Salone News

Open Letter to President Ernest Bai Koroma

By  | 10 December 2012 at 22:55 | 1544 views

Congratulations Your Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma on your recent Majestic victory over Julius Maada Bio and the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP). Frankly, I knew you were going to win, because Bio was no match for you but there was always this lingering worry that there was going to be a run-off (as you know run-offs are always dangerous and unpredictable). That you had been able to win with such a wide margin (58.7 percent) is simply amazing. I did not realize how much you had penetrated the opposition strongholds. Good job. Anyway what should one expect when you had such a weak opponent, a man with such baggage with little to show apart from a few years in the army and a few months as head of a military junta?

As you may realize, I am a man that hates too much praise-sing (I hate Jelibas and Salamoothies). A little praise is sometimes good when somebody does something spectacular like what you did in this election. Praising a person 24 hours a day, seven days a week, like some people are doing is simply too much, too boring and drives me mad. Also, I do not like to shout my APC-ness from the roof-tops. I grew up at Fourah Bay(Fly Street, Scotland Street) after the family moved to Freetown when I was about 10 years old in the 60s from Yonibana. My father was then working at the Sierra Leone Ports Authority, Marine Division and the move to Freetown was prompted unfortunately by me because I was spending too much time in the Yonibana Poro bush and being something like an apprentice to the fearsome Sokobana Raka Faray rather than spending time at the Roman Catholic primary school in Yonibana where I was enrolled. My desperate mom had to send an urgent letter to my father in Freetown because she could no longer control and, more ominous, she feared that I might end up a Sokobana with all that entails. The Poro society was more fascinating to me than school at that point in my life. So my father sent one of my cousins with a truck and that was it, bye bye Yonibana, bye bye Raka Faray, (alias Gbin Ka Yekeh Mi). But I always went back to visit, during school holidays. By the way my father wanted me to attend your school the Magburaka Secondary school for Boys but my headmaster at UMC Ginger Hall in Freetown said “over my my dead body,” so off I went to the Albert Academy, something my late father and I have never regretted, even though MSSB was and still is, a very good school.

In Freetown,we used to live at Number 2 Fly street and the late APC guru Borbor Kamara(who created the famous song, APC Sbamu Kram-oh ) was at Number 1 Fly street, our next-door neighbour. So my family was deeply involved in APC politics since the 60s. I knew all the APC big guns in those days from S I Koroma to Sembu Forna, to Bangalie Mansaray, to S A Fofanah, Kojo Randall, Pa E T Kamara, Pop Shek himself and so on. Wide-eyed and excited, I loved listening to S I Koroma as he delivered one of his fiery speeches at the Dan street lorry park where my father would take me on weekends. Yes, I was already steeped in APC politics at a very young age. I am therefore sometimes amused when some Johny Just Comes start throwing their weight (literally and metaphorically) around. I believe, courtesy of brother Wole Soyinka, that a tiger never proclaims its tigritude, it pounces. Actions speak louder than words. Okay, enough about myself, although my father used to tell me if you don’t talk about yourself, nobody will. He also always said, don’t overdo it, don’t overdo anything in life. He was my first teacher.

Now to the issue at hand. I am going to choose my words very carefully in this message to you because you are constitutionally our Head of State, Father of the Nation, Fountain of Honour and so on. But apart from that you have demonstrated to all Sierra Leoneans that you are a man of integrity and honour that deserves respect and love. You are not arrogant, pompous or cruel like some of your predecessors and that’s a big plus. You are the first Sierra Leonean Head of State that has never persecuted any journalist or sent his opponents and critics to jail. Even the venerable Sir Milton Margai sent people to jail at Mafanta. That you never did speaks volumes about you.

Thank you for not tormenting journalists in our country although some of them are so rotten they cannot survive for a day in any Western country; their newspapers, radio and TV stations would be shut down pretty quickly and they would be banned from journalism forever and ever. But like the country itself, some of them are improving, learning the hard way with no serious role models to look up to. Others will simply not change, being so deep in blackmail, extortion and all sorts of 419 tricks, that they will rather die than drink the bitter medicine of change. The Agenda for Change has left them behind, unfortunately. I hear some of these people are busy lobbying and putting pressure on you to appoint them ministers in your next cabinet simply because they supported you in the last election. I will say don’t even think about it, Mr. President. These guys are so rotten that appointing them ministers will create serious problems of credibility for you and make our country a laughing-stock both in and out of Sierra Leone. It will kill the Agenda for Prosperity even before it starts.

