Why Yumkella has the Proven Ability to Contest our Nation’s Presidency!
By Dr. Christopher Williams (01/02/18)
Since independence, this is the first time a person with such proven skills and ability to contest for the apex position in Sierra Leone!
The die has been cast. The time for our next general elections is now at our doorstep and whether we like it or not, a decision has to be made for the land that we so love, our Sierra Leone. We have to decide on setting the tone for our country for the next five years, and probably the next ten. I am one Sierra Leonean that gave up on our national politics, because I strongly believed that its degeneracy was irreparable. But current developments such as the emergence of a robust Presidential candidate have forced me to rethink my position and have given me a sign of hope enough to take a decisive and deliberate stance without any fear or favor. My reason for change is not for any personal benefit but rather to bequeath to posterity as part of my last will and testament, a healthy and dynamic Sierra Leone.
It is my humble submission that ever since our independence that our country, like most of Africa, has not been blessed with good leadership, apart from Sir Milton Margai’s very short tenure, in which he governed the country with clean hands. The rest of the leaders have left very much to be desired, some much worse than others. There has been so much Kleptocracy and lack of vision and at times megalomaniacs surrounded by sycophants whose objective had nothing but ill gotten gains. They are willing to fill their pockets and project their personal image as living legends and at times utter dictators that lack the shared knowledge of governance. As a result the nation has plunged from the sublime to the ridiculous. It is at times heart rendering, frustrating and disillusioning for a nation that appears to have such potential in natural and human resources can afford to degenerate so fast.
It is very difficult to forget about the ignominious past that has been dominated by the politics of thuggery, as well as a perverted democratic system that depends on what the leaders dictate. Currently, we have been put into a situation where the direction of our Republic has to be determined. Do we want to have a continuation of the same where anytime we open the newspaper there are reports of kleptocrats who have enriched themselves considerably and who lavishly boast about it; who in few years in major positions have acquired so much wealth way beyond their compensation without any accountability? Or do we want to go the way of proven official thuggery and unscrupulousness, unheeded kleptocracy and pronouncement of “first color” in a nation where most of us are dark-skinned? Or do we need change from a middle aged passionate and compassionate leader who has proven himself with distinguished accolades on the world and domestic scenes and one who is ready to ensure practical growth and development for the land that we love?
President Tejan Kabbah’s tenure in office need not be trivialized. He was faced with all kinds of difficulties such as civil war which he had to encounter and in the end came out successfully. He stabilized Sierra Leone by ensuring peace. He also set up institutions like NASSIT and the National Revenue Collection Agency. Together with the United Nations he set up the Anti Corruption Agency as well as the Special Court System to try some of the rebels and was responsible for many other notable undertakings.
The Ernest Koroma administration, for the last ten years, have been marked with some successes and a host of failures. Since 2002 under the Kabbah administration, the economy had grown phenomenally at the rate of six to seven per cent. This growth continued during the Koroma administration until the advent of the ebola pandemic which partially destroyed the economy. However, at the time of this phenomenal growth, very few Sierra Leoneans derived substantial economic benefits from the continued economic expansion. Approximately half of the national income went to business firms.
Another quarter directly or indirectly benefitted a small and privileged group of Sierra Leoneans, politicians and top salaried government officials. Practices such as super inflated per diem monies paid to officials as well as other unnecessary inflated perks to government officials have had a very negative impact on the economy. The great mass of Sierra Leone households and petty businesses approximately ninety five percent of the people received the remaining quarter of the national income.
Seventy percent of Sierra Leoneans live below the poverty level and twenty six percent of our people live in abject poverty. Forty percent of the people live in urbanized areas, yet industrialization in terms of manufacturing is miniscule giving rise to the high percentage employment, especially youth unemployment. More than half of the total consumption expenditure comes from the very few wealthy Sierra Leoneans residents, expatriates, government officials, landowners, businessmen and women. This should suggest a heavy taxes on consumer goods.
