When The President Bids Farewell To His People
It was little more than ten years ago that the Electoral Commissioner, Madam Christiana Thorpe announced the tense election results between the two leading arch rivals, The Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), and the All People’s Congress (APC). As curious and eager to know the meaning of my vote, I stayed all night gauging the repercussions of people yearning for change; a clarion call to yield prosperity for a nation on edge. I vowed to elect a leader that would embrace the promise of change, patriotism, dedication and above all else, stability and tranquility to a wretched country. In my tiny village of Jaiama Sewafe, I saw thousands standing for hours in line waiting to take a decision that would change their destiny. Most of the voters yearned for a new dawn in their lives. (Photo: Ibrahim Sourie Mansaray, author)
A decade that swept so fast, before a mammoth of his supporters and opposition allies, President Koroma delivered what is expected to be his final formal address to the nation. His hair is now greyer, his tone more somber, his political finesse is shifting and his efferent and broad smile still lingers. In his speech to the nation on Thursday, he recounted a litany of his proudest achievements, among them the economic recovery, the expansion of the diplomatic houses in the world, the extension of health care coverage to lactating mothers and many more. “That’s what we did” were his words. He repeatedly never said,” That is what I did”. He ascribed the successes of his government to the people by almost every measure. According to him, Sierra Leone is now a stronger and better place than it was when he started his political journey.
President Koroma may be ending his term with a healthy approval rating. He quieted boos from the opposition when he noted that his administration did not kill or hung any citizen. He prayed for the transfer of power from one freely elected president to the next. When the opposition chanted,” tem don don”, the president smiled and looked at the gallery and opposition section, as if to say, you will miss me when I am gone.
President Koroma was speaking amid a new and potentially explosive challenging era, involving his choice for his party. His party, the APC is being challenged by a re-energized SLPP flagbearer, Maada Bio who seems to beam with confidence in winning the next election, a new kid on the block, Kandeh Yumkella whose oratory skills has earned him support amongst the youths and a troublesome youthful Kamarainba of ADP whose youth exuberance factor seems to be digging into the heart of the two major strongholds of APC and SLPP respectively. Ernest Koroma’s effort to make his case for his legacy and rally support for his reeling party is aware of the huge challenges facing the country. At a point in his speech, he acknowledged the role of the masses as the deciding factor in the political race.
There has been an accelerating sense of time running out for the Ernest Koroma team as attention now shifts to his protégé, Samura Kamara. The president didn’t directly criticize Yumkella, Maada Bio, but he did pointedly declare instances where everyone knows where he was coming from. However, the camaderie that existed between Samura and Yumkella as they sat and shared jokes, and the rancorous boos from the opposition in the wells of parliament demonstrate the growth of our democracy. At some junctures and interjections, the president would smile and wait for decorum. Indeed, our democracy is gaining strength.
The speech was conversational in thought and personal, citing his flaws as a human being during his tenure and problems that remain. He faulted himself for some of the mistakes he would have done to some people in his presidency. Again and again, the president called for Sierra Leoneans to participate in their democracy.
As the president moves to his retirement stage in life, it is the ardent belief that whosoever emerges as the ultimate winner will bring in a new team of political players and not recycled politicians. The country is blessed with competent, vibrant, young and capable indigenes ready to take the mantle of leadership in all spheres of life. Sierra Leone should face the new phase of our political journey with renewed enthusiasm and confidence.
From the swearing in ceremony of Ernest Koroma in 2007 that brought him to international prominence, to his final speech in Parliament on Thursday, Ernest has mastered classic rhetorical devices that have projected power and confidence in communication. The country is in top gear and no one should stop this drive towards economic prosperity.
The next article will address some of the challenges and successes of President Koroma.
Ibrahim Sourie Mansaray, Philadelphia, USA.
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