Open Letter to Billionaire Dr. MO Ibrahim in response to Al Jazeer article:
Q&A: Africa leaders not good enough for the $5million governance prize he sponsors
by Simeon Ogonda, and Dr. Esther Ngumbi
“Men can withstand Adversity, but to test a Man’s Character, give him Power”. However, the character and substance of a leader is defined not only by their character but by how much power helps to reveal this character. Michelle Obama, in reference to President Barack Obama’s leadership style argued that “Power doesn’t change people; it only reveals who they are”. Africa today is filled with leaders who have grown to influence the society with their character and substance and enabled the world steroids for sale to see the continent the way they do. Allow me to put things into perspective. The Great Lakes region is led by Presidents who studied at a time when African scholarship was consumed with Pan-African ideals, revolutionary doctrines, and Africanization of the continent and everything its black people stood for. These leaders, whilst still in their youth, proceeded to join Post Independence politics at a time when the Nations-State was a new Phenomenon failing in several former colonies and barely surviving in its ideal forms in others. Soon these leaders were forced either into guerilla warfare or into education in western Nations while the rest were targeted immediately their fathers fell from glory. In DRC, the younger Kabila was a product of Civil War; Kagame was a product of years of ethnic struggle and genocide, Yoweri Museveni a product of revolutionary ideals and mismanagement of democratic institutions, Salvar Kiir a byproduct of succession politics and secession wars, and Uhuru Kenyatta a consequence of western influences and entrenchment of political dynasties. These leaders influence society because of what they have become. In fact, power only revealed their nature, either as rebels, revolutionaries, aristocrats, or extremists. However, of great concern are all sorts of recognition that are directed towards motivating these leaders.
One such program is the Prize given to outstanding African Leaders by Dr. Mo Ibrahim. However, for several years now, Dr. Mo has not been able to find an African leader worthy of this prize. One wonders whether it’s the African leaders who are not interested in this prize or whether Dr. Mo has placed conditions that the current crop of leaders can’t meet. I would contend that African leaders are not interested in this prize. To begin with, looking at most http://worldcharger.net/ of their history, the violence, the economic mismanagement, and the political chaos that characterize their rise, these leaders eat, drink, and sleep in an ethically deprived system in which the origin of their wealth is questionable, and their character less flattering to say the least. Secondly, the measurement scales of the prize far outweigh the capacity of any African leader at this time to meet. What every African is left wondering about is whether it should shock us that our leaders are meeting MO’s requirements, or whether our leaders should be concerned about their character and substance.
Well, we seek to present a different perspective. Dr. Mo Ibrahim perhaps understands his program and ideals better than the leaders he targets. Like His Highness the Agha Khan, Dr. Mo is looking forward to an African continent managed by leaders with moral principles that foster the growth of an upright society. Like President Obama who has a program for training young African leaders, MO is looking forward to encouraging African leaders to rise up and meet the challenges of the continent. However, the fundamental question remains, how is appealing to leaders, with revolutionary or aristocratic character, with a prize of money going to transform a continent’s leadership? Most significantly, how is the continent benefitting from all ‘missed’ opportunities to crown outstanding leadership? These are probably questions that Dr. Mo can answer. In our capacity as young African leaders of a youthful organization, we have one solution to propose. Our solution is hinged on our activities in a young organization called Spring Break Kenya http://springbreakkenya.org/ where we aspire to create young leaders with a passion for community service and Nation building.
“Young people today have more power to change the world for the better than at any time in human history” – President Clinton
Guided by the above motto, Spring Break Kenya (SBK) is the first initiative of its kind aimed at leading an aggressive revolution to redefine the concept of public and community service in Kenya, and the rest of Africa. We encourage the Young people to be the Change they want to see. We also have a long-term goal of building a Center for Leadership, Ethics and Public Service. This center would solely be dedicated to teaching leadership skills and would offer a comprehensive leadership course mostly to elected officials and leaders who are serving the public. We would say therefore that like Dr. Mo, we too aim to achieve a desired transformation. Hence our loud silent thought; “Wouldn’t it be more productive if an institute for training leaders is set up in Africa using this prize money?” Perhaps, this would go along way and would also show that Dr. Mo is actually interested in seeing that Africa is led by the kind of exceptional leaders that his prize seeks to award. Perhaps, if part of the 5 million dollars prize that has gone unclaimed for, could be used to build a leadership training institute, then that would also demonstrate Dr. Mo’s willingness to do his part in helping create and inspire good governance and exceptional leaders in Africa. However, while we leave the productivity of Dr. MO’s prize to him, we still remember to hold this statement dear to our heart, “That we can only change the world by creating that change we want to see”.
About the authors:
Simeon Ogonda, and Dr. Esther Ngumbi
Simeon Ogonda holds a BA in Philosophy and Political Science with IT from Maseno University. He is a co-founder and volunteer Director at Spring Break Kenya, a youth organization in Kenya. He also has formal workshop, seminar, and conference training, and practical experience on Entrepreneurship and Leadership through SIFE (Now Enactus), Junior Achievement, and BOOST. He is a public speaker and an active contributor in current affairs and an opinion leader in business development trends in the Western tourism circuit through the Kisumu Hotel Managers Group official Blog. He is a change crusader who believes in the positive power of business. He maintains a blog with contributions on youth affairs and political trends in Kenya at: http://www.wordpress.ogondasimeon.com/
Dr. Esther Ngumbi is a research Fellow at The Entomology and Plant Pathology Department, Auburn University. She serves as a Commitment Mentor for Clinton Global University Initiative, and is the Board Chair for Spring Break Kenya. She also serves as a Board of Advisor for several organizations and initiatives including, Youth ARISE, P.A.K.E.M.A. Inc, and Just Save One. http://oneworldaction.wordpress.com/100-unseen-powerful-women/public-service/esther-ngumbi/