Being the goodwill message by His Excellency Seyi Makinde, the Executive Governor of Oyo State, at the commemoration and send-off of the Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr Nteranya Sanginga, on Friday, November 25, 2022.
Courage is a mental and moral strength. It involves acting when others are afraid of the danger ahead. As someone said, do it afraid.
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 his courage, Dr Sanginga has shown a remarkable and uncommon focus and leadership. For example, how often would you meet a man who, as a bright young person in 1981, had the choice of going to study in Minnesota, USA, but chose instead to come to IITA in Nigeria?
To put things in proper perspective, the Nigeria we had in 1981 was not particularly an exciting place to be headed to. It definitely was not the land flowing with milk and honey. The then civilian government struggled to hold on to power as oil prices dropped, and there were rumours of a military takeover. Things were generally unstable. But, in the midst of these, Dr Sanginga turned down going to America and came to Nigeria. He saw something that many people could not.
It is that same focus and uncommon leadership that has kept him in Nigeria and at the IITA since 1981 as his career progressed. It is easy to celebrate great men when they are at the top, but the decisions that they took that brought them to the present should be subjects of deep study. This is why I am happy that as part of this programme, the biography of Dr Sanginga will be launched.
Of course, I met Dr Sanginga long after he made that decision in 1981. We met here at IITA. Thank you for always being so welcoming. Some people have wondered where I trained to run the last half marathon I participated in. Well, it was here at the IITA. But, there probably would have been no IITA to practice in if not, again, for Dr Sanginga’s uncommon focus and leadership.
We all know how, when Africans are given the opportunity to lead agencies and corporations, the next thing you hear is bankruptcy. But not Dr Sanginga, under him, the IITA has thrived. This institute has gone from being in debt to operating profitably.
The story of how he turned around the fortunes of this place is a testament to the fact that Nigeria can go from poverty to prosperity through agriculture.
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. I have had no fears or worries about letting the IITA lead projects such as the Start Them Early Program (STEP), which he used his Africa Food Prize to launch in Africa and then brought to Oyo State at Fasola Grammar School.
That programme has now spread to 13 schools in Oyo State, and given another chance by the good people of Oyo State, we will take it to more schools. Thank you, Dr Sanginga, for bringing STEP to Oyo State and inviting me to see things for myself. I would never have known it was possible if I had not seen it.
Dr Sanginga has also remained at the forefront of getting youths into agriculture. The Oyo State-IITA collaboration in Aawe has led to the training of over 100 youths. So far, 20 of the beneficiaries of these programmes have established agribusiness enterprises, leading to the creation of 700 direct and indirect jobs.
The idea of mass training our young people in agribusiness resulted from seeing what is possible here. So, Oyo State has trained over 3,000 youths in technology-driven agri-food systems, and we are presently providing them with enterprise support.
Let me also add that if Dr Sanginga had not kept IITA up and running after 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 Local Government Area. Again, thank you.
To end this goodwill message, let me convey to you the deepest regards of the good people of Oyo State. We are grateful for your courage, perseverance and tenacity. You have touched our lives in many ways. And as you begin this new chapter in your life, know that your name is written in gold in our hearts.
Thank you, and God bless you.