Nairobi — Salifou Fatimata Bazeye, a 60-year-old distinguished jurist from Niger, has been chosen as "African of the Year" by Media Trust Limited, publisher of the Daily Trust, Weekly Trust, Sunday Trust and the Hausa-language Aminiya in Nigeria.
The award was announced during a press conference Saturday by the chairman of the selection panel, Salim Ahmed Salim, a former prime minister of Tanzania and former secretary-general of the Organization of African Unity. He cited Bazeye's "track record as an incorruptible judicial officer" as the reason for her selection. The award has been issued annually since 2008 by Media Trust "to create a pool of role models in the quest for positive transformation of the African continent."
Bazeye was dismissed as president of Niger's Constitutional Court in 2009 after the court in unanimous rulings rejected efforts by then-President Mamadou Tandja to change the constitution and remain in office after completion of his second term. Named by the the military rulers who ousted Tandja in 2010 to lead the Constitutional Council, an 11-member consultative body, she performed "a key role in steering Niger to a successful election and democratic transition", Salim said.
The other four finalists included Mohammed Bouazizi, the Tunisian trader whose death provoked the uprising that ousted long-time President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali; Wael Ghonim, the Egyptian activist and computer engineer who played a key role in that country's mass protests that forced President Hosni Mubarak from office; Godfrey Nzamujo, the Nigerian priest whose Songhai Centre farming project in Benin to promote sustainable food production has spread to 11 other African countries; and Thuli Madonsela, a human rights and constitutional lawyer who as South Africa's public prosecutor has stirred controversy with a series of high-level corruption probes.
Text of the media briefing by Dr Salim at the Fairmont Norfolk Hotel announcing the 'African of the Year 2011'.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to welcome you to this media briefing at which we will announce the DAILY TRUST AFRICAN OF THE YEAR 2011.
The award attracts a prize sum of US$50,000 as well as a commemorative plaque and certificate of honour to be presented to the awardee in January.
As you may be aware, this award project is the brain-child of MEDIA TRUST LIMITED, a newspaper company that publishes DAILY TRUST and other titles from Abuja, the seat of government in Nigeria.
The key idea behind the award is to identify, recognise and reward ordinary Africans who are doing extra-ordinary things for the good of the continent, and indeed humanity.
And with this award, we hope to create a pool of exemplary African personalities who will serve as the beckon of light in our quest for positive transformation of the continent.
To qualify for the award, nominees are screened by the Advisory Board based on four criteria as follows:
1. He/She must be an African who is resident in the continent or in diasporas.
2. The award is open to anyone in any sphere of endeavour.
3. The nominee must have undertaken a work, create an idea or engage in activity that is remarkable and with positive impact in any part of the continent.
4. The entry for the nomination must have been done or completed during the award year
On the basis of these parameters, the maiden award in 2008 was conferred on Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese surgeon. It was in recognition of his exemplary humanitarian gesture of rendering free reconstructive surgery on women and children who were victims of rape and brutal assault in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. Two runners-up were also named at the maiden award in 2008. They are Dr. Christiana Thorpe, a Roman-catholic nun and Chairperson of Sierra Leone Electoral Commission, and Mr. Salif Keita, a celebrated Malian musician and Albino activist.
In 2009, the prize committee conferred the award posthumously on Dr. Tajudeen Abdulraheem, a renowned Nigerian political scientist and consummate pan-Africanist who was Regional Director of UN Millennium Campaign office in Nairobi where he passed-on in a car crash on May 25 (Africa Day) same year.
Last year, the award went to Mr. Danny Jordaan, Chief Executive of the local organising committee of the 19th FIFA/Coca-Cola World Cup hosted by South Africa. The world football body has acknowledged the fact that the first ever senior world cup to be hosted in Africa was the most profitable in the history of the tournament, despite the cacophony of Afro-pessimism that heralded it.
The task of screening and selecting the awardees is entrusted to a committee which I have the honour of chairing. Members are Professor Abdoulaye Bathily, Senegalese former Parliamentarian and Executive Director of the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa, a pan-African policy think-thank chaired by Mr. Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana; Professor Tandeka Nkiwane, a South African political scientist and Director of Development Research Institute, Johannesburg.
Other members of the committee are Mr. Kabiru Yusuf, Chairman/CEO of DAILY TRUST; Professor Kwame Karikari, Accra based mass communication scholar and activist; Professor Okello Oculi, a Ugandan political scientist and social activist; and Ms. Muthoni Wanyeki, former Executive Secretary of Kenya Human Rights Commission, who is also committee's secretary.
The award project is being supported by UBA Plc, Nigeria's pan-African bank, which gives the annual prize sum of US$50,000 to winners since 2008.
Nominations for this year's award were received online through the official website: www.award.dailytrust.com and, from the multitude of nominees, five candidates were shortlisted and subject to the rigorous screening by the committee. The finalists are Wael Ghonim (Egypt), Father Godfrey Nzamujo (Nigeria), Mohmmed Bouazizi (Tunisia), Thuli Madonsela (South Africa), and Salifou Fatimata Bazeye (Niger).
The committee wishes to place on record its extensive deliberation on one of the finalists, late Mohammed Bouazizi. The young man, who was a roving trader on the streets of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, was brutalised by a municipal officer who also impounded his wheelbarrow and wares.
The criminal assault on Bouazizi's dignity and the confiscation of his source of livelihood by state agents who were insensitive to his plea only typified the cruelty being meted to innocent citizens in many parts of Africa.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honour to announce Mrs Salifou Fatimata Bazeye as the DAILY TRUST African of the Year 2011. Mrs Bazeye, 57, was a Nigerien jurist, who served as magistrate, head of Supreme Court, president of the Constitutional Court, and head of the Transitional Constitutional Council.
In selecting this woman, the committee examined her track record as an incorruptible judicial officer who resisted government decision to transfer some striking magistrates; who gave a judicial ruling against a sitting president's proposal to amend the constitution for tenure elongation; who was sacked from office because of her uncompromising position on rule of law; and who played a key role in steering Niger to a successful election and democratic transition.
And for these, we are convinced beyond doubt that she is truly deserving of the DAILY TRUST African of the Year 2011 award.