After winning the Martin Luther King human rights award, former President Goodluck Jonathan who was being tipped for the $5 million Mo Ibrahim prize for leadership, missed out on the 2015 edition of the leadership award despite his historic concession of the 2015 presidential election.
The leadership prize is meant for a former African Executive Head of State or Government who was democratically elected, served his or her constitutionally mandated term, demonstrating exceptional leadership and left office in the last three years.
Mo Ibrahim, however, disagrees that Jonathan delivered on this feat, saying “excellence means excellence”.
“There’s an issue about excellent leadership and that’s not an African phenomenon; look at Europe, look at Asia, over nine years couldn’t have picked out five exceptional leaders in Europe, in Asia.”
When asked by BBC if no African leader deserves to win every year, Ibrahim said: “Yes, exactly, it’s not because we are Africans, we have to accept substandard; excellence means excellence.”
“It’s a prize for excellence, it’s not an entitlement or a pension – we really seek excellence. The criteria are simple; we are looking for a leader who came to power democratically and transparently, then moved his country forward, made important key decisions which helped its people and then bowed out gracefully at the end of his or her period.”
When asked why the prize does not consider leaders within an African government, like Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was Jonathan’s minister of finance, Ibrahim said the prize cannot shift its focus.
“We cannot just keep shifting our focus here. There’s no doubt the president is really the focal point for decision-making. The responsibility of moving the country forward or backwards really lies with the president, not ministers.”
Ibrahim insisted that the prize is meant for unsung heroes in Africa, who do not really care about the $5 million prize money, and the $200,000 prize for life thereafter.