By Ibrahim Sillah —
True, six years in one’s lifespan is indeed a very short period of time; but in politics it is a whole lifetime. Leaders are often judged and assessed by what they achieve for their nations in their prescribed mandate, not by the number of years they may stay in power.
Former and first president of Ghana after independence, His Excellency, President Kwame Nkrumah, is one of the best models of leaders who were able to institute meaningful changes and realize monumental developments in their countries in so short a period of time. As a matter of fact, it should be recalled that President Nkrumah was the first African president who nurtured the vision of the then lofty African dream of having a ‘United States of Africa (USA). History would always remember him as one of the truest, most visionary and most patriotic sons of Africa.
I was in Ghana in the mid 80’s (precisely 1986) before the second take-over by the former dynamic and charismatic Ghanaian President, Jerry. Rawlings. That was a time when Ghana’s economy was in a shambles; and walking on the streets of Accra, one could see how destitute Ghanaians were; the abject poverty they were living in at the time was indeed palpable and deplorable.
However, what impressed me the most during my strolls on the streets of Accra was the marvelous infrastructure I saw, and most which was said to have been put in place by President Nkrumah. And, taking into account the span of his tenure of office before he was deposed, those developmental strides would be deemed, by all standards, as a colossal monumental achievement for any first leader after independence.
Having succinctly narrated about President Nkrumah’s historical and meaningful achievements during his short political lifespan, I strongly believe that there are a number of ways one could make a reasonable comparison between him and our dear President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma. Considering the sort of vision every good leader should be expected to have for his nation and the kind of legacy they would like to leave behind for generations to enjoy, I would have no qualms in making a comparison between the two leaders, as far as positive attitudes, good vision, objective planning and patriotism are concerned as a sine qua non for the progress of any nation.
Objectively talking of President Koroma’s achievements since he occupied the highest office in the land in 2007, every Sierra Leonean, irrespective of political, regional, tribal and sectional affiliations, should be honest enough and stand upright to salute him with every pride for the series of developments he has so far realized for Sierra Leone and Sierra Leoneans. Making a flashback to the years preceding his tenure of office, one can definitely witness the gigantic and palpable changes he has made in our country in a number of sectors.
On the political arena, as far as modern history of Sierra Leone is concerned, the maturity, tolerance and good governance he has manifested are enough cause for him to be seen as a towering figure among his predecessors. Here is a president who is so cool in his comportment, so shrewd in his judgment, so concerned about the general welfare of his nation, and so calculated in his decisions. It is no hidden fact that his political maturity has apparently sent tremors to his political opponents’ nerves and rendered their political agendas asunder. For the first time we have seen an incumbent president helping out his opponents to put their house so as so to maintain their political integrity, because he believes that, to achieve good governance in a democratic country, there has to be a strong political opposition that can objectively define the checks and balances. That, in itself, speaks volumes of his political astuteness.
Speaking of infrastructure, President Koroma has so far done a splendid job. The road network in the country is improving tremendously. The plan is to ensure that most of the intercity roads get fully constructed by the end of President Koroma’s tenure of office in 2017. That done, intercity travel will be immensely smooth; something that would indeed facilitate trade and business in many domains.
Although many would say that the much-talked-about-energy has not been sufficient enough to brighten the whole of Freetown; yet we should be cognizant of the fact that a lot of improvement has taken place in this regard. And we should also recall how ugly the power status was before President Koroma took over six years ago. This is just to name but a few among the many laurels he has accomplished for Sierra Leone.
Internationally, President Ernest Bai Koroma has made the international community respect and appreciate him for his democratic credentials. His ruling style has been most admirable. Suffice it to say that he is one among a few African leaders that the President of the United States of America, President Barrack Obama, holds in high esteem. This did not come out of vacuum; it was obviously the result of his political astuteness and his devotion to good governance.
In his first term, President Koroma focused in his ‘Agenda for Change’ on attitudinal changes; because for a nation that had gone through such bitterness and traumas as a result of the economic decadence and the senseless decade-long rebel war, he must have realistically concluded that the need for Sierra Leoneans to change their attitudes towards one another and towards government was a paramount necessity, if his government was to positively impact on the already dilapidated economic and infrastructural situation. And, I think, to a great extent, he has extensively in achieved that.
To buttress the above, for instance, look at the positive attitudinal change that has permeated the ranks of Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora. Before President Koroma’s tenure of office in 2007, the prevalent mood and thoughts of Sierra Leoneans living abroad towards their country were the least favorable and were marred by despair and derision. At the time, not many of them would even think of going back home with the intent to stay and contribute in any form of nation building. However, due to President Koroma’s inclusive vision and accommodating attitude to all the
factions of his nation, we have seen how Sierra Leoneans have started returning to their homeland in droves. And, what is more, some of these Sierra Leoneans returning from the Diaspora have been appointed in key positions to grant them the opportunity to effectively partake in the building process of the only country they can proudly and naturally belong to-Sierra Leone.
