By Ibukun Emiola, Ibadan.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has lauded the contributions of Dr Nteranya Sanginga, the Director-General of International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), to the development of agriculture in Africa.
Obasanjo voiced the commendation on Friday at the commemoration and send-off programme held for Sanginga at IITA Conference Centre in Ibadan.
Represented by Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, the President, African Development Bank (AfDB), Obasanjo congratulated Sanginga, having spent 11 years repositioning IITA and transforming agriculture in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
In his capacity as the President of AfDB, Adesina commended Sanginga for rising up to the task, while he (Adesina) was the Minister of Agriculture.
He said that Sanginga provided support for Nigeria during its flooding challenge, while promoting agriculture and agribusiness in Africa.
“Dr Sanginga is the best and the most accomplished director-general in the history of IITA,” Adesina said.
In his goodwill message, Gov. Seyi Makinde of Oyo State described Sanginga as a courageous man, who has blazed the trail by showing remarkable focus of leadership.
“Your uncommon focus and leadership turned things around. You are the first African to lead IITA; so IITA, under Dr Sanginga, thrived.
“This institution has gone from being in debt when you took over to operating profitably; thank you so much for all the hard work.
“The story of how you are able to turn around the fortunes of this place is a testament to the fact that Nigeria can go from poverty to prosperity through agriculture and agribusiness,” Makinde said.
Also, Gov. Nasir El-rufai of Kaduna State said that Sanginga had achieved a lot, having been a major player in the agricultural sector for four decades.
El-rufai described him as a great leader who had transformed and strengthened IITA.
He noted that Sanginga’s contributions to all the states of Nigeria and many countries in Africa were unparalleled.
“He has made us proud as Africans and as Nigerians,” he added.
El-rufai said that Federal Government has a major role to play in bilateral funding to keep an institute like IITA going.
“I think what needs to be done more is for the state governments to be engaged with IITA.
“I was very glad to learn that the Oyo State Government is collaborating with IITA and we are also working with IITA outpost in Kano; our Ministry of Agriculture is working with them,” he said.
The governor noted that the model of young entrepreneurs in agriculture was something that could be learnt from Oyo State and IITA.
Earlier, two former IITA Board Chairmen, Dr Amos Namanga and Dr Bruce Coulman, stated that the director-general rose to the challenge of the financial shortage which the institution experienced and climate change.
They noted the various partnership alliances that Sanginga formed and his people-centred leadership style which saved the institution at a critical stage and transformed it.
Responding, Sanginga appreciated the stakeholders at the event, tracing his achievements back to his formative years and experience as a Ph.D. student at IITA.
Adesina reviewed a book titled: “Leadership in African Agriculture”, an biography of Dr Nteranya Sanginga and his contributions, authored by his wife, Charlotte.