By Sorie Fofana…………………………..
The late announcement of the specific date for the 2018 Presidential and Legislative elections had created a lot of apprehension, both at home and abroad.
The NEC (National Electoral Commission) Chairman, Mohamed N‘fah-Alie Conteh had come under severe criticisms for failing to announce the exact date on which the elections will be conducted.
Some civil society groups had even written letters to the NEC Chairman requesting to know why the specific date for the conduct of the elections had not been announced.
It was in the midst of such anxiety that two important letters (one of them marked Confidential) got leaked to the independent press. Both letters were addressed to His Excellency the President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma.
Both letters had two different dates suggested by the NEC Chairman for the conduct of the Presidential and Legislative elections. The leak of those letters turned out to be quite embarrassing for State House. The blame for the delay in announcing the specific date for the conduct of the elections shifted from the NEC Chairman to the President.
State House was quick to react when the President clarified that, all the elections will be conducted as specified by the 1991 Constitution. Meaning therefore, that, the President will not be extending his tenure of office beyond the mandatory five year period.
A Man Of His Word
When the Ebola Virus Disease broke out in Sierra Leone in May 2014, it took the government and development partners almost one year to defeat the virus. The country’s fastest growing economy was seriously affected by the outbreak.
Many APC supporters including hangers-on like Robin Fallay called on the President to continue in office after 2018 because the Ebola outbreak had stalled the implementation of his Agenda for Prosperity.
The President kept a loud silence by refusing to endorse the call for him to continue in office after his final term comes to an end in February 2018.
The President has always insisted that, he is a man of his word. This is what he has proved, by going against the advice of some of his die-hard supporters in the APC party by announcing the specific date for the conduct of the 2018 elections.
Whether you are a supporter of Ernest Bai Koroma or not, one thing is very clear, the man will be remembered for many good things.
Since he came to office in 2007, no senior opposition Politician has been imprisoned. No Journalist has been imprisoned. No civil society activist has been imprisoned. This shows that, the man is not a vindictive Politician!
In an interview with this writer in Kabala in February 2013, President Koroma made it very clear that, he will not jail any Journalist for criticizing him or his government. What he said he will not allow is, when someone attempts to insult him or his family for no justifiable reason. To him, that is the red line!
President Of Roads
One of Koroma’s greatest legacies is the construction of roads across the country. This writer was left stupefied when he drove on the newly constructed Kenema-Segbwema road sometime in 2013 (or there about) to attend the burial ceremony of the mother of senior opposition Politician, Mr. John Benjamin in Segbwema. It was quite an amazing experience!
Almost three weeks ago, this writer travelled to his birth place of Koidu City in the Kono district. He was left open- mouthed after he spent less than two hours to arrive in Koidu City from Makeni. It was quite an impressive spectacle! Ten years ago, that stretch of road was in a terrible state of disrepair.
Thank you, Mr. President!
President Koroma still has a little more than one year left in office. In the area of national reconciliation, much should have been done by the President.
The country remains polarized on tribal and regional lines. The South/East and North/West political divide is palpable.
There are few South/Easterners in the Ernest Bai Koroma led administration than there were North/Westerners in the Kabbah administration. Kabbah never refused to give jobs to people based on their tribal or regional affiliations.
When he informed some of his party supporters that he wanted to appoint Brima Acha Kamara as Inspector General of Police, they opposed the idea saying that Acha Kamara is a Limba and possibly a strong supporter of the APC. Kabbah asked, “Is he not a Sierra Leonean?”
Under this regime, a lot of South/Easterners lost jobs which they had occupied long before the APC came to power in 2007. Some of them had even received government sponsorship to undergo overseas training in their areas of speciality.
The Presidential elections in 2018 will be a watershed moment in the history of Sierra Leone’s democracy. The Sierra Leone Government is expected to organize free, fair and credible elections in March 2018.
In his address to the nation on Tuesday night, President Koroma said, “My government is determined to ensure peaceful and orderly elections; and anyone caught disturbing the peace or violating the laws in the name of campaigning or other political activities will meet the full force of the law”.
As of mid night last night, there were twenty one candidates aspiring for the flag bearership of the ruling APC party. In the SLPP, there are eleven candidates running for the flag bearership position. President Koroma will be very much keen to know who will carry the SLPP flag in 2018.
After the SLPP flagbearer elections in April this year, the President will then know how to deal with the opposition Presidential candidate.
This writer will advise the President to deal gently with the two leading Presidential candidates in the March 7, 2018 Presidential elections (both the APC and SLPP Presidential candidates). Kabbah was very smart not to have antagonized the APC candidate in the 2007 Presidential elections. He provided a level playing field for both the APC and SLPP Presidential candidates in 2007. He was very neutral in the entire electoral period.
Therefore, when Koroma was declared President in 2007, Kabbah enjoyed a dignified and peaceful retirement in this country.
Koroma treated him like an elderly statesman and gave him a befitting state funeral when he passed away in March 2014.
Many people will miss President Koroma for his hands-on approach to governance and his transformational leadership style.
The March 7, 2018 Presidential elections will mark the end of a glorious Presidential era. Will President Koroma remain neutral throughout the elections period?