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Adesina extols Awolowo’s virtues, charts path for better Nigeria

by Nike
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President of Africa Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, has said Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Premier of the defunct Western Region of Nigeria, remains the pacesetter and forerunner for development in Africa.

Adesina made the remark when he received the 2023 award of Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership, on Wednesday in Lagos.The event coincided with the 115th posthumous birthday anniversary of Awolowo and 37 years after his death.Adesina, who became the fourth recipient of the award, noted that, as a teenage follower of Awolowo, he promised himself to follow the footsteps of the late premier, if he ever got into public office.According to him, growing up in the old western region in the 1960s, only one name was synonymous with people-centered development: Awolowo.“We lived in the same community as the sage, in Okebola, Ibadan. As a young child, passing by the frontage of his house was a favourite pastime.“I remember peering over its low walls, to see if I could just catch a glimpse of the man who transformed the lives of millions in the then western region.“My father was enamored by Chief Awolowo; he devoured his books, writings and articles. The name ‘Awolowo’ was a constant guidepost for every discussion in our home.“So much was the admiration that when I was 19 years old and Chief Awolowo ran for President under the Unity Party of Nigeria in 1979, myself and a close friend desperately wanted to simply catch a glimpse of him,” he said.Adesina, a former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in Nigeria, said Awolowo’s intellectual capacity, vision, pragmatic social welfarism, helped him accomplish what was seemingly unimaginable at the time.“I dare say that Chief Awolowo implemented the sustainable development goals decades long before the phrase was coined.“He was an inspiration for Africa, far beyond the shores of Nigeria. His philosophy, ‘Awoism’, was studied globally and helped shape programmes and policies in other countries,” Adeshina said.Adesina, in his lecture, titled: ‘Making a New Nigeria: Welfarist Policies and People-Centered Development’, said he was influenced by the same drive as Awolowo.He listed four cardinal objectives as steps toward a better Nigeria, and by extension Africa.They are rural economic transformation and food security; health care security for all; and education for all.Others are access to affordable housing for all and government accountability and fiscal decentralisation for a true federalism.The AfDB president said that in Nigeria, the bank is developing the zones in eight states with 518 million dollars, adding that the second phase of the programme in Nigeria, which would cover 23 more states, would be financed with one billion dollars.According to him, the bank and partners recently launched a three billion dollar Alliance for Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones.Also, he said Nigeria needs health care for all, stressing that smart governments provide universal basic health coverage for their citizens.He disclosed that Africa loses 2.6 trillion dollars annually in productivity, due to sicknesses and diseases.Speaking at the event, former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (Rtd.), described Adesina as a brilliant man, who “represents the best of Nigeria.”“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 stated.Also, former Secretary-General, the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku, commended the choice of Adesina as the fourth recipient of the prestigious award which was started in the honour of late Awolowo.

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