From the Editor’s Keyboard

President Koroma and the people’s great expectations

20 December 2007 at 22:28 | 806 views

By Abdulai Bayraytay,Freetown.

Since his inauguration a few weeks ago, President Ernest Bai Koroma seems to be enjoying some vociferous support from the wider spectrum of the population of the West African state of Sierra Leone.

Such popularity is unprecedented in a political culture and climate in which the All People’s Congress Party was painted as the devil incarnate following its overthrow by the notorious National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) headed by blatant kleptomaniacs and human rights abusers like Valentine Strasser, Maada Bio, Tom Nyuma and Komba Kambo, (the measly conman who vamoosed with millions of dollars meant to purchase arms for the mercurial NPRC and now slated for deportation from the United States of America), along side their civilian political demagogues such as John Benjamin, John Karimu, Alusine Fofana and the putrid academic Abass Bundu et al in 1992 who later metamorphosed into the Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP).

To say that the SLPP was itself popular after the 1996 and 2002 presidential elections respectively would be an understatement. In the case of the former, the unsuspecting electorates particularly defied the harassment of the military junta and the intimidation of the puerile Revolutionary United Front (RUF) who were hell bent to cling on to power against the popular wish of the people. At the end, peoples’ power triumphed and erstwhile president Ahmed Tejan Kabbah became the first gentleman of the country.

The popularity of the SLPP government rapidly faded when corruption and political clientelism became the order of the day. This saw the emergence of a collection of local musical artists like Emmerson Bockarie and his famous “Borbor Belleh” album that indicted the ruling SLPP government of criminalizing the state, leading to the impoverishment of the masses. The final nail to the SLPP’s political coffin was the “Ejectment Notice” track by Innocent that climaxed a kind of political consciousness that later conspired against the bungling, desperate and callous SLPP government.

The popularity of the APC came about through the exploitation of the weaknesses of the elitist politics preached and practiced by the SLPP government. During the electioneering campaign, for instance, SLPP supporters derided voters by throwing rice at them, taunting them to go “embark on farming if they wanted rice”, while one of the light heavyweights of the party masquerading then as spokesman was notoriously quoted to have said on a radio program that he was drinking “Tutik” water because he went to school and earned a graduate degree.

While this cheap and insulting political mantra was going on, the APC was fraternising with the grass roots people in the East end of the city, selling its message of ridding the country of the apparent corruption perpetuated by the erstwhile government. And since his inauguration as president of Sierra Leone a few weeks ago thereby recuperating the party from the political wilderness and in opposition, Ernest Bai Koroma is really manifesting his political modesty by not tormenting pedestrians and other motorists with frustrating and tiresome motorcades. One would only notice the motorcade of the president by silent sirens with flashing lights courteously requesting taxi drivers and other road users to give way to the motorcade of the president.

What left observers, SLPP diehards and APC loyalists bemused was when president Koroma made an unannounced visit to the popular Stop Press on George Street in downtown Freetown on Saturday, December 8th, 2007 with virtually no bodyguards.

Sources later say this was part of demonstrating that his predecessors(who never did a thing like that) were out of touch with the people.

In one other instance, president Koroma descended on traders along Sani Abacha Street, shook hands with them and listened to what they would had to say.

According to Sulaiman H. Bangura, an activist who doubles as the Learning and Communications Officer with the leading Sierra Leone Youth Empowerment Organization (SLYEO), the expectations of the youth are particularly high as evidenced in the strike by the Youth Employment Scheme (YES) in which the car of the deputy minister of Education, Youth and Sports was torched.

He called on youth to exercise patience and not to resort to violence in expressing their civic rights. Mr. Bangura however called on government to establish a National Youth Commission that would further empower the youth by addressing the issues of the proliferation of youth groups and youth serving agencies. “The youth voted the APC simply because of the expectations of positive reforms that would empower them”, Mr. Bangura further noted.

That is why if president Koroma wanted to continue to enjoy the popular support of the people, the holders of political sovereignty who “ejected” the SLPP political demagogues from power, he should be seen to translate his vow of zero tolerance of corruption into action, while assiduously striving to address the perennial social problems of power outage and lack of infrastructure, and then consolidate the gains made by the SLPP government in improving education in the country, and, above all, inculcate discipline in Sierra Leoneans by example. With this, the APC will be sure to continue to enjoy the support of the people that would ultimately ensure its continuity in power.

*Abdulai Bayraytay(photo) is the deputy editor of the Patriotic Vanguard. He holds a Master’s and Bachelor of Arts with Honors degrees in political science from Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada and Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone respectively.