By John Baimba Sesay :
Much has been postulated about an issue that appears to be coming from Sierra Leoneans regarding President Ernest Bai Koroma. This has to do with whether he is going for another term after the end of his con constitutional 2 terms as President. The trend I have noticed is that the opposition appears to be worried, shattered and literally broken down over this issue.
First things first, the 1991 Multiparty Constitution, enacted by the then APC Government of Joseph Saidu Momoh (RIP) is very much clear in terms of Presidential term limit. President Ernest Bai Koroma is running his mandatory and final second term. The Government and President are very much clear on this issue. Ever since he assumed the mantle of leadership, the President has never indicated his desire to go beyond his mandatory term limit. He is a democrat, one that believes in the principles of modern day democracy. A news release has been issued to the effect by the Office of the President, making it clear that the President, being the true democrat he is, is not interested in going beyond his constitutional mandate.
The major focus of the Government and President and by extent the APC party for now is how to deliver on the components of the Agenda for Prosperity-the blueprint for Sierra Leone’s development. Except if this is one of several tactics being used by the opposition to divert and distract the attention of the Government, thus wanting to seek public attention, then one would suggest they should get on their toes and try to be part of the country’s development process.
Because of his (HE President Koroma) democratic credentials, the country continues to enjoy the practice of multiparty democracy, with free and pluralistic press, with an open government that can today be criticized by its citizens, including those in the opposition and civil society groups. But only a broken and shattered opposition will be crying all day long, on the decision by any citizen to give his/her opinion on an issue, as we saw recently in the case of Hon. Robin Fallay of KAILAHUN DISTRICT. But attempting to look at the issue itself, I am left with the view, that given what the President has done for this country, people have every reason to be worried as to who will continue with his great legacies. (Of course, the governing party has a reservoir of competent and capable people, but this is not the time for that) In all his years in governance the level of development he has succeeded in bringing us could not be compared to any past President.
From infrastructure, to health and in the fight against corruption, much has been achieved in less than a decade by THIS PRESIDENT. A few! The President got his mandate to govern due to his promise to tackle governance challenges, like corruption, addressing the challenges in our health sector, addressing youth unemployment and bridging the geopolitical gap that he inherited. Addressing parliament in 2010, the President spoke of how his “…Government has stepped up the fight against corruption.
With prosecutorial powers granted it by the 2008 Anti Corruption Act, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has ensured the highest rate of prosecution and conviction for corruption related offences in the country’s history. The ACC has also recovered billions of Leones from persons convicted or investigated for corrupt practices…” In fact, prior to this statement in 2010, in August 2008, barely a year in office and rather contrary to his predecessor, the new government launched a new National Anti-Corruption Strategy and enacted one of the toughest anti-corruption legislations in all of Africa. The 2008 Act provides for the “establishment of an independent Anti-Corruption Commission for the prevention, investigation, prosecution and Punishment…” Let us look at the area of social infrastructure. In the Western Area, his Government ensured the construction of a Multi Purpose Community Centre at River No.2, York Ward, a market with a parking lot at Ogoo Farm, Peninsular, 16 market stalls at Krootown road, a stall & Store at Congo Town Market, rehabilitated the Murray Town Market, the Brass St. Lorry Park and constructed a Community Centre, constructing a shopping centre at Sewa Grounds, Freetown.
Only recently, he was in Bo to commission a newly built stadium, just as he did with the Regent-Grafton Road. Not only that, through the decentralization process, President Koroma’s Government ensured the erection of about 50 street lights in 3 wards in Bo City, rehabilitated the Bo City Hall on Coronation Field Road, constructed a funeral home at Samie layout, Koribondo Highway- Bo City, rehabilitated the Presidential Pavilion and roofed the open pavilions at Coronation Field, Bo, among others. In Bonthe, Southern Sierra Leone, there was the construction two Mini Markets on York Island, ensured the reconstruction of former ADO’S quarters into a guest house on Heddle Road, and embanked and constructed the Victoria Road Bridge in Bonthe Town.
The construction and furnishing of the Moyamba Town Mini Stadium has been done in Moyamba, in Pujehun 48 Lockable stores in Ward 307, Kpanga Kabonde chiefdom, was undertaken, in Kailahun, we have seen the construction of a Multipurpose Hall in Bundumbu and Jojoima, Kailahun District, completed the construction of the Kenema City Clock Tower on Hanga Road, constructed a market store with WATSAN facilities, Ngombu section, WARDS 30 and 31, among other social infrastructure. This has also been same in Kono, Kambia and Makeni cities. In terms of revenue mobilization for national development, the country today, under the leadership of President Koroma has not just continued to perform exceptionally well in that area, under the leadership of Haja Kallah-Kamara, but the institution has seen and witnessed realistic transformation with the introduction of the Automated System for Customs Data and the blinding of the GST and Income Tax, under the umbrella of the Domestic Taxes Department. Since Haja Kallah-Kamara took over NRA as Commissioner-General, there has been tremendous improvement in terms of revenue collection with the institution now collecting trillions of Leones for government. Government, through that institution has also succeeded in putting measures in place aimed at addressing the problem of revenue leakage.
There has also been strong collaboration amongst ACC, NRA and the SLP which even led to the ACC exposing the biggest fraud at NRA that saw the eventual jailing of a number of people recently. And this is only under the Koroma presidency. Seen today as an investor friendly nation, the country now has measures aimed at ensuring investors are encouraged. The Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency-SLIEPA, which provides the platform for direct foreign and domestic investment in Sierra Leone, is crucial in this direction. Our international image has today changed. Development partners and traditional donors have continued to express their strong will and continued determination to support Sierra Leone’s development path. The United Kingdom, the People’s Republic of China, amongst others, have all remained committed to supporting Sierra Leone.
Given the about and many unmentioned development, there is every need to be concerned, that as the President is retiring in the coming years, we think of how to sustain such great works by him. So this talk about Third Term should be allowed to pass off, as it has been made clear by the President that he is not interested. He shall be retiring at the end of his tenure. He is a people’s President, an astute one that will be missed by millions of his citizens but still loved by a people wishing to see him continue. But you ask me, I tell you, we have a smart and hardworking President, in the person of President Koroma, but who finds himself in the midst of a broken and fractured opposition that looks out for faulty excuses to blame for their failures and downfall in the coming years when defeated in elections even with ‘baggage-tagged’ candidate. Mark my words. Thank you Mr. President. Happy National Day.