December 2, 2022

11 years meritorious service: IITA stands still for Sanginga

Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, out going Director General, IITA, and his wife , Charlotte.

he is a dependable scientist— Adesina

. a courageous man — Seyi Makinde

.. a great leader— El-rufai

Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, out going Director General, IITA, and his wife , Charlotte.

By Jimoh Babatunde

It was a gathering of who is who in the country’s agriculture, civil societies, government, and development agencies as they gathered at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, in Ibadan, Oyo state capital for the commemoration and send-off ceremony for the Director-General of the institute, Nteranya Sanginga.

Dr Nteranya Sanginga became the first African Director-General at the institute in November 2011 and through his leadership style, he has been able to position the institute to contribute to achieving 150 million fewer hungry people, improving food and nutrition security as well as improving natural resources and ecosystem services as part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, CGIAR, Strategy.

So, it was not surprising to hear the gale of commendation from dignitaries present at the send-off organised for the man many referred to as the man with the minder touch.
Former Nigeria President, Olusegun Obasanjo commended Sanginga having spent 11 years repositioning IITA and transforming agriculture in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
Obasanjo, who was represented by the President of the African Development Bank, AfDB, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, said “As you end your tenure as DG of IITA. It is the end of a tenure that will be enshrined in gold in the annals of the history of IITA. Not only that but also in the annals of the history of the CGIAR.

Obasanjo’s commendation set the stage for others as dignitaries and staff took turns to heap praises on the man, Sanginga.

His friend of many years, Akinwumi Adesina, went down memory lane to recall how he convinced Sanginga to apply for the job in 2010 and also how he made him take up the offer of a second term in office.

“I have known Sanginga since 1995. When I joined ITA, as a senior economist, and coordinator of the social science with that program, many of my colleagues are also in the hall today. While he was a team leader of a team working on the legumes work. He struck me immediately as a very brilliant and sharply focused scientist with an incredible work ethic.

“It was always amazing to see how he worked with scientists from across the world, building extensive networks.

“A globally respected scientist, he became a Pacesetter, in his field of work on biological nitrogen fixation of leguminous crops.”

Adesina said when the position of the Director-General of the institute became vacant in 2010, he believed that Sanginga will make a good fix, so he has to convince him to apply.

“ When I asked him to consider applying for the position of Director General, he was so easily dismissive.

“His words were and I quote, no African has ever been selected as Director General. Me, I do not accept such answers. Competence has nothing to do with the colour of your skin. But with the grey matter in your head.

“Pele was the best soccer player ever in the history of the world. See, the light is black. Muhammad Ali was the best boxer in the history of the world. And he was black, the incredible computing minds that led the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA’s drive to get astronauts to the moon, why Black, African American women, and their story has become a Netflix movie.

“Today as you’re here, and as you look at the durable filaments in the light bulbs, the light of this place, remember, it was invented by an African American, who also went on to help patterns the telecom.

“The African Development Bank was ranked as the best multilateral financial institution in the world in 2021. And it is run by an African. The African Development Bank was ranked as the most transparent institution in the world in 2022. And it is run by an African.
“There is a difference between reading history and making history. I want Sanginga to make history, so I recommended him for the position of Director General of IITA.

“Confidence he was one of the very best. And our decisions were made based on competence, I was confident that he was going to be selected. He became the Director General, the first African Director General in the history of IITA.”

While commending Sanginga for the wonderful job he did at IITA, Adesina described him as the best and the most accomplished director-general in the history of IITA.
Adesina added “Sanginga has made IITA the most sought-after International Agricultural Research Center in the world. Well done Sanginga.”

Adesina also commended Saginga for rising to the task, while he was Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture, saying Sanginga provided support for Nigeria during the flooding challenge in 2012.

“One of the things that stands Sangiga out is that he is dependable, when I was the minister of agriculture and the country faced a massive flood and I needed to give affected farmers maize varieties to recover from the impacts of the flood across the areas that were growing maize.

“I needed twenty metric tons of maize seeds. I approached IITA, and Sanginga went back and he mobilized the entire institute they mobilized all the volumes of Seeds, but Nigeria needed not just maize, we needed soybeans and other things, please give it up to them. And thank God, when we had the worst flood in Nigeria in 2012, there was no famine and there was no hunger as Sanginga delivered.

“As Minister, when I needed to scale efforts to get youth into agriculture, I did not go far I came to IITA because I knew Sanginga as Director General has a drive and a passion for the youth in agriculture. Today, IITA has posted impressive results in youth agriprenuer in Nigeria and Africa.”

Adesina said when he became the President of the African Development Bank, AfDB, and needed to upscale agriculture, he said he returned to IITA again under the leadership of Sanginga.

“As President of AfDB, although an economist, I come from an agricultural background. I knew the bar for agriculture had to be raised. The lowest bar is for Africa to feed itself. The highest bar is for Africa to feed the world.