Your Excellency, some of us have been gentle with your administration in the last five years simply because we did not want to hurt your chances of being re-elected for another five years. We also knew you were operating under serious constraints even though you really wanted to take tough action on many things. You had to suspend your intended action because your re-election would have been in jeopardy if you had slammed down hard on some of your ministers and senior government officials.You even suspended your monthly assessment of your ministers’ performance because some of these guys would have damaged your campaign for re-election if you had sacked them. I and other journalists understood that very well, so we held back our fire most of the time.We knew you were under siege.

Now that you have been re-elected I know your hands are free now for us to see the real Ernest Koroma as we implement the Agenda for Prosperity (I say We because we all should be involved, you cannot do it alone). By the way the Agenda for Change was not so bad (despite your constraints) but I know the Agenda fro Prosperity will be far better with, hopefully, a new crop of carefully selected and screened ministers to do the people’s work, not because they are APC loyalists or very close to you, but that they have the knowledge, skills and experience to push the country forward.

I am tempted to dissect the performance of some of your ministers in the last administration but will shelve that for another time and place. I must however say I was acutely disappointed in the way and manner the last re-branding campaign was executed. It was an absolute disaster to put it very mildly. How can a minister appoint Press Attaches all over the world without engaging editors and publishers first as a matter of priority? Who is going to publish the work of these hard-working press attaches most of whom are quite good? Also, I don’t believe a press attache should run a newspaper either as editor or publisher because it’s simply wasted and ineffectual effort because every intelligent reader knows a press attache is a government official, period. Only the party faithful will appreciate such a publication and that’s not re-branding. So the re-branding process in the last five years was a nightmare that should be immediately addressed by the incoming Information minister. What a mess.

Now let me finally address the two basic issues that prompted this missive, which are reaching out to the defeated and devastated opposition and the release of detainees and prisoners connected to the recent elections.

I hear most of the detainees have been released and I have nothing more to say on that except to plead for the release of ALL of them including the convicted prisoners. I am convinced most of these people are not criminals, hardened or otherwise. They were simply caught up in the euphoria and excitement of the elections, aided by alcohol and other stuff. They were, to say the least, over-enthusiastic in seeing that their party wins by all means. Yes, they broke the law (I am assuming here) but you, Your Excellency, you alone has the Prerogative of Mercy conferred on you by our constitution to free them all, even those that have been sentenced. Now to the other issue.

I think you should consider the suggestion by our learned brother Dr Yusuf Bangura who, in a recent article published in the Patriotic Vanguard said you may consider appointing a minister from each of the 12 districts in the country and another 10 from people closest to your heart, making a total of 22 ministers. I know this is huge but former President Kabbah did it when he returned from Guinea and governed largely in peace and tranquility until you took over in 2007. I know some APC hardliners do not like this suggestion because it limits their chances of becoming ministers.They are afraid, very much afraid.But we are now about to implement the Agenda for Prosperity and we need all hands on deck. Every Sierra Leonean should participate and have a share of the nation’s wealth. You are president of Sierra Leone, not president of the APC.

I know some diehard APC supporters are afraid that bringing into government some diehard SLPP politicians is dangerous and counter-productive since they may only come in to weaken and destroy the party and the government as they did to Joseph Saidu Momoh’s APC. These fears are legitimate. Dr Bangura is not suggesting you bring in diehard SLPP politicians from the various districts. He is saying individuals, SLPP supporters or otherwise from each district should be included in the government. I would prefer technocrats with a national outlook to represent Bo, Moyamba, Bonthe, Kenema,Kailahun, Kono, Tonkolili, Bombali, Port-Loko, Western Area, Koinadugu and Kambia districts. And then ten other ministers you think should be with you. Perfect. Nice. But the final decision is yours. I wait to see what you think of it.

Phew. This has been the longest piece I have written this year. I normally like to be brief, succint and precise. Anyway, I wish you long life and prosperity in whatever you do. Once again congratulations on your majestic victory over Julius Mada Bio and the SLPP.

You are indeed Orbai, the World’s Best. Orwa, tapkasadi.

PS: Since I wrote this letter on Saturday I have received some comments both private and public on the issue of regional representation in the new cabinet. It seems to me there is deep animosity and mistrust between the political parties. A final and ultimate solution might be the President using people who have cross-carpetted from the other political parties, people already within the fold of the APC. There are many of them in the APC right now. So Mr. President, you can use them. Good luck to you, Sir.