Apparently, the flag-bearer of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), Julius Maada Bio, does not really know what is going on in Sierra Leone.
Apart from his reluctant acceptance of his role in extrajudicial killings in the worldwide-listened BBC ‘Focus on Africa’ programme, and his blatant lies of saying the SLPP built 700 kilometres of road from Freetown to other countries while the APC has only done about 3 kilometres (which in reality should actually be the reverse), the rat-like cornered former junta leader actually exposed his ignorance of the solid socio-economic foundation currently being laid in Sierra Leone by stating that his priorities would be youth employment and the economy – because, according to him, “economic growth will never materialise while Mr Koroma presides over at best incompetence… bla bla bla” – with Chatham House evoking the picture of a scene in ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’!
What a shallow and narrow-minded presentation that was. All Maada Bio did was to make a surface presentation of the status quo in Sierra Leone. Talks like ‘the prices of commodities are soaring’, ‘no jobs for the youths’, ‘no money in the banks’, ‘fuel shortage’ do not really sound strange in the ears of westerners today because western countries that used to lack these harsh conditions are today experiencing them first- hand. Why else would European governments face difficulties with their people as they undertake austerity measures?
In Spain today, there’s the highest rate of unemployment ever experienced. In Britain, people are losing their jobs. France had to recently change President Sarkozy in a national soul-searching exercise. Portugal had to go for weeks without a government. One of America’s biggest banks of all time, JP Morgan & Chase, is facing a tough financial crisis. Greece is in turmoil. The story goes on and on and on… And Maada Bio wants to present a picture as if this is unique to Sierra Leone. But, in fact the reality is: Sierra Leone’s true story under President Ernest Bai Koroma is the reverse side of an economic meltdown.
Someone has said Africa is the new frontier of development – only selfish politicians would not grab the opportunity. President Koroma, not being in that category, has put Sierra Leone to higher heights with his transformational agenda – as acknowledged by Maada Bio’s interviewer on BBC – an agenda that apparently puts the youths and the economy at the centre.
|Most of the people who throng around the President are Youths and Women. Shown here is a cross-section of mostly youths on a jampacked Kailahun field earlier this month when President Koroma visited Kailahun
Whoever knows the most elementary aspects of the economics of a country would immediately notice that President Koroma’s ‘Agenda for Change’ actually has as its core cardinal objectives the youths and the economy. But, sadly, Maada Bio does not know this. He lives in his own world of political self-delusion as an ignoramus.
There is no other economy in the world, apart from Sierra Leone’s, that has been projected to grow by at least 35% this year – a projection actually made by the always-perceived-cynical International Monetary Fund. Does Maada Bio actually read widely or he merely reads whatever Abass Bundu puts on his table?
When President Koroma assumed office in 2007, apart from donors having lost confidence in the previous regime and having to freeze support because of rampant and indiscriminate pilfering of state coffers, virtually all projects in the country were either at a standstill or actually dead. President Koroma then said he would run the country as a business – and he put his ministers on their toes by signing performance contracts with them and, along with the President himself, declare their assets with a sharpened and autonomous Anti Corruption Commission (ACC).
To match his ‘business’ words with action, the President courted the private sector through incentives, stimulating it into a national participatory role, to think out of the box, and to attract large-scale investments – and eventually leading to Sierra Leone being described as the ‘easiest place to do business in the sub-region’. The IMF and the World Bank saw the new direction the country was taking and jumped on the bandwagon – the flagship success story being that of the completion of the Bumbuna Hydro Project Phase 1.
Today we have the First Step economic zone producing juice concentrates exported to Europe, the prosperity-prone Addax Bio-energy project, a revitalised Sierra Rutile, an operational iron-ore locomotive-carrying African Minerals, an ambitiously similar London Mining, the Gold Tree export-eyeing palm plantation, among major companies that have stimulated our economy with great potentials in foreign exchange earnings. Not to talk about the mushrooming gold and diamond mining companies; and the intense mechanised agricultural activities taking place all over the country through the small-holder commercialization programme.
The result of this, unlike trends in western economies, is that the economy of Sierra Leone is projected to grow faster than any other economy in sub-Saharan Africa, alas in the whole world, in 2012 (http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE84D00G20120514?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0).
Riding roughshod against the odds and against the general trend of the world economy, President Koroma has actually increased the wages of doctors, nurses, and all medical staff, followed by a general increase of the salaries of all public servants, including teachers and lecturers.
|A happy Kailahun Youth holds up architectural diagram for the proposed Pediatric Medical Center for young children of Kailahun District. It is an unprecedented proposal in History of Kailahun.
Obviously, there’s a growing rate of employment in Sierra Leone in comparison with what President Koroma inherited in 2007 – and that’s just the beginning. There are hundreds if not thousands of more jobs today than at any time during the SLPP’s 11 years in power. Internal revenue-collection mechanisms have been expanded and leakages significantly blocked, bringing in much-needed income for the on-going construction of the domestic infrastructure thoroughfare, on which the projected economic boom would prophetically drive and thrive.
