Franklyn Davies: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 January 2018:
Yvonne Aki-Sawyer’s campaign for the Freetown Mayoralty is the only serious APC campaign that is happening right now. You will not find any reference to the APC’s campaign slogan “Tolongbo”. Aki-Sawyer has sought to distance her campaign from the drab and dull campaign of Samura Kamara. The party’s apparatchiks and Young Turks are sidelined, with a team of media savvy operators spearheading her very polished campaign.
Truly, she has captured the hearts and minds of many Freetonians. However, in her short political career, Aki-Sawyer has acquired some of the APC’s bad habits, which is why many people would struggle to cast their vote for her in the Freetown Mayoral race on March 7th.
This was most evident when she resorted to the courts, to compel the National Electoral Commission to change her registration from Regent to Lumley on her nomination day, in order to make her eligible to contest the elections.
Aki-Sawyer mobilised the APC hierarchy, and was accompanied by Osman Yansanneh to obtain a court order compelling NEC, to re-register her from Regent to Lumley.
Was this what Aki-Sawyer meant in her campaign Facebook page, when she wrote about Osman Yansanneh, as someone with whom she has a shared vision?
That comment about Yansanneh, was troubling, and it remains like an immovable barracuda bone, wedged inside my throat, which no amount of water or fufu could move.
This tension between supporting someone who is seemingly progressive, and casting a vote that effectively rewards the APC, has left many Freetonians, in a quandary.
However you cut it, a vote for Aki-Sawyer, maybe a vote “foh wi community, foh wi progress, foh wi Fritong”, but it is a vote that rewards the APC for their spectacular and consistent failure of governance not just in Freetown, but in Sierra Leone as a whole.
To reward the APC, after they have imposed the Wellington to Masiaka Toll Road on Freetonians, an action which has had a significant impact on the cost of living, is unacceptable to Freetown brothers and sisters who are in abject poverty. To reward the APC, which has presided over the Regent Mudslide and which has not being transparent about the $25m of funds donated in the aftermath of the disaster, would be unacceptable to the victims of this and other disasters.
To reward the APC, who oversee the issuing of permits for constructing homes, which has blighted the Freetown landscape, the main cause of flooding, would be unacceptable to all Freetonians. Red John, the Serial Killer has become Aki-Sawyer’s Achilles heel.
In the recent mayoral debates, Aki-Sawyer’s reluctance to criticise the failure of the APC government and Ernest Koroma, her benefactor, is evident and sends worrying signals that if she was successful, she would be no different from APC mayors of the past.
Aki-Sawyer has touted her experience as a senior executive within the National Ebola Response Committee, which was chaired by Paolo Conteh.
No one doubts her superb efforts in this role, for which she was recognised with the President’s Gold Award and with an MBE, by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
However, it is her failure to take any responsibility for the missing $14m Ebola funds in her capacity as a Director of NERC or to condemn the theft of those funds, which raises the concern about the extent to which she is prepared to put personal ambition before, before principle.
Aki-Sawyer has made a lot of noise about her role as Investment Director of IDEA UK Limited, the company that was awarded the contract to design, build and operate the new Cape Sierra Hilton Hotel. Make no mistake, IDEA has been a tremendous success and a model of partnership working with like minded professionals that other Sierra Leoneans, especially those in the diaspora should emulate.
Aki-Sawyer’s role in IDEA has been remarkable, but can you imagine, that in her capacity as Investment Director, if she was informed that $14m of the $85m funding they had fought hard to secure, had disappeared, that she would have been dismissive or quiet about it? Off course not.
Has Red John the Serial Killer warned her to be quiet about the missing Ebola funds?
If Aki-Sawyer cannot stand up to Paolo Conteh, then she certainly cannot stand up for Freetown and Freetonians.
Aki-Sawyer’s other notable success that propelled her into the public eye, was her role in the Clean Freetown Campaign. This campaign was in fact started by the Krio Descendants Union. Under the KDU, the cleaning campaign was a voluntary effort. It is reported that the campaign was backed up with over $4m of donor funds.
This sleight of hand is also evidence of how Aki-Sawyer has quickly mastered APC political chicanery. The question for Freetonians is this – Does Freetown today look any better than before the cleaning effort? Do the streets of Freetown look like they have undergone a $4m makeover?
But perhaps Aki-Sawyer’s most high profile role was as Delivery Team Lead, at the President’s Recovery Team (PRT), which was responsible for implementing the Presidents Recovery Priorities (PRP).
The UK Government allocated £240m through DfiD to invest in the PRP. However you would be hard pressed to find any Sierra Leonean who has benefitted from PRT’s work.
With the country being dubbed the third hungriest country in the world, with unemployment levels among the countries youths around 70% and with over 60% of the population in multi-dimensional poverty, one is bound to ask, what happened to those ambitious targets made by her PRT which we were promised would be achieved by June 2017.
Aki-Sawyer wants you to believe that all targets have been achieved and the dreadful problems have been solved.
PRP was the government’s post-Ebola flagship project. It was the project that should have got Sierra Leone and Freetown, up and running again, being economically vibrant as it was prior to the Ebola outbreak. It should have resulted in the diversification of our economy to other sectors to boost economic growth for our country’s youths. It hasn’t. It has been nothing short of an unmitigated disaster.
The fact that you cannot actually evidence these milestones on the ground, demonstrates that PRP was nothing short of a political gimmick.
An article in the Sierra Leone Telegraph on 15th July 2017 had this to say about the President’s Recovery Priorities:
“When history judges the success of the country’s post-Ebola Priorities Programme, it is clear it will say that the APC government failed its people, whilst excelling in corruption, incompetence and poor governance.”
Aki-Sawyer tries hard to distance her campaign from Red John the Serial Killer. In doing so, she wants to pull the wool over our eyes, but we are not as gullible as she might think. She wants Freetonians to believe that she alone has the ability to put in place “systems and processes”. She maintains that it is the absence of systems and processes why Freetown does not function.
Here, the management consulting doublespeak gained from her early career, is effectively deployed on the unsuspecting Freetonian. Based on Aki-Sawyer’s logic, it is the lack of systems and processes, which led people to build homes on Sugar Loaf, not the corruption of officials who sold land and building permits in breach of the local plans.
It also caused the decline in municipal education standards, not the corrupt officials at the Education ministry or the municipality, who divert salaries and other funds into their private accounts.
It is also the main factor, why nearly all the SLRTC buses serving Freetown are off the road, not the actions of ministers and SLRTC officials squandering $12m on inventory that was unfit for purpose, so they could divert the funds, to finance their largesse.
So, can we afford to gamble with Aki-Sawyer as APC Mayor of Freetown? She would have you believe that she is results oriented and would bring the required leadership to the municipality.
Personally, I think that Aki-Sawyer’s association with Red John – the Serial Killer, is a problematic one and if elected under an APC led government; she would be as ineffective as other APC Mayors who have failed the city in the past.
Aki-Sawyer, has demonstrated to the APC leadership, that she is willing to put party first and that her loyalty to her benefactors, Ernest Koroma, Osman Yansanneh and Paolo Conteh, is more important than to fuss about principles.
The end justifies the means, if you can convince yourself that you are acting in the interest of the community, rather than to fulfil your own personal ambition.
We cannot afford to gamble with Aki-Sawyer. A vote for her is a vote that rewards the APC for running Freetown into the ground since 2004. Make no mistake, a vote for Aki-Sawyer, is a vote for TOLONGBO – another five years of abject poverty, corruption and inept governance.