Mo Ibrahim & Kofi Annan’s verdict
Contrary to the expectations of many bigwigs of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) and especially close allies of former president, John Kufuor, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation found neither of the contenders for this year’s prize worthy of emulation.
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation prize for Achievement in African Leadership instituted in 2006 is to be awarded to former African heads of state. Reports that Ghana’s former president is in the reckoning for this year’s award excited his faithful but many more Ghanaians were surprised and began raising questions about the criteria for such awards.
To many President Kufuor cannot win and does not deserve the award unless, as speculated by some newspaper reports, it was intended as a thank you gift for the handing over of the then 100% owned Westel to Mo Ibrahim’s MTC Group which operated Celltel and now Zain.
For those who were preparing to question the real motive of the Foundation and the personalities behind it, they raised issues about the inability of President Kufuor to fight and take a strong position against corruption amidst reports and allegations of high level corruption during his tenure.
On security, the families of Issah Molbilla who was tortured to death in the heat of the political season and his killers left to go scot free and the family of the late Ya Naa and his subjects reacted with rage and surprise when they heard the news of his imminent conferment.
The Foundation in the all expected announcement said none of the shortlisted persons were selected.
"There may be years where no winner is chosen, and this is such a year," Mo Ibrahim said after the announcement, denying President Kufuor the expected $5 million for good governance.
This is the first time since the award started that no winner was found even though South Africa's Thabo Mbeki and John Kufuor were said to be the favourites.
“In the midst of the present discussions on the sale of 70% shares in Ghana Telecom to Vodafone and what is said to be the role of President Kufuor, and all the issues been revealed at the Ghana@50 probe, it would have been a real surprise” was the reaction to a known civil society activist when the news broke Monday morning that no winner was found.
According to the BBC, the winner receives $5m over 10 years, and then $200,000 a year for life after that - the most valuable individual annual award in the world. Mr Ibrahim said people could draw their own conclusions about why no prize was awarded this year. But he said there was "no issue of disrespect" meant towards eligible candidates.
Mr Ibrahim argues that the prize is needed because many African leaders come from poor backgrounds and are tempted to hang on to power for fear that poverty is what awaits them when they give up the levers of power.
But the BBC quotes its analyst as saying that recent evidence of the prize's effectiveness across Africa is not encouraging. Uganda, Chad and Cameroon have all changed their constitutions so their leaders can retain their positions. There have been coups in Guinea, Mauritania and Madagascar, as well as several elections that fell well short of international standards.
And the countries that have received most praise from Mo Ibrahim's foundation this year - Mauritius, Cape Verde and Seychelles - are far from the continent's centres of power.
Botswana's former President Festus Mogae Botswana won the prize last year, after two terms at the helm of one of Africa's least corrupt and most prosperous nations.
The inaugural prize was given to Joaquim Chissano, Mozambique's former president, who has since acted as a mediator in several African disputes.
dailyEXPRESS Issue 149 Lead story