Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja
The pioneer Executive Director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, Prof. Adebayo Adedeji, is dead.
He died in Lagos at the age 87 after a protracted illness. He was born in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State on December 21, 1930.
His death, in the late hours of Wednesday, was announced by a family member who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria.
Reacting to his demise, President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday said he learnt with sadness the death of Adedeji, who he described as “a patriotic Nigerian, economist, administrator, scholar and international statesman.”
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, the President noted that Adedeji was best known and respected across the continent for the achievements recorded during his tenure as the United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the ECA.
He noted that the deceased used his leadership of the pan-African institution to promote African development and was in the vanguard of intellectual efforts to find solutions to Africa’s developmental challenges from within the continent.
Buhari said, “Africa remains grateful to him for the intellectual effort to challenge and reverse the damaging Structural Adjustment Programmes imposed on the continent by conceiving the African Alternative Framework for Structural Adjustment Programmes.
“It is noteworthy that Prof. Adedeji was one of the first people to realise, as far back as the early 1980s, that environment, gender, and governance, which have now become commonplace in development discourse, were important for sustainable development in Africa.
“The extent of his commitment and contribution to these issues was demonstrated when he served in his latter years as the first Chairman of the African Peer Review Mechanism which gave Africa ownership of its own governance agenda.
“It will also be recalled with nostalgia that Prof. Adedeji was a leading exponent of regional integration on the continent. During his tenure as the Nigerian Federal Commissioner for Economic Development, he successfully spearheaded the establishment of the Economic Community of West African States which became the template for regional integration arrangements across the continent.
“Nigeria also owes Prof. Adedeji a debt of gratitude for his leading role in the establishment of the National Youth Service Corps when he was Federal Commissioner for Economic Development. The NYSC is one of our most enduring initiatives for nation building.
“In this way, his work has impacted on several generations of young Nigerians in addition to the impact he made from teaching and mentoring early generations of Nigerian administrators as Director of the Institute of Administration at the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University).
“Prof. Adedeji was also Asiwaju of Ijebuland and his death is a great loss to Ogun State, Nigeria and indeed the rest of Africa. His life was one of patriotism, distinguished service, hard work and unrelenting intellectual activity.
“As we mourn the demise of this great man, I extend sincere condolences on my part and on behalf of the government and people of Nigeria to the entire family, his friends and associates and the entire African development community.”
After obtaining B.Sc and PhD in Economics at the London School of Economics and an MPA from Harvard University, Adedeji joined the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University where he became a professor of Economics at the age of 36.
Adedeji was the ECA boss between 1975 and 1978, after which he was appointed the UN Under-Secretary General. He remained in the ECA post until 1991.
One of Africa’s foremost proponents of regional integration, Adedeji was Nigeria’s post-civil federal commissioner for economic development and reconstruction from 1971.
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