Is term time for presidents the mother of all corruption?

Abdulai Mansaray

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 4 December 2016

Any society which neglects its culture is bound to fail. African societies were founded on the principles of society cohesion, where the left hand knew what the right was doing.

With kingdoms, Chieftains, fiefdoms and clans, historians would have you believe that African societies had well established forms of governments well before the term “democracy” was invented by the white man.

In Africa today, we have Western governments trying to teach African leaders on the concept of democracy. But with African leaders showing political lethargy to embrace this concept, western countries have found themselves introducing economic caveats into the begging bowls of their African counterparts.

Democracy and the rule of law are fast becoming the essential requirements of the never ending political beggars from the continent. Chief among those requirements is the demand that African heads of states should have presidential term times (preferably two) introduced and implemented into the political DNA of their respective countries.

Some people will question the morality of such a carrot and stick approach. But to those who believe in the rule of law and good governance, this may be the only way to force the Mugabes of this world to change. It will be an understatement to suggest that this has met with some resistance.

Some African leaders believe that as long as Western governments” have learnt to shoot without missing; they will learn to fly without perching”.

It is therefore not surprising that some have tried everything in their political arsenal to circumvent these conditions by erecting political gridlocks along to way; all aimed at maintaining the status quo of the society for self-preservation.

President Ernest B. koroma is expected to complete his second and final term in office in 2017. But this has conveniently been shifted to 2018. Among the numerous arguments for this political gymnastics is that, the president has unfinished development business and projects that were significantly hampered by the Ebola crisis.

President koroma 2013It therefore came as no surprise when the political wordsmiths started injecting phrases like “more time”, “injury time”, “extra time”, “Fergie time”, etc. into our political vocabulary. Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

No one can under estimate the impact of the Ebola crisis on the president’s good intentions for the country.

But are we suggesting that the recent and numerous hurricanes and the outbreak of the Zika virus are reasons for Obama to earn a 3rd term in office? Unfortunately in Sierra Leone, we don’t seem to have anyone qualified and able enough to continue the good job that has been done by our president.

It is really sad that he is the only one who can fulfill those dreams from the land of “Agenda for Change” into that of “Agenda for prosperity”. Donald Trumpesque comes to mind. Only he can do it.

There was a time when you thought that talk of a 3rd term was dead and buried. According to a recent publication, a “State House insider told the Sierra Leone Telegraph that “In February 2018 local elections will be held. In November 2018 general elections will be conducted. And in November 2019, presidential election will take place.”

There are already allegations that “a campaign calling for the extension of the presidential term of office from two to three” is under construction. If this is anything to go by, it sounds like some people have learnt to fly without perching. The question is, do term times work for African democracies?

While Western governments have used what some see as “draconian” methods to force our leaders to toe the democratic line, Mo Ibrahim launched his Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership.

The aim is not only to reward and acknowledge former heads of states for exceptional service but also engage citizens in a conversation to change perceptions of African leadership.

The African continent has a plethora of countries that work to outstretch the shadows of economic uncertainty and political lethargy. But with their indeterminate strongholds of power, some leaders have difficulty finding their place in the sun.

Our leaders are constantly facing the battle with accountability, transparency, and service delivery. Mo’s initiative is also aimed at exploring safety and rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity, and human development.

Nelson Mandela1Nelson Mandela once said that “real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.” The idea is not only to sacrifice for one’s country, but also to foster a greater sense of unity within the country.

But many political pundits would wonder what will it take for the continent’s leaders to move beyond themselves and their own personal interests? Efforts made by those at all levels of leadership will not reap the rewards deserved without excellent leadership at the top.

The price for achievement in African leadership initiative is US$5 million initial payment, plus $200,000 a year for life; and is believed to be the world’s largest, exceeding the $1.3m Nobel Peace Prize.

Sadly, there have been only four winners since it was launched in 2006. These include President Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia (2014), President Pedro Pires of Cabo Verde (2011), President Festus Mogae of Botswana (2008), and President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique (2007).

Nelson Mandela was the inaugural Honorary Laureate in 2007. Unfortunately, there were no winners for 2015; a marked indictment of how resistant our African leaders are to change. “Change itself is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.”

They say that “If you want to make enemies, try to change something.” But change itself must be inculcated into the culture, for “a nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people (. Mahatma Gandhi).

