With the retirement of former Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and the impending retirement of President Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama of Botswana, some have opined that the forthcoming Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership will be tightly contested by the two leaders.
Before considering who stands a better chance to win between Khama and Johnson Sirleaf, it is apposite that a brief explanation of the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership be given. According to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, the Ibrahim Prize celebrates excellence in African leadership. It is awarded to a former Executive Head of State or Government by an independent Prize Committee composed of eminent figures, including two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.
The prize recognizes and celebrates African executive leaders who, under challenging circumstances, have developed their countries and strengthened democracy and human rights for the shared benefit of their people, paving the way for sustainable and equitable prosperity.
It highlights exceptional role models for the continent and ensures that the African continent continues to benefit from the experience and wisdom of exceptional leaders once they have left national office, by enabling them to continue in other public roles on the continent.
The prize, funded by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation was founded by Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese billionaire businessman and philanthropist, who founded the telecommunications company Celtel International in 1998. For one to be eligible for the award one has to be a former democratically elected African executive head of state or government; have left office in the last three years; have served his/her constitutionally mandated term and should have demonstrated exceptional leadership.
The prize’s winner gets an award of $5million USD over ten years and $200,000 USD per year for life thereafter. The prize’s laureates are President Joaquim Chisano of Mozambique; President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela of South Africa; President Festus Gontebanye Mogae of Botswana; President Pedro De Verona Rodrigues Pires of Cabo Verde and President Hifikepunye Pohamba for 2007, 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2014 respectively.
Regrettably, in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2015 the Prize Committee, after in-depth review, did not select a winner, meaning that in those years Africa had a dearth of exceptionally good political leadership. Now back to who stands a better chance to win between Khama and Johnson Sirleaf. The question is: who, among the two, under challenging circumstances, developed their countries and strengthened democracy and human rights for the shared benefit of their people, paving the way for sustainable and equitable prosperity?
First, the issue of challenging circumstances. There is no doubt that Johnson Sirleaf faced more challenging circumstances considering that she inherited a war ravaged country following military rule after Samuel Doe seized power in April 1980 in a coup d'état and executed former leader, William Tolbert.
The country was further ravaged by civil war during the tenure of President Charles Taylor who led the country from 1997 to 2005. As a woman, and the first female president in her country, Johnson Sirleaf no doubt faced challenges owing to the patriarchal nature of the Liberian society.
On the contrary, Khama inherited a country with unparalleled peace and stability. Further, he is not only a male who benefited from the patriarchal nature of the Botswana society, but also benefited from the fact that his father, the late Sir Seretse Khama, was the founding president of his country. Not only that. As a chief of the BaNgwato, a tribe holding a pristine position of dominance over other tribes, his was always going to be leadership on a golden platter.
Second, the issue of developing their countries and strengthening democracy and human rights for the shared benefit of their people, paving the way for sustainable and equitable prosperity. We shall now assess Khama and Johnson Sirleaf’s tenures in turn. In making this assessment we rely on the 2017 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), with data for the year 2016. This Index scored African countries in Rule of Law; Accountability; Personal Safety; National Security; Participation; Rights; Gender; Public Management; Business Environment; Infrastructure; Rural Sector; Welfare; Education and Health.
First, Khama, who assumed the presidency on 1st April 2008 and will retire on 31st March 2018. With respect to the Rule of Law Botswana scored 92.8%, scooping position 2, but considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had an increasing deterioration of -0.24. As regards Accountability, Botswana scored 66.3%, scooping position 3, but considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had an increasing deterioration of -0.86.
Regarding Personal Safety Botswana scored 67.2%, scooping position 2, and considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had an increasing improvement of +0.56. With respect to National Security Botswana scored 100 %, scooping position 1, experiencing no change with respect to the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016. On Participation Botswana scored 83.3%, scooping position 4, and considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had an increasing improvement of +0.01.
With respect to Rights Botswana scored 52.1%, taking position 20, but considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had an increasing deterioration of -0.57. Regarding Gender Botswana scored 65.2%, taking position 18, but considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had an increasing deterioration of -0.56. On Public Management Botswana scored 60.3%, taking position 7, but considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had an increasing deterioration of -1.27.
As regards Business Environment Botswana scored 68.7%, taking position 4, but considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had an increasing deterioration of -0.08. With respect to Infrastructure Botswana scored 64.3%, taking position 5, but considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had a slowing deterioration of -0.08. On Rural Sector Botswana scored 65%, taking position 7, but considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had warning signs of -0.17.