The wealthy have a way of circumventing taxes enforced or not enforced. The Koroma government of patronage and corruptions transcends the laws. I am not sure whether we Sierra Leoneans want this kind of bad governance to continue in the land that we love.
Attempts by State institutions such as the Anti Corruption Commission and by the courts to demand accountability have been thwarted with all kinds of executive and administrative interferences and this has created an atmosphere of inequity, and unfairness for the great bulk of the masses who live in abject poverty throughout the country. We can do better than this.
Income redistribution has not been addressed by the Koroma administration. A relatively large proportion of wages and salaries have gone to a small amount of non Africans as well as non Sierra Leoneans. Equally significant is the distribution between skilled, semi skilled and unskilled Sierra Leoneans as well as the small number of Sierra Leone professionals. The owners of land and capital resources control the bulk of the national income. There is really a need for change.
Development Plans such as quality education at all levels, providing education for skilled trades and providing state-of-the-art cutting edge facility for the twenty first century have been woefully in demand. Just making allocations here and there without positive outcomes and without developing an instrument to measure success is counterproductive at best.
For example the basic amenities of clean water and sustained energy are in short supply throughout the country even though they are much better now than when Koroma took over as President. If manufacturing industries are to develop, water and energy are essential and necessary amenities that have to exist in abundant supply. Recent developments in the agricultural sector are commendable and ought to be viewed as the firsts steps in national food self sufficiency in the long run.
The Koroma administration has been marked by some infrastructural growth, not development, namely the building of arterial roads. These roads are meant to connect the coastal areas to the rest of the country which is a necessary part of social and political unification in the country and is bound to increase commerce nationally. The current administration can be credited for improving this infrastructure considerably.
While these new roads have yielded certain social and economic benefits to hitherto isolated places but they have also have negative side effects, more petty corruption and graft. It will be a blessing if these roads can bring good government to remote areas but a curse if they bring in bad governance. We cannot afford to continue in the same vein with the Koroma regime.
Dr. Samura Kamara served as a key figure throughout the Koroma administration as Finance Minister, Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone and Foreign Minister. He was the major architect of some of these policies. President Koroma even attested that was one of the major reasons he selected him for the Presidency because he helped craft some of those failed policies that have currently put us in financial predicament. Dr. Kamara ought to take full share of the blame for the failure of the Koroma administration as well as take credit for its successes. Do we need him to continue the same failed policies? I would dare say an unequivocal NO!!!
To begin with Dr. Samura Kamara must put to rest the doubt that continues to linger as to whether he has earned an academic doctorate or not. That doubt started at the Parliamentary Hearing committee when he was nominated for the Foreign Minister’s position, and members of the Parliamentary Hearing Committee demanded to see his Ph. D. diploma certificate. He told the committee that he has requested his daughter to send it from London.. Within a few days he was hurriedly endorsed by the committee and we don’t know whether the committee received the document or not.
Also we are not sure where he read for his doctorate degree and when it was conferred on him. Some local newspapers named the University of North Wales, while others stated it was conferred at the University of Wales and Hull University. Which is which and when and where? Sierra Leoneans need the correct information in the name of transparency for an individual aspiring to hold the highest office in the land.
In that same Parliamentary Hearing committee meeting most of us were shocked at the assets that Dr. Kamara declared which at the time was way over US$ 20 million plus holding more than fifty percent of assets in a local Bank in Freetown. He needs to make another declaration of his assets and show how and when he acquired them? These numbers make him one of the richest Sierra Leoneans on the land especially for a man who some of the local newspapers referred to as Mr. 10%.
I am not sure what that means. Could it be acquiring 10% by illegal means of all business concessions that came through his desk for approval as Finance minister at the time? Having an asset of this immense proportion in a country whose national budget last year was only a paltry US$ 900 million holds him suspect. I understand quite recently within the last few months he has single handedly financed the building of a mosque in his hometown. At a time like this with so much at stake we need transparency especially with a Presidential austerity budget in action currently; we need to know who we are voting for.