With such an incentive that should guarantee a comfortable living for life, why do our leaders want to hold on to power by any means possible?

Presidential term times seem to be the blueprint for present day democracy. But Presidential term times need the added condition of accountability. African leaders are generally not accountable to anyone or the people they purport to lead. They are usually above the law and beyond scrutiny.

Take for example the USA, where every word or action of the President is sanitized by the media 10 times over. Because they are held to account for their role in their office, the chances of corruption are relatively reduced.

Now, take their African counterparts who assume office knowing full well that in a space of 8 or 10 years, their reign would be over. What would you expect from such a political life span; where there is no accountability?

The temptation to enrich themselves becomes second nature; because they know that a day in politics is a long time. The kind of corruption that our leaders allegedly get away with, with reckless abandon is unthinkable.

So is it time for Africa to abandon the very term times that unintentionally create a recipe for CORRUPTION? Just like their leaders, their members of parliament may be inclined to act similarly.

Would Africa benefit more if the term times were abolished and emphasis laid on free, fair and peaceful elections? Is it time to lay more emphasis on True Equality which means, holding everyone accountable in the same way, regardless of race, gender, faith, ethnicity – or political ideology?

Should the life span of a leader be dependent on the ballot box? And should the Presidential Term times be determined by the outcome of elections that have been determined as free, fair and peaceful by a recognized UN backed body?

It is an open secret that Africa continues to suffer from the terminal disease of corruption, and it is that insatiable greed that generates their umbilical cord to power.

Lest we forget, Ex-president Yahyah Jammeh has just been booted out of office by the will of the people. We can say whatever we want about him, but he surprised the whole world when he jokingly conceded defeat to President elect Adama Barrow; a former security office at Argos. Who would have envisaged that?

In spite of the victimization and threats against opposition leaders in the run up to the elections, it was conducted in a free, fair and peaceful manner. That is what you call a legacy.

No legacy is so rich as honesty.” The only thing you take with you when you’re gone is what you leave behind. Are you watching Orbai?

Don’t forget to turn the lights off when you cast your ballot.



  1. Thanks Abdul Dunkay ( Nthorma) for your comments. In life and in everything else, we should aspire to tell the truth at all times. I am aware of, and respect your view that Ernest koroma has not done anything for the country. There are some who may beg to differ.

    On balance, there is the temptation to conclude that against the backdrop of our country’s potential, we should be doing better than it is. I am sure we all agree that CORRUPTION has been our cancer from time immemorial. In spite of all these, we should equally try to acknowledge the good and the bad.

    Sierra Leone may be seen by many as toying with the idea of becoming a failed state, if not already. But in the interest of objective and constructive criticism, we should also be able to acknowledge the two sides of the coin. By that, we should be able to acknowledge the positives and negatives.

    For some of us that don’t have any political allegiances, this is easy for us to do. It only becomes difficult for those with entrenched political loyalties; which can some times result in political myopia. People with such political conditions would obviously find it difficult to see the wood for the trees. Thankfully, as a result on my non-allegiance to any political party (yet), I am at ease in recognising both sides of the coin.

    For starters, I spend less than 3 hours by road to Kono from Freetown these days. It use to take me more than 10 hours in the past. I would like to think that acknowledging such, not withstanding that it could only be a drop in the ocean, is not a criminal offence.

    And for you to arrest my opinion on that may sound a bit below the belt. For you to describe me or refer to my piece as “Journalist who are using their space to help tell lies that the president has done good works for the country is outrageous”, sounds like being economical with the truth.

    I feel ethically bound by my standards, to be as truthful, objective, and fair as far as humanly possible in my pieces. Like I said earlier, I don’t have any loyalties to any political party in Sierra Leone. This may be possible in the future, but for now, I am allergic to them.

    My loyalty is to my country and not to any political party. Nevertheless, I appreciate and respect your view, even though I may not agree with it. Please continue to comment or express your views. It’s free and we sometimes need such feedback, to keep the conversations going.

    Remember, that ” whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy ( Desiderata).

  2. “The price for achievement in African leadership initiative is US$5 million initial payment, plus $200,000 a year for life.” This is incredible. It makes you wonder the amount of wealth that they accumulate in their illicit practices during their governance.

    For the simple fact that they cannot seem to keep their hands out of the cookie jar, even when a complimentary – so lucrative being offered for basically doing what they’re appointed to do in the first place. It’s truly shameful.

