Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is now IITA ‘Goodwill Ambassador’
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has accepted to be the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture's 'Goodwill Ambassador,' in an effort to help fight hunger and poverty in Africa.
Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, IITA-Director General, announced Obasanjo's acceptance after a closed door meeting with the former Nigerian President in Abeokuta, Ogun State on Monday.
As the IITA 'Goodwill Ambassador,' Obasanjo will help in advocating for policies that would advance research and bring to reality the long-awaited African Green Revolution.
He will extend and amplify IITA's work and mission and help focus the world's attention on the work of IITA in sub-Saharan Africa. This work involves helping to raise 20 million Africans out of poverty and to redirect 25 million ha of degraded lands for sustainable use in the next 10 years.
Sanginga says the institute is honored by Obasanjo's acceptance of the offer.
Born in March 1937, Obasanjo became the first Nigerian President to hand over to a democratically elected president; first as a military head of state in 1979, and second in 2007 as a civilian president.
Before Obasanjo's administration in 1999, Nigeria's Gross Domestic Product growth was painfully slow since 1987, and only managed 3% between 1999/2000.
However, under Obasanjo the growth rate doubled to 6% until he left office, helped in part by higher oil prices. Nigeria's foreign reserves rose from $2 billion in 1999 to $43 billion on leaving office in 2007. He was able to secure debt pardons from the Paris and London clubs amounting to some $18 billion and paid another $18 billion to be debt free. Most of these loans were secured and spent by past officials.
In 2005, the international community gave Nigeria's government its first pass mark for its anti-corruption efforts.
In the agricultural sector, Obasanjo initiated the Presidential Initiatives on Nigeria's major commodities including cassava, maize, rice, and cocoa. His 10 percent cassava policy that mandated flour millers to include cassava flour in wheat boosted cassava production by 10 million tons between 2002 and 2008. Maize, rice, and cocoa yields in Nigeria also recorded an increase during that era. As a result, Nigeria became the world's number one producer of cassava and maize has become a major cash and economic crop as well.
As a statesman, Obasanjo has been involved in mediating for peace in conflict-stricken countries including Cote d'Ivoire and DR Congo, among others.
In accepting IITA's offer, Obasanjo says the fight against hunger and poverty is a 'battle' he intends to fight as he retires from public service.