Dr Jonathan Bonopha Tengbe – SLPP Flagbearer Aspirant
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 April 2016
Our country Sierra Leone is today celebrating its 55th Anniversary, after gaining independence from Great Britain on 27th April 1961.
This was a remarkable achievement for the simple fact that, we attained independence and by default put an end to colonialism without a single loss of life, when countries like Kenya went through a difficult war before achieving the same status.
In 1961, the intention of the first Prime Minister of Sierra Leone – Sir Milton Margai, was to improve the standard of living of all Sierra Leoneans as noted in an extract from his speech on that day. He said:
“We have much to do to bring improvements to all parts of our country. I am fully aware of this and I assure you all that my Government is determined that general progress shall be made as fast as possible”.
“But there is also much that can be done by yourselves to meet your own needs, and I shall continue to support and encourage voluntary local support, whether it is directed to the building of a road, a bridge, a school, or a community centre, a sports field, water supply, or any other communal requirement”
I am sure his vision for Sierra Leone would have achieved the same level of development that is enjoyed today by Singapore, who gained independence just a few years later, if our development trajectory had stayed on that course.
Unfortunately, after only six years of independence and SLPP rule, that vision was ended by a vicious APC government that took over in 1967, until they were ousted from power in 1992. (Photo: Sir Milton Margai – First prime minister of Sierra Leone).
This was followed by 10 years of brutal civil war which brought Sierra Leone to its knees; and more recently, by an Ebola epidemic that lasted for two years, taking the lives of almost 4,000 people.
Some might ask: “Is 55 years of independence worth celebrating?” And many would argue that the country has not made the best use of its abundant natural and human resources, to improve the standard of living of its people after 55 years of independence.
You will agree that there has been a steady decline in the quality of life in the country because of high unemployment, low education standards, food insecurity, poor healthcare, poor sanitation, and lack of basic infrastructure – such as transportation, water and power supply.
My view is that Sierra Leone should celebrate 55 years of independence, but should also be thankful that we have come through these difficult hurdles.
I will also say that we are now ready as a nation, to start a new vision for Sierra Leone: to improve the Standard of Living for all Sierra Leoneans, through integrated infrastructure planning and national development. This I will do as president of Sierra Leone, if elected.
My presidency will take our development efforts, which have deluded us for decades to a new level, because we have essentially put a premium on the wrong approaches to development.
Instead of Agriculture and trade, we have focused on mining and aid.
Rather than tackling corruption, we have concentrated on punitive measures for culprits. (Photo: Dr. Jonathan Tengbe).
We have shown preference for growth over development, and put investor interests over environmental issues.
I want to be the president that creates the difference, through a rapid rationalization of our approach to development.
If we must ask for aid, let’s take a one-off approach. For instance, after the decade long civil war and the Ebola epidemic, there is now a strong argument for Sierra Leone to have a “marshal plan” aimed at creating new institutions, and establish the infrastructure needed to put the country on the appropriate development trajectory.
I will call this plan “Project Sierra Leone”. We will construct a road infrastructure network that will improve our agricultural and industrial sectors.
I am appalled at the lack of basic amenities in the country today, such as electricity and water supply, and I will ensure the sustainable provision of these amenities.
I want to serve my people in those areas that will provide the greatest job opportunities for the youth and other marginalized groups, such as women and the disabled.
I will ensure and make the inclusiveness of women in the body polity a priority, by instituting quota appointments and prioritizing the education of the girl child.
A president Tengbe will put premium on eliminating corruption, by demotivating potential practices; introduce appropriate minimum wage, cost of living adjustments, training and institutionalized awards for whistle blowing and other anti-corruption practices.
From the many years of my work abroad, I will use the international connections and clout that I have garnered to market ‘Project Sierra Leone’, and demonstrate the relevance of Sierra Leone in regional and global matters.
I would like to end by wishing all Sierra Leoneans a pleasant 55th Independence anniversary. May God bless us All.
Dr Jonathan Bonopha Tengbe – Flagbearer Aspirant of the SLPP