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HomeAfricaCelebrities Flock to Lagos for Adesina Ọbafẹmi Awolowo Prize Ceremony.

Celebrities Flock to Lagos for Adesina Ọbafẹmi Awolowo Prize Ceremony.

A veritable who’s who of Nigerian society as well as international heads of state attended the glittering award ceremony in Lagos held to honour Dr Adesina.

The 2023 Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership was formerly presented to Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) during a glittering ceremony held at the Lagos Continental Hotel on the 6th of March.

The large guest list was virtually a who’s who of Nigerian society past and present and also included Presidents and Heads of State of other African countries.

 

Among the foreign leaders was Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu-Hassan who also acted as the chairperson for the occasion. Other leaders included: Azali Assoumani, President of the Republic of the Union of Comoros and former Chairperson of the African Union; Sahle-Work Zewde, President of Ethiopia; Prime Minister Victoire Dogbe representing Faure Gnassingbe, President of Togo and the former President of Ghana, John Dramami Mahama.

Kashim Shettima, Vice-President of Nigeria standing in for Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the President of Nigeria led a powerful Nigerian visitor list which included General Gowon, former Head of State; former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and former Vice President Namadi Sambo, GCON.

The March 6th date coincides with the date of birth of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Nigerian statesman in whose honour the prize was instituted in 2012.

Adesina joins other African greats such as writer and philosopher Professor Wole Soyinka; former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, and lawyer-educationist, Chief Afe Babalola who have won the award.

The prize is awarded biennially to an African personality who exhibits traits most similar to the late Awolowo, who has been described as a sage, scholar, philosopher, futurist and ‘the best president that Nigeria never had’.

Dr Olatokunbo Awolowo Dosumu, Executive Director of the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation, said that the selection committee had been unanimous in its choice of Dr unveiled Dr Adesina “because he more than met the strict criteria for the award. Indeed, the committee of eminent persons of high integrity described him as possessing the attributes of the award to the highest degree.”

Chief Emeka Anyaoku, CFR, the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation Selection Committee Chairman for the Leadership Prize, lauded Dr Olatokunbo Awolowo Dosumu for sustaining her Father’s legacy. The former Secretary General of the Commonwealth Group described the Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo as a unique leader driven by a clear personal philosophy, focused on the welfare of his people, a true patriot and nationalist who understood the dynamics of managing Nigeria’s diversity.

Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary General of the Commonwealth and chairman of the prize selection committee described the Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo as a “unique leader driven by a clear personal philosophy, focused on the welfare of his people, a true patriot and nationalist who understood the dynamics of managing Nigeria’s diversity”.

Dr Adesina had been selected for his performance when he was Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture (2011 – 2015) and now as two-term president of the AfDB. In both capacities, he had demonstrated the commitment to public service and belief in and advocacy for the pan-African cause that Chief Awolowo had been famous for.

Dr Adesina’s tenure as Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria saw the implementation of an innovative electronic wallet system which directly provided farmers with subsidised farm inputs, ending 40 years of corruption in the sector.

He also oversaw the transformation of the sector from subsistence farming to lucrative business venture. His efforts resulted in $5.6bn of private sector investments into the agricultural sector. Ultimately, Nigeria’s food production underwent a remarkable increase of 21m metric tons during his tenure.

Plaudits for Adesina

Former President of Nigeria Gen Yakubu Gowon said Adesina “represents the best of Nigeria, is hardworking, diligent, brilliant, forward-looking and deeply patriotic”. Describing Adesina as a man with “intimidating academic credentials who stands tall on any platform,” he asked him to prepare for more work as the reward for his hard work.

The President of Tanzania, Dr. Samia Suluhu Hassan, described Adesina as “Africa’s optimist in chief” and a “gallant son of Nigeria”.

Having worked closely with him, she said, she deemed the award a fitting addition to his many honours as one of Africa’s most visionary leaders.

Just like Chief Awolowo, Adesina is one of the few visionaries for Nigeria’s and Africa’s development, one who is able to turn visions into concrete transformational solutions that impact the lives of millions of people across Africa.”

Hassan praised Adesina for his ability to work with all stakeholders and said Tanzania is one of the countries that has benefited directly from his leadership of the AfDB. “Under him, the AfDB has invested massively in energy, transport, agriculture, water and sanitation and infrastructure for regional connectivity,” she said.

Further evidence of his impact, she noted, is the $3bn that has been raised with his support, for a standard gauge railway to connect Tanzania to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi.

The President of the Union of Comoros, Azali Assoumani commended Adesina for his ability to build partnerships and his capacity to implement programmes that transform the lives of millions of people across Africa. “Africa will always remember your achievement as one of the finest leaders it has ever known,” he said.

The President of Ethiopia, Sahle-Work Zewde, described Adesina as “highly committed, driven to make an impact in the lives of people with tenacity, and with the relentless pursuit of excellence.

Acknowledging the galaxy of international leaders who had nominated him for the award, Adesina thanked former President Goodluck Jonathan, under whom he served as Minister of Agriculture, Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary General of the UN; Tony Blair, former UK Prime Minister; Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, former US Ambassador to Vietnam and president emeritus of the World Food Prize Foundation; Professor Adesoji O. Adelaja; and Professor Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of the Global Centre on Adaptation, who had supported the nomination.

Adesina said it was time for a new era of leadership in Africa that would transform the continent’s potential into prosperity and end its status as a “museum for poverty”.

“We must deliver a better Nigeria and a better Africa for this generation and for generations to come. Given the high level of poverty in Africa and in Nigeria and other countries, what is needed are welfarist policies that exponentially expand opportunities for all, reduce inequalities, and improve the quality of life of people. These must be anchored on public-centric policies and private sector wealth creation for all,” he charged.

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