28 December 2012
President Koroma is not known as a president that makes difficult decision and takes tough.action for the public good. But it seems after five long years and one month in office, believing that his government has turned the country around – economically and socially, his proverbial penny has now dropped.
Alas, he accepts that lawlessness in Sierra Leone is a major problem for the country, with serious economic and social consequences. But has he just woken up from his slumber?
According to State House report, the president was attending a gala dinner held in his honour last night in his home town Makeni, where he made a rather unusual speech, which by all intents, was for the edifice of his audience in the hall, as much as it was for national consumption.
What is significant about his speech, is not that he spoke about rising lawlessness in the country – for a president who has been in power since 2007, but rather – his choice of words, as he told the people of Sierra Leone:
“Lawlessness is too much in the country. No country can prosper in the midst of lawlessness. You have voted me for my second and last term and I thank all those who voted for me. But please I want you all to realize that this is going to be my last term and I’m all set to leave a legacy as a former President.”
For those that are used to the president’s usual rhetorical mantra, after five years and one month in office, there is nothing new in that statement. They’ve heard it all before.
But perhaps, what is new, is the rather veiled threat coded in the next statement that followed, as he looked across the hall – filled with close friends, family members and party faithful.
He said; “ I’m now ready to part company with friends and relatives. No more business as usual. It doesn’t mean because I did not jail any politician or journalist in my first five years in the midst of rudeness and lawlessness, the same will continue. I’m warning those with ears to hear me. I wish you all a prosperous New Year”.
But was that speech really aimed at his naughty allies, friends and relatives ? Or was it a euphemism directed at the main opposition SLPP party – refusing to accept the results of the recent elections that handed him a second term in office?
Surely, he could not have been speaking to the petty criminals who were out that night looking for opportunities to steal; the armed robbers who in the last five years and under his presidency, have stepped up their violence, inflicting serious injuries on innocent victims – in many cases – death.
Or was he speaking to the hundreds of thousands of unlawful street traders in the capital – Freetown, whose unflinching love for the president has been repaid, by allowing them to trample on the law; or the reckless okada riders who continue to flout the law daily, and at the same time acting as escort for the president’s motorcade, as and when called upon to do so?
Surely, the president could not have been addressing them, nor was he speaking to his public officials and associates that are neck deep in corruption, about his newly found determination to bring them to justice for the misappropriation of public funds.
No, he could not have been speaking to them.
So could it be that the speech was just another sound bite, aimed at giving the president a new public persona, as he begins his second term in office? Most Sierra Leoneans believe that the president is a ‘softie’ – all talk – no action.
And the problem with this new public image make-over strategy is that, president Koroma is not known for his toughness, nor is he renowned for his disciplined approach to managing public affairs.
He is a nice guy with whom one could have a quiet drink and a lazy chat on a Saturday afternoon, but hardly the leader who, one would expect to wield the axe when it matters. He is certainly not renowned for that.
So how will the people of Sierra Leone take the president’s rather mixed messages?
Would they now believe that he is about to take law and order in the country seriously? Or would they simply chuckle and sneer at his latest pronouncement, as just another rhetoric?
As we come to the end of 2012 and embark on the start of another long and painful five years for the majority of Sierra Leoneans, whose real daily income is no greater than it was five years ago, let us remind ourselves of some of the broken promises made by the president during his first term, that he is yet to deliver:
– Bring into law the Freedom of Information Bill
– Reduce poverty by increasing average daily income
– Ensure that no family goes to bed hungry
– Bring an end to corruption
– Bring an end to impunity
– Ensure that maternal and childhood deaths are significantly reduced
– Significantly increase the level of literacy
– Significantly reduce youth unemployment
– Invest in the development of the private sector to create jobs
– Cut government waste and profligacy
– Bring an end to poor governance
Words are cheap, but action is what’s needed now, if the president is to leave behind a true, lasting and worthwhile legacy, after completing his final term in office in 2017.
In the meantime, he must remember that he has nothing to prove now, other than to deliver what he promises.
“Better a man known for keeping his promises, than for his utterances”
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