AGAIN, NO WINNER FOR MO IBRAHIM PRIZE

By NBF News
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The announcement by the Board of Mo Ibrahim Foundation that it could not find any worthy recipient for its prestigious Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, for the second consecutive year, speaks volumes about the crisis of leadership in Africa. Last year, the Board said that it did not find any of the shortlisted candidates 'credible' for the award.

There were no new candidates this year. Looked at from that context, the decision of the Board appears to demonstrate its unflinching resolve not to compromise the standards and the ideals upon which the foundation was established.

Indeed, in 2006 when the Foundation was launched by 64-year old Sudanese billionaire entrepreneur, Mo Ibrahim, the aims were specifically spelt out, to include recognition of achievement in African Leadership, and provision of a practical way in which African leaders can build positive legacies on the continent when they have left office. The award also aims at stimulation of debate on good governance across sub-saharan Africa and the world, and the provision of objective criteria by which citizens in Africa can hold their governments accountable.

In that regard, the prize is awarded to African heads of state who deliver good governance in the areas of security, health, education and economic development, and to those who democratically hand over power to their successor. Good governance is the key for winning the award.

According to the articles of the Foundation, the recipient must be a democratically elected leader who has left office in the three years preceding the award, with a track record of good governance as part of his or her legacies. The last recipient of the prize is former Botswana President, Festus Mogae, in 2008, while Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique was the maiden prizewinner in 2007.

We respect the decision of the Foundation as recommended by its Award Committee. It is in line with its article, which states that the prize may not be awarded in any year if the award committee is unable to select a winner among shortlisted 'credible candidates'. The enduring significance of the award should be the legacy the winner must have bequeathed to the citizens of his country.

With a $5 million initial payment to the recipient, and $200,000 a year for life, the Mo Ibrahim prize is believed to be the world's largest prize, exceeding the $1.3m Nobel Peace Prize. The import of the non-award of the prize for the second year running is significant. It reflects the bad state of affairs on the continent. Practically, it should be seen as a 'vote of no confidence' on African leaders for not providing good governance, and for lack of focus on the broader outcomes of social services for their citizens. If this looks like an indictment, we insist it is an evidence of a steep decline in the quality of leadership in Africa. This should serve as a challenge to serving presidents or heads of state in Africa to govern well and impact positively on the lives of their citizens.

While we urge the Foundation to stick to the high standards it has set for itself and for recipients, we urge the Award Committee to painstakingly review some of the criteria set for the award. For instance, we think the time frame of three years for intending recipients is rather too short. It can broaden the time frame, or completely remove it.

But the bigger challenge rests on the shoulders of the new generation of African leaders who must see and use public office as a veritable platform to do good, and not to feather their nests. This may not be achieved without strong democracies, respect for the rule of law, the provision of health and educational facilities and a vibrant and empowered civil society. None of these can be achieved without good governance.

We support the current initiative on a leadership programme by the Foundation. Called the Ibrahim Leadership Fellowship, it is a selective programme designed to identify and prepare the next generation of outstanding African leaders by providing them with mentoring opportunities in key multilateral institutions across the world.

This is a step that can, in years ahead, change the mindset of African leaders towards public office. This, we believe, is one way transformative leadership, which most African nations currently lack, can be mentored, nurtured and actualized.

Our country, Nigeria, is not faring any better on the governance scale. According to the index on governance in Africa released by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation last year, Nigeria was scored 46.5 percent out of 100 percent. The nation was also ranked 35 out of 53 countries. We should aspire to perform better. We share the view of the Foundation that the leadership question in Africa is not hopeless. It can improve steadily with the emergence of conscientious political leaders.