By Daniel Nbompa Turay :
One of the greatest problems responsible for the deplorable state of Africa is poor leadership. For decades, even centuries the continent has not been able to produce the anticipated political leadership that improves the lives of the masses. Rather, the continent has been rocked incessantly with visionless leaders, bad governance and endemic corruption. Well off course, many rose to power through undemocratic means and other terrible circumstances. Puppet regimes enthroned by colonial masters worshipped these colonial masters at the detriment of the masses whilst others were consumed with incompetency and egoistic tendencies. Now, the naked reality of the underdeveloped state of the continent implies that any leadership manifestation that does not exhibit visible and practical development will not produce the much anticipated transformation – is bound to fail.
One of the benefits of democracy is that it allows citizens to choose political leadership. This provides a huge opportunity for citizens to assess such leaders to established their competency and productive approach before they go to public office. We cannot allow incompetent or unproductive leaders because our situation is desperate. Conversely, when we have sober leaders we cannot let them go so easily save by the dictates of the constitution. For instance, though I am not a Brazilian, I supported the re-election of President Lula because his works are clearly written on the wall. His pro-poor programmes brought so much development to Brazil and, more importantly, the national cake was fairly shared as many Brazilians became millionaires. He actually set the Brazil economy at par with other advanced economies like US, China; India to the extent that development forecasters have projected that Brazil will become the world largest economy in years to come. His popularity was over 70% even when he was leaving power. Look, these are the kind of leaders we should clamour for. We need these kinds of leaders in Sierra Leone. I never regretted my support to Lula’s his re-election.
The restoration of democracy in 1996 ushered in such productive wind – rule by popular government. We have seen the rule of President Kabba and we have also experienced the rule of President Koroma. We had a bit of Bio when he was determined to perpetuate military rule in his sobel clothing against the wishes of defenseless citizens save for the resistance at the Bintumani 1 & 2. Kabba did his best particularly in bringing the war to an end but, nothing developmental was seen in his second term, that is, from 2002-2007. Some say he was busy projecting Solo B candidacy at the expense of national development – May the good lord help us.
The election of President Koroma in 2007 provided another opportunity for a new political leadership to create the anticipated impact that will set the country straight on the path of development with an improved standard of living of citizens. What Sierra Leone has witnessed these 5 years 2007-2012 is a leap, an upward move, a transformational leadership that is people and pro-poor centered. President Koroma has achieved substantial development in every sector of governance including socio-economic and politico-culture. These are being manifested in the massive infrastructural development, huge energy boost, revamped agriculture, cherished national health programme, sustained economic growth championed by viable private sector, youth development and women’s empowerment, brazen transparency and accountability that gives a fatal blow to the demon of corruption, impressive internal revenue generation, consolidated investors’ confidence, educational reform, unprecedented upholding of human rights and press freedom, and the fantastic industrialization drive that is bound to arrest the high rate of unemployment, the list is endless.
BBC reporter and President of Sierra Leone of Journalists Umaru Fofanah was so impressed with President Koroma’s address at a state-opening of parliament that he said in one of his piece in his usual column in the Awoko Newspaper that since he was born he has never listened to such presidential address that is full of practical development programmes (some completed, other in progress and more to come). Umaru was not lying. As a credible journalist, he just cannot say otherwise.
A couple of months ago, I listened to a recorded interview in 2006 on 98.1 radio with President Koroma then opposition leader. In that interview, opposition leader Ernest Koroma outlined his vision to move the country forward if he wins the 2007 elections. He clothed his developmental programmes under the nomenclature “Agenda for Change”. Upon winning, after appointing his ministers, he took them to a 3-days retreat outside of Freetown where among other things he shared his vision and implementing strategies with them. This is typical of 21st century leadership – Leaders who can develop vision and strategies, align relevant people behind the vision and then empowerment individuals to practicalized the vision.
President Koroma promised light in his first 100-days to the darkest city, Freetown which was being slightly rescued by the popular ‘Kabba Tiger’ generator. Unfortunately, the daily cost of fuel was constantly depriving people from light at night. Wosrt still, the carbon monoxide from these generators suffocated some Christians who were doing all night-prayers and they all died, including a popular journalist. Fear gripped so many people that people preferred to sleep in the dark rather than turn on their Kabba Tiger. The name was coined to fit the Kabba administration 1996-2007 where perpetual blackout was accepted as a government policy. Today many are fast forgetting the name because of the abundance of electricity supply. The completion of the Bumbuna Hydro by President Koroma in 2010 which started some 35 years ago by late President Steven gave a huge boost to the national energy supply. Mini-hydros are being built in the many running waters throughout the country whiles a solar training centre is functional in the outskirt of Freetown managed by Sierra Leonean women who receive training on solar installation from time to time in India. Rather than Kabba Tiger what is common today is that so many people have freezers which is not only serving home use, but also brings commercial benefits as well – as many sell ice blocks and yogurt.
Apart from the home use, electricity has also made the establishment of industries possible because of its low cost. According to CEO of ABC TV Mr. Shaw in 2006, his station was consuming about 50 gallons per night in a country were TV advertisement is a new phenomenon. He continued to run at a loss and finally closed operation. This was the first private broadcaster to compete with the then Government own SLBS. Can you imagine how many people would have been employed by this satation? Can you also imagine how many Mass Communication students would have improved their broadcasting potential through this station? It was really unfortunate. If the ABC will resume operations today it will have no problem with the supply of electricity. (To be continuing in Part 2)