Nationalist sentiments are being mobilised by the federal government and some political commentators to support Mr Akinwunmi Adesina, the African Development Bank (AfDB) president. This was after the United States treasury department insisted on an external investigation of not less than 16 allegations levelled against him by anonymous members of the bank’s staff.
Mr Adesina faced unprecedented controversy at the beginning of April when a “Group of Concerned Staff Members of the AfDB” accused him of corruption, nepotism, impunity and bad governance. The bank’s internal Ethics Committee cleared him of the allegations in May, after he defended himself with a 250-page response.
In the light of this, the United States (which has a seat on the AfDB board of directors) insistence on any further investigation is depicted as imperialist meddling in the affairs of a bank geared to further the development of Africa as if both Adesina and the AfDB don’t pursue the same goals as those of American imperialism.
Some commentators have gone to the extent of portraying a support for Adesina in the same light as the General Murtala Muhammed’s anti-apartheid rebuff of the United States’ government in the mid-1970s. To shore up patriotic sentiments for the AfDB boss, Major General Muhammadu Buhari dispatched a plane from the presidential fleet to Abidjan, to bring home this “illustrious son of Nigeria” for a meeting. And Buhari declared that “Nigeria stands solidly behind” the bank chief.
Working-class people should however not be fooled by this drumming up of nationalist support. Adesina, AfDB and American imperialism all stand for the same thing – the continued exploitation of working-class people and natural resources for the benefit of the super-rich. Neither Adesina nor AfDB represents the poor masses.
Capitalists in governments and multilateral economic organisations, be they in Abuja, Abidjan or Washington are all rogues. We must not get sucked into defence of Adesina or support for the US treasury department. Rather, we need to better understand what the AfDB is, and how despite whatever conflicts the warring parties have between them today, the bank serves their interest as against ours.
The bank was established in 1964, just a year after the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). In the spirit of that period of decolonisation, many saw it as a vehicle for mobilising resources necessary for governments across the continent to carry out infrastructural and social development. But that dream has shown itself to be nothing but an illusion.
Since the global turn of capitalism to neoliberalism (based on privatisation, deregulation and market liberalisation) in the early 1980s, the bank has become little more than a clone of the IMF and World Bank, as some activists lamented eleven years ago.
The bank is essentially run as a corporation, just like other international financial institutions, with governments having shares. And since 1982, shareholders in the bank have included non-African countries. While African countries together own 60% of its shares, 27 non-African countries together hold 40%.
These include the United States, Japan, Germany, Canada and France, which are part of the top ten shareholders (USA comes second with 6.5% shares after Nigeria which has 9.1% shares). Others include Italy, Britain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and Luxembourg. To be elected president of the bank, a candidate must win majority of votes from both the African and non-African countries on the board of directors.
Some activists would want to see this fact as a confirmation of foreign interference, with the non-African players having “a level of influence that is not commensurate with their investment in the bank”. But what it actually shows us is that there is nothing essentially “African” or “non-African” about capital and its expansion. What is distinct about capital is investment for profit. Development, which benefits the poor masses is at best secondary.
A good chunk of AfDB loans have been to the private sector in several African countries. It has also specifically made loan facilities available to ensure privatisation across the continent. An example of this is the $3.1 million it provided “for capacity building, to support the Nigerian power sector privatization program.” We have all seen just how “successful” the privatisation of the power sector has been!
While the poor masses in African countries do not really benefit from the bank’s policies and loans, the super-rich African capitalists whom they serve reap millions of dollars. And members of the bank’s staff also know how to take good care of themselves. The bank’s employees average monthly take home pay is the equivalent of N3.7m. And of course, top earners like Adesina, as president, earn much more. And this is apart from other “legitimate” allowances and perks, not to talk of exploiting channels for corrupt enrichment, which is part of the allegations raised against Adewunmi Adesina.
Nominations to such cushy appointments is of course finding jobs for the boys. Buhari wants us to think that his doing this, as an APC president for a former PDP government’s minister of agriculture shows how non-partisan he his. But that is like the magician who wants you to concentrate on one hand, whilst the trick he is playing is with the other hand. It rather goes to confirm what we have always argued; irrespective of their parties, religion, ethnic group etc, the bosses are of one and the same class. There is really no difference between APC and PDP. They are both parties of the same ruling class.
They mobilise us around their “differences”, which are not as essential as their shared class identity. We should not be deceived by Adesina’s when he said “I thank God who made me a Nigerian. I thank Him that I was born here, lived here, and want to die as a Nigerian. And on the day of resurrection, I will beg God to let me rise as a Nigerian.” He talks as a rich Nigerian. No god made him Nigerian nor is he rich because he is Nigerian. The vast majority of Nigerians are poor, in fact the country with the largest number of poor people in the world is Nigeria.
What made him a rich (and thus happy) person (being Nigerian or any nationality is not the issue) was working for American imperialism! He spent most of his working life as a staff of the Rockefeller foundation, a foundation which helps advance the values and interests of American capital.
When he was the minister of agriculture, Adesina was named the 2013 Forbes African of the Year. In his acceptance speech, he made it clear that his mandate was to make the rich richer and not necessarily make life better for the poor, when he said “my goal is to make as many millionaires, maybe even billionaires, from agriculture as possible”. He was again named 2019 Forbes African of the Year, as AfDB president, showing that he and American or any other imperialism have absolutely no fundamental differences.
Adesina and AfDB are one and the same with American imperialism. They represent and defend capital against the poor working masses. Our concern should be to smash the system they all represent and its place, establish institutions based on international cooperation and solidarity of working-class people. These would redefine development away from chasing GDP growth (which end up benefiting a few rich people) to ensuring everybody enjoys a qualitative life, full access to quality healthcare and education, good housing, adequate food and nutrition, safety and security.
by Segun OGUN