    What else is expected from a man who has concrete figures (statues) of himself plastered all over the streets of Freetown? He is clearly an egoist. That particular gratification should be left for the people to decide if his legacy deserves to be acknowledge in that manner.

    There has to be some sort of psychological appeasement that comes with power. Leaders (there are exceptions) are usually full of hubris. The idea of being atop of the world, and its manifestation itself can sometimes be overwhelming. I can imagine how someone can easily get carried away.

  3. I wish the well written article had delved deeper into why term limit came into vogue in the developing world, especially Africa.

    In the immediate aftermath of the departure of the British, we had a vibrant political atmosphere, with well educated and articulate people gracing the political scene. These were people that could hold parliament for hours, without notes, to express their views on an issues without fearing that thugs would be waiting outside to physically manhandle them.

    The last time we had such calibre of people in the political arena was before the 1967 general election, which ultimately brought Siaka Stevens to power.

    Under Siaka Stevens, Sierra Leone completely lost her balance and has not regained it to this day. It was during the Stevens era that the country lost most of its top professionals, including medical doctors.

    To cap it all, Stevens declared a one-party state thereby silencing all opposition. This further led to the exodus of the best brains Sierra Leone could boast of. Some opponents who dared to stay in the country were executed on politically motivated charges of treason.

    Others slipped into the shadows and kept quiet until that unforgettable day in 1992 when Tom Nyuma [may Allah/God bless him] and others literally staked their lives to liberate the country from decades of APC tyranny and all that went with it.

    Thus the background for term limit was laid to save the country from another Siaka Stevens in whose period the three arms of government lost their boundaries without a trace.

    During the upheaval, state institutions like the army became unhinged, as APC made inroads into all of them – recruitment became political. Can we all see now why our army [if one could call it that] could not cope with Foday Sancoh’s R.U.F? It was a disgrace for the nation that mercenaries had to be brought in.

    Had Siaka Stevens respected what the British left behind, modeled on what they had at home, we would not be debating about term limit today. A British prime minister continues to be so, for as long as he keeps winning elections.The backbone to this is that the Brits respect their institutions set up to smell any fouling of their mandate from any distance.

    This is lacking in Sierra Leone and much of Africa, where cult personality leads the way to form the panoply of power, which provides the basis for megalomania.

    Earnest Koroma must go after his second and final term as stipulated in the constitution. His departure will enable us to mark his report card objectively and allow history to be the judge.

    I am mindful of the fact that President Koroma himself has not come out publicly to declare any of his intentions. We must therefore give him the benefit of of the doubt that he will respect the Constitution.

    I pause for now. The article is too broad to take on in one go. It’s my bed time.

  4. Let the whole world know and President Koroma understand that the Ebola Virus Disease hit Liberia and Guinea. In the midst of this EVD, Guinea conducted its election successfully and handed over power. Liberia is also aiming at conducting their own election when the time is due.


  5. This angers me. Journalist who are using their space to help tell lies that the president has done good works for the country is outrageous. Do you really believe that president Koroma has done good work?

    Having a good character is not a goal, its a process. This president lacks moral and spiritual values. That is why he is the most corrupt our country has ever seen.

    Sierra Leone was not the only country affected by the Ebola virus. If Guinea and Liberia can hold their elections, why can’t Sierra Leone do the same?

    The truth must always be said even if it is against yourself. Its time for some of us to take the fight of truth against falsehood. No matter what happens, truth shall always conquer.

    We are coming home soon to engage in the political process to push our country and people forward. By the grace of Allah we will succeed.

    President Koroma and his cronies and all that have impacted such misery in the lives of the people will surely pay the price for their corruption. Mark my words, they will be charged with treason for these crimes.

    Let us be true to our people, country and ourselves.

  6. Hey Abdulai, quick question. You used to publish your op-eds at Sierra Express Media. Now I’m seeing you here (The Sierra Leone Telegraph). What happened? Have you switched allegiance or what?……. (lol)

    Just asking.

    Leave the key under the rug by the entrance door before you leave….

    • Yes Jay S. S., interestingly, I do not have allegiance to any paper. I still continue to syndicate my articles – free of charge to these papers. But it looks like some are using their editorial licence to publish what is palatable for their papers. I have no control over their right to do so. In the meantime, stay tuned brother and check my blog on:

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