Sierra Leone Journalists’ ability to hold power to account will be more necessary than ever. The media must not waste this opportunity. Sierra Leone Live will not.
Well, if Ernest Bai Koroma asked for a survey to be conducted on the most popular APC presidential aspirant for the past 2018 presidential elections, and cancelled the outcome of the survey because it didn’t go the way of his favoured aspirant (Samura Mathew Wilson Kamara), then Ernest Bai Koroma is an authoritarian whose excesses must be properly checked for the good of our country’s democracy.
Let us assume that Ernest Bai Koroma was genuinely elected to govern Sierra Leone as President. Assume, moreover, that he appointed to his cabinet and sub-cabinet many men and women who are experienced and dedicated. How, then, can a president—certainly no less mentally alert—with many advisers of high caliber, produce such an undistinguished presidency that left his government declared austerity measures despite the sound economic status he inherited from his predecessor and the hike in prices of raw materials plus the many mining contracts signed by his government?
It’s a puzzlement. And it cannot be accounted for by most of the explanations currently in vogue, such as Ernest Bai Koroma an outsider businessman who really doesn’t understand the levers of national governance; or Ernest Bai Koroma surrounds himself with a “Mafia Team” whose weaknesses are the same as his own; or Ernest Bai Koroma was a bad manager who wasn’t been able to sort out decisions that a president must make from those that should be settled at lower levels; or Parliament was so uncontrollable that it allowed Ernest Bai Koroma to exercised the reins of leadership to his advantage and promote his authoritative actions, or Ernest Bai Koroma allowed the bad bureaucracy to an extent it grown beyond the span of presidential control; or many of the nation’s problems were highly intractable because Ernest Bai Koroma was busy using his presidency to amassed unexplained wealth for himself and his family members, or even all these reasons —although there is truth in all.
I would like to put forward another theory: The root of the problem is that Ernest Bai Koroma was the very first authoritative President in Sierra Leone’s history after Sierra Leone’s eleven years bloody civil war.
“A blooded dictatorship President”—using a definition by Aaron Wildavsky and Jack Knott—means that Koroma places “greater emphasis only on methods, procedures and instruments for making policy that will benefit his personal interest than on the content of policy itself.”
Koroma claimed to “run Sierra Leone like a business”. He wanted to do things. Yet his campaign statements should have warned us that save for using the presidency to buy unmerited international fame, his passion in government was for how things were done to meet his self-centred interest, rather than what should have been done for the general good.
He believed that if the process to satisfy his personal interest was good the product will be good. In other words, if he sets up a procedure for making policy that was criminally organised to be opened, comprehensive (his favourite words), and involved people that worked to satisfy his selfish interest, whatever came out of this pipeline was acceptable (within certain budgetary limits).
A concern for the process was not a bad thing. But Ernest Bai Koroma’s presidency made a fetish of chaos in policy development, often resulting in proposals that had not been fully explored in the interest of the general good, but his personal desire to illegally amassed wealth at the expense of the suffering majority.
But a process with no genuine intention is only a tool for getting from here to there—it is not a substitute for substance. That was why Ernest Bai Koroma’s fake process that was coined to be good in the eyes of the illiterate majority, ended up only producing conflicting, competing and confusing programmes to a point his government ended up declaring austerity measures.
Ernest Bai Koroma’s presidency lacked an overriding genuine design for what he wanted his government to do in the interest of the public, his department chiefs were forced to prepare presidential options in a vacuum. Usually, this is done by BOGSAT—the acronym for a “bunch of guys sitting around a table.” In other cases, where political executives have not been given some framework in which to function to satisfy the selfish interest of Ernest Bai Koroma, they imposed their own hidden agendas on the president and tell the public “am doing this through the wisdom of the president”. As if they were brainless chickens with no wisdom to reason well and do things on their own.
Each departmental proposal—whether for welfare reform or tax reform—may or may not be “right,” but there was no reason to expect that automatically it would fall in place with what other departments proposed. Ironically, Koroma’s procedures assure, by definition, that he cannot deal with the nation’s ills comprehensively because his personal interest was put right on top of the nation’s interest.
Most political executives and high-level civil servants preferred to be loyal to this oppressive president. If the direction was forthcoming, they tried—successfully—to honour Koroma’s personal interest. When the direction was not present, they will go into business for themselves.
The Koroma presidency cannot be described—as was sometimes true of past Ahmad Tejan Kabbah’s administration—in terms of State House loyalists versus cabinet department disloyalists. Throughout his presidency, neither State House staff nor cabinet officials were given the predictive capacity that they must have to do their jobs properly by putting the interest of the country ahead of all other interests. A subordinate—even on the cabinet level—was able to plan on the basis of some self-centred Koroma cabal pattern.
Take government reorganisation policy. Some of Koroma’s actions support the concept of centralisation (energy); some support the concept of decentralisation (education). On what basis was an administration planner to design the next reorganisation?
Uncertainty radiating from the top, furthermore, lowers morale throughout the permanent government, hence it adversely affected the implementation of programmes. While the bureaucracy may be the butt of jokes, it is also the motor force that provided services on a day-to-day basis—and it too looks for consistent signs from a president.
Sierra Leone presidents have not been ideologues. And it is certainly not my notion that Koroma was to become one. But all modern presidents, whether “All People’s Congress” or “Sierra Leone People’s Party”—no matter what their other faults—have had some programmatic view of government in which the specific parts usually could be fitted. This is not the case with Koroma’s domestic programme, although he does have a firmer view of oppressive policy against right-minded people within his All People’s Congress political party and others in the country (perhaps because of his history to criminally changed the APC constitution in his favour and did very bad deals as a Member of Parliament).
So the basic problem of this current APC administration will not be corrected by rearranging boxes on organisation charts or by doing a better selling job to the public. Koroma must be challenged internationally to bring his years of oppressive tactics against Sierra Leone’s development to an end.
What has produced an undistinguished presidency and Chairmanship and ruler for the APC? Ernest Bai Koroma’s failure to set consistent policy goals that will move the APC forward to meet the test of times—or more grandly, a philosophy for the government when he was lording over the affairs of the state.
Attach are documents showing how Ernest Bai Koroma refused to accept a survey that was done by the APC to choose a popular APC flagship aspirant and went on pushing Samura Mathew Wilson Kamara in the throats of APC members as his own preferred flagship aspirant.