As regards Welfare Botswana scored 76.8%, taking position 3, and considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had a slowing improvement of +0.83. With respect to Education Botswana scored 72.5%, taking position 3, but considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had warning signs of +0.19. On Health Botswana scored 84.6%, taking position 6, but considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had warning signs of +0.42.
Second, Johnson Sirleaf, who assumed the presidency on 16th January 2006 and retired on 22nd January 2018. With respect to the Rule of Law Liberia scored 62.1%, getting position 15, and considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had a slowing improvement of +1.84. As regards Accountability, Liberia scored 43.1%, attaining position 19, and considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had a slowing improvement of +1.52.
Regarding Personal Safety Liberia scored 51.4%, attaining position 24, and considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had an increasing deterioration of -0.42. With respect to National Security Liberia scored 88.9%, getting position 18, and considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had a slowing improvement of +2.40. On Participation Liberia scored 67.5%, attaining position 13, and considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had slowing improvement of +0.32.
With respect to Rights Liberia scored 46.8%, taking position 27, and considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had an increasing improvement of +0.21. Regarding Gender Liberia scored 58.8%, taking position 25, and considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had warning signs of +0.07. On Public Management Liberia scored 39.9%, taking position 38, but considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had an increasing improvement of +0.13.
As regards Business Environment Liberia scored 41.7%, taking position 31, and considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had an increasing improvement of +0.40. With respect to Infrastructure Liberia scored 33.7%, taking position 40, and considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had a slowing improvement of +0.46. On Rural Sector Botswana scored 43.2%, taking position 41, and considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had a slowing improvement of +2.23.
As regards Welfare Liberia scored 39.1%, taking position 43, and considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had warning signs of +0.72. With respect to Education Liberia scored 43.6%, taking position 33, and considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had warning signs of +0.01. On Health Liberia scored 58.2%, taking position 47, and considering the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had a slowing improvement of +0.98.
Overall, Botswana scored 72.7%, ranking 3rd, but on the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she suffered an increasing deterioration of -0.09. On the other hand, overall, Liberia scored 51.4%, ranking 28th, and on the 10 year average of 2007 to 2016 she had a slowing improvement of +0.18.
Botswana has increasing deterioration in 50% of the indicators, and warning signs and slowing deterioration in 25% of the indicators. Liberia on the other hand has slowing improvement in 50% of the indicators, 2 warning signs, 3 increasing improvements and 1 increasing deterioration.
In my view, considering the fact that under Khama’s leadership Botswana has suffered increasing deterioration while under Johnson Sirleaf’s leadership Liberia, despite the challenges it is facing, experienced improvement, albeit slow, Johnson Sirleaf is better placed to win the prize than Khama.
There is a saying in South Africa which avers that, “the White man has no kin: his kin is money”. The saying rings very true considering what Mayer Amschel Rothschild – he of the planet’s wealthiest family – once said, that, “Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws!”
To the white man, the dollar sign looms so large in his optics that it was precisely the reason he appropriated Africa towards the end of the 19th century. The idea was to develop his continent, Europe, at the same rate as he underdeveloped Africa. Yet he was driven as much by economic imperatives as by sheer greed and prejudice.
A “pagan” King violates the Jewish Temple by setting up an idol in the Holy of Holies
Why, General Atiku, has the Judean setting (present-day Israel/Palestine) being the focus of so much geopolitical fervour over the ages when it is so resource-poor and is not even that agriculturally fecund being a virtual desert? Why have all the superpowers of history locked horns over it since days immemorial?
Just a ‘teaser’: we are all complaining of the ‘hot weather’ and ‘heat’ – but think about it, is this a reminder / warning from the Almighty that if we find this weather ‘hot’ can you imagine what the ‘fires of hell’ will be like should we get there?
Let us take this as a reminder and a ‘warning’ that we should change our lifestyles so that we follow in the path of righteousness and that which our Lord has directed. Failing this we will face the ‘fire of hell’ which undoubtedly will be many times worse than what we are facing on this earth.
Because as humans we have been favoured and bestowed with the power of intellect thus we enjoy greatness over other creation, coupled with a greater responsibility. Should that responsibility be misused then only on the Day of Reckoning will he know we will live in joy or in grief forever.
