• March 9, 2023

JUNE 2023 POLLS: ISSUES-BASED ELECTION

JUNE 2023 POLLS: ISSUES-BASED ELECTION
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Since the return of democracy to Sierra Leone in the early 90s, the 1996 election of February 26 and 27 was the very first polls which saw in the late former President Alhaji Dr Ahmed Tejan Kabba democratically elected into office under the ticket of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), after a presidential run-off on 15 March.

That election was conducted under the hegemonic rule of the then Chairman Julius Maada Bio-led National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) junta. The electoral process was conducted using the proportional representation system. And it took to the House of Parliament of Sierra Leone a mass representation with all sorts of political parties and their members who ended up deceiving the nation like the NPRC military junta did.

The February-March 1996 election was contested by mass exodus of political parties including the National People’s Party (NPP), the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), United National People’s Party (UNPP), People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the All People’s Congress (APC), National Unity Party (NUP), Democratic Center Party (DCP), National Democratic Alliance (NDA), People’s National Convention (PNC), Social Democratic Party (SDP), National Unity Movement (NUM), People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and the National Alliance Democratic Party (NADP) who ended up doing nothing at the end of their terms.

Those set of Sierra Leonean politicians left the people with no impact in terms of transformative national development. And their collective ten-year rule along with late president Kabbah was full of post-war narratives. They hypocritically reverted to the same old political tricks of self-enrichment through national democratic politics what has always served as the strongest conduit for the dishonesty of Sierra Leonean politicians. Since then to date, they are still bent on hoodwinking the people through fake campaign promises as if Sierra Leoneans the world over do not really know what they want from the country’s political leaderships past, present and future for the betterment of their generations yet unborn. These lies must change now going forward this time around into the approaching June 24 polls because everybody knows exactly what they want for their respective homes. Gone are the days when districts, constituents, regions of the entire country were left grossly impoverished, as it was before that 2002 constituency-based election even though it didn’t yield the desired developmental results from the late president Kabbah regime.  That is why all and sundry must have a rethink about the determination for a positive change of the voting patterns amid a circumstance wherein the most popular catch phrase on the lips of every Sierra Leonean is regime change,  a change for a result-oriented leadership and a governance structure that will solve the problems of the nation. Thus, Sierra Leone cannot afford to make deliberate mistakes anymore; the nation should demonstrate clear determination for change right from the ballot box come June 24, 2023, so that Sierra Leoneans stop empowering politicians and always keeping themselves in abject poverty. Politicians do get job from the electorate and at end they leave the people in massive suffering without socio-economic empowerment. That ugly phenomenon must change now, moving forward, for the better through a change of ways of voting in the coming election. Calls of this nature are very much legitimate in that after every presidential and general election the electorate are left to regret why they even voted certain politicians into public offices, who could hardly address simple national issues.

With such experiences learnt over the years from the deliberate and collective refusal of Sierra Leonean politicians to deliver development programmes to their constituents from 1996 to 2002, onto 2007, when so much was expected from post-conflict leadership of Kabbah and his then administration, there is every need for the people to know what they want from politicians this time around.

This yearn for conscious and wise voting brings up more reasons much need to be addressed by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in areas of raising public awareness in civic, democratic, and political rights of the electorate. CSOs must stop playing to the gallery and join the debates gearing towards the approaching election. CSOs must constructively engage the general citizenry of Sierra Leone to enable them to be concerned with the actual conducts and purpose(s) of periodic democratic elections. Why should they vote? Who and why they should in the first-place vote into public of offices certain politicians and their political parties? The policies – a specific political party’s governance principles, patterns of state governance, how impactful they affect the electorate, now and in recent past – must be the real issues around which the June 24, 2023 polls should and must be well discussed, with more hygienic politics in the best interests of the electorate, rather than producing untrustworthy leaders and end up regretting why they voted them into office.

