Tinubu and Betta life

A meeting with an African King

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I had an idea of how my Monday March 4, was going to run until my Managing Director, Mr Edward Dickson called in that morning, barely audible. He was battling malaria, to which he had lost about two-thirds of his vocal clarity, but he still managed to let me know the day wasn’t mine any longer. He directed that I hastily put a team together for a pre-planned-interview-turned-an emergency, because the world will live today hardly gives a breather, despite Solomon, the one with divine wisdom, submitting on our racing around, as vanity upon vanity

There are assignments in which you have zero opinions and options. Like not choosing where you were born and who gave birth to you. The Ultimate One determines that, including earthly assignments and how we run them and those to partner with us in the course of the journey, if we allow Him, as adults. We hardly have opinions on how the life race will also end because euthenasia isn’t even a certainty again. And I have seen someone pressed by two articulated vehicles in a ghastly accident in Ilesa, who literally walked away with two shattered legs and his life intact. After months in cast, he walked again, though poor medical management got the legs, locked in a v-shape. But he lived when he should not.

As I was touching down from the straining MD call, during which I had to constantly ask “ki le so sir” (pardon, sir), Editor, Nigerian Tribune, Alhaji Debo Abdulai, was next, about the same assignment. At this point, the said assignment had become ise Oba (the royal errand) and this particular one can’t be stopped by any odo Oba (Oba stream), overflowing its banks, even if it is of greater impact than the August 31, 1980 Omiyale tragedy in Ibadan.

Got “Professor” Akin Adewakun and our ubiquitous photo-man Sylvester Okoruwa and a few hours later that Monday, we were in the presence of brand-new Awo laureate, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, president of Abdijan-based African Development Bank (AfDB).

It wasn’t my first time with the man of class, intellect and oratory. I reminded him towards the end of the interview of his visit to Lagos as Agric minister under Goodluck Jonathan, to parley with editors when fertilizer sharks came for him over his reform, excusing evil middlemen from fertilizer subsidy and distribution.

The interview was to herald his garlanding as an outstanding public servant by the Awo Foundation led by our chairman, Dr Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosumu, which took place two days after, when the black continent simply relocated to Lagos to celebrate a unique son.

As much as Adesina wanted to be the regular guy, the regal aura was too present not to be felt. He fits the president title and the title sits well on him. He has both the title and the mantle. My colleague Adewakun asked him if politics is in the future. He went spiritual as expected of a genuine child of God. He said an instrument can’t dictate to its Maker how to be used.

I reminded him of his name featuring prominently in the build-up to 2023 poll, assuring him he would have earned my vote. And it won’t be because of his great looks and eclectic carriage alone, though that would also count greatly for him, with those who love their leader, being of compelling charm and standing “tall” everywhere.

Adesina understands what ails Africa. A line that really got me was when he came up with Africa holding over $96.5 trillion of world’s natural wealth and still poor because only about $6.5 trillion of the wealth is coming to its people. And he didn’t have to consult some books to read you the facts and the practical solutions being offered.

The man superintending the continental development bank isn’t the same man who served as Agric minister here, just years back. He is now a global citizen; known personally to practically all African leaders and other global statesmen through service to humanity and not something political brinkmanship. And a couple of them, made appearances in Lagos Wednesday, the 7th, to felicitate him, not to mention former presidents, governors, serving and former, diplomats of all hues, among others.

On a lighter note but with serious intention, I could hazard a guess as to African leaders practically eating from his palm. Hunger is the number one ill plauging African nations, including the ones like Nigeria that have no business being poor and since Adesina is the Food Man of Africa, of course, every bee will perch, where the honey is. The bank’s developmental agenda and the cash backing it can provide must have been another major reason to be courted.

But that is, as the bank’s president. Much of the love I saw on display from African leaders and others present at the event pointed to a loveable personality. A female African President even called him, “Akin, my younger brother”. There is a testament to leadership that perks, power and influence of office do not provoke or write. It just flows from the occupant and the aura becomes magnetic.

As much as I don’t want to soil this with any Nigerian leadership sob story, it is going to be practically impossible not to compare what Nigerians are doing to their fellow countrymen today in the name of democratic leadership and what Adesina, another Nigerian, is doing for Africa.

The same hunger he is helping Nigeria to fight with tangible data of engagement is the same responsibility shirked by some characters, supposedly elected, to serve. While he is deploying fund transparently to help Nigeria out of the doldrums it has been pushed, those elected to serve Nigerians are making coup speeches over budgeting practice that has always been riddled with naked corruption.

Opeyemi Bamidele can speak all the coup grammar he wants, but if in his conscience he believes the billions of naira awarded to Godswill Akpabio for constituency projects, isn’t satanic, then let God judge him and his kind.

Adewakun asked Adesina how politics of Agric Ministry and fertilizer subsidy didn’t consume or slow him down; he referenced Jonathan’s solid backing, his resolve to be a team player and God being on his side.

On Wednesday, Jonathan was a lone figure, with a lone security detail as he took an early exit from the event, walking past where I was seated inside the event hall. There were no rambling praise-singers. But eyes were following him as he walked away like a regular UNIPORT lecturer. A king’s ourtiers, who had the seat next to me said, “ah e wo Jonathan. Won de ni ko mo se. Igba ti e dara. Ilu tura ko dabi igba awa lokan” (look at Jonathan. They said he was clueless, yet we had prosperity during his time. Things were better, unlike the current situation in the country). I half-laughed.

Adesina is the second “president” honoured by Awo Foundation I would be privileged to interview, alongside colleagues. The first, being the former president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, when he came for his award in Lagos.

But despite his “president” title, I think it would be belittling calling Adesina president of any African country, including Nigeria. He has transformed into a doyen of African renaissance, a philosopher-king, bothered for his own and using God-given abilities to work out emancipation. You can’t call someone who gets 32 African heads of government together in a room to barnstorm through sessions, against poverty, denying some, even their lunch, a country leader again.

In African settings and history, only people-centric kings are known for the kind of sacrificial leading Adesina is providing to ensure poverty no longer defines his own, only that this king, is ever on bowtie, with shimmering smile. Adesina eulogised Awo as being bigger than Nigeria. He can hold a mirror.

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