By KABS KANU :
I read a lot. I am an avid reader. I am always reading . I spend most of my leisure time reading.
From my schooldays to now, nothing gives me more pleasure, first of all , than loving and serving God –The God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, the God of Shadrach, Mescheck and Abednego , who has been merciful , gracious and good to me throughout life.When I look at where God took me from to where I am today, though there is much more he can do for me, I have little to complain about.
I have other pleasures in life but not many of them surpass my passion for reading. I love books (Satire, Drama, Action and Adventure, Romance, Mystery. autobiographies , biographies and what-have-you ).
PRESIDENT ERNEST KOROMA : DOES NOT HAVE THE TRAITS THAT MAKE MANY AFRICAN LEADERS LOATHSOME
I have a whole garage and basement full of books and could well set up and own a whole public library or a whole academic department of Journalism and Mass Communications . Not to mention newspapers and sociopolitical magazines . If you are looking for an old “19-jubilee ” newspaper from Sierra Leone, come to my basement, which is a research center in its only right ( Only make sure you are ready to creep through my expansive crawl space where they are stored ). People called me a newspaper junker from my schooldays in Freetown and Bo. By the way, I do not lend out books because most often people do not return them and some of these books are vintage –They have even gone out of production.
Today, the books I enjoy buying from Amazon are political books by angry Africans as well as American and european authors and the biographies and autobiographies of African leaders. I want to have a deep understanding about what made African leaders tick, and what made them stink. One of my favorite authors on African issues is Professor George B.N. Ayittey . He does not only deal with contemporary African History; he has a very racy, journalistic, interesting and thrilling style of writing and his anger for African leaders is undisguised in his tone. I have gained tremendous knowledge from Professor Ayittey .
But today’s article is not on Professor Ayittey. What I want to highlight here today is what impressions these books give me about my president. I have found out that the more I read the many history books and biographies of African leaders , written by sundry authors, the more I gain profound respect for my President , His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, the reason being that I do not see President Koroma in many of the things that the authors are angry about African leaders.
SOME OF MY POLITICAL BOOKS : WHENEVER I RREAD THEM, I SEE HOW DIFFERENT AND UNIQUE OUR PRESIDENT IS IN SIERRA LEONE
One of the things that authors deride African leaders for is that they have skeletons in their cupboards.PRAISE THE LORD. While this is true of many African leaders, it is not sso in present-day Sierra Leone.
We Sierra Leoneans today are blessed that, unlike previous eras, we do not have a President with skeletons in the cupboard. He has made mistakes like all human beings and he is not happy with these mistakes . He is very honest with them, but one thing that should be reassuring to Sierra Leoneans is that they have a President who has no skeletons in the cupboard —-That is, damning secrets OR mistakes relating to governance that he would not want anybody to know or be reminded about.
While, I repeat, he too has made mistakes as nobody is free of mistakes, it is delightful and a thing of pride that he has not done nationally hurtful , nation-cripppling , barbarous , ruthless , wicked and reprehensible deeds that rile the writers of books on African leadership and governance.
NO BLOOD ON HIS HANDS
President Koroma has no blood on his hands. He is the only President who has ruled Sierra Leone without shedding blood. Whereas his predecessor, the late President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah shed a lot of blood during his restoration to power in 1997, after the AFRC Coup, and he even went on to have over 20 citizens, including a woman, executed , President Koroma has been as harmless as a fly. He has not killed anybody like the SLPP or the governments before it.
NO POLITICAL PRISONERS
For all the noise being made by opposition SLPP supporters over the arrest of Theresa Mbomaya for forwarding dangerous , seditious and inciting posts on social media, their SLPP cannot compare itself in anyway to President Koroma and the ruling APC for strict observance of the rule of law and the fundamental human rights of citizens. The SLPP should be ashamed of the noise they are making about the Mbomaya issue because whereas Mbomaya is receiving her rights to a fair judicial hearing. many people who did acts equated with her actions during previous governments were unlucky not to have been given any ffair trial. Some did not even live to tell the story. . Were any of the journalists and citizens arrested without due process by the SLPP , like journalist Conrad Roy( who died in prison ) given any hearing ? Didn’t Kabbah almost kill the famous FOR THE PEOPLE Publisher , Paul Koroma, in jail ? When Paul came out of prison, he was virtually a skeleton . The SLPP is the only government in Sierra Leone which did not only execute a woman by firing squad but sentenced men of God and journalists to death for being prisoners of conscience . The SLPP is the only government under which motor tires were placed around the necks of opponents and set on fire, burning the victims to death . The SLPP burnt many Sierra Leoneans to death in 1997 accusing them of being “collaborators ” with the AFRC military junta . What a shameful and horrendous human rights record ! ! ! This is one big characteristic of President Koroma people should have been hailing if they were honest .
