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Opinions of Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Columnist: MyNigeria

Trials of Adesina by Sanya Oni

Disbelief – was my gut reaction to what some newspapers made of the communiqué released by the Bureau of the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) of their June 4 meeting in Abidjan, the Ivorian capital.

To describe some of the reports on the outcome as misleading is to be charitable; such was the blatant misrepresentation of the five-paragraph communique rendered in plain and unambiguous language that one could one could not but wonder if those who authored the news actually saw a copy of the source document before setting out.

A case of poor comprehension or the more tragic failure to appreciate the nuances of the raw powerplay starring the American Goliath and the African David?

Imagine the screaming headlines– ‘African Development Bank bows to U.S., authorises independent probe of Akinwumi Adesina’; ‘AfDB Board of Governors authorizes review of ethics committee report on Adesina’; AfDB Board bows to US pressure, approves fresh probe of Adesina’.

Really?

Give it to the bureaucrats at the premier continental financial powerhouse – they certainly did a good job of not leaving room for ambiguities in their text.

To be sure, nowhere in the communique did the AfDB board come anywhere close to bowing to any United States pressure let alone authorizing a fresh probe of Adesina! Recall that US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin had in his tightly scripted letter issued last month demanded of the board…”to initiate an in-depth investigation of the allegations using the services of an independent outside investigator of high professional standing”. And the response: “… the Bureau agrees to authorize an Independent Review of the Report of the Ethics Committee of the Boards of Directors relative to the allegations considered by the ethics committee and the submissions made by the President of the Bank Group thereto in the interest of due process. (My emphasis)

The board said more – of course. It further noted: “The Independent Review shall be conducted by a neutral high calibre individual with unquestionable experience, high international reputation and integrity within a short time period of not more than two to four weeks maximum, taking the Bank Group’s electoral calendar into account”.

Finally, it voted for “an independent comprehensive review of the implementation of the Bank Group’s Whistle-Blowing and Complaints Handling Policy” to be conducted “with a view to ensuring that the policy is properly implemented, and revising it where necessary, to avoid situations of this nature in the future”.

How “an Independent Review of the Report of the Ethics Committee of the Boards of Directors relative to the allegations considered by the ethics committee and the submissions made by the President of the Bank Group thereto in the interest of due process” became a fresh round of enquiry as gleefully reported in some media beats me.

Most certainly, the suggestion of a fresh, trial and with it a new round of investigations, could only have been part of the elaborate spin by those bent on pulling the Nigeria-born Adesina down! And to think that some sections of the media not only went to town with the conclusion that the board succumbed to the American pressure and that Adesina would again be docked to answer to the same charges which the ethics committee had in fact found to be unfounded and baseless!

I do understand that the last is yet to be heard particularly on a matter in which the global bully has vested interest. Thanks to the amorphous Trump Doctrine, which seeks as its core, to Make America Great Again (MAGA), the house that Uncle Sam cannot control, must be pulled down.

We saw it with UNESCO (October 2017), then Global Compact for Migration (December 2017), followed by United Nations Human Rights Council (June 2018); and then World Trade Organisation, and now the World Health Organization (WHO) and this right in the middle of a global pandemic! How about the Paris Climate accord; the Iran Nuclear Deal, NATO etc.

Here’s one chief steward of the continental lender that cannot be bullied; one who, unlike those before him, believes that the continent can no longer afford the luxury of conventions and practices that delivers very little for the people; one unafraid to go for the bold measures needed to turn things around, and would not suffer any dictation from the all-knowing experts from co-equal multilateral institutions.

Recall that the World Bank President David Malpass once pronounced, rather magisterially, that the bank under Adesina was lending “too quickly and to add to the debt problem of the countries”; recall one particular report issued in July 2016 by the French Treasury lamenting that “the AfDB…president very seldom speaks in French, and uses the language rarely, if at all, when talking about strategic or financial matters”! And then the carefully orchestrated media campaign from the so-called regionals in the aftermath of the so-called whistle-blower complaints alleging sundry infractions on the part of Adesina.

One particularly confounding charge was that Adesina employed hordes of his countrymen into the bank – never mind that the individuals so named – in a more just, fairer world – would have been worthy candidates for the number one position at the World Bank itself.

The world of course awaits the next phase of the American wonder. Whereas to the Americans and their regional cohorts, it is Adesina’s cup that is not only deemed full but running over; to Africans and the rest of the world, it is the bank’s ethics committee which returned a finding of exculpation and with the board of governors who, applying the relevant rules, adopted their findings wholesale that the Americans have resolved to put in the dock! In other words, it is the AfDB and the lofty dreams of its founding fathers that are being put to the fire by some misguided outliers!

Which explains my surprise that the media, which ought to have been more engaged if not outraged, somehow got sucked into playing the spoiler in the dubious orchestration! Remember, this is a wholly African development finance institution founded in Khartoum, Sudan, in August 1964, by 23 African governments to address the problem of poverty and underdevelopment.

I close with an extract from a letter penned by Kenya’s Raila Odinga expressing support for AfDB and by extension, Adesina’s leadership: “We have faith in him as a proven and experienced leader who is prioritizing Africa’s development and who has proved his ability to guide the bank effectively and honourably during this critical time for Africa.

Mr Adesina has proved his deep belief in lifting Africans out of poverty through a deep understanding of development issues and economic and political reform.

We urge him to relentlessly pursue the goals set out in his vision and which are in line with our aspirations as a people and continent. We further urge those who have misguided agendas to cease and desist. This is the time to stabilize AfDB, not destabilise it”.

Like I noted earlier, the last has not been heard on the matter.

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