Welcome back – Mr. President

7 January 2013

familyWhat most Sierra Leoneans would remember, but wish to forget about 2012 are; the crippling economic predicament they had to endure, the crumbling health care system, declining education standards, rising unemployment, growing poverty and a government that keeps promising a better quality of life that never comes.

It seems though that some things will never change, no matter the circumstances.

After two months, since winning an election that was largely the outcome of tribalism and fraud, many in the country expect a government that has been in power for five years and delivered so little to get down to real business, rather than trying to spin fiction into reality.    

This was classic president Koroma at his best on New Year’s Day, spinning the same old, tired and worn-out propaganda of a well-to-do nation, which few in the country recognise:

“2012 was a remarkable year for our country. We conducted four elections on a single day that were acclaimed by the whole world as meeting international standards of free, fair, credible and transparent election; our economy was lauded as the second hottest economy in the whole world; our nation was acclaimed as amongst the safest on earth.”

Is that the true picture of the same Sierra Leone, where 60% of the population live on less than $1 a day, one in eight women dies during pregnancy, 60% of children aged under five struggle to survive, while 40% die of poor health, and serious crime – including armed robbery rising to alarming proportion?

President Koroma - presidency in perilHas the president himself not declared only a week ago that “lawlessness is too much in the country”?

So what has changed since making that statement on the 28 December 2012?

It seems the president, still in a state of confused euphoria after winning a second term in office, cannot resist the temptation of declaring that Sierra Leone has been transformed economically and socially. This is what he told the people of Sierra Leone on New Year’s Day:        

“These are achievements for all of the people of our country. I glorify God Almighty for giving this country the faith, strength and endowment to achieve these great feats; I congratulate every Sierra Leone for this national victory, and I applaud our international partners for their great contributions to the continuing transformation of our country.”

Are the aid agencies now packing their bags and getting ready to leave the country, with the president declaring that poverty is over and Sierra Leone is now a developed nation?

If those statements were exaggeration of the highest order, how about this?

“We have set new standards, we are pace setters in Africa, and we now belong to a select group of countries in Africa honored for our democracy, our economic growth, and our great potentials. We achieved a lot in our Agenda for Change. Now is the time to bring home the fruits of these achievements; now is the time to do more; now is the time to move on to the Agenda for Prosperity.”

A well known political analyst commented that the president must have had too much to eat and drink over the festive holiday, to have made such a fairytale of a speech.

But the president was deadly serious when he finally decided to come down to earth. He confirmed that:

“Moving forward with the Agenda for Prosperity requires appropriate skills, productive work ethic, discipline and respect for the law. That is why I am dedicating my second term to combating indiscipline and recklessness; that is why I am dedicating to the Agenda for Prosperity to improving our human capacity, to ensuring that the citizens of this country, especially the youths, acquire the skills necessary for greater participation in the transformation of the country.”

But wait a minute Mr. President, have you not just told us a minute ago that; “our economy has been lauded as the second hottest economy in the whole world”?

So what’s your New Year’s resolution Sir?

“This is my 2013 New Year resolution: I will work closely with the youths of this country to commence and sustain the Agenda for Prosperity. This is not only because tomorrow belongs to the youth, but mainly because today also belongs to the youths. The youths are the most innovative, energetic and creative section of our society; and there is no way this country can prosper without the active participation of our youths.”

There is no way this country can prosper without the active participation of our youths?

Mr. President, how did you work that out? One minute you’re telling us that we have the hottest economy in the World, and next minute – we are not prosperous. Little wonder the youths are so confused and lethargic.

And with such muddled vision, unrealistic assessment and exaggerated exuberance, there is little hope of a better future for the people of Sierra Leone.

But feeling truly on top of the world as he was on New Year’s Day, president Koroma made this sombre proclamation:       

“Fellow Sierra Leoneans, this is my proclamation for my second and last term: the benefits of the transformation shall be for everyone in the country; it shall be for every region, every district, and every chiefdom. We will train youths in every region; we will continue with infrastructural development in every district, and we will do more for agriculture in every chiefdom. We will continue to attract investments in every sector, from mining, to petroleum, to agriculture, tourism and fisheries.”

