AfDB board agrees to an independent probe of Adesina after mounting US pressure
At the beginning of the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration in 2010, many young minds had the opportunity to serve in his government as Ministers. One of those was Akinwunmi Adesina who was to eventually head the Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry.
As the government got into action, Adesina proved his mettle, introducing several programmes that not only helped to clean up the rot in the several corrupt schemes in the country’s fertilizer value chain, but made significant efforts at boosting local production and attracting right and measured financing to the sector.
If you are struggling to remember Adesina and all he accomplished during the Jonathan administration, initiatives such as the cassava bread and the introduction of mobile wallet for farmers to access fertilizer could help to rejig your memory.
Adesina stood out, not only as an administrator, but one with innovative solutions and was not afraid to try new things.
So, it was not surprising to many when President Jonathan nominated him at the twilight of his administration for the presidency of Africa’s largest development lender, the African Development Bank, AfDB.
That job, which many assume he has done so well, and therefore merits another tenure is what now subjects his decades of professional life and integrity at risk.
It all started in May when a petition by some unknown whistleblowers against Adesina reached the AfDB board highlighting a raft of allegations, about 16 of them, that border on breach of AfDB’s code of conduct.
Although the AfDB’s ethics committee eventually cleared him of any allegations of wrongdoing, The United States, which happens to be the lender’s highest equity holder would not accept it.
And that is where it gets tricky and weird. Why did the US reject the verdicts of the AfDB ethics committee? U.S. Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin claims that the AfDB’s internal process cannot be trusted to deliver an unbiased verdict. They, therefore, demanded an independent probe, a demand which has now been endorsed by a reluctant AfDB board.
Yet, the US objection to the AfDB’s ethics committee’s absolution of Adesina raises some critical questions that should force the continent on a deeper reflection on its place in global affairs.
First, one wonders if the US would have made a similar decision were AfDB not an African institution based off Africa and headed by a black man? Would they have made similar decision if the US weren’t the largest shareholder of the lender?
The rejection of the ethics committee’s verdict did not only seek to undermine the authority and independence of the financial institution, but also a sad reminder that even Africa’s bests and upright cannot be trusted.
One would have expected the US authorities to take a step back to reconsider its stand especially after Nigeria’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote them to remind them of the implication of their decision on the independence of the lender. But they were not persuaded, another sad reminder that the US holds nothing or anyone outside its shores, let alone in Africa in any high estimation.
It did not help that this whole scenario is playing out at a time that there are protests across The US and key cities all over Africa over George Floyd’s racially inspired killing.
But if these events teach Africans anything, it is that time has come for independent Africa to take the bulls by the horns and charts its own course.
Why is the US the largest shareholder of an African Development Bank? Perhaps, the unfolding event can begin to compel Africa to work towards a development lender bereft of any foreign equity. That way, it can afford to manage its affairs without undue interference, while building a system to hold itself accountable.
It is no longer news that the economic system fashioned in the model of the western economies have not worked for Africa. Today, most African countries’ economies face a rather convoluted economic situation, and bleak prospects, due to the counsel they have received and adopted from the IMF and the World Bank.
At what point would Africa summon the courage to start anew and forge a common future determined by its own people? Colonialism and slave trades have been over for decades now, yet Africa remains adrift, seeking to enslave itself anew, and cowering at the barking of even the smallest dog in the room.
For Adesina, we pray and hope that he kept his integrity intact and that the independent investigators would return the same verdict as the AfDB’s Ethics Committee. That would do a generation of good especially to the continent’s young people that are looking up to him.