It is almost three years since former President Ernest Bai Koroma left the stage of action. The ex-President has been vilified as a man who masterminded the plunder of Sierra Leone between 2007 and 2018.
However, two governance policies, Agenda for Change (AFC) and Agenda For Prosperity (AFP) deserve a reflection to have a clear perspective of the current governance.
Sierra Leone was ushered into a multi-party democracy in 1996 when late President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah became President of Sierra Leone.
President Kabbah governed the state for almost 11 yrs, and handed over power to former President Koroma in 2007 following an election dubbed as one of the most hotly contested in contemporary history.
President Koroma took over state governance at a time the country was the least in almost every sector of development.
Sierra Leone, before President Koroma, had the worst records of infant mortality rate evidenced by the rampant infant and maternal deaths.
The country at that time had one of the highest incidents of infant and maternal deaths in Africa second only to Angola, the worst roads and bridges, the lowest GDP, worst balance of trade deficits, weakest budgets, worst energy sector, the darkest city in the world among others.
It was in the midst of these terrible circumstances that President Koroma came to power and promised a turnaround.
To ensure that he succeeds in his promise, President Koroma initiated two agendas to guide him in his political dispensation.
The first was the AFC which was meant to be implemented in the first term of his Presidency and the second was the AFP meant for the second term.
The Change Agenda focused on five thematic areas: energy, Infrastructure, health, education and Agriculture.
During the first 100 days in office, President Koroma, under the Agenda for Change, brought electricity to Freetown to the admiration of many Sierra Leoneans.
The restoration of electricity in a city engulfed by perpetual darkness was a move that set in motion a trail of developments ever seen in Sierra Leone.
The energy restoration did not only stop in Freetown as district headquarters also saw light in the first time after many years of darkness.
The country’s megawatt was significantly increased to take care of the energy needs in the country.
The former Minister of Energy and Power, Henry Macauley told journalists, in a press briefing, at State House that Sierra Leone can proudly take credit in over 2,00 megawatt.
The completion of Bumbuna phase-one was part of President Koroma’s effort to reinvigorate the country’s energy sector.
The project, to a large, extent took care of the energy needs of provincial communities especially the northern region.
Some chiefdom headquarters where electricity was virtually non-existent were electrified through the solar electrification project.
In most towns, street lights were restored and students and pupils converge at night to study their notes.
It was indeed a clear showcase of committed and responsible leadership in the nation-state.
Sierra Leone known for a network of poor roads moved to a network of good roads.
The road between Bo and Freetown was fixed, the road between Kambia and Gberray Junction was tarred, and the highway between the North-eastern headquarters of Makeni and Gberray Junction was also made.
Almost every district headquarters in Sierra Leone tasted fruits of the Change Agenda as most principal streets in those towns were fixed.
The toll gate which saw the expansion of the Freetown-Masiaka highway into four lanes and the fixing of Gendema-Bo highway were projects of the AFC.
The facelift which Freetown enjoys now in terms of tarred streets and fine bridges is a product of change agenda.
President Koroma’s commitment to the improvement of the country’s infrastructure is felt not only in Sierra Leone, but in countries in the sub-region and other parts of the world.
A Liberian who recently visited Sierra Leone heaped praises on former President Koroma for such an ambitious infrastructural project.
The former Minister of Information and Communication, Alpha Khan almost always eulogise former President Koroma in any public forum for beautifying the country.
Another AFC thematic area, the health sector also saw a major boost evidenced in the pronouncement of the Free Health Care (FHC) policy in April, 2010.
Under the FHC policy, medical service is free for children under five, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
FHC beneficiaries were ecstatic for a policy that was aimed at reducing the maternal death rate for which the country was known Before President Koroma came to power.
The pronouncement of the policy was timely as thousands of lives which should have been lost were saved. A fundamental turning point has been ushered.
The former first lady, Sia Nyama Koroma can also take a fair share of the credit for the FHC policy.
Madam Koroma who holds a Master of Science in Bio Chemistry, and blessed with an enviable nursing experience showcased such rare qualities in Sierra Leone towards the realisation of the FHC policy objective.
However, the AFC did not score comfortably in the areas of education and agriculture.
In the education sector, the service was not made free although government paid for public exams fees for all candidates for the National Primary School Examination, Basic Education Certificate Examination and West African Senior School Certificate Examination.
Weak monitoring, poor salaries, rampant exams malpractice compounded with the problem of ghost teachers undermine the quality of education in Sierra Leone.
High scale and petty corruption at the West African Examination Council, the country’s examining authority, is a factor that cannot be ruled out in weakening the pillars of the country’s education.
Fake NPSE, BECE AND WASSCE results were rampant and the country’s colleges and universities hosts the half-baked pupils tagged as ‘Dead-on-Arrival.’
The compound vocabulary simply means the pupils who enrolled in the country’s colleges and universities at that time, by any stretch of the imagination, are unfit to be in JSS-3 in a standard school.
The result of such a polarised system is rustication of most of the pupils in these colleges where they have sojourned for years.
In 2015, Law School, the only institution that trains lawyers in this country expelled 50 students for poor performance.
In 2019, 150 students failed the exams at the Law School, and their hopes of becoming part of the country’s generation of lawyers shattered.
In the same year, about 200 students failed the Pre-med exams at the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences, one of the constituents of the University of Sierra Leone.
The sad occurrence in the academic sector is a product of inaction that persisted for years.
Almost invariably, agriculture failed to blossom under former President Koroma although he made effort to revamp the sector.
The former President brought in the famous world-class agricultural researcher, Prof. Monty Jones who he appointed as Minister of Agriculture.
Prof. Jones discovered the Nerica rice, a variety that does well in temperate and tropical zones in the world.
The renowned agricultural researcher worked relentlessly to ensure that agriculture succeeds in 55 countries when he was Chairman, Global Forum for Agriculture.
It is as a result of such wonderful achievements the professor was brought to Sierra Leone.
Prof. Jones came, saw but failed to conquer as agriculture is still in its infancy.
During Prof. Jones’ tenure as Minister, World Bank donated the sum of US$55M for small holder farmers to increase agricultural productivity and commercialisation.
The professor was about to roll out the project when government mandate came to an end. That is the end of agriculture in Sierra Leone.
President Koroma won another five-year mandate in 2012 in a landslide victory.
He was on the verge of rolling out the AFP when Ebola struck in May, 2014.
The virus also became a nightmare for the country and government.
It is safe to say the AFP was a still birth as the remaining period of President Koroma was hallmarked with effort to fight Ebola Virus and save an ailing economy.
Pronouncement of austerity measures and moratorium on recruitment in the public sector were basic steps.
Despite weaknesses of the Koroma government, it can be expressed without fear of contradiction that it scored over 70% in the project of state governance.
Today, President Bio is here with a ‘New Direction’ government to continue where former President Koroma stopped.
People were full of hopes with the coming of the New Direction. But, terrible signs of miserable failure have started to show case in its early years of existence.
Human rights and democratic credentials are worrisome under the ‘New Direction.’
However, the Bio government has over two years more to go.
Sierra Leone will still wait for 2023 to see if government can meet her expectations and aspirations.