Will Africa come of age with Adesina?

NIGERIA’S General Murtala Muhammed stood tall before the OAU summit on January 11, 1976 with the very bold “Africa has come of age” speech as a response to a letter from President Gerald Ford opposing the Soviet backed M.P.L.A. which had assumed power in Angola. The South Africans were fighting with the opposition factions to M.P.LA. General Muhammed objected to Ford siding with the South Africans, and against African self determination. These were the concluding words of the speech:

“Mr. Chairman, when I contemplate the evils of apartheid, my heart bleeds and I am sure the heart of every true blooded African bleeds… Rather than join hands with the forces fighting for self-determination and against racism and apartheid, the United States policy makers clearly decided that it was in the best interests of their country to maintain white supremacy and minority regimes in Africa…

Africa has come of age. It’s no longer under the orbit of any extra continental power.

“It should no longer take orders from any country, however powerful. The fortunes of Africa are in our hands to make or to mar. For too long have we been kicked around: for too long have we been treated like adolescents who cannot discern their interests and act accordingly.

“For too long has it been presumed that the African needs outside ‘experts’ to tell him who are his friends and who are his enemies. The time has come when we should make it clear that we can decide for ourselves; that we know our own interests and how to protect those interests; that we are capable of resolving African problems without presumptuous lessons in ideological dangers which, more often than not, have no relevance for us, nor for the problem at hand.”

He was killed in a coup on 13 February, 1976.

Forty-four years after, the man who succeeded Muhammed, General Olusegun Obasanjo and later President of Nigeria for eight years and a group of African former leaders including Nigeria’s former President Dr Goodluck Jonathan are challenging Donald Trump of America over Mr Akinwumi Adesina leadership of African Development Bank.

The issue is over Adesina’s quest to lead the Bank for another five years and a spurious petition against him for violating the ethics of the Bank. Adesina faced the jury, and he came out clean. That should have been the end of the story until Trump insisted he must be tried the second time for the same offence which equity frowns on. Here is Trump who was recently impeached by the House of Representatives in the United States of America based on investigations for unethical conduct but still in office saved by the votes of the Senate against impeachment.

Adesina has made a very lucid respond to all the allegations against him which is already in the public domain based upon which he was cleared.

A few days before the African leaders spoke in the direction Africa should held on to this matter, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) sent me a lucid one from an international lawyer with deep insight into AfDB:

‘As a former General Counsel of the AfDB and one who is familiar with the facts, processes, rules and policies of the institution, allow me to offer a few clarifications. First, AfDB has 78 shareholders, 55 African countries and 33 non-African countries including all of the G7 countries. The largest shareholder is Nigeria. Although the US is the largest non-African shareholder, I believe it is the third largest shareholder after Nigeria and Egypt. Of course, it is the biggest economic power in the world for now.

Allegations were made against the AfDB President. Lets leave aside for now the fact that he is a Nigerian or African. The allegations surfaced after it became clear he was going to be the sole candidate for the election this year, and it was inevitable he would be re-elected for a second term. There are internal processes for reviewing such allegations, independent of the President. The Ethics Committee, which I established as General Counsel, is a committee composed exclusively of board  members. The General Counsel serves as Secretary to the Ethics Committee. The purpose of the Committee is to review allegations of ethical misconduct by Executive Directors {Board Members} and the President. It has powers to make recommendations in the case of the President to the Chairman of Board of the Governors of AfDB. The Board of Governors is the highest decision-making organ of the AfDB. If after reviewing allegations, the Ethics Committee finds that the allegations are frivolous, it recommends they are dismissed. If it finds out they are not, it recommends to the chairperson of the Board of Governors that they should investigated. In this case, the Ethics Committee’s recommendation was that the allegations were frivolous and should be dismissed, because they not substantiated by the ‘whistleblowers’ and some were patently ridiculous.

The chairpersons of the Board of Governors, who sits in a quasi appellate position in this process reviews the report of the Ethnic Committee and decides to uphold the recommendation.

Now, the Ethnic Committee has three African Executive Directors and 2 Non-African Executive Directors. (all representative of shareholders or member states). It is chaired by a Japanese ED and the American ED is a member.

Please tell me from a corporate governance perspective, how one shareholder out of 78 shareholders should dictate a position different from that taken by independents oversight organs, simply because they do not agree with the conclusions of these independent oversight bodies? We all know that the current administration in the US has a track record of intolerance for multinational ORGANISATIONS and has sought to bully other nation states into accepting its position on issues in these organisations. The most recent example being the World Health Organisation (WHO). Recently, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director-General had to resign because of harassment by the current US administration.

As a former general counsel and an international lawyer as well as a believer in the rule of law, I take exception to the US position ‘(Anonymous).

Alhaji Shehu Shagari on pages 371-2 of his book “Beckoned To Serve” recalled how outside pressures had come over AfDB over the years but none has been blatant and insulting to Africa as this of Trump.

Africa should come of age at this moment and look Trump straight in the face and ward off this bully. We must defend AfDB.

Africa must stand with the last words of the club of  its past leaders in their statement:

“No nation regardless of how powerful, has a veto power over the African Development Bank, and no nation should have such.”



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