Yusuf Keketoma Sandi
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 February 2015
For far too long the APC government has underestimated the growing enlightenment and political consciousness of ordinary Sierra Leoneans. The reason is that the APC government believes in throwing money at anything to achieve what they want.
And in a country where you have more than 60% of the population living in poverty, literacy rate at around 41%, and about 70% of young people are either unemployed or underemployed, the APC government has most times taken the people for granted.
This has been made possible by the fact that in both the 2007 and 2012 presidential elections, the Electoral Commissioner – Christiana Thorpe, thwarted the legitimate choice of the people.
But times have changed and there is now the genuine frustration among the people of Sierra Leone, because the Prosperity which was meant to knock on the door of every household has now been reported missing after it was last seen in Makeni.
This means that with the increased consciousness created by social media and the tremendous role both the electronic and print media continue to play in enlightening the citizens on national issues, ordinary people are becoming more uncompromising with a government that does not inspire hope.
The poor handling of the Ebola outbreak, poor management of the reduction in oil prices in the world market, poor management of the census process, hijacking of the constitutional review process, the misguided tenure of the now sacked Chief Justice, all indicate an APC government caught on the back foot.
Let us start with the Ebola outbreak. We all know that when the outbreak started the government approach was one of denial and a President who was sleeping at the wheels.
In fact, it took a whole social media campaign and many bashing from political commentators for weeks into the outbreak for the President to be told to visit Kailahun and Kenema. Even those visits were marred with the helicopter-fuel-shortage scandal.
Rather than being a proactive government, it was again down to the citizens who had been largely frustrated to tell the government to declare a state of emergency, after many lives had been lost.
The visit of the Guinean President on Tuesday was symbolic, as it showed on the one hand President Conde whose country first reported an Ebola confirmed case in March 2014, but whose political leadership resulted in the lowest Ebola confirmed cases in the MRU.
It also showed on the other hand, President Koroma whose country was the last in the MRU to report a confirmed Ebola case in May 2014, but failed to show leadership in a country that now has the highest Ebola confirmed cases.
Another recent issue which the enlightenment of citizens has shown the APC government to be on the back foot is the reduction in oil prices in the world market. It is no secret that there are bigwigs in the APC government who are shareholders in the Petroleum Industry.
This means that any fuel price reduction is more about the falling value of their shares in the petroleum industry, rather than the difference it would make on the daily income of taxi drivers, okada riders and poda-poda drivers.
After weeks and months of campaign for fuel price reduction, the citizens won the day, forcing the government to grudgingly reduce the price of fuel. But even this was greeted with disappointment by the President of the Consumer Protection Council, Mr. Bakarr Roskin Kabba, who said that oil price per barrel, has gone down by more than 50% in the world market, and yet Sierra Leone’s pump price reduction is not commensurate to the fall in the world market price.
The debate on the tenure of the Chief Justice, the enlightenment of the citizens and the legal opinions against the status quo, made it obviously clear that the APC government was only dithering. (Photo: President Koroma).
But sometimes, there comes a time when a Government will be seen to be on the wrong side of a national debate, making it difficult even for the government to convince its own members, as was evident in the letter written by the head of the Anti-Corruption Commission – Joseph F. Kamara to the Attorney General.
It was also refreshing that the SLPP member of parliament and erudite lawyer, Dr. Bubuakei Jabbie, also weighed in on the debate with a masterpiece legal submission, which eventually removed the crutches from the government who then had to grudgingly correct the anomaly.
But perhaps the two recent issues which have exposed the APC government most have been the Census and the Constitutional review processes.
If the APC Government was not disingenuous, both the Census and Constitutional Review could have been a good opportunity not only for the use of a credible census process to help a future government in development planning, but also that a sincere constitutional review could help in modernising our laws and bringing them in line with many emerging issues.
Although this government has become notorious for its micromanaging of important national issues to the advantage of its ruling APC, it was no surprise that the plethora of evidence which exposed the flawed census process and the constitutional review process, could not just have been swept under the RED carpet.
The concerns from many genuine citizens, political parties, civil society organisations and donor agencies were enough to politically arm-twist the government, after it had used the Ebola outbreak as a cover-up to hijack two important national processes for party political advantage. And now they have been caught with their hands in the cooking jar.
And like the saying, a drowning man will clutch at a straw, it was no doubt that few apologists of this drowning government will clutch to the postponement of elections, or more self-defeating – engineer an extension of President Koroma’s term for another two years, with the postponement of both the Census and the Constitutional Review.
But even if the APC apologists were testing the waters, the newly appointed NEC Boss – Mohamed N’fa-Alie Conteh in his Radio Democracy interview could not have been any clearer, when he boldly said the law is very clear on the dates for elections. He said that local council election would be held in 2016 and the Presidential election in 2017 or early 2018, as provided for by the constitution.
It was fascinating that the NEC Boss made it clear that if President Koroma was sworn-in on the 23rd November 2012, his term should end on the 23rd November 2017, making way for a Presidential election.
Even when the NEC Boss was asked; ‘what if President Koroma tells the electoral commission that Presidential election should be held in 2020, what will he say to him?’, the NEC Boss responded that he will say to President Koroma; “Please sir mek we cross check the law”.
As a member of the SLPP whose party Presidential elections’ victories have been stolen twice by the former NEC Boss Christiana Thorpe, who has now been compensated with a new post as coordinator for the reopening of schools, the new NEC Boss will have a big challenge to restore the reputation of the electoral commission which has overseen two fraudulent Presidential elections.
And let it be known that the majority of Sierra Leoneans have suffered too much as a result of the incompetence of this government for almost 8 years, with failed policies as has been evident in the health sector.
Therefore, any manipulation that could add more years of suffering, by way of elections postponement, will be resisted by ordinary citizens who have become the victims of this legacy of poverty, hardship and unemployment.
And at least, we all now know that the more enlightened the citizens have become the more exposed is the APC government.