And so I launched a $25 billion program for Africa to transform its agricultural sector. I didn’t have to look far, I came to IITA. I know IITA as a world-class institute with a pragmatic world-class DG, Dr Sangiga.

Adesina said with the support of IITA under the leadership of Sangiga that AfDB has done well in making upscaling agriculture in the continent

“When the AfDB launched TAT, to use technology to upscale agriculture in Africa, I needed an institution to help me anchor that, I didn’t have to look far, I came back to IITA, Sangiga brought everyone together, and within three years with support from Gate Foundation and USAID, TAT has reached 12 million farmers with technologies.

While thanking Sanginga for recognizing the achievements of others, Adesina Sanginga came to Nigeria as a Congolese, but he is leaving as a Nigerian.

“Thank you for making IITA proud, thank you for making Nigeria proud. Thank you for making the Democratic Republic of Congo proud. Thank you for making Africa proud. Thank you, my dear brother, for making us your friends, who put our faith and confidence in you so proud. Congratulations.

The host Governor, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State also commended Dr Nteranya Sanginga for the great work at IITA as the first African to head the research institute.
He said: “I would like to say that Dr Nteranya Sanginga is a courageous man; the things he has done, and the decisions he took that led up to this moment show great courage. Because of that courage, he has shown remarkable and uncommon focus and leadership. This is what they have all been saying here.

“I know some of his story of coming here; meeting with his twin brother and how they went through different paths to where they are today. So, it is easy to celebrate great men when they are at the top but the decisions they took, which brought them to the present situation, are the subject of this study.

“I am quite happy that the biography of Dr Sanginga will be launched today; it is a key that can be kept for posterity. Your uncommon focus and leadership turned things around in the IITA. That is not all.

“I have listened and checked through the records and I saw that you are the first African given this opportunity to lead IITA, and we all know that when an African is given a chance to lead an agency and corporation, the next thing you hear is that the place has run into bankruptcy.

“But, IITA under Dr Sanginga, thrived and this institution has gone from being in debt when you took over, to operating profitably. I thank you so much for all the hard work. The story of how you were able to turn around the fortunes of IITA is a testament to the fact that Nigeria can grow from poverty to prosperity through agriculture and agribusiness.”

Governor Makinde added that as part of the testimonies to Dr Sanginga’s great leadership, he brought PDP governors to IITA where the outgoing IITA boss addressed them about the opportunities that exist in agribusiness and that today, most of the governing “are now focusing on agribusiness based on the few things Dr Sangiga told the gathering then.”

“There are so many lessons to learn from this great man because of his brilliance, passion and leadership style. We have worked together on several projects and I have no fears or worries about letting IITA lead projects such as the STEP.

“He asked me to come down to Fasola and I saw the pictures of ‘before and after’ and the students fried chin-chin, baked cake, which got me thinking that I used to have the same opportunity at Bishop Philips Academy but we lost it along the line.

“So, I asked him to extend the programme to all the senatorial districts in the state and we picked one school per senatorial district and now, the programme has spread to 13 schools in Oyo State.

“This is the electioneering period, and I want to use this opportunity to tell the people of Oyo State that if I am

given another opportunity to serve, we will take the Start Them Early Programme to more schools in the state.

“The idea of training our young people in agribusiness resulted from seeing what is possible here. Now, Oyo State has trained over 3,000 youths in a technology-driven, agri-food system and we are currently providing them with enterprise support. I will give all the credit to my good brother, Dr Sanginga

“Finally, let me say this: if Dr Sanginga had not kept IITA up and running when he took over this place, we would not have seen a model after which we would convert our moribund farm estates into agribusiness industrial hubs. We have one nearly completed at Fasola in Oyo West.

“IITA also supported us in the wake of COVID-19 that ravaged the whole nation by making their laboratories available for us. IITA stood with us; when we went out to provide farm inputs for farmers, they were side-by-side with us.

“We are grateful for your courage, perseverance, and tenacity. You have touched our lives in many ways and you are not going anywhere, as you will still be useful to us in Oyo State. Your name is written in gold, not at the gate of IITA or the Governor’s Office but in our hearts, and we will remain grateful to you,” the governor said.
Also, the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, while commending Sanginga for his exemplary leadership, advised state governments in Nigeria to partner with IITA for sustainable development of agriculture and agribusiness in their states, just as Oyo State has done.
He stated: “I think the Federal Government has a major role to play in providing the bilateral funding to keep an institute like this going and I think is doing that but I think what needs to be done more is for the state governments to be more engaged with the IITA.
“I was very proud to learn that the government of Oyo State is collaborating with the IITA. We are also working with the IITA outpost in Kano State and I think this model of young entrepreneurs in agriculture is something that we can learn from IITA and Oyo State and try to implement it in Kaduna State as well,” El-Rufai disclosed.
Responding, Sanginga appreciated the stakeholders at the event, tracing his achievements back to his formative years and experience as a PhD student at IITA.