Mutaru Muqthar Honoured in Nigeria as African of the Year 2017
WACCE’s Executive Director, Mutaru Mumuni Muqthar, was on Wednesday night honoured at a special occasion in Abuja, Nigeria, as the 2017 Daily Trust African of the Year. He was selected for the honour by a pan-African selection team led by former President Festus Moghae of Botswana, who late last year succeeded the selection committee’s first chairman, former Tanzanian Prime Minister Salim Ahmad Salim. The award carries with it a cash prize of 25,000 US dollars which was donated by United Bank for Africa, UBA.
Mutaru Mumuni Muqthar with Alhaji Sule Lamido, former Governor of Jigawa State speaking to the media
Since Daily Trust instituted this award ten years ago, it has been won by many heroic Africans such as Congolese surgeon Dr. Dennis Mukwege, the late Nigerian-born pan-African activist Dr. Tajudeen Abdulraheem, former South African President Thabo Mbeki, South African football administrator Danny Jordan, Chief Justice of Niger Republic Salifou Fatimata Bazeye and the Beninois mental health activist Gregoire Ahongbonon. Other winners include Sierra Leone’s chief electoral commissioner Dr. Christiana Thorpe and the Malian musician Selim Keita. Also honoured with a Lifetime Achievement’s award is the eminent Egyptian surgeon Professor Magdi Habib Yacoub. Professor Sir Magdi Habib Yacoub, a renowned Egyptian-British cardiothoracic surgeon and a retired professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Imperial College, London was honoured for a Lifetime Achievement Award for his extraordinary service to humanity. He performed more lung transplants than any other surgeon in the world. He is also the head of Magdi Yacoub heart foundation, which launched the Aswan Heart project in Egypt.
According to the Daily Trust, Mutaru is the youngest African to have ever won the coveted award. Muqthar is a 35 year-old graduate of Coventry University, United Kingdom. He earned a Masters degree in international terrorism, international crime and global security from Coventry University including understudying anti-mafia prosecutors in Sicily, Italy, and is founder and Executive Director of the West Africa Centre for Counter Extremism based in Ghana. He has been honoured for his work in turning young people in West Africa, including university students, away from terrorism. Muqthar and his centre have so far rescued 20 Ghanaian youths from extremism. Last year he prevented a 21-year-old radicalised Ghanaian boy from leaving his country to join ISIS in Syria.
Born in a small village Kidengi, Salaga in Northern Ghana to a family of peasant farmers, Muqthar holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from Ashesi University, Ghana. He said he was inspired to get involved in the fight against terrorism after his family became victims of the deadly Nanumba/Konkomba conflict that took place in northern Ghana in 1994. It was the worst civil conflict in Ghana since its independence in 1957 and it left at least 1,000 people killed while tens of thousands were displaced.
Muqthar now works across West Africa to deepen understanding of violent extremism and radicalisation while promoting the support available to vulnerable groups. Working with a team of professionals, he engages with the would-be extremists and takes them through a support system, de-radicalises them and helps them reintegrate into society, school and work. He has identified the group most susceptible to the Jihadist message to be “radicalised youths are in their early twenties with high school education,” university students as well as youths that are obsessed with social media or are frustrated over lack of employment opportunities.
His efforts in this regard have already been recognised by other organisations. For example, 2016 he was invited by the US State Department to Washington DC to meet with President Barack Obama as Mandela Washington Fellow of the Young Africa Leadership Initiative (YALI). He is also a member of Global Shapers of the World Economic Forum, member of the Africa Renaissance Movement, honorary fellow of Addio Pizzo, an anti-mafia organization in Sicily, Italy, and a finalist of the UK Alumni Awards 2016 for his impactful contribution to the fight against violent extremism in Africa.
Muqthar in his acceptance speech (L) and Muqthar joined by HE Festus Moghae, Mr. Boss Mustapha and Mr. Dan Okeke in presenting the award