AfDB and Adesina: Africa Can’t Breathe

Akinwumi Adesina

Sylvester Okon

One cannot tell exactly why the travails of the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, and the global uproar accompanying the murder of George Floyd by a white cop in Minnesota, USA are coming at the same time. Yet the coincidence is something that cannot be glossed over as both events are emblematic of the African story, whether on African or foreign soil.

Whereas Floyd is metaphor for black man’s racial-driven ordeals in foreign lands, Adesina’s travail represents Africa’s ordeal in the hands of neocolonialism and economic slave drivers. Each time one watches that video of Floyd pleading for dear life, “I can’t breathe”, under the choking knees of Derek Chauvin and his other white racist colleagues, one also see that infamous letter by the US Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, calling for fresh investigation of Adesina and by outsiders against the rules of the bank. I see another white knee on the neck of the AfDB and the hopes it holds for the black man.

Just to refresh our memories, although Nigeria is the highest equity holder in the AfDB and in fact sowed the seed money for the founding of the Bank, she was only able to produce the President of the Bank 2015, when one of Africa’s best development economists, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, was so elected. The Bank has done so well under Adesina, to continental and global applause. Its rating has soared and for the first time in recent memories, the Bank has lived up to its name as an African development bank. It was not surprising when the African Heads of State under the auspices of the African Union (AU) roundly endorsed him for another tenure.

But Adesina’s Afrocentric bent has obviously not gone down well with some non-African equity holders, who believe he must be stopped in his stride lest Africa breathes economically. To kill a dog, therefore, they needed to give it a bad name vides ridiculous allegations of ethical infractions concocted by purported staff members. Instructively, the allegations only came when the coast was clear for Adesina to emerge unopposed for another term as President of the AfDB.

As a responsible organisation known for best corporate governance practices, the matter was referred to the Ethics Committee as required by their rules and regulations. But whereas Adesina clearly deflated the 16 balloons of lie in a 250-page submission, the so-called whistleblowers could not produce a single fact, evidence or document to substantiate their allegations. The Ethics Committee returned a “not guilty” verdict to the Board of Governors. Had he been found wanting on any of the counts, then the Board of Governors would have instituted another Committee to look into the matter.

However, these same non-African interests used the US Secretary of Treasury, Mnunchin, to denounce the verdict of the appropriate organs of the bank, presenting same as the U.S position. Suddenly, they don’t trust the rules of the bank, they don’t trust the regulations, they don’t trust the laws, they don’t the Ethics Committee, and they don’t trust even the Board of Governors. All they want is a fresh “in-depth investigation of the allegations using the services of an independent outside investigator of high professional standing”.

Clearly, this is unknown to the rules, regulations, and laws governing the institution. The only agenda is to get rid of Adesina by hook or crook, then install one of their Halleluyah Boys or Girls, and reverse the gains made in his first term.

It is noteworthy that the move to hijack the AfDB did not start today. In his autobiography, “Shehu Shagari: Beckoned to Serve”, the late former President revealed that whereas the Organisation of African Union and ECA founded the AfDB and Africa Development Fund (to which African and non-African members are contributors) as a first step towards economic independence for Africa, some western interests wanted to capture the Bank.

However, he explained: “Over the years, these non-African contributors, who were mostly the industrialised western nations wanted to dominate the ADB and the Fund by pressing for full membership of the two bodies through increased equity participation. Unfortunately, the ABD and some of the poorer members wanted to succumb to the temptation of allowing outsiders to provide more funds and thereby take over the control of these organisations. Nigeria, Algeria, and Libya strongly opposed this move, which they argued, would have totally defeated the very objective for which the Bank and Fund were created in the first place”.

Shagari, who was Federal Commissioner (Minister) for Finance from 1971 to 1975 under the General Yakubu Gowon, regretted that in 1981, when he had become President, most of the other African countries turned around to approve non-African equity participation despite his strident opposition to the move. In other words, the Adesina ordeal is a continuation of the age-long striving to capture and render the AfDB a lapdog of some powerful western interests.

Again, although no one seems to be able to lay hands on any “Pact for the Continuation of Colonisation” between France and her former African colonies as alleged by former AU Ambassador to USA, Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao; although her allegation that France annually fleeces her former African colonies to the tune of about $500 billion in bank reserves, which they could only draw from as loans at commercial interest, is quite exaggerated, there is no contention that France sees and uses her former African colonies as outposts of French economic and political interests.

Only last January, Italian Deputy Prime Minister, Luigi Di Maio, also accused France of running a “neo-colonialist system” in Africa through the CFA franc single currency union imposed on ten countries in Central Africa, blaming France for impoverishing Africa and for migration flows. “Africans will stay in Africa if the French stay at home instead of colonizing”, said Di Maio.

So, when the French Treasury mourned in its July 2016 report that “the…AfDB…President very seldom speaks in French, and uses the language rarely, if at all, when talking about strategic or financial matters”; and when you consider that the so-called whistleblower allegations against Adesina was first and exclusively published by a French news medium; when the U.S Secretary of Treasury seeks to commandeer AfDB to go outside the rules to score his desired goal of blocking Adesina’s second term in office, it only confirms that Adesina has been working ardently for African interest. Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Patrice Lumumba, Steve Biko, Thomas Sankara, etc. were also never beholden to those who want to perpetually pin the black race down and never allowed to breathe.

So, in concluding, whether it is Floyd or Adesina, the submissions of the fire-spiting American civil rights activists and Baptist clergy, Rev. Alfred Sharpton, summarises the situation and yearning of the black race: “George Floyd’s story has been the story of black folks because ever since 401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted to be and dreamed to be is – you kept your knees on our neck. We could run corporations and not hustle in the streets, but you had your knee on our neck. We had creative skills; we could do whatever anybody else could do. But we couldn’t get your knee off our neck.

“The reason we are matching all over the world is – we were like George. We couldn’t breathe, not because there was some wrong with our lungs but that you wouldn’t take your knee off our neck.

“We don’t want no favours. Just get up off us and we can (breathe and) be and do whatever we can be”.

Okon writes from Calabar