By Jarrah Kawusu-Konte
President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma
David J. Rothkopf of the online Foreign Policy magazine clinically illuminates the issues surrounding President Obama’s “under appreciated (and) undersold success stories”. Rothkopf, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and CEO of Garten Rothkopf, a global advisory firm specializing in transformational world trends, notes that, the Obama government’s failure to own its successes is perhaps, its greatest weakness. “…the Obama track record on many fronts is much better than the administration gives itself credit for”, emphasized David Rothkopf.
Like his US counterpart, President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma’s government has done far more than it has taken credit for. Interestingly, it’s not the kind of weakness that the opposition might want to take advantage of. In fact, it’s not the kind of flaw that the SLPP might want to even mention, especially as we rapidly approach the November 17th elections. The reason being the multiplier impacts of President Koroma’s unprecedented performance reverberate far more than the ears could hear or the eyes could see. The impact would be felt by generations yet unborn.
While the visible signs of the “Agenda for Change” are clear for all to see in every region, district and chiefdom, and in as much as flagship programmes like Free Health Care (FHC), Smallholder Commercialization Programme (SCP), energy and water resources, road and infrastructural development, creating conducive environment for entrepreneurship, promoting human rights, press freedom, empowering women and promoting good governance generally, there is an urgent need to bring to the fore, areas Rothkopf described as deserving much more attention and appreciation.
I first met President Ernest Bai Koroma in 2002 during the preparations for the Presidential and Parliamentary elections, organized along the proportional representation system, and since then our relationship has grown from strength to strength. One remarkable aspect of his behaviour that can’t leave your mind when you first encounter him is his outstanding and disarming tolerance.
In the past, governments both democratic and unconstitutional had been very high handed with dissenting voices with most journalists either fearful of the consequences of any critical view published against the government or found themselves behind bars for being merely critical of the policies and activities of the government of the day.
All that has now changed as President Ernest Bai Koroma’s government has not used the Public Order Act of 1965 against any journalist since 2007. This law was specifically promulgated by the SLPP under Sir Albert Margai to clamp down on and muzzle opposition against his autocratic rule.
At a recent public gathering in Port Loko, President Koroma stressed the need for party stalwarts, members and supporters to embrace any new convert of the APC and grant him or her all the benefits and protection the party can offer to its members, whether old or new. President Koroma made this appeal to pre-empt any doubts potential SLPP defectors might have, especially those who had seen the light and therefore anxious to join the President’s train to continue the ongoing development and transformation of Sierra Leone.
If there is any reason why new converts continue to swell the ranks of the ruling APC, it’s because of President Koroma’s startling and magnificent tolerance and open-mindedness. His development agenda knows no bounds and even opposition party members have realized that, in spite of all other considerations (tribal, regional or partisan), the development and transformation of the country come first, and President Koroma’s leadership appears to be the right direction to continue this trend.
President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma has actively initiated a process in the commissioning of the Attitudinal and Behavioural Change Secretariat (ABC), although still grappling with challenges, to help instill some sense of patriotism and change of behaviour and attitude among citizens towards each other and more especially towards public property.
The million dollar question glued on the lips of the people as well as Sierra Leone’s development partners is why is the president not celebrating or shouting it from rooftops these landmarks and putting in motion a PR mechanism to disseminate this message of success right across the country?
Moreover, the policy to get government ministers, local councils and now tertiary institutions to sign performance contracts is a step in the right direction. It is only now that most public servants have come to realize that performance contracts are an indispensible factor for making government tick and resonate with the expectations of the people.
“I have made a commitment that I will run the country like a business concern…because business creates jobs and boosts the country’s economy”, His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma said on assumption of office in 2007.
Performance contracts, therefore, are an important part of delivering the president’s pledge to run Sierra Leone “like a business” as well as to address the acute human deficit that has been identified as a significant aspect of Sierra Leone’s development woes.
All government ministers and deputy ministers, seventeen (17) agencies or commissions, sixty nine (69) individuals including Directors and Permanent Secretaries, and six (6) major local councils have signed performance contracts. Plans to get tertiary institutions onboard are in their final stages. Also efforts to get thirteen (13) local councils to sign up are already underway.
All of these developments didn’t come by accident. They were borne out of the genuine, painstaking and meticulous efforts of this government aimed at abandoning our old ways of doing things for a new direction.
At a meeting held at State House and consequently on different campuses of the different universities in the country, the Director of Operations Office of the Chief of Staff at State House, Abdul Rahman Sowa, said performance contracts would help the university and government to identify and recognize the indispensable efforts of good people who had given their best to the university over the years. “It’s not the fault of the university that standards are falling or the infrastructures are deteriorating”, he maintained, while adding that countries like Kenya and Malaysia had achieved a lot by simply moving away from the old ways of doing things to a more efficient and sustainable approach by using the Performance Contracting Management system.
“The key objectives of Performance Contracts are to increase efficiency and productivity, ensure maximum yield to citizens, ensure that performance and results link with stakeholder expectations and create global competiveness for the country”, emphasized the Director of Operations.
When you take all of this into consideration you begin to imagine that Sierra Leone is indeed moving forward in such a way that within the next five to ten years, if we stay the course, the sky would be our limit. But again, this can only happen when we heed advice like David J. Rothkopf’s who said that, if President Obama’s communications team “could simply make their case more effectively, systematically and energetically…(they) can offer a story that’s even better”.
“He’s actually doing remarkably well in the world’s toughest job right now, and he is and has been doing so under truly extraordinarily adverse circumstances. This is one of those circumstances in which the substance is better than the PR — and it’s time for the White House’s political and communications brain trust to get out a clean sheet of paper and begin to make new and better plans for claiming the credit the Obama team deserves”, Rothkopf emphasized.
The advice is well taken in good faith. In fact, we are way ahead in pursuit of disseminating the ongoing massive development and transformation taking place all across the country, irrespective of which political stronghold they are done.
The point being made is President Koroma’s government has done a lot when it comes to turning around the country for the better. Despite the scorns and blows of global forces, he continues to weather the storm and provide a true sense of leadership and urgency to move the country forward. And he doesn’t seem to be getting all the praises he deserved for this wonderful job of developing and transforming Sierra Leone for the good of all citizens, regardless of which area of the country development is taking place