Did you say this is your last term in office Mr. President?

State House - FreetownSo its official and its good news; the president will not be tampering with the country’s Constitution – using his parliamentary majority, in order to extend his stay in office beyond 2017, nor will he declare a communist style one party state.

What many listening to that speech would have found somewhat cynical, is the fact that the speech sounded very much to that delivered in 2007 by the same president, perhaps after drinking and eating too much.

But he did sound almost convincing, if not funny, when he said that, in this his final term in office, every corner of the country will be developed:    

“Development everywhere is the surest road to national inclusion; reaching out to the poor, the unemployed and the vulnerable is the surest path to national stability; and integrating women and youths into the mainstream of economic and political life is the surest channel for sustaining our unity, freedom and justice.”

Did the president make this next statement while peering into the bottom of the empty wine bottle, calling for another bottle?

“I am calling on all Sierra Leoneans, from the APC, SLPP and other political parties, to support these efforts to create a better life for our people. The time for bickering is over; the time for moving forward is come upon us.

But Mr. President, the main opposition leader – Maada Bio is taking his allegations of serious electoral malpractice, which brought you to State House to the Supreme Court.  

“My government is a standing invitation to all those who desire development for this country; our doors are open to all those who seek to fulfil the aspirations of our people for peace, democracy, and development. From the far-flung corners of the Diaspora to the smallest villages, from the wonderful Loma Mountains to the great shores of Sulima, let the children of this beautiful country come forth and visibly assert their love for Sierra Leone” – says president Koroma.

Mr. President, Maada Bio and the rest of his party leadership aren’t coming with you to the mountain top. They are off to the Supreme Court.

But with SLPP defectors, such as Usu Boie Kamara, John Leigh and others by his side, the president sounded very upbeat. He said:     

“Fellow Sierra Leoneans, all over the world, this season of goodwill brings out the best in people. This is especially true in our country, where people of every religion wish each other happiness and prosperity.”

And turning once again to more serious business as to how he is going to transform the country from being the “second hottest economy in the world”, to the most prosperous,  president Koroma called upon the youths to go the extra mile. He said:

“I want the youths to go a little further and be more innovative, more ready to acquire skills, more disciplined, and more productive. I want us to go a little further and claim the promise of prosperity that is now beckoning in our country.

And here comes the sobering thought. Is the red wine still flowing?

“But let us also be mindful that we can only claim this promise of prosperity when we work hard, when we are disciplined, when we are law abiding and when we acquire the appropriate skills. Without discipline, law and order, we will not be able to secure our achievement; without productive work, our achievements cannot be sustained; without the appropriate skills, we will not be able to reap the benefits of the transformation.

“These are new challenges that the country now faces; the challenges of getting appropriate skills, the challenges of low productivity, and the challenges of indiscipline in many sectors. Let it therefore be part of our New Year resolution to meet these challenges headlong.”

No, it is not just the unemployed, unskilled youth that the president is concerned about. The president is deadly serious. He wants every Sierra Leonean, including the palm wine tapper and akara seller to up the ante.   

“Let every Sierra Leonean make a vow to be a force for skills acquisition, discipline, law and order. Let every Sierra Leonean make a resolution to be a force for development, democracy and peace.

“This country is what we make it to be; nobody but the people of this country can take this country to another level. I strongly believe that we can do it; I have strong faith in the ability of Sierra Leoneans to achieve great things.”

True Mr. President, but where are the jobs?

Where are the growing industries that will create the employment opportunities? Where is the budget for up-skilling and educating the nation? Where is the investment capital for new business start-ups?

What say you – Mr. President?  

“Already we are being acclaimed the world over for our tolerance, our democracy, our economic growth, and our record of safety. We can add unto these achievements; we must do more to sustain the transformation.

Really, Mr. President?

Image - courtesy of Sierra Express “Fellow Sierra Leoneans, there is nothing a determined people cannot achieve; there is nothing a country with the history of achievements like Sierra Leone cannot attain. Now is the time to overcome the challenges, and by God’s grace we will succeed.”

OK Mr. President – is the second bottle of red wine already empty?

Happy New Year – Mr. President!

(Last image – courtesy of Sierra Express)

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