A five year time line has just passed since Ernest Bai Koroma was last sworn in and inaugurated as President of the Republic of Sierra Leone and the APC as a party returned to power by a popular vote. The marking of such an anniversary is significant. The passing of time accords for reflection on the mandate given to Ernest Bai Koroma and the APC for the stewardship of this nation state, Sierra Leone. There is no question that we have a lot to thank God for in these past five years and that we also have with us a formidable, dynamic and visionary leader of the All People’s Congress Party and head of Government in the person of Dr Ernest Bai Koroma.
it is with great gratification and sublime significance to note that no report deemed it fit to describe these past years of Ernest Bai Koroma’s stewardship as tempestuous or tumultuous. These has been some of the most secure, non-violent and democratic period experienced by citizens of this Country and as a Country moving away from conflict to democracy, the challenges of keeping the peace and maintaining such order and respect for institutions cannot be understated. In the least, the years encompassing the first term of his Presidency have been seen as engaging, meaningful and development orientated. The Country has enjoyed the many achievements of Ernest Koroma’s Government in such measure that it is safe to say that the Country experienced the most rapid period of social and economic growth in its entire history.
It is significant also to note that in the marking of start of his first term, President Ernest Bai Koroma delivered a speech that ran through the changes that his Government hoped to secure especially in the lives of the ordinary man and woman in Sierra Leone. He attributed his win as a win for the Country, his tenure as a positive impact on the lives of every Sierra Leonean and his vision as a portal of hope for the future of every citizen of this Country. He was hopeful that his Government will bring meaning to the lives of the least man or woman out in the streets. In the event, the country experienced much progress during his first term such that it is easy to identify with those changes and recognize that for once, this has been a Government that had brought meaningful change to the Country and its people. From the many road projects in every region of the Country, the establishment of Agricultural Business Centers making a difference to the way rural people organize their agricultural produce including reducing the hunger period in the agricultural life cycle from a period of around three months to just under six weeks; changes in job opportunities, education, skill training and career development options for young people are also significant, given the priority and importance President Koroma put on the advancement of young people.
The mandates of development rest squarely on a positive vision firstly accepting the need for change and secondly providing tangible initiatives to generate such change. President Ernest Bai Koroma has always been adamant that his priority for Government would place high priority on getting a viable and sustainable infrastructure in place that will be robust enough to sustain the change and development objectives that he would set. His first priority was to take this Country out of the dark ages from the bootstraps and drag it into the present. Energy was a major setback to attracting investment in some of the vital industries in this Country. It is inconceivable to build a growing economy on an environment plagued with persistent blackouts, power outages and fuel shortages. Solving the issues plaguing the energy sector has therefore yielded significant gains for this economy, opening up the mining sector once again to previous highs, attracting new investments in rolling stock, machinery and mining equipment, boosting production of mineral resources and expanding into hitherto expensive mining processes such as kimberlitic extraction. The attendant gains on all of these can be counted by the expansion of job opportunities, increased revenues in royalties and taxation.
On assuming power in 2007, President Koroma inherited a fractured economy with a few haphazard projects in disjointed states of development. His vision and determination to accelerate development speeded up some of those projects that were meaningful to the country’s economic aspirations. In the event, where necessary, President Koroma’s Government moved swiftly on to engage the prioritization of initiatives to convert the good intentions of proposals to be borne out by actions on the field. The measure of this Government’s success has been ascribed in part to its avowed determination to get things done now, not on its dexterity in deferring projects to a life cycle that will outlive its own existence. There were very difficult decisions to be made, priorities to be set and an overall capacity to engage on the problems and issues that are of bread and butter concerns of the people of this Country. The success of President Ernest Bai Koroma was therefore hinged on his making those decisions that were of primal benefit to the entire Country. His prioritizing of energy has borne fruits for the Country as a whole and not just for Freetown. Investments attracted to the economy has benefitted places as far apart as Port Loko, Makeni and Tonkolili in the North, Moyamba in the South, Kenema, Kailahun and Kono in the East whilst most of these institutions pass through and operate residual facilities in the Western Area thus adding value to the economy of the Capital city. Inward investments have not been assigned on the basis of Sierra Leone’s development priorities and resource availability as a singular entity with benefits going through to local communities. In the main, new roads, schools and bridges including rail systems have been built across the Country with a plan to encourage such further infrastructure into the future so that the economy can be long term sustainable.
A conclusive analysis on the last five years is already available within the report on the Government’s flagship “Agenda for Change.” The comprehensive account of activities and initiatives including third party donor supported projects are contained in the second joint report published by the Ministry of Finance. A robust economy is maintained by sound public finance, responsive fiscal management and responsible public expenditure profiles. It is significant that this Government has, after a very long time, embarked on projects funded entirely by locally generated funds secured through taxation and other receipts. The Country is fast moving away from being a donor dependent economy to that of self-sufficiency. It would only be from such a threshold that a Country can move on to prosperity based on its own internally generated resources and revenues. That is the mark of responsible leadership to which the President now turns and it is that prospect of prosperity upon which his legacy will be secured. The first term has undoubtedly been marked by years of growth and progress underpinned by sound political leadership and responsible accountability and transparency in public finance.
It is no doubt that some challenges remain. The challenges in respect of attitudes and the enabling environment for nation building remain to be major obstacles. The acceptance of these aspects of our social and political development has been recognized by the establishment of the Attitudinal and Behavioral Change Secretariat which remain the singular most apt vision of President Ernest Bai Koroma. There can be no change unless the environment and its actors are prepared for that shift, suppressing retractable behaviors and engendering positive attitudes. The Agenda for Change has been a success, encapsulating the narrative of a development focused Government and the vision for leadership by a dynamic and charismatic leader. The challenge now is to transform this agenda for change to one of prosperity. For that, the key word is continuity. The mandate to President Ernest Koroma in that resounding victory for a second term speaks for itself. The APC Party machinery must also be a willing counterpart to the successes of this Government hence the President’s assertion that his successes have been that of the ordinary man and woman. The rallying cry was Four for Four. This 2013 inauguration of Dr Ernest Bai Koroma as President of the Republic of Sierra Leone for a second term proves that Four for Four was the best choice anyone could have made because four FOR four is for development!