NO VIOLENT MANNER OF RECEIVING AND HOLDING ON TO POWER
Authors of books on African politics take serious umbrage with African leaders for violently coming to power and using the same violence to stay in power. PRESIDENT ERNEST KOROMA IS ONE OF THE VERY FEW AFRICAN LEADERS WHO CAME TO POWER BY FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS AND HAS RULED CONSTITUTIONALLY AND PEACEFULLY WITHOUT USING ANY VIOLENCE WHATSOEVER TO REMAIN IN POWER. The International Community is still applauding the 2007 and 2012 Presidential Elections through which President Koroma came to power and under the rule of President Koroma the UN declared Sierra Leone the model in the world for post-conflict peaceful and constitutional governance, reconciliation , stability , rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights. Even when the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon visited Sierra Leone , he was full of praise for President Koroma ‘s leadership style and the peace and stability in the nation.
NO CLAMPDOWN ON FREE SPEECH AND MEDIA ACTIVISM
Professor Ayittey and other authors of books on African politics denounce African leaders unequivocally for clamping down on the media and free speech in their countries. Thankfully, President Koroma is uniquely different from these leaders. Sierra Leone today enjoys one of the best atmospheres for free and unfettered media activism, with over 50 newspapers, most of them opposition , and writing all manners of anti-government articles. Never has there been any clampdown on the media, illegal searches and seizures or imprisonment of journalists for expressing their views. The media are free to write what they want and nobody bothers the pressmen and women. However, that was not the case during SLPP rule. During the reign of President Kabbah, who was a temperamental and vindictive man, media professional suffered a harrowing experience and some of them were detained without due process and died in prison while others fled the country for their lives. On the contrary, President Koroma is so friendly with the media that he even rescues financially those bitterly maligning him.
NO STAGNANT INFRASTRUCTURE
In most of the political books, authors damn African leaders for non-existent infrastructural development and for dilapidated and decaying infrastructure . Not so in President Koroma’s Sierra Leone. Since President Koroma came to power in 2007, Sierra Leone has been a virtual works yard, with infrastructural construction and reconstruction going on everywhere in the country, with the result that we now have one of the best road network system in the subregion and the infrastructural developments embarked upon by President Koroma have transformed Sierra Leone from a stone age country to a modern nation.
NO NEGLECT OF AGRICULTURE
African leaders are also attacked in books for neglecting agriculture. According to the authors, African leaders have no agenda for development of the agricultural sector. “But perhaps the most important element has been the government’s enhanced support for agriculture. In 2008 President Ernest Bai Koroma, who had just been elected the year before, declared that agriculture would be his administration’s second-highest development priority (after energy). The government put money behind that talk by increasing agriculture’s share of the 2009 budget to 7.7 per cent, a dramatic leap from just 1.6 per cent the previous year. The 2010 budget pushed up the share further, to 10 per cent. With that step, Sierra Leone became just one of a dozen African countries to reach the target for agricultural spending recommended by African governments at a 2003 summit meeting in Maputo, Mozambique.” ( “Investing in Africa’s Farms –and its future “, AFRICA RENEWAL MAGAZINE , April 2011 ) .
In a concerted attempt to boost food security in Sierra Leone , the government of President Ernest Koroma established Agricultural Business Centres ( ABCs) . About the, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Dr. Monty Jones said : “Let me say that the ABC concept is a very good one. The purpose for which they were developed is to enhance agricultural production and to promote food security. They are there to render services to the people to increase production and productivity. They were built under the Small Holder Commercialization Project. In 2009, we had 193, and by 2015 we had 394 of these units across the country. These units are owned by the agriculture ministry (MAFFS) and the communities where they are located.”
I can go on and on and on.
I am proud when I read books on Africa’s leaders that in Sierra Leone we have one President today who is different from the archetypal African leader : He may not be perfect and free of mistakes, but at the best he is performing the job for which he was elected and he can be regarded as one of the brighter lights in a continent bedevilled by non-performing leaders.