Former Zambian Head of State, Rupiah Banda, is the leading contender for the prestigious Mo Ibrahim Prize which is awarded to a democratically elected former African Executive Head of State or Government.
Sources have told the Watchdog that Mr. Banda together with former Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade are being considered for the prize which celebrates excellence in African leadership.
What makes Mr. Banda a stronger contender is the able manner in which he held the country together after the death of President Levy Mwanawasa and held democratic presidential by-elections within 90 days stipulated in the constitution without either attempting to change the constitution of give any excuse for not abiding by the constitution.
After being elected, he proved his critics wrong who feared that he would either change the constitution or postpone the elections in order for him to rule for at least five year term office stipulated in the constitution.
He served the three years that had remained from the late Mwanawasa’s term of office and facilitated democratic elections which saw him lose power, mainly because his party, the MMD, had ruled for 20 years and the majority of people simply wanted change.
Mr. Banda lost elections to a populist leader, Michael Sata, who campaigned on the platform of transforming the fortunes of Zambia within 90 days. Mr. Banda withstood the then hostile PF cadres and publicly graciously hand over power to Mr. Sata who has so far shown extreme difficulties to properly govern the country.
Former Senegalese president Wade changed the constitution in order to qualify for another term of office but was defeated by then opposition leader, Macky Sall.
The other leader being considered is former Malian leader, Amadou Toumani Toure whose weakness is that it had to take the military to remove him due to bad governance.
The Ibrahim Prize, which is given to an African leader who left office within the last three years, is the largest annual award prize in the world consisting of US$5million over 10 years and US$200,000 annually for life thereafter.
It is awarded to former African leaders who served their term in office within the limits set by the country’s constitution, has left office in the last three years, and has demonstrated excellence in office.
According to the foundation, the importance of high quality leadership in sub-Saharan African cannot be overstated. There are many challenges and often few resources of state to address them.
It is why the efforts of those leaders who rise above these constraints to develop their countries, lift people out of poverty, and pave the way for future prosperity and success should be recognised and celebrated.
The Banda administration left a strong economic base plus huge financial reserves that led the country rated highly in the economic indicators.
Previous winners include President Mozambican Joaquim Chissano (2007), Former Botswana President Festus Mogae (2008) and former South African President Nelson Mandela (Honorary). In 2009 and 2010, the Ibrahim Prize was not awarded by the Prize Committee as no African leader qualified.