Vanguard (Lagos)

Africa: Still No Leaders

For the third time in four years, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which recognises and celebrates excellence in African leadership, did not find an African leader worthy of the Mo Ibrahim Prize.

The 2012 award Prize Committee, like in 2010 when the first "no award verdict" was given, should be commended for admitting, "We reviewed a number of eligible candidates but none met the criteria needed to win this award".

It is a sad development that further confirms the continuing slide in African leadership. The continent has suffered from the consequences of bad leaders such that in three years leaders have remained absent in the affairs of the continent. How then is Africa surviving?

Corruption and flagrant disregard for democratic tenets are hallmarks of African leaders. They turn the state into their private estates, unwilling to leave office and deploy uncommon expertise to looting public resources. The few who play by the rules stick to minimal standards that cannot qualify for any serious award.

The inability of African leaders to draw decent lines between their private conducts and matters of the state have resulted in crisis in many African countries, some leading to wars.

The award, set up by Sudan-born telecoms tycoon Mo Ibrahim in 2006, carries a $5 million prize paid over 10 years and $200,000 annually for life from then on, with a further $200,000 per year available for 10 years for good causes backed by the winner.

It goes to a democratically-elected African leader who has served the mandated term and left office in the last three years.

"You make your bed, you have to lie on it. If we said we're going to have a prize for exceptional leadership, we have to stick to that. We are not going to compromise," Ibrahim said.

Only three annual prizes have been awarded since 2006, plus two special awards given to South Africa's Nelson Mandela and former archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The inaugural prize went to former president Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique in 2007 and Botswana's ex-president Festus Mogae won in 2008. Former Cape Verde president Pedro Pires won the 2011 prize.

Mo Ibrahim himself must be sharing concerns about the quality of African leadership. The generous incentives the prize offers do not motivate our leaders to distinguish themselves.

One of the initiatives to improve leadership is the Ibrahim Leadership Fellowships, 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.

Leaders may not be in sight until the Foundation's new initiatives yield results.

Former African leaders should be ashamed that again they have proven their tenures cannot withstand scrutiny.

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