Another albatross around Dr. Kamara’s neck is that should he be elected President that he would have to carry out the failed policies of the Koroma legacy. Is that what we want for the land that we love? Besides, the APC party has gone on record as making Koroma the life Chair of the party, a blunder which a lot of African countries make. It is unfortunate that we have not learnt from past mistakes.
A President is not a Paramount Chief! In a democracy, the notion of life-long executives is very antithetical and smacks of dictatorship. Should Dr. Kamara be elected, this does not give him a free hand to be his own person rather he will have to act under the whims, caprices and microscope of Koroma. In essence, President Koroma will be enjoying a third term of office from behind the political silhouette. My democratic thinking is that President Koroma has to depart from the political scene should Dr. Kamara be elected.
To compound the situation the APC has maintained that when a President or Vice President does not toe the party line, the party can expel him. If and when that is the case, that should lead to a forfeiture of the public office in question. So should Dr. Kamara be elected President and refuses to toe the party line, the party can get rid of him and obviously he will cease to be President thereby creating a national constitutional crisis. Quite unfortunately the national Supreme Court has reinforced this APC policy with the removal of VP Sam Sumana, a legal travesty.
Dr. Kamara is yet to demonstrate his charisma for the position, by rallying the troops. Others seem to be doing the job for him. He is yet to come up with a Strategic Plan to let us know what he intends to do as a President and why he wants to be President. He acts as though he is still in a fit of abstraction of being elevated to a position that he did not ask for, and perhaps has unwillingly accepted from the powers that be. Let’s face it, Dr. Kamara is a bureaucrat/technocrat that has always operated from behind the scene where he feels most comfortable. Certainly, it takes a lot to be President and perhaps he is not ready for this mantle, at least not yet.
Another potential candidate that has risen to the fore and has been tested is Maada Bio. He is known to have a very blemished political career and a very tarnished experience in governing Sierra Leone; an experience that leaves very bitter memories in the minds and hearts of many Sierra Leoneans. First of all, his ascendancy to the political helm as a military leader demonstrated his unscrupulousness not to stop at anything in achieving his ambition in which he physically deposed the then military comrade unorthodoxly to occupy the position.
He then governed the country with a very heavy hand, living so lavishly that he nearly bankrupted the country. He peevishly and childishly came up with his “ first skin colour” idea in a country where most people are dark-skinned. The United States and the United Kingdom had to negotiate his surrendering of power to a legitimate civilian government after promising and bribing him with a large amount of money laced with opportunities to develop himself academically and otherwise.
His administration was a demonstration of his unfitness to be head of State, a dream he has constantly nurtured to return back to the seat of power at any price and by any means necessary. Consequently, after acquiring his Bachelors and Masters degrees in the U.S. he returned back after seven years to head the SLPP and ran as that party’s flag bearer in the last presidential election which he lost to Ernest Koroma by a very large margin for the latter’s second term.
Currently he is again the flag bearer for the second time for the SLPP, an election that he very well knows that he does not even have a slim chance of winning. He cannot get over the idea that Sierra Leoneans do not want him to be at the helm of their political affairs. He lacks the demeanor, comportment and the wherewithal to ever lead Sierra Leone unless again into an abyss.
The leaders of the SLPP share the blame for failing to convince him that he has outlived his usefulness as a leader and that he can be a more responsible follower than a national leader. The blame is on the followers rather than on him as some of the party leaders are currently deserting him in droves. They have not been able to convince him of his inability not only to lead the party let alone the country. Rather he is languishing in his own obsolescence with a delusion of his own grandeur to become the national boss. In the meantime he is destroying our nation’s oldest party, and what used to be the nation’s most distinguished political party.
