Stunning, is it not? That for the fourth time, three of them in a row, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, based in London, has failed to award its Africa Prize for Excellence in Leadership, for lack of a suitable candidate.
The multi-million dollar award - US$5 million annually for five years, and thereafter US$200,000 annually for life - has been awarded thrice so far, since 2007. Late Mozambique leader Joaquim Chissano was named the winner in 2007, former Bostwana President Festus Mogae in 2008, and former Cape Verde President Pedro Verona Pires in 2011. The awards committee found no suitable winners in 2009, 2010, 2012, and this year.
"After careful consideration, we determined not to award the 2013 Prize for Excellence in Leadership," former Tanzania Prime Minister Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, who chairs the Mo Foundation Awards Committee, told a press conference in London on Monday.
"This prize honours former heads of state or government, who, during their mandate, have demonstrated excellence in leading their country, and by doing so, serve as role models for the next generation," Dr. Salim explained, adding, "Every African head of state or government who retired in the last three years (2010, 2011 and 2012) was considered."
Former President Mogae of Bostwana, who won the award in 2008, and is currently a member of the awards committee, amplified the criteria: "... the intention is to encourage good leadership and award good leaders who would not oppress or cheat their people, or waste national resources... as we talk about performance of leaders, we will surely have an impact."
In five of the eight years of the Mo Foundation's existence, no awards have been made. Many are those who claim that the "no-suitable-candidate" mantra of the Mo Foundation's award committee was a subtle cover-up for the fact that the Foundation has ran of funds to sustain the prize.
Of course US$5 million is quite substantial, and a time could come when up to US$50 million could be given out in a year. But The Chronicle does not believe that money is the problem. Mo Ibrahim's fortune, reportedly accrued in the early days of the GSM, is said to be in the billions.
We accept the problem as stated by the committee: paucity of suitable applicants for the award.
Let us look once again at some highpoints of the criteria - "... and by doing so, serve as role models for the next generation; ... good leaders who would not oppress or cheat their people, or waste national resources... "
That is the crux of the matter. The doubting Thomases should point to the African leaders who emerged as role models for the next generation, or who did not oppress or cheat, or did not waste national resources in the five years in which the committee refused to give the award to any African leader.
The Chronicle commends the Awards Committee of the Mo Ibrahim Committee for insisting on strict compliance with its awards criteria. For instance, we would not vote for any African leaders who aggrandises himself in his dream, talk less of doing same in full glare of the public.
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation wants its funds utilised for the well-being of the vulnerable in Africa, and not for the subversion of the will of the people for partisan ends or for self-conceit.