Nigerian scholar-administrator Adebayo Adedeji, who died on Wednesday at 87, was one of Africa’s greatest public servants. He was born in 1930 and grew up in Ijebu-Ode under British colonial rule. This left a fierce anticolonial mark on Adedeji, shaping his later professional exploits. After completing his education in Nigeria, Adedeji studied economics and public administration at the universities of Leicester, Harvard and London, obtaining a doctorate in economics. He returned to Nigeria in 1958 to take up a post in the Western Region’s ministry of economic planning. In 1963 Adedeji left government service for Nigeria’s University of Ile-Ife. Four years later, at the age of 36, he became a full professor of economics and public administration, transforming the university’s Institute of Administration into a training ground for public servants. In 1971, aged 40, Adedeji was appointed Nigeria’s minister of economic reconstruction and development by the military regime of Yakubu Gowo...

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