Also, as I write, I am aware of the intention of a number of Sierra Leone nationals in the Middle East who, in one way or another, have begun nurturing the desire to finally pack up and go home. Undoubtedly, this change of attitude can, by and large, only be attributed to the broad vision President Koroma has adopted and put in place since his tenure of office.
Another significant faction of the nation that is immensely enjoying and duly attracting a larger portion of President Koroma’s attention right now is the youth. In his second term, Ernest Koroma has, in earnest, embarked upon improving the oft-long neglected status of the youth. He is determined to ensure that the youth’s various concerns are properly and appropriately addressed. It is President Koroma’s perception that youth are the future leaders, and, therefore, should be provided with all they need to get them groomed adequately for their future national roles. No doubt, what President is doing for the youth is what any leader with foresight should do for his nation. Failure to cater for youth welfare, who are indisputably the backbone of any society, would spell gloom and doom for any country.
However, it is hoped that the ministry and officials concerned with youth affairs should make sure that meeting the various needs of Sierra Leone youth is deemed as a top priority. The youth of Sierra Leone are in dire need of everything that takes to prepare a national for a brighter future such as: healthy nutrition, free health care, proper education and the latest state of art in technology and a continued and close follow-up with respects to their comportment and academic achievements. Of course, the follow-up process here has never been and can never be the sole responsibility of government; rather, it should be a shared responsibility. All the forces concerned, particularly the parents and guardians, should effectively perform their given and assigned duties accordingly. That done, society will soon see significant desired changes in youth’s behavior, attitudes, performance and achievements. And that is exactly how President Koroma and parents would envisage the youth of Sierra Leone to prove themselves to be.
However, irrespective of the laurels and accolades that His Excellency, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma has deservedly earned himself so far as a result of his good and peculiar governance, he should not feel complacent or look back at his achievements as a mission already accomplished. Rather, he should be cognizant of the fact there is lot more to be done for Sierra Leone and for Sierra Leoneans. Our country is still just at the threshold of development. Taking into account our abundant God-given natural resources, Sierra Leone should be more developed in every aspect. I have no qualms that the President’s dream is to make Sierra Leone the pearl of the African sub-Saharan region. And indeed, despite the fact that he has only four years remaining on his second term, with shoulders put to the wheel in earnest, he still has the opportunity to transform Sierra Leone into a modern state with comprehensive infrastructure in place. When one looks at how Angola has been transformed into a highly admirable, or even enviable modern state today after coming out of one of the longest civil wars fought in an African country, as Sierra Leoneans, we see no reason why our country cannot be blessed to have a similar fate, because we have all it takes to have a modern state with the latest state of art in infrastructure and in other developmental areas of vital importance.
Nevertheless, for Sierra Leone to be transformed into that modern state that should match our dreams and aspirations, Ernest Koroma needs to have a truly patriotic, responsible, committed and formidable team ready to translate his vision enshrined in his ‘Agenda for Prosperity’ into a reality on the ground so that Sierra Leoneans of all sectors would, in one way or another, truly feel prosperous by the time he hands over the mantle of power four years from now.
To ensure that President Koroma’s dream is translated into a reality, that cancerous disease, coined as ‘CORRUPTION’, MUST be eradicated and uprooted from the echelons of his Government, who are supposed to be his eyes and hands, and who should be totally committed to embody the vision of the President who placed them in those key positions of national responsibility. To achieve this end, the Anti-Corruption Commission should be totally empowered and be provided with all the necessary mechanisms that would enable them to effectively carry out their mission without let or hindrance. There should be no room for impunity in the echelons of power, irrespective of who the culprit might be. Failure to combat corruption from its roots would certainly leave Sierra Leone wallowing in the same vicious circle for many years to come, regardless of how angelic our president might be. It is a known fact that corruption has for so long permeated the nerves and circles of successive government officials in Sierra Leone; a painful fact that has woefully served as an anti-thesis to any form of true progress and development in Sierra Leone.
Thus, President Koroma should be aware ( I guess he already is) that unless he takes the boldest steps to ruthlessly eliminate those corrupt elements from his government; unless he makes sure that the Anti- Corruption Commission is armed with the right and required tools to implement the law against law breakers and abusers of power; and unless he ensures that his appointed officials are truly committed to carrying out their prescribed duties and functions accordingly, his efforts to fully resuscitate the economy of Sierra Leone and put in place the development strides would only yield little dividends. Hence, Ernest Koroma must wake up, sharpen his eyes and ears and extend his sense of smelling so that he would be abreast of all that is going on in the corners and nooks of his government. This in turn would definitely enable him to make informed decisions based upon which he could take the right steps to rectify and remedy malpractices and abnormal situations arising from lack of commitment and abuse of power. That done, President Koroma would absolutely have a smooth, effective and flawless running of his Government, which will culminate in true translation of his ‘Agenda for Prosperity’.
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