Jerry Okungu: Why Mo did not Give out his Prize - The Star

It is now official. This time round, no African former Head of State was good enough to earn Mo Ibrahim's annual prize bounty of US $ 5 million plus a lifetime cheque of another $ 200,000 a year, the most attractive prize anyone can earn in the world today.

Never mind that between 2007 and 2009, Africa has retired some of its highflying heads of state. Ghana's John Kufuor, Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo and South Africa's Thabo Mbeki were so central to African politics that any AU Summit without them was unthinkable.

More importantly, the G8 found it prudent to invite them to this exclusive club of the richest nations on earth.

They were hailed as the new visionaries of Africa when — together with Abdulahi Wade of Senegal and Abdelazziz Bouteflika of Algeria — they co-founded Nepad and APRM and sold the concepts as the panacea for solving Africa's infrastructure and governance problems.

It was difficult at that time to imagine that whatever they touched could go wrong. Mbeki hosted Nepad in South Africa and provided it with the legal infrastructure to operate as Obasanjo chaired its summits.

As years progressed, Abdulahi Wade fell by the wayside claiming that Nepad had abandoned the goals for which it was formed. He thought the AU was spending too much time and resources concentrating on governance issues at the expense of infrastructure development.

Like Muammar Gaddafi, he was keener on fast-tracking Africa's unification than going along with his colleagues on a gradual approach to Africa's integration.

For John Kufuor, he put his energy into making sure Ghana became the first African country to be reviewed under the African Peer Review Mechanism as early as 2005.

Once he succeeded, he used the platform to market his country as a model of democracy and good governance in Africa and Europe.

Kufuor basked in this glory for at least two years before Kenya and Rwanda joined the club of Africa's reviewed nations. And for their efforts, the three countries did a lot of work helping others that were waiting in line for the process.

For some reason, Obasanjo's Nigeria could not get its act together for review while he was in office. After so many false starts, Obasanjo was forced to quit without being reviewed following his attempt to amend his country's constitution to allow him to rule for a third term.

When Mbeki's South Africa was reviewed, it was a disaster of sorts. Official interference with the process forced the first scheduled report in January 2007 to be postponed at the last minute in Addis Ababa. This was after the acrimonious exchanges between Mbeki's administration, the civil society and the media.

On the day South Africa was to be reviewed, Mbeki was adamant that only Heads of State would sit in the hall. He forced the forum chairman to clear the house of all media, observers, UN staff and international development partners, very much unlike the case when Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda were reviewed.

He behaved that way because the media had exposed the flawed process that he intended to present at the summit.

For some reason, Abdelazziz Bouteflika's review went on without a hitch with glowing tributes.

Having said that, why did the Mo Ibrahim Panel of Experts conclude that none of the three top contenders, Kufuor, Mbeki or Obasanjo deserved to win?

There are many varied theories and the jury is still out there. However, Obasanjo's bid to extend his term and his rigging of the elections in favour of his preferred successor could have played a role in influencing the Mo Ibrahim jury against him.

Mbeki was thrown out of office prematurely after being accused of abuse of office.

Kufuor would have been the best option. Seemingly he had done well in good governance and even steered the transition successfully after the December 2008 elections.

However, his conduct and activities just before he left office confounded many of his believers.

Apparently he concluded lucrative deals on his personal retirement package that left Ghanaians baffled.

Now the talk in the streets of Accra and even in some Ghanaian embassies abroad is that the President "dished out" the suburbs and Central Business District of Accra to his friends, relatives and cronies.

With his private home renovated at approximately US $ 40million, it would have been difficult for Ghanaians to give him the kind of glorious send-off Tanzanians gave Mwalimu Nyerere in 1985.

Jerry Okungu is a media consultant.

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One Response to Jerry Okungu: Why Mo did not Give out his Prize - The Star

june said...

Of course he is 'African'. Just when will we learn?
Not so related: Did Xuma just marry?

God bless Africa and it's sons!