Adesina’s legacy cannot be sullied
THE piece written by Patrick Dele Cole in The Guardian of Monday, May 18, 2015 titled, “Federal Minister of Agriculture, Adesina”, contained what I can best describe as a last gasp effort to undermine the hard work done by Dr. Akinwumi Adesina for his country and indeed the rest of Africa, by transforming Nigeria’s hitherto under-performing agricultural sector.
This is demonstrated in the his article where, in a bid to rubbish Adesina’s achievements, he succeeds in weaving a set of disjointed rambles about issues ranging from Dr. Adesina’s aspiration for the AfDB Presidency to the absence of statistics on Nigeria’s achievements in agriculture over the past three years.
“Envy is Ignorance”, a statement credited to Ralph Waldo Emerson and glaring in this instance. One will be quick to ask me how I arrived at the conclusion that Ambassador Cole is actuated by resentment and/or envy? Well, the writer himself makes my job easy. “I am sorry to mess up another Nigerian, about to get a good United Nations job,” he volunteers, and follows this up with an ominous admission, “I cannot help it.”
Like no other agriculture minister before him, Akinwumi Adesina has brought his training and experience at the highest level of global interface, to bear on Nigeria’s most important sector – agriculture. Under Adesina, the last four years have seen the Ministry of Agriculture serve the interest of the average Nigerian farmer and a host of other agribusinesses. Clearly propelled by a disdain for poverty and the institutional structures that nurtured it over the years, the minister has, in the time that he has been at the helm, succeeded in changing the manner in which government’s agricultural policies are conceived, framed and implemented.
The Growth Enhancement Support (GES) Scheme which he masterminded has ensured that small holder farmers in Nigeria have access to agricultural inputs like fertilizers, seeds as well as agro-chemicals. The results over the last four years have been breathtaking. Nigeria’s Food Import Bill dropped from ₦1.1 trillion to ₦635 billion between 2011 and 2013. Indeed, by year end 2014, the country’s food import bill had declined by a whopping 73 per cent, thereby helping to stave off the impact of the global oil slump. To Cole and his ilk, this feat must not be credited to Adesina, it is one big coincidence.
Unfortunately for Cole however, the thorough and deliberate manner in which the agricultural sector was overhauled engendered appropriate record keeping as the ministry was swiftly decentralised with state offices opened across the country, manned by Directors and Zonal Directors overseeing the implementation of the ATA.
In addition, globally recognised research institutes like the International Food Policy Research Institute, (IFPRI), IITA, ICRISAT and others tracked the implementation process. In terms of impact of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, therefore, there is proper documentation. AgroNigeria recently commissioned an independent review of the dramatic sectoral changes (soon to be published) and the preliminary findings go to show that by reason of over 21 million metric tonnes of food produced over a three-year period, Nigeria has been able to weather the impact of a global slump in oil prices. Today, across the value chain, the ATA has stimulated job creation to an increased level of 274% when considering that as at 2011, the total jobs created in the agricultural sector stood at 517,949, compared with the 3,598,529 existing by year end 2014.
Ninety per cent of agricultural stakeholders surveyed acknowledged the impact of the ATA in what is considered a short period of time and it is little wonder that the Nigerian agriculture minister has continued to bag recognition both at home and abroad.
The recent conferment of a Honorary Doctorate Degree in Agriculture on Dr. Adesina by Purdue University – the first since 1826 – in recognition of his global leadership in fighting poverty through innovative agricultural policies, speaks to his competence.
Some of his innovative programs like the E-wallet system which directly gives farmers access to farm inputs through their mobile phones have impacted on the lives of 14.5 million farmers over the last four years.
A first of its kind anywhere in the world, the E-wallet system’s success has attracted countries like Kenya, Uganda, Cote d’Ivoire, China, Brazil and India who are all seeking to adopt it. Indeed, the World Bank Group has commenced the process of replicating the system in other African countries.
Adesina’s record speaks for itself. The last four years have been “golden” for Nigerian agriculture and having done nothing else than report on the agricultural sector for a decade now, it beats me silly that anyone can be so pedestrian in addressing sensitive developmental issues that have far reaching implications not just for Nigerians, but the rest of Africa.
Even the President-elect demonstrated his prowess at governance when he sent a former Vice-President of the country to South Africa recently to secure that country’s support for Adesina’s candidacy for AfDB. Knowing him, Buhari would be the last person to openly support a non-performing minister.
Again, Adesina has left a positive mark on Nigerian agriculture and deserves all the accolades he is getting both at home and abroad.
• Mbaram is CEO, AgroNigeria, Lagos.