Currently, he has become enshrined in political ineptitude that he cannot even obtain a visa to visit the world’s wealthiest and largest economy, The United States of America, a complete negative should the mistake be made to vote him in as the country’s next President. His presidential candidacy is a long shot and again an exercise in futility.
Now to Dr Kandeh Yumkella the middle aged politician, technocrat/bureaucrat with charismatic tendencies that can be contagious. He has enough accolades domestically and internationally to earn his keel. He has demonstrated to the world, to his nation and to his comrades that he is ready, able and willing to become our next President of Sierra Leone.
He has demonstrated people skills at all levels, organizational skills par excellence and his penchant to make the impossible, possible, the improbable, probable, and the unchallengeable, challengeable. He is a rare blend that compounds humility with courage, compassion with determination, and moreover, ability with reliabilty. That all these elements and talents can be subsumed in one individual is a credit and a testament to the personal genius of this man.
It is not too many times that an individual like him, a distinguished son of Sierra Leone, a supra nationalist can submit himself to the task of national leadership. Dr. Yumkella is well positioned to share his mantle of success with the nation that he has already shared with the world at large. For him this is a noble task. He strongly believes in accountability, integrity and sustainability, virtues that that are enduring in our nation’s august son. He wants unselfishly to take us way beyond the path that Presidents Kabbah and Koroma have crafted for us. I believe that Dr. Yumkella is a man of destiny whose future has become intrinsically interwoven into our national destiny. He has been well prepared, groomed and very qualified to assume the mantle of national leadership that will take us into the twenty first century.
Dr. Yumkella has outlined his policy of growth and development for our country. He has said in countless speeches that he wants to go way beyond the mode of allocation to positive outcomes and accountability. He has offered to restructure our educational institutions that currently lie fallow to their former heights of glory so that they can provide the personnel to help the nation on a path to success.
He has said that he wants to prioritize, to align the skills derived in education to the national growth and development needs and make our educational institutions at all levels functional. He wants to ensure that the basic commodities of water and energy be adequately restored, and that they are a right and not a privilege to fuel our industrial manufacturing growth.
In turn that would provide growth and development prosperity that would in turn provide jobs for our unemployed and under employed youths throughout the country. By so doing that would create a tax base that would enhance our national development. Whatever positive results are derived will be shared by the masses and not a kleptocratic oligarchy, as is currently the case.
He would not be learning on the job as most of those before him, rather he is ready to lead his country to the vistas of renown. He towers head and shoulders above all his competitors. Dr. Kamara may come a very distant second and Maada Bio is not even in the game. I am sure President Koroma himself is cognizant of this fact but may not want to admit it in public and perhaps is scared to match any of his aspirants Dr. Yumkella.
Sincerely in our national post independence history, we have never had a person with such proven leadership skills and ability to be elevated to the apex of our nation’s leadership. This is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss or pass us by. If we let this opportunity to make him our leader pass us by, we would have only ourselves to blame.
Looking back perhaps the mistake which we made as a nation was to restore the two party system with these same two parties that led us to the brink of disaster. Dr Yumkella opting for the presidency is to rectify that mistake and to prove that these two parties do not control the monopoly of power in our Republic. What we need is a multi party system. The NGC is beginning to look like The United Front Party of the early sixties. It is very inclusive and anti ethnic, virtues that reflect the character of its leadership. Conversely, if we are going to be left with the two party system that it is time to pull out the life support from one of them. The voting public will make that determination. Yes it’s time for a change and Dr Kandeh Yumkella and the NGC is that change.
This is an individual I have come to know and admire for over two decades. Those of you who know me know that I don’t give such unequivocal support to just average folks. Dr Yumkella stands out and the land that we love so much, our Sierra Leone will be made much better by this great man of destiny, Let’s all go out and campaign on his behalf!!! As you can tell, I am energized.
LONG LIVE PRESIDENT DR. KANDEH YUMKELLA AND THE NGC!!!
Courtesy: By Dr. Christopher Williams, Ex. Dean Kent State University