Five More Years Forward…
Studies going back over half a century seem to suggest that, for better or for worse, a sitting president’s record is at the heart of his reelection chances. No incumbent can run away from his record; he must run on it. The question then is what is this record of the incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma? What are the specifics of this record?
In his fifth anniversary celebration speech delivered to the nation on his stewardship, President Koroma confidently and masterfully reminded the people of Sierra Leone that it was their collective will that made him President in 2007. The theme of change was clearly the focus of the entire speech as the president wasted no time in outlining his accomplishments in every sector and facet in every region, district, town and chiefdom. One would notice that a good number of the things he said actually resonate with the vast majority of Sierra Leoneans as these are tangible achievements which can be seen, felt and appreciated all across the country even in places the opposition claim as their own.
Right at the beginning of his speech, President Ernest Koroma offered his earnest account of Sierra Leone’s recent economic scenario in terms of certain jobs and investments now in the country that were absent five years ago when he took office. Even before he could finish subscribing to the oath of office, a global credit crunch was already knocking at the door. But through resilience and responsible leadership, he was able to restore investor confidence in the country which has paid off very well. He gives us all a powerful reminder of where we were and where we are today in terms of job creation in the country.
“Five years ago there was no one working in extracting and transporting iron ore”, he said, and went on to note that, “Now there are thousands of workers in that sector. Five years ago there was no one employed in companies like ADDAX, SOCFIN and others. Today there are thousands of Sierra Leoneans gainfully employed in these and other companies. Five years ago there were fewer people working in road construction. Now there are thousands engaging in roads and other construction work. Five years ago there were few banks, few logistic companies, few airlines, and other services. Today there are many Sierra Leoneans working in those industries. Five years ago there were few Sierra Leoneans driving haulage trucks; today we have so many truck drivers hauling goods on our new roads. Five years ago very few of our geologist and engineers were employed; today so many of them are gainfully employed.”
Rather than changing course, he calls on the people to sustain the momentum and reject the arrogance and disdain for the common man and woman which past governments have exhibited. “I will continue to work hard; I will continue to serve you; I will continue to bring more development; more jobs; and more investment. The issue of the day is no longer about my will to serve you; it is about your will to resist going back to the people of violence and human rights abuse that this country had rejected; it is about our collective will to prevent those we rejected because of their arrogance and disdain for the common man and woman; it is about all of us resisting those who mobilize hate rather than development.” This is a powerfully ringing call by the President for the people to make a clear and unmistakable choice between development going forward and going backwards to the days of human rights abuses, the days when the people’s concerns were meted out with nothing but arrogance and scorn.
Despite the scorns and blows of the global financial crisis, our economy has not only continued to maintain a positive growth rate of 5.5% in 2008 and 4.0% in 2009, but it has been identified amongst the fastest growing in the world. The World Bank has also identified the Sierra Leone Economy as the second hottest economy in the world with a growth rate of 19.5%. However, President Koroma promises to “continue to translate this growth into jobs; into roads, into schools and colleges; and into supporting our farmers to continue to improve the productivity of the endowments of this great nation.”
Without the shadow of doubt I believe President Koroma will do just that as he himself notes, “I am the President of all Sierra Leone; when I win, the whole country wins. Because I won in 2007, every district has won; every district is seeing the fruits of victory. Victory is ours. God is our helper, and together we shall continue to bring home the fruits of our victory.” This also shows that the President is a man of abundant faith in God Almighty as he believes that it is only God who gives and takes power. This is really good to have in a head of state, not someone with blood stains in his hands. His humility also unquestionably comes out very clearly in his speech as he noted, “I am only your humble servant with a political life sanctioned by your collective will. We are not yet fully there; but we are on the road to prosperity.”
As he did in his speech at the opening of the Kenema Shopping Plaza last month, he invoked a country and economy where development is not lopsided but anchored on the principle of national service. “When we build roads, we build them everywhere, when we rehabilitate hospitals, we do that everywhere, irrespective of which party claims it as their stronghold.” “For us”, he went on, “our stronghold is where we construct strong buildings, it is where we construct good roads, it is where when we say a town has become a city we do not just change the status on a piece of paper, we do things that make everybody say this place is indeed a city.”
Throughout the speech, President Koroma comes across as president of Sierra Leone rather than the APC flag bearer. He talks extensively about change that continues to take place all across the country. He also brought into play the importance of action over intention, unity over disunity and humility over arrogance.
To crown his love and concern for the middle class in the country, he talks eloquently about how much his government has done since 2007. “Since we took over governance of this country in 2007 we have increased the salaries of our teachers and our health workers; we increased the salaries of lecturers, civil servants, parliamentarians and judges; we improved the conditions of work of soldiers and policemen. In the Agenda for Prosperity that, God willing, you will vote us to implement after the elections in November this year, we intend to build upon these actions for jobs and improved earnings for Sierra Leoneans.”
President Koroma further mentioned the efforts government has exacted in transforming the lives of our women and children since the introduction of the Free Healthcare; “We paid for the caesarean sections of hundreds of pregnant women; saved the lives of thousands of women; and prevented thousands of children from dying because their families could not pay hospital bills. We have transformed the look of Kenema by constructing roads and building markets; we made it easy for pedestrians and vehicles to move along the streets of Bo, Makeni and Magburaka. Work is progressing in Kambia, Kailahun, Port Loko. Pujehun, Kabala, Moyamba, Bonthe and Kono. We increased electricity supply in the country from under 15 megawatts to over 80. We increased subvention to universities and paid billions of Leones for all public examinations in primary schools, secondary schools and technical vocational institutions. We have been giving billions of Leones to district councils, irrespective of which party controls them, so that they too can implement transformative projects. We are fighting corruption with one of the strongest anti-corruption laws in Africa. Our human rights record is exemplary; we have not executed anybody, or jailed any journalists. We are building water works in every region, and constructing power stations in most districts. These achievements are visible; they could be seen; we are government of development; we believe in including the people of every district in the transformation of this country.”
All in all, the president’s speech was well delivered with confidence and calm as is characteristic of him as well as the fact that he knew he was making a very historic statement on his accomplishments since he assumed office five years ago. He spoke on nothing but the tremendous change his government has unleashed all across the country, irrespective of which area or region of the country development was taking place. These efforts alone are enough for anyone to declare President Koroma as President for all Sierra Leone. His development strides transcend region, tribe, sex and religion. Let’s vote him for a second term to continue these wonderful strides made so far.
By Jarrah Kawusu-Konte
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