January 19, 2016 By Emmanuel Aiah Senessie
I have listened to the More Time Debate over the airwaves several times. And each time I listen I become more convinced that both sides of the argument have missed the point. In other words, they have not done justice to the debate.
One should not enter such a debate with gut feelings. But this is exactly what has happened. Those who want more time for President Koroma are so passionate and emotional about the issue that all their focus is on the President. Those who do not want more time for Ernest are also using their emotions to colour their argument. “We do not want to add a single minute to Ernest’s time as President” the opposition says, when the issue is not really about Ernest when one looks at it objectively.
Those who initially suggested more time for Ernest Bai Koroma at the APC Youth Convention in Makeni are the ones who have really done damage to this issue of more time, or no more time. By proposing more time for Ernest Bai Koroma, they became suspect in the eyes of the opposition. The opposition naturally felt this was an APC affair, and a continuation of the proposal to extend the President’s term of office (Third Term). Thus the APC Youths shot themselves in the foot. And the President was very wise not to comment on it.
Those who don’t want more time say they will not give Ernest a single day. They have also focused on Ernest Koroma, taking their cue from the More Time advocates. It is like the case of the blind man walking ahead of another blind man in pitch darkness. Both will fall into the ditch.
But the proponents of More Time went a step further. They mounted a sophisticated campaign among the youth and traders in Freetown and even printed expensive t-shirts, leading to the further suspicion that Ernest was behind it all because of the expensive nature of the elaborately organized campaign.
And the argument used by the proponents of more time was puerile, to say the least. So the opposition took that up and went to town with it. Why should anybody in his right mind say that we should extend more time for Ernest because he has done a good job? Wasn’t that what we elected him for? And does he need any extra compensation for doing what we expect him to do? That argument therefore stands on its head.
What about the other argument that Ernest lost time because of the Ebola Virus Disease. This is the most infantile argument I have heard in the More Time Debate. And it is easy to prove it.
Look at neighbouring Guinea and Liberia that were equally ravaged by Ebola. No one campaigned there for more time. In fact these two sister countries conducted elections during the Ebola. No one campaigned for more time for Professor Alpha Conde, but he conducted elections and won. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf did not ask for more time. But her party won the Senate elections. In both countries more time did not become an issue.
And here in Sierra Leone, the President was FULLY in charge. He did not abandon his responsibilities. He was fully in charge throughout. So no one should ask for more time for Ernest Bai Koroma. Those who have done so have just embarrassed the President. They have made all those in opposition, inside as well as outside Sierra Leone, believe that he is behind the campaign.
What I firmly believe is that more time will come naturally. But this more time will not be for Ernest Bai Koroma per se. It will be for systems and processes that have already started, some of which will not be completed before the end of 2017.
One of these is the holding of Local Council elections. These, if we go strictly according to the Constitution, should be conducted in 2016, four years after having the last ones in 2012. But according to reliable information, Local Council elections will be conducted in 2017. And if Local Council elections are conducted in 2017, when will we have Presidential and Parliamentary elections? Think about it. If the tenure of office for the Executive and the Legislature ends in 2017, and Council elections are conducted in that same year, why conduct presidential and parliamentary elections in that same year (2017) when the lifespan of the councils has been extended by a year? Think about it.
And what about the 2015 Census Result? What most people don’t know, or they are pretending not to know, is that the National Electoral Commission (NEC) needs the Census Results to delimit Wards and Constituencies. The old Wards and Constituencies were drawn based on the 2004 census results. It will be VERY UNREALISTIC to use the same 2004 census data to delimit wards and constituencies for the next elections. And if we are following what is happening at Statistics Sierra Leone, we should be expecting the census results by mid-2016. So when will NEC draw up boundaries of new wards and constituencies?
I have not even delved into the intricacies and time-consuming nature of the Constitutional Review Committee, publication of their Report, drafting the New Constitution, tabling it in Parliament, the Referendum and so on. Will this not take more time?
More time is needed but not just for Ernest Bai Koroma. More time is needed for certain systems to be put in place before elections can be conducted. So those who are advocating for more time for Ernest have confused the issue, and they have got everybody confused. But we need to look at this matter carefully, devoid of any political sentiments, if we want to put this nation on a peaceful trajectory. Let those who are proposing more time for Ernest spare the President this embarrassment because more time is bound to come naturally, without anybody pushing hard for it.