Since the dawn of creation Allah has sent down thousands of messengers, dozens of Divine Books but only ONE universal Message to humanity. That message of Divine Revelation and guidance is clear, unambiguous and eternal:
Allah is One, He is Master and Creator of the universe and of mankind and to Him is due all worship and obedience.
He has sent humanity Divine Revelation and guidance through His Messengers and His Books.
As death is inevitable in this world, equally is our resurrection in the Hereafter where everyone will face the consequences of their belief, unbelief and conduct in this temporal world.
This is the basic message, teaching and belief of every religion and without doubt we will all be called to account for our lives in this world and the manner in which we conducted ourselves, will be rewarded thereafter, the consequences of which may be joy forever for some or grief forever for others.
“It is He [Allah] Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deeds and He is Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving.” (Qur’an: 67: 2)
In Islam the teachings of the Qur’an and the Last and Final Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) give clear guidance to the believer on how to live a life in this world so as to achieve success in the Hereafter.
‘If any do wish for the transitory things of this life, We readily grant them, such things as We will, to such persons as We will…… those who wish for the things of the Hereafter and strive for them with all due striving, and have faith, they are the ones whose striving is acceptable to Allah’ (Qur’an 17: 18-19)
In this world when a person sets out on a journey towards our Maker (Allah), he finds two paths, one leading to God and the other path to different destinations. A sincere and faithful believer will always try to find the right path and to live by the Divine injunctions, laws and code that his religion lays down. This requires us to live in harmony with the will of the Creator, in harmony with our own selves, and with the needs of the rest of creation. Unfortunately we have a tendency at times to toy with Divine Law and to surrender it to the laws of man and in the process to translate and interpret them into what fits in with our lifestyle of today.
If we are to use the intellect and the freedom of choice bestowed to us by God Almighty and follow His guidance, we will then live consciously in a state of “submission’ to Him, thus we will be virtuous. On the other hand when we ignore our Creators injunctions we work against the natural order, we tend to create discord, injustice and evil – and we become one without guidance. Therefore it is the intellect and the freedom of choice given to us that we are fully responsible for whatever we do.
However, it would be foolish for us to think of ourselves as totally independent and self-sufficient. If a person thinks in this manner, we become proud and. We will be inclined to become ungrateful for the bounties that we enjoy – the air that we breathe and the food we eat to sustain us, the eyes and ears we use to perceive the world around us, the tongue and lips we use to express our needs, wants and our inner most feelings and emotions. And being ungrateful, we will be inclined to forget or to reject the truth of the existence of God Almighty.
Unfortunately, people have varying views with regards to what the most important characteristic of a person is: for some it is the colour of his skin; for others, it is his economic situation – whether he is wealthy or poor; others think it is his , social or political standing, whether he is ruler or ruled; for others it is his social standing as an aristocrat, middle or working class; yet for some is his birth place and the language he speaks or the tribe he belongs to, etc..
‘Do men think that they will be left alone on saying “We believe”, and they will not be tested? We tested those before them, and Allah will certainly those who are true and those who are false’. (Quran 29: 2-3)
In Islam, these have no significance rather they are merely taken as signs of the creative power of God to enable people to recognise one another. The Almighty declares “O Mankind! Indeed we have created you as male and female, and have placed you in nations and tribes that you may have mutual recognition. However, the most honourable of you, in the sight of Allah is the one who is most God-conscious” (Qur’an: 49: 13)
Hence, the most important characteristic of a person is whether he is conscious of his Creator, believes in Him and through that consciousness submits to Him at all times and in all circumstances.
According to the Islamic view man is created by Allah in a pure state, free from sin. He also created us with the capacity or power to do both good and evil. He gave us the freedom to choose between doing good or evil. The good and evil therefore is connected with mankind’s freedom of choice and responsibility for their actions. “Good” may be whatever is pleasing to Allah and therefore beneficial to us. Whereas “Bad/evil” may be whatever incurs the anger of God and is therefore harmful to man.
‘By the soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right – truly he that succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it….. (Quran 91: 7-10)
Therefore one of mankind’s main tasks is to keep away from and ward off evil. This is why Taqwa, piety and God consciousness is repeatedly mentioned in the Qur’an as the most important quality a person should develop in this regard. This means one must be conscious at all times not to over step the limits set by God. It works as a defence against evil and temptation by keeping a person within the boundaries of piety.