The fact is that no Sierra Leonean would easily forget the massive failures of the five-year rule of the Julius Maada Bio and SLPP regime. This regime is a political governance situation characterized by immense failure for which the voting patterns must be a concern wherein the electorate are expected to vote in candidates, be they parliamentary, presidential or local council reps based on issues that were fully addressed in their respective constituencies, wards, districts and cities in the last five years. The electorate should look back at how much social service improvements that were made in the areas of public services such as healthcare, electricity-energy utility provisions, regular water supply, public transportation for commuters everywhere in the country, financial and fiscal management of state coffers, public accountability and transparency especially in the growth sectors such as mines and mineral, marine and fisheries. And how much turnovers they brought into the coffers at the central bank in the last five years?

The June 24, 2023 multitier elections will form the sixth periodic multiparty elections Sierra Leone will be holding since the return of democracy in the country, hence such mistakes as in yesteryear are not expected to be made again. For never again shall Sierra Leoneans vote in vain for the empowerment and benefits of politicians and their families and close allies.

Also significant among dozens of reasons Sierra Leoneans should not vote based on sentiments, but on issues of national concerns, are for the simple facts that whenever serious economic issues and cost of living emerge, it will always affect all and sundry. For instance, the cost of a bag of rice and pump price of gas and petrol are certainly affecting the livelihoods of everybody. No matter where one finds him/herself you must be concerned with problems of livelihoods and living standards; that is why people of eligible voting status should put on their thinking hats now and know clearly how they shall be casting their votes for their benefits and for the unborn generations. For instance, one specific problem affecting everybody is the fall of the Leone against the almighty United States Dollar and other foreign currencies, which remains a giant challenge that is affecting every Sierra Leonean. It does not select who it should affect directly or indirectly, no matter your colour and the political belief one holds. The economic hardship and stress caused by the free and rapid fall of the Leone is a national pandemic that hit everybody in Sierra Leone. It is what it is and can only be addressed collectively through a strong and very decisive decision through voters and the much-expected patterns. There is no need to vote in a candidate you know very well but who does not deserve to be there – whether it is you family member – brother, sister, aunt, uncle or other siblings who do not have what it takes to deliver what is expected.

Our intelligence as a people can be measured by the calibre of people we always vote in to represent us. We should not vote in someone unfit for the job of an MP, president, deputy president, councillor, mayor and district council chairman etc., just because we know or related to that individual.  We should always eager to vote in the most competent candidate into public office, considering what Sierra Leone is going through in the hands of the incumbent and the Bio regime.

 

What is clearly being sounded by Sierra Leoneans is that nobody wants to continue in the existing situation, wherein so many young people continue to flee the country in search of greener pastures via the deadly Mediterranean Sea into Europe, simply because of leadership failures to fix problems in creating jobs for youth, women and girls. Nobody would also want to continue crying over the blatant mismanagement of proceeds from our natural resources such as timber and mineral resources, amid constant isolation of the country to trade, commerce and direct foreign investments, which form significant component of the economic problem Sierra Leone is faced with now.

This situation must end and a new leaf must be turned for the opening of the country for realistic direct foreign investments and to prepare to attain the status of a middle-income level nation. As a nation we need viable agricultural productivity with value addition for exportation to other countries. Sierra Leoneans still buy a bag of rice at a high cost of  over Seven Hundred New Leones NLe 700, which is very much costly for the people, a problem that can be addressed only through electing into office a servant leader who will be best placed to fix problems instead of giving excuses. And the coming election should be utilised to address some of these challenges for the benefits of Sierra Leoneans, making sure that the country and its leader work for the people, who need socioeconomic liberty, protection, civil and political freedoms.

 

Forum therefore says: go to the polls Sierra Leoneans and make the wisest decision by electing the most competent leaders who are capable enough to deliver at all levels when elected to public office of trust.

Don’t elect jokers this time around just because they are your brothers, regional and ethnic mates. Vote your conscience and vote for your future and your children’s future, for whatever policy formulated by government must come along with the potentials of impacting on you and your people positively based on the problems such policies address.

So, issues matter, not sentiments anymore! And Sierra Leoneans must be wise to do the wisest thing this time around at the June polls; that is where your power lies; that is the bullets and guns you have; utilise it wisely, and you will be glad you did!

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