Tuesday, August 17, 2010



By Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

August 17, 2010

Can Africa breathe a sigh of relief now that the Nigerian professor has finally been pushed out of the APRM?

Whatever the circumstances that led to Adedeji’s sudden and painful departure from the APRM in Kampala last month, one thing is for certain; the man had a colourful career as a distinguished scholar and international civil servant at the United Nations prior to joining the AU institution. What seems to have blotted this exemplary record was his tenure as Chairperson of the Panel of African Peer Review Mechanism that was shrouded in suspicious deals, underhand dealings and heavy-handedness when it came to managing the resources and staff at the APRM Secretariat.

What exactly did go wrong with the previously respected son of Africa? Was it the bug of corruption or sweetness of power that makes African leaders crave to die in office that kept Adedeji for so long until he lost his credibility? Couldn’t he have retired honorably and written his memoirs in peace? Did he have to cling on until he had to fight with his grand children for space at the APRM?

When the tale is finally told, the story of Prof. Adebayo Adedeji will be that of a tragic hero that pushed on in the face of imminent danger until his bravado floored him. Yes, before his fall from grace to grass, the professor had a distinguished academic, diplomatic and political career, having served his native country, Nigeria, and the international community for over four decades.

Here was a man who had served as Nigeria's Cabinet Minister in the 1970s, helped establish ECOWAS in West Africa, served as the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Africa’s Economic Crisis in the 1980s and was Executive Secretary and Under-Secretary-General of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) for many years. Since 1998 he has been a member of the Advisory Board of the United Nations African Futures Project.

Yet, this is the man that recently in Kampala made an emotional, off-the-cuff speech lasting about 20 minutes looking rather subdued. In that short disjointed and sometimes incoherent farewell speech, he recalled how he had served Africa with dedication in his public life for close to 60 years.

As he stumbled through his speech, the Professor announced that the APRM meetings in Kampala would be his last because he wanted to retire from the Panel before turning 80 in December 2010. Keen observers however, read something else in that speech. The chickens had come home to roost for the great son of Africa.

His replacement took many delegates by surprise while others seemed to celebrate this overdue departure. According to one observer, “It was not clear whether the Professor had tendered his resignation or had been fired by the APRM Summit Chairman.”

This latter version was confirmed through a July 26 2010 press release from Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi that announced the appointment of Professor Mohamed-Séghir Babès of Algeria as the new Chairperson of the APRM Panel with immediate effect following the Panel’s unanimous vote with Domitilla Mukantaganzwa of Rwanda as his deputy.

Incidentally during the Kampala meeting, Adedeji was so confused and forgot that he had to present his last report as the Panel Chairman. It took Prime Minister Meles to remind him that he had not given his official report when Adedeji quickly recapped the number of reports completed to date, and said that the Ethiopian Country Review Report would “maybe” be presented in January 2011!

As the drama unfolded, Adedeji made things worse by goofing that a “closer relationship with the AU Commission was being sought” and that the APRM would be a structure within the AUC, with its staff accorded the same privileges then contradicted himself by asserting that the APRM would be a standalone structure! In the end the Draft Operating Rules of Procedure of the APR Panel of Eminent Persons which was heavily criticized the day before by some APRM Focal Points, could not be discussed until the next Forum in Addis Ababa after wider consultations.

Having said that; to what extent did Adedeji’s long term tenure as the APRM Panel Chair and defacto CEO of the Secretariat help in achieving the APRM stated goals? To what extent did the professor preach the gospel of “Shared Values in Africa” and help strengthen good governance on the continent? To what extent was he a role model for African leaders to emulate? Did he run the APRM secretariat with the transparency and accountability expected of a model institution?

As a young institution, hardly in its tenth birthday, the APRM has done well to have peer-reviewed thirteen diverse countries in various parts of the continent. And yes, some of its reports were so predictive that had the leaders taken heed, some of the civil disturbances we witnessed in Kenya and South Africa would never had occurred. The APRM Kenya report cited ethnicity, land, flawed electoral process and a bad constitution as some of the country’s overarching issues.

In South Africa, xenophobia was cited as a tinderbox waiting to explode. Indeed Kenya and South Africa exploded simultaneously for the very reasons the APRM predicted.

Much as Adedeji is gone, it is important for the AU member states to be vigilant enough to ensure that never again shall this continent allow one individual, no matter how decorated he may be, to run down a continental institution that holds so much hope for the continent.

Any remnants of Adedeji’s cronies, friends and relatives that might have found their way into the APRM Secretariat must be vetted afresh and should only be allowed to continue serving the APRM if they deserve their positions.