Adesina, AFDB President wins Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership 2023
President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwunmi Ayọdeji Adeṣina, CON, has been named the winner of the 2023 Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership.
The former Nigerian Minister of Agriculture, who is currently in his second term as President of AfDB, was announced winner among many nominations received for the prestigious biennial global prize in celebration of the democratic and development-oriented ideals of a foremost Pan-African nationalist, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
Unveiling the winner for the 2023 edition, the Chairman, Selection Committee of the Ọbafẹmi Awolọwọ Prize for Leadership, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, in a statement on Thursday, described Adesina as someone whose commitment to the positive transformation of the African continent “has demonstrated core leadership qualities that have been associated with Chief Ọbafẹmi Awolọwọ, and which this Prize is meant to encourage and reward.”
Chief Anyaoku explained that the prize, which announced its maiden recipient in 2012 and presented in 2013, is an initiative of the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation and since then, conferred three different personalities, including; first African Nobel laureate in Literature, Professor Wole Soyinka; former South African President, Thabo Mbeki; and a legal luminary, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN). He added that the AfDB President is the fourth recipient and would be presented the award on March 6, 2024.
According to the Committee Chairman, the prize was to encourage, recognise, reward and celebrate excellence in leadership.
The statement reads: “After a careful, detailed and rigorous screening process, the Selection Committee was unanimous in deciding the recipient of this year’s Prize. I have great pleasure to inform you that the considered view of the Selection Committee is that of all the nominees presented before it, the person adjudged to possess the attributes for the award to the highest degree and therefore is the recipient of the 2023 Ọbafẹmi Awolọwọ Prize for Leadership is Dr Akinwunmi Ayọdeji Adeṣina, CON, President of the African Development Bank.
“Dr Adeṣina, a former Nigerian Minister of Agriculture in the administration of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, is currently serving a second term as President of African Development Bank. Besides being a Pan Africanist with enthusiastic commitment to the positive transformation of the continent, he has demonstrated core leadership qualities that have been associated with Chief Ọbafẹmi Awolọwọ, and which this Prize is meant to encourage and reward. Besides his manifest intellectual leadership, Dr. Adeṣina is a person whose outstanding leadership has occasioned public policies that have positively transformed millions of lives.
“As Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria, Dr Adeṣina introduced innovative reforms such as the fertilizer sector reforms, which virtually eliminated corruption in the sector and ensured that farmers actually benefitted from government’s subsidized fertilizers. He developed an electronic-wallet system that allowed farmers to receive electronic vouchers for seeds and fertilizers directly on their mobile phones, thereby cutting off the middlemen in the system. Not less than 15 million farmers benefitted from this scheme within four years.
“Since assuming office as President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Adeṣina has worked relentlessly to contribute to the positive transformation of the continent. He has brought leadership to bear in addressing some of the challenges confronting the continent including leading and supporting innovative efforts to fight hunger and poverty.
“At the AfDB, Dr Adeṣina introduced what he termed the “High 5s” namely, to light up and power Africa; Feed Africa; Industrialise Africa; Integrate Africa; and improve the quality of life of the people of Africa. The impactful and successful nature of this programme has been widely acknowledged.
“In 2019, under the leadership of Dr. Adeṣina, the shareholders of the African Development Bank increased the capital base of the Bank from $US93 billion to US$208 billion, an increase of over 123 percent, the highest capital increase of the Bank since its establishment in 1964.
“Dr Adeṣina is a kind hearted and generous person who believes in supporting the less privileged and younger persons. He demonstrated this when, at the event where he was given the World Food Prize, he announced that he would devote the $US 250,000 cash tied to the prize to supporting young people by establishing the World Hunger Fighters Foundation to support young people in the fight against global hunger. Several young people have so far benefitted from this gesture.
“A comprehensive citation of Dr Adeṣina, including his remarkable educational achievements, will be given at the award ceremony scheduled for 6 March, 2024, which is Chief Awolọwọ’s birth anniversary. But let me conclude by making reference to pertinent comments about Dr. Adeṣina by two eminent global personalities. As a former President of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (in whose cabinet Dr Adesina served as Minister of Agriculture) aptly noted, “Dr Adeṣina epitomises and combines qualities of extraordinary leadership that are often rare to find: great visionary, incredible courage, ability to take on huge and difficult challenges, extraordinary dedication and commitment, selflessness, people-centeredness, and fervour to deliver transformative programs and policies that transform the lives of millions of people.
“Similarly, Mr Ban Ki-Moon, a former Secretary General of the United Nations who is a non-African rightly averred that “Dr Adeṣina is forged in the same mould as Chief Ọbafẹmi Awolọwọ – a shining example of leadership.”