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Ernest Koroma – A President who has earned re-election

Ernest Koroma – A President who has earned re-election

A wealth of research suggests that lack of capable and transparent leadership is one of the most frequent causes of failure in governance, public and private sector development programmes. In fact, transparency is one among the many factors that negate the cradles of inequities relating to competency. Being transparent is a powerful thing but only if one can trust oneself and be trusted by others.  (Photo: Umaru Jah, author)

The reason most leaders are not transparent is because they believe they will be viewed as less authoritative – that the credentials they worked so hard to attain will lose its power, leverage and gravitas. This is the problem with most leaders, especially those who are not aware of the reality that exists around them: people want to relate to their leaders.  People want to know that their leaders have experienced the same problems and/or how they have overcome personal hardships. And most importantly, people want to see their leaders take the lead by setting the right examples for all to follow.

I must apologize if I keep focusing readers` attention on such orthodox theories of leadership. Having said that, I think this discourse on good leadership is very important as we approach the November 17 polls. We all need to fully understand the credentials and characteristics of a good leader to be able to make an informed decision at the forthcoming elections. I must hasten to add that these elections are very crucial because they are elections in which we have to choose between building on the gains we have made in the last five years, or embracing a past that has to a very large extent failed us as a nation (I will divulge more on this in my subsequent articles).

Other well meaning Sierra Leoneans, such as a Cocorioko contributor Daniel Mbompa Turay, have also been sharing this view. Turay noted for instance that “any leadership manifestation that does not exhibit visible and practical development will not produce the much anticipated transformation – is bound to fail.” This is why the discourse on leadership, now, more that anytime is very necessary.

I feel particularly obliged to focus on what kind of leadership is best suited for our beloved country presently and who of the various candidates vying for the country´s top job best qualifies for it because this is what is expected of us as communication experts – we can operate as a source of anticipated public ratification or blockage, especially when issues regarding state leadership and governance remain crucial to any democratic process of which Sierra Leone is a part.

At this point, it may be interesting to go back to my previous article where I extensively discussed about good leadership and who could best fit in that category. At the end of that schema, it was clear that President Koroma is the one who fits in that category. I believe readers who digested the contents of that piece realised that it was not a hasty generalization of President Koroma’s distinct leadership qualities. It was attributed to his outstanding performance and dedicated leadership.

In this piece, I will briefly run down memory lane by recalling readers´ attention to how having served as a businessman for over twenty four years HE Ernest Bai Koroma, largely unknown, entered the political scene and not only demonstrating his firm and informed leadership credentials by standing up against various challenges within his APC party but also how he has transformed the image and vision of that party.

When the name Ernest Koroma emerged in the political race, some people called him a ‘knight in shining armor,’ others say a “messiah”, while the very few said he was a “joker.” According to those critics, he was a “joker” because he was vying under the APC ticket to pursue his political ambition in the wake of 2002 Presidential and parliamentary elections. The APC by then was nothing to write home about considering its past records in governance and multiparty democracy. Among those critics were also his comrades who hastily thought that Ernest Koroma, being a new comer to politics, with untainted and unblemished character, (as he still is) should represent a new party with a third force ideology in Sierra Leone’s political landscape – the Grand Alliance Party (GAP)! Several speculations and uninformed comments regarding his political intentions were made. In a BBC report on Monday September 17, 2007, this is what Umaru Fofonah said “A relative newcomer to politics, he was seen as a political nonentity when he expressed interest in the leadership of his party at the turn of the millennium.”

Amidst those inconclusive answers with regards to whether Ernest Koroma will ever make inroads in  Sierra Leone’s political sphere, he ushered the APC to parliament – winning  19.8% of popular votes and 22 out of 112 parliamentary seats in May 2002 general elections. For several years after that victory, Ernest Koroma’s leadership was challenged by many of his party cohorts. Legal suits were filed against him and other members within the party. But because he (Ernest) believed that success is not an impossible dream if you apply the attributes of hard work and commitment. He made a lee way through those difficult times. With hard work and dedication and most importantly love for his country, Ernest succeeded in mending fences with his party faithfuls by resolving the long standing impasse within his party. Having been able to bring his party together, the then embattled opposition leader was then able to galvanize more support and won the 2007 presidential elections.

Tailoring my arguments in an effort to aid explanations as to why Ernest Koroma should be re-elected, and lead Sierra Leone for another five years, I am trying to lay emphasis on the fact that by working tirelessly to mend the division within his party, he demonstrated to Sierra Leoneans and indeed the whole world that he is a leader who believes in peaceful dialogue and who could withstand whatever hurdle.

Since he was elected president, Ernest has built on those credentials and added enormously to his already impressive leadership CV. He has shown that: he is a leader who cares for the people through his efficient and effective government policies; a leader that is aware of the existing reality through which the people’s interest is paramount. To put it in a rather coherent and consistent focus for critics to imbue this view with a more hard-edged dimension, President Koroma is a leader that is tolerant, decisive and with clean human right records; he is a leader that marches words into action; he is a leader that is very much aware of the realities on the ground; a leader that also thinks transparency and accountability are fundamental principles of multi party democracy.

Conversely, he has shown that he is not a leader that reckon dictatorial rule and deprive the citizens from their basic privileges and necessities. Above all, he has not only laid the basis to uplift the country’s socio-economic development trend but also went further to implement most government policies – the children are learning, infrastructure is expanding, and healthcare is improving.

This is why I think the only way forward is to build on the gains he has made within five years of governance.  And I am very much confident of the fact that at this center stage, we as a people could not find another person who could have been better focused and placed like HE the President, especially at a time when the whole nation will soon come out in huge numbers to elect yet another President of the Republic of Sierra Leone. Those gains cannot be built by any other person but Ernest Koroma through the support of the people.  It was that same will and unwavering determination that the people use to elect him in 2007. And he has demonstrated to the people that the collective will to make him President in 2007 has yield tangible results within five years of good governance. The president himself made this assertion during his five year of governance anniversary when he said:

“I took an oath to deliver on my campaign promise of bringing change. Five years later the change I promised has come and it is clearly changing our beloved country. It is changing the deplorable state of the nation’s roads, it is changing our health care delivery system, and it is changing our agricultural sector. We kept our promises to work hard to transform this country; and today, work is going on everywhere; my government, investors and our international partners are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in our mines, in our agriculture, and our infrastructure. The changes have created more jobs for Sierra Leoneans; the type of jobs that did not exist five years ago.”

This is the kind of leadership that we are looking forward to have in a country like Sierra Leone where development should be a driving force to improve the living standards of the people.  Therefore, voting for any other person other than President Koroma is not yet a convincing argument. This is because there is nothing new one could preach to the people about development. When you mention good roads, President Koroma has done well in that direction. In the health sector, he has introduced many health care programmes to overhaul the menace of child mortality and so on! Agriculture, electricity and education are strong pillars of his agenda for change, while the country’s exports on minerals are exemplary.

It is against this backdrop that I believe for Sierra Leone to build on the enormous gains it has made in the last five years, HE Ernest Bai Koroma should be re-elected President come November 17.

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