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Sierra Leone
Saturday, December 4, 2021
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Our Roads-Our Prosperity

Dr. Abdul A. Koroma, Lecturer, Department of Civil Engineering, FBC

It was a year ago, in June 2013, that I bought a 4 Runner Jeep. I couldn’t drive the jeep myself for almost two months even though I hold a professional driver’s license the past two years. The reason? I was just too ‘scared to death’ by the erratic and unpredictable driving conditions on the city streets and roads. Added to that was the lack of courage on my part to face the menacing threat posed by “zillion” of potholes that have made the city roads their residence. In my 2+ years of driving in the State, I never ever have to maneuver a pothole, not to talk about doing that consistently on every driving maneuver. The outcome? I was left flat-footed on the pedals and before you could realize it my poor new jeep has received a hell of a battering and bruising. It is sickening to see that you could fork out over $16,000 from your hard earned cash to buy a jeep and then see it literally being maimed and ripped apart by pothole-filled city roads and streets. That’s certainly not the kind of prosperity any of us would wish to have on our agenda!

The condition of the city road network that year was so deplorable and terrible that there was a palpable outcry from every quarter. Opposition party members were even making a mockery of the city streets by referring to them as miniature fish ponds. The outcry grew so loud that a local NGO had to break with tradition to issue out an ultimatum calling on the President to dismiss the then erstwhile Minister of Works and his accomplice the Director General of the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA). The Government in its usual bullish and evasive stance downplayed the significance of the ultimatum and in the process of doing so putting up a reckless defence of the two gentlemen. However, two months later they were both gone.

Fast forward twelve months later, the conditions of the city roads and streets have improved dramatically beyond recognition. If you have just been to town on a holiday from abroad, you will be forgiven to think that the roads have been in that good state for a very long time. Most of the roads and streets in the city have got a significant facelift. Even my old Victorian road of Mount Aureol, that normally is a recipient of lackluster and patchy whitewash maintenance during convocation periods, is now a joy to drive on. I can drive on that road now at speeds of 40-45 mph, which is a far cry from the snail pace conditions a year ago. Even Kissy Road, a bastion of perennial traffic congestion even on Thanksgiving free Sundays, has seen dramatic increase in speeds and reduction in traffic jams. Today, there is a deafening silence of discontent about the conditions of the city roads. You can barely hear a whisper anybody talking despairingly about the roads. The only interpretation is that the populace is very content with the massive rehabilitation and maintenance efforts currently ongoing on the city roads network. To this end, I would like to dish out hearty congratulations to the SLRA and the RMFA for finding a common working ground in order to accomplish this remarkable achievement.

So who or to what do we attribute this rapid change in the condition of the city roads? I attributed it wholly to the courage of the President to act when it matters most. By relieving the two gentlemen of their posts, the President set in motion a process that now culminated in the widespread maintenance of the city streets, putting them on appreciable Level of Service.  When the man for whom we voted and to have we have collectively chosen as a nation to bestow executive power finally found his groove to act, what a difference we have realized just one year into making that decision. But the question we should be asking is, why it took him so long to act even when it was reasonably clear that the entire road infrastructural program was in serious jeopardy. It was very apparent then that there was no love-lust between the Minister and the Director-General and also that both the RMFA and SLRA are strange bedfellows unable to pull the strings together.

Accusations and counter accusations between the two organizations were flying across the national airwaves to the extent that activities at SLRA almost came to a grinding halt. It was very obvious then that wholesome new changes in personnel and structure are needed at the MWHI, SLRA and RMFA and the only person who could do that is no less a person than the President. Posterity will be far less interested in the failures of Mr. Alimamy P. Koroma, neither would they be interested in those of Mr. Munda Rogers. But rightly or wrongly, posterity will judge the failings and successes of the KOROMA ADMINISTRATION and it is for this reason that the President should not be seen to be ambivalent in using the powers that have been bestowed on him by the people for the national good.

Presidential power is unrivaled to any power in the world and history is littered with stories of great leaders using it to bring about sustainable and durable transformation in the socio-economic lives of the people. The President has worked so hard to put us in a position wherein we are now rightly regarded as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Whilst we are now very hopeful as a nation, we are cognizant of the fact that we still have a long way to go in achieving critical milestones in the areas of health, education, energy and infrastructure. It is on the basis that we keep reminding the President not to rest on his laurels but to continue to use the power we gave him at the ballot box to wring in the necessary changes.

At this critical juncture in our onward march to socio-economic freedom, we can’t afford to allow any of our MDAs to tether for too long on the brink of mediocrity, irrelevance and sub-par performance. Simply stated, we need all our MDAs to be “firing on all cylinders” if we are to meet our growing national expectations. It is quite obvious that there are many MDAs that are currently operating at comical levels that are stalking national progress despite the massive taxpayers and donor funds being lavished on them yearly. These MDAs instead of chipping in their contribution towards national development have simply become brazen and egoistic self-made empires that are being continually pummeled by individuals who are working for themselves rather than working for the national interest. It will surprise you to know that all that is needed to change the fortunes of these non-performing MDAs is a Presidential “sledge hammer” to fall on them symptomatic of the one that fell on MWHI, SLRA and NASSIT. Imagine how much positive changes we could experience as a nation on a daily basis if our President can consistently muster the courage to drop that “sledge hammer”, if he can rise above partisan shenanigans, if certain decisions do not linger forever on his desk, if “sacred cows” that are not producing milk are evicted from the barn and if and only if the immortal words of our national pledge are echoed through every wall at State House.

Mr. President, I would like you to know that posterity will judge you for the ACTIONS you take and not for your good INTENTIONS. As your now famous presidential campaign slogan deftly put it “ACTION PASS INTENTION”. So we need more ACTIONS. Acts, Acts and Acts again. After you have Acted, Acts the more. We the people of the land that came out in droves to vote for you won’t be tired of your actions, for it is only by them that your fabulous and well-packaged AGENDA FOR PROSPERITY will reach the fingers and mouths of my kinsmen in the far reaches of Yonibana Chiefdom.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department)

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