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Opinions of Monday, 1 June 2020

Columnist: Obadiah Mailafia

Lynching Akin Adesina

The culture of lynching and genocide is deeply embedded in the gestalt of American race relations. And this, despite the Civil Rights Act 1964. As late as the 1960s in the Jim Crow South, it was the norm for the Ku Klux Kan (KKK) to fish out a young African-American for allegedly staring at a white woman and to hang him on a tree.

These days, the lynching is done mostly through the police and the criminal justice system. This is how it comes about that there are more black men in prison than in college in the United States.

Last week, an unarmed African-American man, George Floyd, was arrested by white policemen in the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Their kingpin, Derek Chauvin, threw the handcuffed 46-year-old to the ground and placed his knee on his neck. The poor man kept pleading, “I can’t breathe”, until life was snuffed out of him. It was a cold-blooded murder. Riots have spread all over the country in protest. A tearful Barack Obama came out to plead for a New America — for a more tolerant and more compassionate America based on fairness, justice and racial harmony.

Racism has remained the defining character of American civilisation. Uncle Sam is the embodiment of trans-Atlantic White Supremacism. Racial bigotry has, sadly, got worse in the Age of Trump. His body language and lugubrious rhetoric have made racism acceptable, if not attractive.

I am not anti-American. I am, rather, an admirer of American government, entrepreneurship and can-do spirit. Americans are a generous and warm people. Some of my dearest friends are white Americans. What we see today is a gross travesty of the ideals that define America as a land of hope and glory. We have a blood account to settle with America.

In the seventies, for example, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the neo-pagans in the State Department articulated de-population as the cornerstone of their African policy. There has been a silent population war against our people. It is a well-documented fact that the erstwhile Apartheid regime was deliberately injecting black people with the HIV/AIDS virus. This is how it comes about that the pandemic has wreaked such terrible havoc in Southern Africa. The same may be said of Ebola. Between Washington DC and Beijing, they know more than we do about the origins and provenance of the novel coronavirus “plandemic” that has been inflicted upon a despairing world.

Through insidious covert operations, foreign powers have fomented wars and sponsored rebel groups and murderous bandits to make our countries ungovernable.

The most recent case of lynching is that of the current serving President of the African Development Bank Group, Akinwumi Adesina. As everybody knows, his five-year term comes to an end in August. He has submitted his candidacy for re-election, with full endorsement by the Buhari regime, ECOWAS and the African Union. So far, he is the sole candidate.

And then, out of the blues, a catalogue of alleged misdeeds has been slammed on him by an anonymous, whistle-blower. This shadowy figure has been unveiled as an even more sinister “Group of Concerned Staff Members of the AfDB”. There are over a dozen items on the list of alleged infractions; centring mostly on abuse of office, corruption, favouritism, unethical conduct, conflict of interest, “impunity and bad governance”. His accusers claim that he has been on an alleged mission of “Nigerianisation” of the bank, in addition to “questionable” recruitments and promotion of cronies.

The matter recently came up before the Ethics Committee of the bank. In their wisdom, they had determined that no wrong was committed. The Trump administration has been up in arms, crying blue murder. The US Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, has written to the board, demanding an independent inquiry.

As it turns out, the mastermind of the palaver is none other than the American Executive Director at the bank, Stephen Dowd, who has been leading a campaign to dislodge Adesina. I would also suspect some embittered departing officials, notably Frannie Leautier, a Frenchwoman who claims Tanzanian nationality. She is the most low-grade hustler I have ever had the misfortune of meeting.

Some of the accusations are plain stupid. Writing a few days ago, a former BBC journalist, Larry Madowo, claimed that the Trump administration is against Adesina because of his alleged “flamboyance” and for being “a sharp dresser known for his expensive tailored suits, immaculate white shirts and an endless supply of colourful bow ties”. Officials from the Quai d’Orsay, the palace that houses the French Foreign Ministry in Paris, were quoted as complaining that Adesina, a fluent French speaker, rarely speaks the language during important meetings.

Adesina cuts this image of being a squeaky-clean Southern Baptist preacher, with a brand that is svelte and debonair. Everyone is entitled to their own signature. He must be paying a bit of a fortune to the tailors in Saville Row and Champs d’Elysée for those suits. But that, to me, is not a crime. Bankers by nature are conservative and cautious. They are expected to dress well. And as good dressing goes, Adesina tails, in my view, behind former bank President Wila Mungomba of Zambia. But nobody ever accused Wila of being “flamboyant”. As for the French tantrums, they are the kind of demeaning insults that Africans have come to expect from Paris

Akinwumi Adesina has been one of the most successful CEOs of the AfDB. He has doubled the bank’s capitalisation from US$100bn to US$208bn. He has enhanced its knowledge capital and made the institution more relevant to the development aspirations of our continent. He is passionate about industrialisation, technology and innovation, which are apparently anathema to the so-called “development partners”.

A first-class graduate of Agricultural Economics with a prized doctorate from Purdue University, Adesina is a former Vice-President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and a successful former Nigerian Minister of Agriculture. He is the 2017 winner of the prestigious World Food Prize. He has attracted some bright talents to the bank. His Chief of Staff, Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, for example, is one of the best Science and Technology Policy scholars in Africa.

It has been rumoured that the real problem is that the Americans feel he has cozied up too warmly to Beijing. For them, their enemy must also be our enemy, whether we like or not.

The whole thing reeks of bad faith. Without prejudice to the ongoing investigations, I do not think the Americans have a right to exercise veto powers on who becomes President of our pan-African financial institution. Perhaps, we need to remind our friends in Washington and Paris that this is an AFRICAN bank. It is for Africans to decide who has the best fit to lead the continent’s premier financial institution. And I do not think the majority shareholders should accept that the existing rules and statutory processes should be set aside in favour of an external panel of investigators.

The AfDB is a multinational finance institution with 80 members, of which 54 are African while 26 are non-regionals. Nigeria is the biggest shareholder, with 9.1%; followed by the US with 6.5%; and Egypt in third place with 5.5 percent. Others are Japan (5.4%); South Africa (4.9%); Algeria (4.1%); Germany (4%); Canada (3.8%); Ivory Coast (3.7%); and France (3.6%).

With the largest shareholding in the World Bank and IMF, America permanently keeps the Presidency of the Bank while Europe hangs on to the Managing Directorship of the Fund. Nigeria, the largest shareholder at the AfDB and sole financier of the Nigeria Trust Fund, has never had its national as President until 2015. I was a career economist at the bank. I know that our influence has been very low while anti-Nigerian sentiments run deep in the bank’s institutional culture; much of it orchestrated by non-regionals that see Nigeria as a threat to their hegemonic ambitions on our continent.

It seems the image of the self-confident and well-educated Nigerian grates with the sensibilities of the trans-Atlantic world powers. By our education, self-confidence and capacity for self-exertion, Nigerian professionals upset their image of the African as a mindless Little Black Sambo.

We have beaten them at the topmost Ivy-League institutions. Our civilisation goes back to the Egypt of the Pharaohs. With our intelligence, can-do spirit, natural resources and sheer audacity, we have the potential to become a world power. And this they know. Adesina is a symbol of the new African Personality. This is why they want to cut him down at all costs.

And with a rogue regime in Washington that behaves like a bull in a china shop, they would go so far as to destroy the well-earned Triple A rating of the bank just to score cheap points. Adesina and the Nigerian government would be well advised to meet them behind the scenes and see if this kerfuffle could be settled through a fair compromise.

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