By George S. Khoryama.
The nation waited in anxiety and with a bated breath for the Thursday February 15, 2018 Presidential debate to determine the chaff from the wheat among six out of the sixteen flag bearers that are brisk-jockeying to become President of the Republic of Sierra Leone.
In the glare of both national and international audience their charge was to explain their knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and vision for the development of Sierra Leone. The shots that determined the debate and course of history to jog the six flag bearers’ fitness and mettle for the job were in the areas of the economy, health, education, tourism, infrastructure, corruption, security, housing, water, energy, sportsand the toll road among others.
Featuring were Brigadier Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella of the National Grand Coalition (NGC) party, Alhaji Chief Samuel Sumana of Coalition for Change (C4C) party, Dr. Samura Matthew Wilson Kamara of the All People’s Congress (APC) party, Alhaji Musa Tarawally of the Citizens’ Democratic Party (CDC) and Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray of the Alliance Democratic Party (ADP). The Chairman of the occasion was Hassan Harouni of BBC fame.
I place the contestants in two Classes: A and B. Those in Class A – Julius Maada Bio, Dr. Kandeh Yumkella and Alhaji Chief Sam Sumana were the giants of the debate.
Maada Bio confounded his critics that night with his clarity of thoughts and expression on his vision on the economy, education, sports, violence and in almost all other areas under the debate.If his earlier BBC interview had caused any misgiving, that night was a night of his being on top of his ideas and perceptions. He debunked the idle accusation of him by APC Samura Kamara over an $18,000 fund claim by simply reminding that he (Samura) was his Financial Secretary who must be man enough to come straight on the money.
His service to the nation as soldier and as former Head of State was convincingly articulated. He recalled how he fell victim of violence under the APC party government in Bo where he was wounded in the head. His composure, elegance and straight-from-the-top-to–the-bottom approach on the control of reckless spending in government, energy and corruption, tribalism, official travelling, housing, water, etc. was revealing. Bio’s closing remark was the icing on the cake.
Then entered the former UN diplomat – the brilliant and talkative Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkellah. Dr. Yumkella’s thoughts and vision of where Sierra Leone must lead to for development inevitably resulted in his effective articulation of the very ideas that he has.The man enticed the audience withhis sound education and exposure except that most of his kind donot usually make good leaders. He thinks fast on his feet, precise in his articulations on the economy, education, youth, health, water, housing and extraordinaryon energy.He made use to his advantage of every second allotted to him with amazing clarity on causes, effect and solutions to national issues.
According to him the APC party government is a “Ranka” government that is corrupt, that inflates cost of building roads, sanctions lawlessness, violence, indiscipline and constitutional manipulation. He will minimize inflation, introduce digital economics, build more dams and install solar light across the country; he will stop the excessive waivers.
CHIEF SAM SUMANA
Alhaji Chief Sam Sumana could not impress more on his maturity, composure and mannerism. If anyone had been hurt by the APC government, no others’ can match the indignity, humiliation, unkindness and ingratitude suffered by this man when he was unconstitutionally hounded out of office as Vice President by President Ernest Bai Koroma. While one may have thought he was going to approach the debate with venom, he proved to be conciliatory and forward-looking. As a victim of political machination and criminality his vision is for change of the system that has caused so much suffering and hate among the people. He frowns on injustices, corruption, tribalism and regionalism that today holds sway in governance.His composure, urbane-looking and grasp of development potentials of Sierra Leone were succinctly articulated in his answers to the questions.
Class B Contestants by popular consensus were Alhaji Musa Tarawally of the Citizens Democratic Party (CDC), Dr. Samura Matthew Wilson Kamara of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) party and Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray of the Alliance Democratic Party (ADP).
Alhaji Musa Tarawally may have had ideas about the questions posed to him but was unable to organise them because they choked him in the throat. Encumbered probably with stage fright in the beginning, he could not even exhaust the first one and half minutes allotted to him to answer the first set of questions on his vision for Sierra Leone when he went out of ideas; he had to be reminded by Chairman Hassan Harouni. Having gained some composure subsequently he dabbled into the questions about the economy, how to improve the poor water system, housing and energy in the country.As president he will provide the enabling environment for investors, invest in the people, energy, take on massive revenue generation program, eradicate fraud and audit existing mining companies. Musa Tarawally was the only contestant among others that invoked the name and fear of God to exalt a nation.
Like all others in the debate partnership with the private sector will be a priority. He must have heaved a deep sigh of relief at the end of the debate as he was evidently under pressure.
The ruling APC party flag bearer in the debate, Dr. Samura Kamara turned out to be a star in his own right. He jumped into the fray by claiming that he is better experienced than others like Bio, Sam Sumana and Yumkellah only to prove that he falls far short of what the nation was expecting of him.
While his colleagues were advancing visions for national development, Samura took pride in what the APC party government claims as successes during their ten years term of office – roads, electricity and health. On what may be his own vision he said he will improve on what the Koroma government has already achieved. Asked who to blame for the poor state of the country, Samura in his modesty admitted that APC party government under President Koroma is responsible.
Samura’s posture on stage, his poor ability to answer the questions and his lack of self-confidence remain the talk of town; a grinding disappointment to his mentor, President Koroma indeed. Even the three different microphones that were changed one after the other for his convenience aligned against him for his inadequacies in performance. I disagree though with some social media users that Samura may have been drunk. As for me he was not drunk but just far away from being sober.
The dynamism that was required of Kamarainba to answer the questions was squandered on his attacks on counterpart presidential candidatesfor the best of time that was allotted him. Hebluffed that comes March 7, 2018 he will be declared President because he is the only honest and incorruptible person among all others and who had never served in government.When reminded to state his vision on the economy, housing, education, health, water, energy etc. he said he will introduce stringent measures in the collection of taxes, build hospitals in every district headquarters, enhance the private sector that is the engine of the economy and wipe out corruption.“In three weeks of my presidency I will reverse the poor state of the health sector,” he deliberately lied to his audience. Kamarainba dodged most of the questions on the altar of expressing over confidence as the best among the rest fit for State House.
With the exception of Samura Kamara all the other debaters cast aspersion on the toll road system as a bad deal and promised to either scrap the contract or review it.