Fourah Bay by-election results: Sierra Leoneans may be poor but they are not fools

Yusuf Keketoma Sandi

19 January 2012

It was President Abraham Lincoln who once said that: “You may fool all of the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all  the people – all of the time”.

Hence, it was down to the brave people of the Fourah Bay community in ward 369, who in the face of intimidation, to tell President Koroma and his spin doctors that the garbage city, the poverty, the poor conditions of living, the social deprivation and the joblessness have become too much to bear after five years of APC’s stewardship.

Although the by-election had degenerated into regrettable acts of political violence, I will refuse the temptation to deal with those issues now until my next article, and focus instead on those issues that APC and their spin doctors would rather not talk about, as we approach the November 2012 elections.

We could all remember the political funfair after the 2007 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections. For our APC friends, they told us President Koroma was the Political Messiah who will deliver our country out of the wilderness of poverty. In fact, I could still remember Hon. Alpha Kanu famously likening the APC cabinet to the Brazilian Football Team. But thank God he never said the Spanish Football Squad.

President Koroma’s APC made so many promises, which have today become nothing other than a fantasy. But what were some of these promises?

Young people who fought in polling stations and propagated hate songs against the then SLPP government were promised an avalanche of jobs.

Civil servants were told that President Koroma will improve their conditions of service and pay them on time. Anxious families were promised that prices of basic food stuffs would be affordable and that their children would get quality education.

Even the street traders who took time off from trading to participate in APC rallies and victory dances were promised that business would boom after the 2007 elections.

And the greatest amusement came from the party’s secretary general – Victor Foh, who famously promised us that President Koroma will establish a bread and butter economy and that prices of basic food stuffs – including rice, will fall.

President Koroma also promised to transform Sierra Leone into a paradise within thirty-six months of coming to power.

APC’s political euphoria continued into 2008 after the local council elections, when they won a landslide in Freetown, with their party strongman – Herbert Williams as Mayor of Freetown. Many would recall the Mayor in the usual APC style promising Freetonians that our great capital city will become the cleanest in the world; that our streets will be free from the encroachment of street traders; and that he will maximise the collection of local taxes.

But to be fair to the Mayor, he never promised us that he will keep our “monies” safe; nor did he promise to spend it judiciously and prudently.

What can we say about the elected APC Councillors and Members of Parliament representing the various constituencies across the capital Freetown? Adept at applying the APC’s election-promise rule book, they promised people in their wards and constituencies that if elected, they will address all basic social needs: pipe-borne water, community schools, community centres, and health clinics.

In return for these promises, our tolerant Sierra Leonean population, desperate for better standards of living – just like citizens of other nations, decided to entrust huge political capital on President Koroma, the Mayor of Freetown, the elected APC MPs and their Local Councillors to serve the people.

Well five years on, the people of Sierra Leone are beginning to assess their return on investment, as well as recount the APC’s so called ‘remarkable success stories’.

It is an open secret that President Koroma’s government has run out of money as they could not pay billions of Leones owed to contractors and suppliers, whilst they continue to accrue enormous debt of more than $800 million.

Shockingly, over a quarter of the country’s population, the young people who yearned for change, continue to wallow in joblessness, prompting many to vent out their frustrations at last weekend’s Fourah bay by-election.

Every day, thousands of graduates roam the streets of Freetown with brown envelopes containing their CVs – looking for jobs, which President Koroma’s government promised, but have failed to create.

Millions of parents who expected their children to achieve high standards of education, are disappointed at the appalling NPSE, BECE and WASCE examination results, not to mention the fact that students at the country’s main University in Freetown were unable to take their examinations as scheduled, because of the lack of paper on which to write.

Public sector workers, who make up over 80% of the working population, are struggling to make ends meet with their appallingly low monthly salaries, which very often are unpaid for several months.

Perhaps the government may want to tell us that a key highlight of their success story is the ‘bread and butter’ economy promised by the APC secretary general – Victor Foh in 2007.

Well, according to research, since APC came to office in 2007, its government have obtained around $200 million for the development of agriculture. So what have they achieved?

The cost of a bag of rice is now more than doubled; the prices of basic food stuffs – palm oil, cooking oil, meat and fish have doubled, and even tripled in some parts of the country.

A family of three spent around Le 7,000 in 2007 on one meal a day. Today that same family has to spend more than Le15,000 to be able to eat the same basic meal.

Surely, Sierra Leoneans know these harsh economic facts, and they are not fools.

Despite promises made by the APC Mayor of Freetown – Mr Herbert Williams, who has recently been indicted for corruption, Freetown continues to be perceived as the filthiest city in Africa. His success story can be seen through the piles of garbage dotted around the city.

Residents of Freetown are mindful of the potential this hazard has for their daily health and wellbeing.

Street Traders have told president Koroma that they have no intention of vacating the sidewalks and in some streets continue to obstruct traffic with their wares. We do know that the APC government is at the political mercy of the Street Traders.

As one Hawa Koroma puts it “If the APC government or City Council ventures to remove us from the streets we will not vote for them again in 2012”. For a government that promised to maintain law and order, this is a serious indictment that is causing consternation among the majority of citizens in the city.

Well, the majority of the people in Freetown who are fed up with the eyesores and inconvenience of street trading are watching, and they will soon give their verdict.

With a twenty-five counts charge for various corruption offences, relating to the disappearance of billions of Leones from the city council’s accounts, one can easily see where the Mayor’s priority has been placed.

Surely, Sierra Leoneans know these facts and they are not fools, and thank goodness – November 2012 elections will soon be upon us.

APC’s negative campaign strategy and personal attacks against Maada Bio – SLPP’s Presidential candidate will not help president Koroma win the 2012 elections.

No amount of insults or name calling directed at SLPP’s Maada Bio would help the government create jobs for young people or reduce the price of a bag of rice from Le160,000 to Le60,000; nor will it lower the prices of basic food stuffs, or provide the cash-strapped APC government with money to pay their contractors and suppliers.

Likewise, the stakes are too high for SLPP to be sidetracked into trading insults with those desperate APC apologists.

Rather, the SLPP will continue to engage with our suffering people to give them hope that the days of poverty, hardship, joblessness, and social oppression will soon be gone, once victory is obtained at the November 2012 elections.

Until then I want to heartily congratulate Councillor Mohammed Kanu Mansaray, and hope that every Sierra Leonean will make it a moral and civic obligation to register to vote, starting on the 23 January – 25 March.

The ballot box is our only weapon with which we can reject this APC government. Did I hear the government’s spin doctors say that the economic hardship is caused by Mr. Global?

Yusuf Keketoma Sandi BA (Hons), LLB (Hons) London

 

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