President Koroma is in his second and last term of his political career in the country; last term because the country’s constitution disallows an incumbent president to run for third term even if you are as popular as President Bill Clinton of the United States. The presidency of Ernest Koroma has been shaped by both positive and negative ramifications.
Even the die-hard fanatics of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party would commend the presidency of Koroma for some giant developments in the country during his first term. As usual, the second term is greeted with hopes, fits, fumbles and failures. The second inaugural address of president Koroma paved way for agitated hopes with lactating mothers being promised of free health care delivery services, teachers of improved salaries and civil servants taking home worthy salaries. The infrastructural development in the country seems to be on track though with glitches and hiccups along the way. The infamous Masingbi-Kono highway that has been abandoned and neglected by previous governments is on track with construction equipment on display for imminent work. Provincial towns like Magburaka can now boast of water borne water in the township since structure of this sort broke down since the 80s. The construction of a new stadium in the eastern part of the country and other areas experiencing developmental strides are worth commendable on the part of the Koroma government.
On the political front, the president is on speaking terms with other political parties as we are told. Just recently, the nation was informed of a consultative meeting at State House with other political parties on the way forward on sensitive issues of national interest. Quite a positive start to the second term presidency, some would say. From face-book commentaries, the economy is booming with multi-national companies emerging from different corners of the country. Speaking to a fanatic of the ruling party of the All People’s Congress, the list is endless as there are signs of construction everywhere in the country. They would tell you, actions speak more than intentions.
But the question is: is the second term really different from the first term? Why has the State House being transformed the place of attrition? Indeed the second term is completely different from the first term. As the policies suggest, the first term was an ‘Agenda for Change’ whereas the second term is ‘Agenda for Prosperity’. But where is the difference (s)? What has gone wrong with the president and his Agenda for Prosperity? Has he lost his mojo? Why the story of the Vice President being marginalized still flying around?
It seems to me that the President needs to decide what his legacy is going to be, what is he going to be the most proud of when he’s sitting at his house in Makeni after his Presidency? Is it going to be the road construction? Is it going to be a balanced budget that caters for the underprivileged? Is it going to be nation-wide educational opportunities for all, regardless of partisan dimension? The President should be aware of his legacies in every speech, appearance and policies with the long range goal in mind. In this world of gullibility, it is only the work of mankind that prevails. The praise singers of the Koroma presidency here today but will not be there tomorrow browbeating the name of the Koroma presidency. Haven’t we seen it before when a minister used to stand at hilltop praising J.S.Momoh and subsequently disappears when he was overthrown? What about the tireless efforts of President Kabbah bringing peace to the country? Though some criticized him for being too soft at the negotiation talks, however, he will forever be remembered as the president that restored tranquility to the country. These are the relics of good works.
In the United States, it is believed that all presidents in their political history have never achieved all their goals in the first term. It is an accepted wisdom amongst commentators that good deals with other presidents and developmental strides are done in the final term of any presidency. So, it is with exasperated breadth that the people of Sierra Leone are hinging their hopes and aspirations on the Koroma presidency to deliver the promised package as a legacy to be remembered.
For President Koroma, his key challenge in his second term lies in managing the delicate balance between what he wants (his priorities) and what he thinks the public wants (perceived mandate) and taking care not to confuse the two. In 2004, George Bush came close to jettisoning the two people- Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield- most associated with extreme views of how to handle the 9/11 foreign affairs. In his second term of his presidency, George Bush sidelined most of his henchmen and tried to salvage his dip in form approval rate. This has resulted to George Bush being considered as the least rated American president in the history of the country. Sierra Leone will never be the United States nor George Bush be compared to Ernest Koroma, but the synchronism is that, the presidency has to fire dead woods in the presidency and the government. There are too many people in the government that are not supposed to be there. Just as a president cannot please everybody, so a leader cannot annoy everybody. It is the team of a presidency that shapes the political resume of a good leader.
President Koroma needed to look to his predecessors to see how quickly an incoherent source of information can consume a second term. In the United States, Richard Nixon resigned in his second term as a result of a scandal, Ronald Reagan got ensnarled in the Iran-Contra affair, Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about his dalliances with Monica Lewinsky and George Bush lost the public’s trust through his botched handling of the infamous Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath and the unpopular Iraq War. Conversely, in Sierra Leone, President Kabba with all his astute handling of the peace negotiations at the Lome Peace Accord is being castigated by many as a result of his utterances he made against the bombing of civilians by the West African ECOMOG forces, Momoh’s credibility as a leader is being maltreated in national discussions when he publicly acknowledged his failure at steering the country and Maada Bio of the NPRC part II is still being targeted as a result of his campaign of ‘Peace before Elections’ in 1996’. Each of these mistakes has consumed the hard sacrifices these previous leaders make in shaping their own destiny.
The second term of the Koroma presidency seems to be faltering, fumbling and maybe stalled. There are many cooks in the kitchen of State House. The president’s relationship with the press is tepid as civil servants, ministers now take journalists to the Criminal Investigation Department for a cozy overnight rest. The president needs these relationships to advance his agenda in the country and the strained ties with opposition members of the SLPP legislators are emblematic of a broader problem for him in his tendency to keep a tight inner circle. Scandals have hit State house, ministries and parastatals in recent weeks and critics have called for a sweeping shake-up and not singular actions. Even the president’s allies have called for someone-anyone- to be fired for the retrogression of the country’s woes. Rather disappointingly, the president has responded in his typical restrained fashion though he is doing minor shuffling.
There is lawlessness among the Okada riders, the Lumley roundabout is emerging as a no- go area of the Kaduna Mafia with gangs of youths waiting to snatch people’s properties in broad day light. The electricity in the city is still infrequent, unemployment is still rife and the cost of living seems to be tightening every nook and cranny of the country.
As president Koromo is still enjoying his popularity as a charismatic leader, his popularity will never speak as his legacy. The inner circle bogey people around the presidency will melt into another political camp when the president leaves power and he will be JUDGED on his work whilst in office and not the tons of pictorial displays of his presidency on face-book.
The people are watching and will one day judge you by your works. Mr. President, you know why presidents like Ronal Reagan of the United States, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Nelson Mandela, to name but a few, are still remembered today? It is because of their legacies.
Please ignore the praise singers now and build on your legacy. The road might be long from now but very short in life. Your charisma, God fearing posture and intentions still has the capabilities of transforming your presidency into a formidable one, if only, the right team is selected.
I wish you well in your second and last term in office. May God bless the people of Sierra Leone.