By KABS KANU :
The people–the ordinary man in the street, the masses — from whom power emanate–deserve to know what is going on in the governance mechanism of their country. They need to know why the government has taken recent decisions , what other plans are in the pipeline for them and what all these things mean to them, vis-a-vis the socio-economic and political development of the country.
If Sierra Leoneans really want to be honest, they will admit that not until President Ernest Koroma came to power in 2007 did they have that opportunity to enjoy their present closeness with the presidency and leadership of their country.
Before President Koroma, the presidency and the leadership of the country were far removed from the people. The Sierra Leonean people were marginalized and completely excluded from the governance mechanism of their country. They were treated like it was treason for them to demand to know what was going on within the corridors of power. The governments returned to them only during elections time when they needed their votes. In fact, journalists were hounded and even arrested for probing into the inner workings of the government.
Today, thanks to President Koroma, things have changed. Today, even Joe Blow in the remote village knows what is going on in government. Even kids playing football or TEE-TA-TU or AH-DIE or BOTKIDI on the streets know what is going on in government. This is a direct result of the governance style brought to the new Sierra Leone by President Ernest Bai Koroma. For the first time, Sierra Leone has a President who is the most transparent and accountable Head of State in the history of the country.
Through the OPEN GOVERNMENT INITIATIVE ( OGI ), the people of Sierra Leone have been given the right of access to information not only about how the presidency and the ministers operate , but what goes on in our social, legal, political and economic institutions. Even if you don’t like President Koroma, admit this unique dispensation in the history of the country . For once, you have the opportunity to confront your President and his ministers, ambassadors and other public officials in public , during town-hall style meetings, to ask them questions about what they are doing , what they plan to do and what are the implications of recent decisions taken by the government. Your desire and zeal to know are respectfully acknowledged and you are not subject to any suspicions or accusations of mounting an affront to the leadership of your country. This is what we call open, transparent and accountable leadership. This is Government of the People, Government by the People and Government for the People. Socrates, Aristotle and other philosophers who propagated the concept of government by the people and for the people will be making hi-fives in their graves at what is happening in present-day Sierra Leone.
Even on social media , Sierra Leoneans are getting very bold to ask searching, probing and pertinent and at times undesirable questions about the presidency and the government . And yet, the government has not brought any instrument of coersion or intimidation against anyone.
President Koroma, in promoting the Open Government Concept, is demonstrating that he has nothing to hide. The President believes that everything he is doing is beyond reproach, even though as a human being, he is subject to mistakes. The President believes that he has very good intentions and motives and that he is working in the interest of the people . He is not afraid of scrutiny in any shape or form. If only we Sierra Leoneans can seize the opportunity in a responsible and patriotic manner, there would be no need for all the undesirable rumours, mischievous speculations and petulant lies and distortions of reality , especially as the government has even gone one step ahead to bring to reality the FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT.
This week’s Open Government town hall meetings in Brussels and the Netherlands have gone a long way to embellish President Koroma’s credentials as the the Father of Democracy and open, transparent and accountable governance in Sierra Leone.