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Tinubu says Awolowo was victim of hostile opposition, hails AfDB’s Adeṣina 

Tinubu says Awolowo was victim of hostile opposition, hails AfDB’s Adeṣina 

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on Wednesday, extolled the virtues of the first premier of the old Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, saying he was a victim of his ambition and as well a hostile opposition.

Tinubu, who described Awolowo as a dependable ally of time a national hero, noted that his principles had withstood the tests of time and geography, noting that it was only time that defines the tough decisions, character and sacrifices a leader has to take to make a difference.

Speaking yesterday at the 2024 Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership held in Lagos, the president, who further described the late sage as a compass and guiding light for several generations of leaders, however, celebrated the President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwunmi Adeṣina, for clinching the 2023 Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership.

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The Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership, a prestigious, biennial, international prize that follows a rigorous process of nomination and subsequent screening by a selection committee, celebrates the democratic and development-oriented ideals of Chief Awolowo, a foremost Pan-African nationalist.

Tinubu, who was represented by Vice President Kashim Shettima, observed that understanding Awolowo’s teachings required coming to terms with “the obscured reality of leadership,” adding that: “overcoming the conspiracies of mischief-makers, sceptics, and saboteurs” is the very first test every true leader must undergo.

Delivering the president’s address titled, “Leadership: An Alliance with Time,” Shettima said, “For the great sage from Ikenne, his enduring impact persists despite revisionist efforts.

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“Time sifts through biases and lies, and through hidden agendas and propaganda. Time delivers to us the naked truth that defines the tough decisions and sacrifices every sincere leader must make to create a difference.

“But, in all we do, we must always find strength in the belief of those, who trust the process, those who give us the benefit of the doubt. There is no greater honour than the privilege to lead one’s people, and assuming a position of leadership during times of turbulence is the ultimate test of our mettle as leaders.

“It is in these moments of uncertainty that true character and capability come to the forefront. While the immediate judgment may be rendered by the people we either impress or displease, the long-term verdict is carved by time, the passage of time.”

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Tinubu recalled how Awolowo contended with forces both within and outside his political party, stating that the great sage was a victim of his ambition to make a difference and was dragged by a hostile opposition until he found himself behind bars.

He however noted that with the passage of time, even the harshest of Awo’s critics came to realise the futility of taking a man, who stood out, even in death, because of his refusal to compromise his convictions for granted.

“He (Awolowo) fought until his very last days in defence of democracy in Nigeria, and these are the examples that make him a hero of the nation. There is no doubt that time has been Chief Awolowo’s ally. Time has revealed the enduring impact of his ideas and actions,” the President said.

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He congratulated the president of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, for clinching the 2023 Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership, describing the former Nigerian Minister of Agriculture as a “maverick change-maker, who has not only flown our flag all over the world but has dazzled the world with the novelty of his thoughts, indispensability of his ideas, and dynamism of his actions.”

Adesina won the 2023 prize to become its fourth recipient after Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, and legal luminary, Chief Afe Babalola, had clinched the prize meant to encourage, recognise, reward and celebrate excellence in leadership.

Likening the AfDB president to a prophet they have chosen to honour in his hometown, Tinubu said just like Awolowo, Adesina “has exemplified the values that have shaped the course of history at all the institutions he has headed, all the offices he occupied.

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“In celebrating Dr. Adesina’s achievements, we are not merely acknowledging a leader; we are recognising a role model and mentor, who paves the way for current and future generations.”

While speaking, Adesina also recalled the visionary leadership and legacies of the late sage, which according to him, spread across education, healthcare and infrastructure development.

The AfDB president, who delivered the prize lecture, said the award has humbled, inspired and motivated him, even as he pledged to support initiatives that would transform more lives and livelihoods across Africa.

He noted that the issue of feeding Africa must be achieved because there is no pride in begging for food.

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“We must make poverty and hunger history in Africa and Nigeria,” Adesina stated, assuring that the AfDB would support the Tinubu administration in transforming agricultural practice to boost production and improve livelihoods.

He also spoke about the possibilities of a new Nigeria where all the states would be viable, and peace, security and prosperity for every citizen assured.

“In the coming farming season, across states, the AfDB will mobilise resources to cultivate 300,000 hectares of land for rice production, 300,000 hectares of land for maize production and 150,000 hectares of land for cassava production, among others.”

He further stressed the need for urgent interventions by governments at different levels to invest massively in human capital development and initiatives by the bank to support the efforts.

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Earlier, in her remarks, chairperson of the occasion and  President of Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan, commended the foresight of the eminent team of the judges for selecting Adesina for the prize, noting that they could not have chosen a better recipient.

She said Adesina was more than the president of the AfDB, describing him as a true African leader and agent of transformation, who has carried his responsibilities with grace, humility and uncommon commitment.

Also speaking, President of the Union of Comoros, Azali Assoumani, paid glowing tribute to the achievements and efforts of Adesina, noting that the fruits of his innovative ideas was felt across Africa’s landscape, particularly in Agriculture, industrialisation.

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On his part, President of Ehtiopia, Sahle-Work Zewde, emphasised the importance of celebrating people, whose works impact millions of lives, especially in developing countries.

She said the presence of present and former leaders across Africa and beyond at the event was a testimony of Adesina’s visionary and purposeful leadership, particularly his efforts that had taken the AfDB to global heights.

A former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd) described as deserving, the choice Adesina as the honoree.

Gowon said the former Nigerian Minister of Agriculture represented the best of Nigeria while extolling his sterling attributes of hard work, diligence, intimidating academic and professional credentials, amongst others.

“The choice of Dr Akinwumi Adesina can only be described as having been very well done. He represents the best of Nigeria, hardworking, diligent, brilliant, forward-looking, and deeply patriotic,” Gowon pronounced in a room full of diplomats, serving and former presidents and eminent individuals.

Elder statesman and former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, commended the choice of Adesina as the fourth recipient of the prestigious award which was started in the honour of the late sage, Awolowo.

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Anyaoku saluted Adesina’s “tremendous achievement” as Nigeria’s Agriculture Minister from 2011 to 2015 and “even more spectacular performance as President of the African Development Bank”.

He said, “Out of the many reputable nominations received, members of the selection committee unanimously considered Dr Akinwumi Adesina as having in his career to date in a large measure, the Chief Obafemi Awolowo attribute that I have sought to describe.”

The renowned diplomat said Awolowo “recognised the challenge of careful management of diversity in our pluralistic country and as such articulate his belief that a true federalism is an essential condition for the peace and progress of Nigeria” and his Pan-Africanism was well-represented in his writings and books.

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Present at the event were former Head of State and Presidents of Nigeria, General Yakubu Gowon, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, former Vice President Namadi Sambo, former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku and Chief Ayo Adebanjo.

Others were Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Alex Otti (Abia), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Usman Ododo (Kogi), and Mohammed Bago (Niger), as well as the Chairman of Channels Media Group, Dr John Momoh, who presented Adesina’s citation at the event, amongst many other dignitaries.


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