture and rural development under former president Goodluck Jonathan has become the darling of African leaders who routinely serenade him with their country’s highest honours in gratefulness for his efforts to increase the availability of credit for smallholder farmers across the African continent. Since assuming the mantle at AfDB, he’s been awarded the Grand Officier of the National Order of the Lion of Senegal, Grand Officier of the Order of Valour of the Cameroon, Grand Officier of the National Order of Merit of Niger, Grand Officier of the Order of Mono of Togo, and Grand Cordon of the Order of the Star of Africa of Liberia.
He was also, in 2017, the winner of the World Food Prize, bestowed “for driving changes in African Agriculture for over 25 years and improving food security for millions across the continent. “ Not many will forget in a hurry how as agriculture minister, he introduced the E-Wallet system for local farmers that effectively wiped out the corrupt middlemen that had hampered fertilizer distribution for decades. He also piloted initiatives to expand rice and cassava production and increase private sector investment in agriculture.