The ‘More Time’ debate: My take


January 13, 2016 By Alusine Sesay

There has been a lot of hew and cry about the so-called ‘more time’ for President Ernest Bai Koroma. This debate may have been an offshoot of an ill-timed and covert campaign pioneered and propagated by one-time opposition Member of Parliament, Hon. Robin Fallay, who slyly invented the ‘After You Nar You’ campaign; a campaign many believed would have plunged this nation into turmoil had the president and his party embraced it (though many still believe Mr. Fallay may have been merely speaking thy master’s voice). Fallay was rejected by his grand old Sierra Leone People’s Party, a development that literally forced him to defect to the ruling All People’s Congress, where he is currently serving as the Deputy National Publicity Secretary II. Since the ‘After You Nar You’ campaign enunciated by Fallay suffered a fatal blow, there have always been attempts by some ruling party desperados to achieve their covert plan, but this time in a subtle form, hence the ‘More Time’.

The infamous ‘More Time’ is believed to have been initiated by the governing All People’s Congress Youth League led by Bai Mamoud Bangura, who openly proclaimed the iniquitous campaign during their national conference held in Makeni last November; an event attended by President Koroma as Guest of Honour. As if that was not enough, Bangura took their campaign to the airwaves when he was hosted on the popular ‘Good Morning Salone’ breakfast show on Radio Democracy 98.1 FM, where he struggled to convince listeners in his frail and failed attempt to hoodwink the entire populace into believing his sermon. According to Bai Mamoud, President Koroma should be given ‘more time’ to rule because “he has done a lot of development for the country”. However, after several salvos directed at him by listeners of the programme by way of very unsavoury text messages, the now battered and badly bruised Bai Mamoud changed the tone of the campaign to be only limited to their party’s leadership, that President Koroma should continue to serve as Chairman and Leader of the APC.

Many political commentators describe the motive of the ‘More Time’ campaigners as deliberate diversionary tactics with the clear object of swaying the minds of the citizenry off the ills perpetrated by the governing elite on society. Some sections of the media and the seeming limping or rather dysfunctional opposition may have been caught in this frenzied political game to the point that they are exerting more of their energies yelling at the ‘More Timers’ while letting other evils to go on with reckless abandon. That’s the APC for you, a master of their art!

However, despite refusing to make any public pronouncement to accept or denounce the ‘More Time’ campaign, I’m of the opinion that President Koroma loves this country and would not do anything that would imperil the peace and tranquility that all Sierra Leoneans are enjoying today, notwithstanding the stinging poverty and other malfeasances. He must have learnt a lot from his predecessor, the late President Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, who peacefully handed over power to him in 2007.

Mr. Solomon Ekuma Berewa, who was Koroma’s challenger in the 2007 presidential election, conceded defeat, accepted the results and congratulated the winner, even though the National Returning Officer, Dr. Christiana Thorpe, had caused the annulment of votes from 477 polling stations in the then ruling party stronghold of Kailahun District for alleged over-voting. Mr. Berewa’s show of leadership and magnanimity was what many believed saved this nation from what they thought could have been the darkest era of Sierra Leone’s political history. I believe President Koroma should honourably bow out of State House once his second and final term expires in 2018, notwithstanding the sycophantic calls by some desperate party faithful who think their only survival in politics depends on Koroma’s continued hold on to power.

There were people in the SLPP government who had wanted to take to the street to protest Dr. Thorpe’s decision but Mr. Berewa demonstrated true leadership and love for the country by saying no to such a move. As the lawyer he was known to be and a true respecter of the rule of law, the former Attorney General and Minister of Justice instead opted for legal redress than engaging in fisticuffs with NEC and his political opponents. So President Koroma should never think of going for a third term or a so-called ‘more time’, especially so when such move is not defended by the country’s sacred book, the 1991 Constitution.

Moreover, my gripe with the ‘More Timers’ is that they are drifting the national debate away from the real issues that are responsible for the decadence in society. Their illusive and spineless argument always angers me because they are just clay-legged rantings that have no basis, and therefore should have no place in a democracy. Although I have been contributing my bit to this debate in certain quarters, I had initially thought it worthless to write on the issue, as that in itself would help to popularise what is apparently a very unpopular campaign.

We have seen what is unfolding in some African countries like Burundi where people engaged in street battles, killing one another just because President Pierre Nkurunziza has refused to step down and instead opted stay for a third term. I believe our president would not want Sierra Leone to go down that line lest he risks soiling the image and respect he has earned for himself from a good many of the Sierra Leonean populace. Former Ivorian leader, Laurent Gbagbo, is learning his lessons in a prison cell in The Hague because he listened to a few sycophants who were urging him to stay on even after losing the polls to his rival, Alassane Ouattara. Those that had urged Mr. Gbagbo to stay for their own selfish gains are today walking as free men while he languishes in prison facing trial for all the atrocities committed by his supporters and security forces during the skirmishes that erupted in the wake of his insistent on clinging on to power.

To me, there are more important issues to address than this nauseating ‘More Time’ thing, which by every indication is very difficult to be bought by the majority of forward-looking Sierra Leoneans, even those supporting the governing party. I want to take President Koroma’s silence – annoying though – on the issue of ‘More Time’ to mean no interest in staying in office a day after the expiration of his presidential mandate. The president has instigated a lot of infrastructural development in the country. Good roads now awash the city and other major towns in the provincial areas. Electricity supply under his regime is unrivalled with any other government that has ruled Sierra Leone. These are not developmental hallmarks that President Koroma would want to sacrifice on the altar of ‘More Time’. He should go peacefully at the end of his term and be remembered for the development trajectory he has put Sierra Leone. Anything contrary will be imprudent on his side thus a recipe to setting alight the embers of political violence in a country that has already seen enough violence.

It is absurd that issues of corruption, youth unemployment, the Ebola recovery plan and maternal and child health are now least talked about as the platform has been bizarrely given to this ‘More Timers’. To me, the media is even creating the platform to popularise the discourse around this campaign as if subconsciously giving it tacit approval. Politicians, it seems, are setting the agenda, which the media is blindly swimming in. For Radio Democracy 98.1 FM, for example, to have broadcast a whole programme and hosted only people interested in propagating the ‘More Time’ mantra smacks of lending credence to the campaign. People opposed to the ‘More Time’ could have been hosted alongside the ‘More Timers’ to ensure balance. That was a complete disservice to the nation and its people. I hope the media wakes up from its slumber and starts to perform its role of not only informing, but also conscientising the minds of the masses.

Government is currently implementing the post-Ebola Recovery Plan for which millions of dollars have been committed. The recovery covers diverse areas including health, education and agriculture. But what is the opposition, civil society and the media doing in ensuring that the implementation goes as planned, so that public funds are not siphoned by those put in charge of executing certain tasks? Are we monitoring the process and asking the relevant questions? No, because we have all been forced to give credence and talk about ‘More Time’ instead of paying attention to productive things that have the potential to bring about development in the country.

So let’s nip this ‘More Time’ nonsense in the bud before it finally succeeds in sapping the intelligence in all of us.

My take though!