VOICE OF LIBERTY: Africa: In Search of Mo Ibrahim’s El Jefe ~ Fiyinfoluwa Elegbede


In 2007, the initiative to reward exemplary leadership in Africa by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, headed by the billionaire entrepreneur, Dr. Mo Ibrahim was met with strong appraisals across the globe from world leaders such as Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandelato average citizens of Africa concerned with the growth and development of Africa like myself.


The modest $5 million and more in award prize (modest when compared to the billions that has been previously embezzled, and still up for looting by African dictators) was aimed at rewarding a democratically elected African former head of state or Government who in Mo’s words, has left office in the last three years and most importantly, has the words, “exceptional leadership’ fitting into his resume during the term of his reign.


Interestingly, the invention of this award does not necessarily mean there exists an initial overflowing of candidates for the prize, but with hopes that a prize of this significance and recognition would prove potent in inspiring African heads of states towards exemplary leadership. Mo was wrong, or so the lack of prize recipients has proved.


The coveted prize has only been given out in three out of six possible annual presentations, stirring a deep reflection on the state of governance in Africa and also, criticism of the prize as ‘exposing’ in nature.


Why does it seem difficult in locating whom the cap fits amongst Africa’s El Jefe’s, or is this one of the ironic instance where a well-intentioned motive goes awry?


Mo was right. After all, the eager world has now seen the true state of governance in African right from the views and mouth of an African with millions of USD at stake. The inability of situating a recipient amongst the several potential candidates reflects the transition from our twentieth century challenges to becoming dynamic twenty-first century players on the global stage as a tall dream.


Likewise, it also reveals the failure in the blind issuance of Official Development Assistance (ODA), the Aid Effectiveness Campaign or the Aid for Trade (AfT) measures aimed at assisting Africa to achieve economic growth and development. These funds, combined with available state treasury serves as a better illicit wealth alternative for shameless and corrupt African leaders, than pretend to being the ideal recipient of Mo’s picture for his prize.


In any ways, there is a lot more to freely loot at a monopolistic will at the expense of the citizens and state development than a $5million prize devoted to honesty, integrity and good governance which over the years have proved to be alien to the character of most present crop of African leaders.


If there exists a true representation of published economic growth in Africa judging by GDP figures from International Organizations such as the World Bank and the IMF, Mo’s lack of prize recipient has shown us beyond the economic calculations, the absence of ‘economic developments’ in these growth figures.


In 2010 alone, both voluntary and coerced tax payers in certain regions of the world donated an approximate $43,125,650,727billionin all forms and channels of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa, or to the pockets of African coconut leaders. In the same year, a single country in Africa (Nigeria) derived an estimated $30billion from trade proceedswith the United States. If a trade proceed of $30billion proves insufficient to effect a positive and visible ‘economic development’ in the country, of what is influence can her percentage from the Africa bound $43billion largesse, other than fuel the pockets of her rulers?


When grilled on BBC Hard Talk on why Nigeria was yet unable to combat corruption and make a meaningful utilization of its trade proceeds, a recent past two-term democratic head of state blamed it on populationin a country where an approximate 80%of the same population lives below $2 per day and more than 60%living below the poverty line.


We have seen it all. The roots are deep and heavily infested within the ruling oligarchs in Africa. Fortunately, too, the solutions are handy by properly nurturing and preserve the future recipients of Mo’s Awards, the Cheetah Generation in the word of the renowned economist, George Ayittey.


It is left to the organizers of the Mo Ibrahim Prize to decide to either wait for the ripening of the likes of the Banda, Kagame, James Michael, Ramgoolam and others, or in a more result-oriented choice, give up on their generation and focus on direct motivation of African ‘Future Leaders’ who have benefitted no iota of inspiration from their failed present generation of leaders, unlike in Mo’s vision.


I personally without doubts readily recommend the latter.


Fiyinfoluwa is an associate of AfricanLiberty.org and contributes regularly to our Voice of Liberty project

African leaders get the much needed knocks from our columnist Fiyin today after missing out for the umpteenth time on the Mo Ibrahim prize