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­Cole got it wrong on Adesina 

By Olukayode Oyeleye
20 May 2015   |   1:15 am
THE opening statements of Ambassador Patrick Dele Cole betrayed a number of things. They betrayed reluctance, lack of basic facts on which to build his assertions and a fundamental absence of justification for the write-up in the first place.

Patrick Dele ColeTHE opening statements of Ambassador Patrick Dele Cole betrayed a number of things. They betrayed reluctance, lack of basic facts on which to build his assertions and a fundamental absence of justification for the write-up in the first place.

For Dr. Cole, an intellectual in himself to have come out against Dr. Akinwumi Adesina from this flank was in itself a slap against intellectualism and an injustice done to a man he claimed not to have known personally.

For the purpose of clarification, Adesina’s  intellect has been greatly deployed for promoting progress, not only in agricultural sector over which he has superintended in the past four years as a minister, but in development circles spanning over other sectors, but using agriculture as a basis.

If, as Dr. Cole rightly admitted, that he and Adesina have some common friends who have praised the minister’s intellect and initiative in bringing the current agricultural revolution into being, why is Dr. Cole not contented with those friends’ testimonies?

Is he doubting the integrity of his own friends, who, he admitted, are also friends to Adesina?   Can we also infer that Dr. Cole, in spite of his friends’ positive assessment of Adesina, still chose to play the spoiler by trying to disparage the man he could have done better by seeking to meet one-on-one and asking him to defend these claims that are being made in his favour (or by himself) before he could make up his own mind whether or not to join those who applaud him?

Going on the pages of newspapers to express his doubts, (arguing within himself) and exposing his misgivings, is not charitable. It is ill-timed, malicious and uncalled-for.

If the likes of Dr. Cole chose not to agree that Adesina has done well as minister of agriculture, he needs to listen to those who have done systematic research and studies to either prove or disprove Adesina’s claim.

He could not have known better than the international community that is in full agreement with the success stories in Nigerian agriculture of the past four years. With the benefit of Internet alone, Dr. Cole could extract volumes of details on Adesina, published outside Nigeria.

I work directly under Adesina and stand to affirm that this man has achieved even more than has been publicised as a minister.

I am writing from the U.S. at the moment and I must state that it was thrilling enough to be at Purdue University, Adesina’s alma mater, to see how impressed the university community has been over his performance.

It was as if the Purdue University dedicated last weekend’s graduation ceremony to Dr. Adesina. Not content with merely just praising him, the minister was conferred, on Friday, with an honorary Doctorate degree.

This is no mean feat! I have worked for over 15 years, reporting agriculture in Nigeria. At no time between then and now has Nigeria had it so good as during this past four years of Adesina’s ascent as minister over the sector.

Despite the enormous potential in agriculture, the stories emanating from the sector until recently were those of disappointment and missed opportunities.

Adesina’s coming changed all that. Today, upon beginning to unlock the potential in agriculture, serious local and foreign investors began to pour billions of dollars into the sector and our financial institutions, for once, began to see reasons to put their money into the sector in support of investors and investments.

I don’t believe that Aliko Dangote, who must have done his home work very well, would have decided to commit $1 billion into a sector that is not currently doing well.

The statistics Dr. Cole asked for are abundant and beneficiaries of Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) are there to testify.

The cassava bread and rice he mentioned began to receive attention based on Adesina’s approach towards addressing their relevance in our national food balance sheet.

The one said to have been done in Ife 30 years ago never made it to the market, but Adesina’s did. Anyone who was in Nigeria in 2012 would easily remember the food crisis that stared us in the face in the wake of the flooding.

But for Adesina’s steadfast belief in Nigeria’s ability to feed itself and the deployment of right intellect in solving the crisis, Nigeria would have had food crisis in the wake of the flood.

Talking of measuring, I am not sure Dr. Cole is aware that Dr. Adesina is versed in econometrics; and that international organisations and foreign experts were involved in designing and execution of the interventions that changed the face of these two commodities and others in the Nigerian market today.

If Dr. Cole genuinely needs statistics, based on what has been done on these commodities under Adesina, he should ask, and he will be given.

Dr. Cole’s reference only to yams and cassava betrayed his limited knowledge of the scale of transformation that has spanned over root crops, tuber crops, grains, livestock and fisheries.

The record achievement in rice production today is available, not only statistically but also pictorially such that, today, we talk of rice pyramids. There has been a significant increase in the number of millers from just one in 2011 to over 20 now, producing world class milled rice that compare favourably (and even exceeds in quality) with foreign, imported rice.

Dr. Cole may have been eating Nigerian rice in his house without knowing it! Dr. Cole would like to know if Nigeria has more food in store.

The stories in the market are inundating enough. He needs to visit northern states to know of the quantum of food produced by rural farmers under the growth enhancement support scheme that has transformed the lives of many and increased their output as well as income.

With the registration of 14.5 million farmers and the use of modern telecoms technology to reach them directly, Nigeria, for the first time, is having a system whereby the rural-based farmers are reached directly from Abuja.

The know-your-customer initiative actually deserves a lot of encomiums and it has helped in massively increasing food production in the past four years, cutting across commodities and geo-political zones of the country.

The agricultural intervention that was blind to gender, political affiliation or regional bias was one that has been well lauded among the beneficiaries, particularly the poor farmers .

Dr. Cole’s admission that he was out to mess Adesina up is a statement that smacks of the parable of ‘sour grape.’  It was such an ill wind that blows no one any good. To ask if billions of naira spent on agriculture has achieved anything?

Dr. Cole needs to do a comparative analysis of what has been frittered away in food importation over so many decades by successive governments and compare with how much has been saved through Adesina’s initiative of supporting farmers and other players in the various commodity value chains, creating millions of jobs, stimulating billions of naira in private sector investments and curbing massive capital flight.

We hope Dr Cole is not losing sleep over Adesina’s great prospects of emerging as the next President of African Development Bank. • Dr. Oyeleye is a special assistant to the minister.