Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: What is her legacy?

Africa's first female president is stepping down
Africa's first female president is stepping down

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Chude Jideonwo is a Yale World Fellow 2017 and is CEO of Joy, Inc., a teaching and media company helping young Africans build resilience. He's the author of 'Are we the Turning Point Generation?' and his latest book is 'How to Win Elections in Africa'
The views expressed in this commentary are solely his.

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)This is a significant year for people who believe in the limitless power of transcendent leadership to change the world.

It is the 70th anniversary of the death of India's Ghandi, 50th of America's Martin Luther-King Jr.
And, most significantly for those of us in and from Africa, the 100th birthday of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
    And it's also a year to remember that in the past 50 years at least, Africa has only had one Mandela, and is in no immediate risk of having another.
    Paul Kagame should be an unarguable hero -- he lifted Rwanda from the depths of hell, and performed a near miracle of peace, prosperity and democracy.
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    Kagame however has a heavy-handed approach bordering on dictatorship, and he appears, so far, unwilling to follow Mandela's example; relinquishing power with grace and dignity.
    Into this void, comes the rare, bright light of Africa's first female president -- Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
    Sirleaf undoubtedly has considerable foibles; Liberia is still defined by poverty as she leaves office after two terms.
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    She is mired in controversy over nepotism that has seen 20 of her family members appointed to her government, including three sons.
    And then there's the matter of her homophobia, disappointing for a woman whose very candidacy speaks of the progress of minorities across Africa.
    But still, there is enough that is rare and exceptional about Johnson-Sirleaf that Africa must celebrate.
    There is the competence, in spite of an excruciating lack of resources, with which she handled her nation's Ebola crisis.
    She erased almost $5 billion of her nation's foreign debt, and supervised the swelling of the national budget from $80m to $516m at some point.
    Most importantly, and this is no small feat, keeping the peace -- without tampering with human rights or criminalizing dissent - in a nation that faced 14 years of one of the worst civil wars in Africa's modern history.
    And then she supervised not just a joyful, boisterous democracy, but also a free and fair election with dignity and with restraint, refusing to tip the scales for her own political party (which expelled her for this 'disloyalty'), modeling for the raucous rivals who wished to succeed her, the kind of behavior that presidential leadership requires.
    She leaves with her head rightfully held high. Not just as one who served her country with steady hands, but also as one who provides an oasis of sanity in a desert of self-seeking, power-mongering African leaders.
    Africa needs to celebrate those amongst us who understand what leadership really means. Africa needs to celebrate Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
    Other leaders, and our youth, are paying close attention.