From the Editor’s Keyboard

Who Wants To Be The Next Mayor Of Freetown?

20 February 2012 at 05:59 | 382 views

By Titus Boye-Thompson, Guest Writer.

The hottest seat in town is supposedly that of the Mayor of Freetown. With the incumbent facing allegations of wrongdoing, an impending election this year added to a City Council teetering at the brink of economic logjam, the city is bereft of effective leadership.

The acting Mayor barely holds on to the reins, knowing full well that his tenure is akin to that of a lame duck office holder. The question in everybody’s mind now is, who should run this city?

Depending on who you talk to, the Mayor is supposed to be a figure head, for ceremonial purposes and the usual civic functions whilst the matter of administering the City Council should be left in the hands of the Town Clerk and his professional team, including the City Treasurer. That the incumbent Mayor was indicted on charges which strictly speaking were the direct responsibility of City Council employees says something of either the administrative blurring of roles within the current administration or on the other hand its an indictment of the lack of proper safeguards that should have separated governance that should be the preserve of the Mayor and his Councilors from day to day management of the City Council’s affairs which should ordinarily be the concern of the Town Clerk and his administrators.

That Freetown needs effective management is not in dispute but the style of that management needs to be scrutinized. What options are open to the City Council for it to be more accountable to the people of Freetown and responsive to the service needs of the Capital?

Bo (southern region capital) is often used as an example of a well run city but the demands of a Capital city may be much more onerous than that of a far flung provincial conurbation. This is not taking anything away from the management of Bo City Council and its Mayor, but true to form, Bo is a much smaller spread compared to Freetown, and the politics of Bo is more easily determined than that of Freetown.

In context therefore, would a more hands on management style with a Mayor taking total responsibility for how the city is run, including being involved in day to day management and decision making be the way to go, or is there any scope for a more ceremonial Mayor, being rolled out at every state function with no real power but a rule by his committee of Councilors?

Residents in the city tend to see the Mayor as a central figure, one that is expected to have sway over the form and function of the City Council, has direct engagement with all the vested interests including the street traders and their representative groups and working effectively with Central Government to secure resources to keep the city clean and manage the Council’s education and health responsibilities.

It is a good thing therefore that several aspirants have popped their heads above the parapet to vie for this coveted office as first citizen of Freetown. It has long been held that the Mayor of Freetown is the last vestige of power that is contracted-out between the APC party and the Krios and that under an unwritten code, the APC Party is more likely to support a Krio for Mayor of Freetown against any other contender. This position is supported by the overwhelming majority of Krio Mayors who have held this position under the APC banner over the years.

If the Krios also feel strongly about their entitlement to the Mayor’s office, they tend to be supported in that position and are generally more trusted to run the City administration. So it is unsurprising that most of the aspirants vying for the APC symbol for Mayor are Krios. However, would just any Krio be enough or do we now need to spread the criteria more widely to attract the best person for the job? That Freetown is a greater metropolis must verily mean that the stranglehold of the Krios under the APC may be tested this time round, but the crop of contenders are credible and formidable enough to beat off any assertion that this was a closed race.

The undisputed front runner is Dennis Williams, who is building a broad based team with support from grass roots and party hierarchy across Freetown. His strategy seem to be one that focuses on engagement of all sections of the community and he has been working up the party structure with a zeal that shows his drive and commitment.

Christian Cole Jnr comes in at a distant second and he is not one who should be underestimated as he has a long record of service to the APC Party. CCJ as he is fondly known has been an avid campaigner and he is also hard at work putting a team together but his limitations in a field of youthful contenders are all too clear.

Oluniyi Robbin-Coker has pulled out on account of his recent elevation as Minister of Energy and Water Resources and deservedly so, and it is discomfiting to note that Nannette Thomas, the only woman mentioned so far is trailing woefully behind in the reckoning although she has been reported to boast of contacts within the Party and is reputed to have secured high level support from State House.

However, the President’s recent admonition that any one vying for Party Symbol must show evidence of what they have done at community levels and must be proactively supported by community leaders will be a major stumbling block for her. Other names are far off the radar but the mix of Diaspora and home base contenders is encouraging, even if the majority of them are Krios!

Whoever wins the APC symbol is very likely to be the next Mayor of Freetown and we hope it will be the best person for the job. Freetown needs a leader who can speak for everybody, challenge long held perceptions about city management, bring in new ideas to turn this city around, keep it clean and running for the benefit of its citizens.

This is a great Capital city, and it is hoped that whoever becomes the new Mayor should be able to lead it with a vision that will complement the President’s agenda for change.