I have seen leaders attain political power. I have also seen how Sierra Leoneans, who either voted for or supported these political leaders, have democratically rebelled against them. Valentine Strasser, Tejan Kabbah, Joseph Saidu Momohs, Johnny Paul Koroma, et al.
Some, whilst in office, did their best to perform. That notwithstanding, they were cried down. And some still remain to be cried down, looking at the given situation in the country.
Again, I have seen and heard them come with promises. In case you want some of the promises mentioned, the Lungi Bridge, food for all by 2007 and the promise to restore the railway.
We voted for change, some A PC supporters have said loudly and clearly, and the change indeed came in the form of change of political leadership. They came and set up commissions to investigate past government officials to the extent that these officials were prevented from traveling, even though the trips were personal and at their own expense. Ask Brima Acha Kamara about that!
When my current president took over the seat of power, ‘we’ danced, and still ‘we’ are dancing for the new ‘messiah’. Before now, some had called on the citizenry of this country to hold them responsible, in the event our president failed to perform. Ask Charlie Boy about this. But today, disappointment is boldly written on their faces.
Somebody told me it was all a political statement since my dear Charlie wanted to see the political downfall of the party (SLLP) he so staunchly supported. He succeeded at that. But his expectations are yet to come true.
At any rate, somebody told, we cannot judge the current government’s performance at this point in time, taking into consideration the fact that they are less than a year in office and that they asked for 36 months before they could be judged. O yes! They cannot be judged now but they must make certain things known to the electorate.
Sometime in December 2007, President Koroma told this nation that the commission responsible to fight graft was going to be made busy as the Transition Team Report was going to be handed over to that body for necessary action. And by my interpretation and probably my basic understanding of that statement, the commission was going to loom into that report and investigations were to have been commenced since then. But alas! I was surprise to learn through one of our local stations, that the commission was not aware of that report.
Reports are meant to be made public if only we are talking about transparency and to an extent, the tenets of democracy. I have listened to interviews and conducted some myself with stakeholders about this report and from their comments they are not happy. I have heard a lot of names in that report that should be investigated but the authenticity of such claims could only be got when once it is made to be in the public domain. Public officials must have the moral within them and as such, words must become reality.
There is this call for a change in the attitude of each and every Sierra Leonean and to me that is achievable. But my expectation is that the change itself must have its very beginning on those we made to speak and act on our behalf. We have heard stories of how billions of Leones were misused particularly in the ministry of education during the tenure of the past government. This, to me, is tantamount to corruption but I am yet to be convinced that was actually the case because there is no evidence to that effect.
Now the ACC can do this nation a favour if the findings of the Transition Team are made public. The ACC boss, Abdul Tejan Cole must make things clear. People should be made to account for their actions if only there were good intentions over the setting-up of the transition team in the first place. Once people are held accountable, that will serve as warning to those with the intention to perpetuate corruption. President Koroma’s drive towards ensuring a corrupt-free society is only achievable by setting precedence and that may very well start from the way those in political office relate to the people.
That said I must hasten to state that I am fascinated to learn that the Anti Corruption Commission Act is being reviewed, thus giving it independence and more powers. Only that, it is awaiting the support of our lawmakers. In fact from the words of Zainab Hawa Bangura, the President Koroma took his time to read that document cover to cover.
The president, like many other people, is aware that corruption damages the economic fabric of the country; something that accounted, to a very large extent, for our 11-year predicament. We must therefore be seen to be supporting the fight.
The commission, under the current leadership has started on the right path by developing a new strategy for the period 2008-2010. But how can that be made real when there isn’t the financial requirement? There is the dire need for the human resource at that commission to be developed, but that again hangs on one factor; the finance. This then calls for support from our local bodies like the local councils and the NRA, to generate revenue for the country. We must be seen prepared to pay our taxes as that could be the only way institutions can succeed.
The Anti Corruption commission has called on the international community to give a helping hand but when will that helping hand come forth. I have always found it difficult to comprehend this donor driven aspect in our development agenda. No doubt the fight against graft cannot succeed if there isn’t the financial support to the commission. But how long do we need to keep asking the donors to come with their help, with some conditionality tied to such financial assistance. When money is given as donor support, the salaries for the expatriates and the consultants are all pegged to that support.
Besides the financial support, there needs to be the political will. President Koroma must call on his ministers to demonstrate the will to fight graft. Corruption is pervasive in all developing countries but in Nigeria, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission to an extent has the free hand to operate. Look at the way it is currently dealing with investigations relating to the former president. Forget not that President Musa Yar’Adua came to power as a result of the support he got from Obasanjo but that however did not prevent the EFCC to do its work independently. I want to believe Obasanjo had expected protection from his anointed successor but he probably got the shock of his life.
My argument here is this: An independent anti corruption body is bound to succeed but with the political will from the powers that be. Abdul Tejan Cole has demonstrated his will to help turn this country round though not as “a business concern”.
The government came to power in a rather overzealous manner but there seems to be proper coordination of its policies may be understandably since the APC had been out of power for over fifteen years. Additionally, they were used to this one party thing so changing to democratic dictates in this era may prove difficult.
Our parliamentarians must be seen supporting the ACC as they were elected to represent the people, even though some have not been to their constituencies since their election. Ask Kissy residents about their MP.
The ACC must be supported by all and sundry but even as I call for such support, can the commission tell us what is happening to the Transition Report. We wait to hear from them, if they have received it from the Office of the President that is.
By John Baimba Sesay