Sierra Leone Telegraph: 08 March 2021:
The 2020 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership has been awarded to Mahamadou Issoufou, President of Niger, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation announced today following a meeting of its independent Prize Committee.
President Mahamadou Issoufou served two five-year terms as President of Niger from 2011 to 2020. He is the sixth recipient of the Ibrahim Prize, which recognises and celebrates excellence in African leadership.
The Ibrahim Prize aims to distinguish exceptional leaders who, during their time in office, have developed their countries, strengthened democracy and protected rule of law for the shared benefit of their people.
In its citation, the Prize Committee praised President Issoufou’s exceptional leadership after inheriting one of the world’s poorest economies, facing seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Throughout his time in office, he has fostered economic growth, shown unwavering commitment to regional stability and to the constitution, and championed African democracy.
Announcing the decision, Festus Mogae, Chair of the Prize Committee and former President of Botswana said: “In the face of the most severe political and economic issues, including violent extremism and increasing desertification, President Mahamadou Issoufou has led his people on a path of progress.
“Today, the number of Nigeriens living below the poverty line has fallen to 40%, from 48% a decade ago. While challenges remain, Issoufou has kept his promises to the Nigerien people and paved the way for a better future. After careful consideration, the Committee finds President Issoufou a worthy winner of the Ibrahim Prize.”
President Issoufou was first democratically elected President in 2011, following many years of military rule in Niger. He was elected for a second term in 2016 and stepped down at the end of this mandate, demonstrating his clear respect for the constitution.
Data from the 2020 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) underline President Issoufou’s achievements.
During his ten years as President, Niger has made progress in multiple areas, including improving in all four sub-categories of Human Development.
At the end of the decade, Niger ranked 28 out of 54 countries in the IIAG. It is among the ten most improved African countries in strengthening socioeconomic opportunities for women.
The last winner of the award was Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia in 2017. See award timeline below:
Thanks Mr Yillah, here was a president, a young man by any standard, that could have decided to change the constitution and run for a third term, the likes of what we saw in Guinea, Ivory Coast, Ugandan, and Cameroon. Their leaders changed their constitution, and got away with it. And in majority of these countries that are trapped in the clutches of dictatorship, this was only made possible by the help of their military, and the so called educated elite in those countries. The role of the military, and so called educated African brothers played in undermining democracy in Africa is lamentable. Together, they have acted like wreaking balls in the suppression of the growth of democracy in our continent.
The decision of former president M. Issaoufou to step down after his two terms in office, was not only commendable, but it point to a leader who had shown wavering support for constitution order. Given his fostering economic growth in his country, and at age of 68 he would have said, I have started something, and I ask you my people to give me the mandate to continue, because in majority of cases that’s the excuse we get from wannabe dictators. After decades in power, they still claim to be the answer to the problems. The reality of course is that they are the problems. Mr. Mahamadou Issaoufou, being principled, he had not only forested economic growth in this land locked country, he has also made history to be the first president to democratically allow a transition to take place through the ballot box, not the barrel of the gun since the country gained its independence from France on the 3rd of August 1960.
Congratulations to Mahamadou Issoufou, for winning this prestigious award. That he was able to steer his landlocked country, with only uranium as one of their main natural resources, with more desert and camels than people competing for space, you really got to take your hat off to this former president. The Mo Ibrahim foundation was set up to encourage African leaders not to engage in corruption or stealing from the state coffers, to guarantee a good retirement, for when they are voted out of office. This Sudanese telecommunications billionaire, set up this organisation in 2006 with the sole aim, to discourage corruption by African heads of state, whilst in office; promote good governance, by respecting human rights, free press and above all else respect the rule of law in their countries. They should work to improve the standard of living for the ordinary citizens of their country, by helping bring different ethnic groups together.
Five million dollars prize money is there for the taking, if you meet those criteria. Of course as a president of that country, you must have beem democratically elected, served out your constitutionally mandated term, and demonstrated exceptional leadership. Put all together, we can see why this award is so difficult to win, given some of the wannabe dictators like Alpha Conde and Museveni, will not be in the list of ideal presidential candidates for this awards.
True, Mr Jalloh, Mahamadou Issoufou’s achievements put to shame the likes of Alpha Conde of Guinea, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Paul Biya of Cameroon (to name but these), whose single-minded and often murderous grip on power is a living testimony of why autocratic rule remains the bane of our continent. So long as these decrepit autocrats remain wedded to the idea of holding the reins power for life, the democratic dispensation we yearn for will remain a pipe dream. Our only hope is that as death must come at some point to every living being, their passing will bring respite to their people and by extension to our continent more generally. In this sense, there is still reason to be optimistic as the exemplary conduct of President Issoufou and previous Ibrahim Prize winners may in the end, be the norm rather than the exception of good and responsible governance in the entirety of our continent.