Tuesday, 22 October 2013



For a fourth year in a row the Mo Ibrahim prize for good governance in sub-Saharan Africa has not been awarded. This $5 million initial payment, plus $2 Hundred Thousand a year for life prize was set up among other things to reward/encourage: democracy, good governance, and transition in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the information on the foundation’s website (http://www.moibrahimfoundation.org/ibrahim-prize ), the criteria for this award are:
  • former African Executive Head of State or Government
  • left office in the last three years
  • democratically elected
  • served his/her constitutionally mandated term
  • demonstrated exceptional leadership
Using indexes grouped into the following categories:
  • Safety & Rule of Law
  • Participation & Human Rights
  • Sustainable Economic Opportunity
  • Human Development.
I will like to believe that like most of us, Mr. Mo is of the opinion that majority of the problems in sub-Saharan Africa is hinged on corruption, and corruption is most exhibited by the siphoning, conversion, and outright theft of government funds by leaders. This attempt by Mr. Mo at encouraging good leadership however laudable is just that: an attempt.

Majority of the African countries in the sub-Saharan belt sit on a lot of funds either directly, through their natural resources, or from foreign aids. Eliciting good governance through material benefits would only serve to compare the immediate benefits of being Head of State to the prize (a huge gamble). For example, a country like Nigeria that makes billions of Dollars from the sale of crude oil and enjoys numerous foreign aids can hardly be enticed into good governance along this line; a corrupt president can ensure his lifelong benefits in the first year of the presidency.

Using money as bait for good governance may bring an un-intended consequence of replacing one form of greed for another. If the leader has money as the primary reason for coming to office, then getting it through the prize can still serve that purpose, but would it have produced a good leader? If being selfless is a basic criterion for good leadership, then can this winner be considered a leader in its true form? If rewards for serving are put on the front burner, then the motive for leadership is already distorted and the ideals which the foundation is seeking to promote are lost. 

Delayed gratification is actual a virtue, one we are yet to acquire in this part of the world, especially among our leaders, and certainly not in this “now-now generation” (we want instant results). I can just hear a leader think, “wait till after am out to make money when am sitting on it now, who lives by a river and washes his/her hands with spittle?” The gamble is too great.

There is also the small matter of EGO! “A foreigner will be the one to judge my performance, how dare they?” this line of thought should not be over looked bearing in mind that majority of the affected states have high nationalist sentiments and these feelings run deep and long. How does this affect performance? How many Nigerians will take a Ghanaian telling them their country is better than ours without our patriotic instincts kicking in to defend our pride, knowing very well we may be wrong? This goes for a lot of countries too.

 While this article does not seek to bash the award, it does poke at the ability of this noble gesture to sustainably address the leadership issues we have in sub-Saharan Africa. While corruption is a problem, it is not the only one. There are conflicts, diseases, terrorism, harmful cultural practices, tribalism, and others that are not a direct result of bad or inadequate leadership that need to be addressed and considered.

 In my opinion, concerning Nigeria, the award does little or nothing to instigate good governance in Nigeria. The quality of politics and leadership produced at the levels of government lack the ability to regard the symbolic or actual benefits associated with such. Simply put the award in reputation and actual terms is of little or no value to the average Nigerian leader, most especially when expressed in monitory terms. As in the words of a former President: money no be problem, na how to spend am be.

Thankfully, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation has other programs aimed at developing the man power of Africa; the leadership award is just an aspect of their activities.

It is time leadership in this part of the world is seen as a call to service, one that requires the leader setting aside his/her own personal benefits for the collective good of the led. The achievement of these goals and objectives is its own reward. No good parent raises children based on the fact that the children will reward the effort later. Satisfaction comes from the ability to provide the basic amenities, and luxuries where possible for the family; and seeing the children succeed and behave in ways that will make the parent always proud. 

We need to create mental and physical structures that produce and develop individuals ready for the challenge of leadership. Our value system needs to change: the concepts of hard work, accountability, responsibility, and the like in our cultures have to be reactivated, and infused into our daily lives; for our own immediate benefits and transmission to younger upcoming generations.

Our notion and concept of leadership needs to change, only then can we produce good leadership and governance in the short and long term. 

God bless Nigeria.