Nigeria’s former and present leaders as well as other African leaders have extolled the sterling leadership quality of late Professor Adabayo Adedeji at a memorial symposium organised in his honour. Among those who poured encomium on late Professor Adebayo Adedeji for his Pan Africanist ideals and economic development for Africa unity are Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon. Others are former President of Liberia, Amos Sawyer; Prof. Ibrahim Gambari former Minister of External Affairs and Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations; Eloho, Otobo, former staff member of the United Nations and many others. Addressing a huge crowd at the memorial symposium in Lagos, Osinbajo, said that Prof. Adedeji was a towering figure of Africa’s immediate post-colonial period, a public figure whose intellectual thinking and contributions continue to frame policy discourse in Nigeria, Africa and indeed globally.
He said “Adedeji acted in such roles and positions to advance his Pan-Africanist ideals. He was committed to improving the conditions of the African people and by extension improving the governance and economic situation of their countries.” Osinbajo who was represented by Dr.Yemi Dipeolu, Special Adviser on economy to President Muhammadu Buhari, said: “A lot more will undoubtedly be said about these things in the course of this symposium but one cannot talk about Prof Adedeji’s legacy without talking about regional integration in Africa. He was in many respects the father of African integration.”
He further said that under the leadership of General Gowon and late President Eyadema, Prof Adedeji did a lot of the heavy-lifting to create the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, an experience he later on leveraged to help establish the Preferential Free Trade Area of East and Southern Africa, now COMESA. He stated: “Equally significant in this regard was the role that he played as Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, ECA in articulating the Lagos Plan of Action and the final Act of Lagos which formed the intellectual and official lode stones for subsequent decisions to establish the African Economic Community, the African Union and the African Continental Free Trade Area.”
In his own remark, former Nigeria Head of States, General Yakubu Gowon, described Prof. Adedeji as an excellent choice as Commissioner of Economic Development of Nigeria that had just emerged from the ravages of a 30 month conflict in the 1970’s. According to him: “He had vision; he knew how to key in to the vision of other people and he was blessed with an uncommon capacity to implement plans that turned dreams to reality. I never knew him personally before I appointed him as a Commissioner in my cabinet. But he came highly recommended. When I met him, he lived up to every word that was spoken of him. When he worked with me , I saw an immensely brilliant patriot who perfectly fitted the role of manager of the engine room of our national assignment of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation (3-R).
He said that Prof Adedeji’s imprint was bold in his government’s ambitious 3rd National Development Plan (1975-1980). “He led the team of experts that put together the plan that was intended to lead Nigeria to a new age. That plan, regrettably, was thrown overboard for political expediency by our successors. I also cannot forget his key role in the birth of ECOWAS.”
In her welcome address, titled Africa’s Development Agenda: Lessons from the Adebayo Adedeji Years and Policy Options for the 21st Century ”Dr. Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa said: “Celebration of Life” – a clear message delivered during the service held yesterday, (Friday) in the Cathedral Church of Our Savior Ita-Olowajoda, Ijebu Ode, Professor Adebayo Adedeji left us an unforgettable legacy of life, commitment and service to the continent, at personal, social and professional levels. As stated yesterday by President Geingob, Professor Adedeji was fully engaged in the economic independence of Africa, making of it his career flag.” She said , during the 16 years he served the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa as the Executive Secretary, structural transformation was his mantra for Africa, a “good fight” that still guides the economic thinking of the institution that she currently lead.
“ Adebayo Adedeji is remembered by all those who had the privilege of working with him as an intellectual giant, a bold thinker and a passionate believer in African Regional Integration, in the context of the advocacy for the continent’s development. It is impressive how the finger prints of the Lagos Plan of Action echoes Professor Adedeji’s work on the establishment of the Abuja Treaty. The fact that he was able to live the historical moment of the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement this late March, in the same year that he left us, is a sign that we, as him, are on the path of fighting “the good fight” for the economic independence of Africa” she said.