Former Nigerian minister of agriculture and rural development (2011-2015) and president of the African Development Bank Group, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, was on Tuesday, 4 June 2019 conferred with a Doctor of Science, honoris causa, at the University of Alberta, Canada. Awarded by the University Senate, the Doctor of Science, alongside the Doctor of Laws and Doctor of Letters, is the highest honour the university can bestow on any individual. The University of Alberta is a top 5 university in Canada and top 100 in the world.
A senior official from the “Office of the Chancellor and Senate” called my office line in February 2019 and recorded a voicemail. I was working from home but thankfully, our voicemails were delivered via email. I knew that news from that level of administration to an individual faculty member was relatively rare. I thought it had to be spectacularly good news or really bad news. The human mind’s capacity to wander was immense. “’Jesu’ (Jesus), what did I do?” I did not have to wonder for too long. I listened to the message and realized that an email had been sent as well. There was clearly a level of urgency. The Office of the Chancellor and Senate was simply conducting research on Dr Adesina, who was being considered for an award. They were seeking “some thoughts on the context and impact” of the work of Dr Adesina in Nigeria and with the African Development Bank. I said to myself “thank you, Jesus”. Of course, that was not just for Dr Adesina.
I was informed that Dr Adesina was not aware of the nomination. I responded stating what I knew about Dr Adesina’s public service. Among other things, I informed the university that Dr Adesina laid the foundations for and spearheaded significant positive changes in Nigeria’s agricultural sector as minister. The results produced by the ministry of agriculture under Dr Adesina’s leadership was one of the success stories of the Goodluck Jonathan presidency. Adesina was definitive proof that the intelligentsia needed to get involved in public service in order to contribute to the development of Africa.
Adesina displaying a copy of the first edition and first print of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart released in 1958. The university gave him for his eyes only. PHOTO: Ayekpa Tayoro/African Development Bank Group