Then a reminder: During the tough periods of the global financial crisis, President Koroma took the bold decision of continuing to subsidize petroleum products and removing the tax on imported rice so as just to cushion the effects of the global economic meltdown on the people – a situation which other great countries in the subregion, could not manage so well and led to riots all over the country!
And when the expected growth rate is started to be felt later this year by the people of Sierra Leone, bread-and-butter cries would become barbecues-and-better chimes. For sure! By the time we go to elections in November, Maada Bio would realize that the economy will no longer be a topical issue – at his peril! In November, for sure, Freetown would be enjoying 24 hours electricity. By November, Sierra Leone would be rich enough to supply thousands of bags of rice into the market, and an abundant reserve of fuel. Indeed way before November, there would be a significant improvement in the water supply system, considering the pace of on-going intervention projects in that sector. Campaign for Good Governance – or campaigning for green governance – does not have the foresight to see this and be patient for a little while longer – but have to shout on top of their voices about small hitches on amenities that were either virtually non-existent before or whose effects on the people’s lives were very minimal!
By November this year, yes November 2012, thousands of youths would have found themselves in meaningful employment opportunities.
|Kailahun Youths Cheer Koroma earlier this mouth
Kailahun Youths Cheer Koroma earlier this mouth
Maada Bio’s Chatham House priorities are redundant in the face of President Koroma’s strategic ‘Agenda for Change’.
It’s not only about talking about the youths in the abstract. It’s about ‘how?’ And Maada does not have the ‘how’ – Bio does not know the ‘how’. I have read all his postulations; and there’s nowhere that he mentions the most important tool for not only youth employment but for general socio-economic development in this country. Maada needs to be reminded that all emerging great economies in the world today, starting from Asia to Latin America to Africa, are fast-tracking their development because of the embracing of information and communications technology (ICT).
Maada in all his speeches since birth has never mentioned ‘ICT’ – I can’t vouch he knows how to use a computer. If we are today admiring countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, India, China, South Korea, Brazil, and even little The Gambia for their fast-paced development strides, it’s because they have put ICT at the centre of their development agenda. The SLPP does not know this – that’s why the term ‘fibre optic’ was never in their dictionary. Maada Bio does not know this – he only knows how to clutch a gun, push the trigger, smash the head of a pregnant woman, and try to hide the fact.
President Koroma knows better. And he demonstrated this by giving priority to ICT development in Sierra Leone – he formed the ICT Council and became its Chairman. The President negotiated the landing of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine fibre optic cable, the first ever to touch the shores of Sierra Leone. The landing station has already been built, and work on the terrestrial backbone that would connect cities, towns and villages will commence in the next few months. From the commencement of that construction - till perhaps eternity - there would be an incessant opportunity of job creation for Sierra Leonean youths. So, caeteris paribus, by November when we would go to the polls, thousands of youths would have found themselves meaningfully and gainfully engaged in the ICT sector either as technical staff, or administrators, or trainees or mere labourers – which is why the innovative of forming a Youth Commission by this government is simultaneously commendable. By November, with the fibre optic benefits trickling in, even the tariff of mobile phones will significantly go down – I mean the prices of top-up cards will go down. What an election winner for President Koroma and the APC!
I know of an international ICT company that would create up to 10, 000 jobs for the youths in Sierra Leone in assembling mobile phones and computers. Go to Rwanda or Kenya and see young people setting up companies that have exposed them into the international arena. So, Maada Bio’s talk of caring for the youths without even knowing what actually to give them is a highfalutin prattle. Maada is in a dream world.
And all I can say is, “Lord, forgive him, for he knows not what he is saying.” Because youths and the economy are intricately embedded in President Koroma’s ‘Agenda for Change’ - now actually evolving into the ‘Agenda for Prosperity’. And when that prosperity starts blossoming soon, you can be sure that those littering street traders would finally be relocated; you can be sure that, on the back of having apparently been disappointed by the Freetown City Council, we would be able to hire the services of a private company (as is being done in Ghana) to take care of garbage-collection and the general cleanliness of the city. You can be sure the educational system will be revitalised.
You can be sure the tourism industry will correspondingly boom; you can be sure Sierra Leone is ready to change the lives of its citizens through the ‘Agenda for Prosperity’. You can be sure we would be looked upon with envy again by other nations and - as in times past, especially during the colonial period when we bestrode the intellectual landscape of West Africa –they would look at us again and say ‘indeed they are a chosen people; Sierra Leone is a chosen nation (the mother of British West Africa)’. In a month’s time, London-headquartered Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) will descend on Sierra Leone with ICT ministers from other countries and major stakeholders in the ICT sector to recognise the strides of Sierra Leone. The tremors of that reality will certainly shake Maada Bio.
And I wonder if the SLPP would be able to put Maada Bio – Humpty-Dumpty like – together again when he would fall from the political fence.
Look at how the following quote from Shakespeare befits the ‘pa-o-pa’ flag-bearer: “Now does he feel his secret murders sticking on his hands…Those he commands move only in command, Nothing in love. Now does he feel his title hang loose about him like a giant’s robe upon a dwarfish thief.”
Maada Bio once wrecked our economy and abused our youths and ran away. He has metamorphosed under a new name – like Lucifer!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Views expressed are not official but solely the author’s.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.