By Adedayo Â Adejobi
Sierria Leone will today hold a run-off election on Saturday to determine who succeeds President Ernest Bai Koroma, after neither of the candidates secured enough votes for an outright victory during the first round.
In an exclusive chat with THISDAY, the fresh-faced military ruler who led Sierra Leone from 1992 to 1996 and then handed over power to Ahmad Tejan Kabbah also argued that it would be against the run of play if President Bai Koromaâ€™s stooge, Samura Kamara, an integral part of the failed APC Government, is elected.
Reflecting on why he is seeking office, the challenges and opportunities for democratic consolidation in post-war Sierra Leone, he said that â€˜â€˜my decision to run for the top job was not by accident, but as a result of wide consultations with respectable men and women, including opinion leaders in the countryÂ in the hinterlands. I came into the Presidential race as a call to serve and not acquire wealth. God has been kind to me in all my ways and I think the best way to appreciate God is to serve my people with all my vigour. Itâ€™s my plan to take men, women, school leavers, and the jobless out of the streets, re-focus the civilÂ service who are the heart of government and governanceâ€™. I am contesting to make a change in the Spirit of One Country, One People and the struggles Sierria Leone has gone through.â€™â€™ Maada Bio said.
Sounding confident of victory at the polls, he promised to use his experience as an ex-leader who in his time revivedÂ electricity and economy, abolishedÂ petrol queues, and then handed over to over to a democratically-elected government, to run an effective and efficient government in whichÂ workers would be well taken care of.
In his words, â€˜â€˜looking at it from an unbiased point of view-Sierria Leone is poorer than ever, and the Bai Koroma Led APC cannot use the Ebola excuse because the aid monies received simply disappeared into a big hole. And they have the cheek to say anything about corruption. It is nothing but sarcasm and of course, the APC has a tremendous sense of humour. Interestingly, the ordinary Sierrialeonean is beginning to see the truth.
Â Hunger and poverty have a way of opening peoplesâ€™ eyes. Sierrialeoneans would go out and vote and I hope the APC makes their votes countâ€™â€™
Speaking on Sierra Leone and the challenges of democratic consolidation where he outlined some of the key challenges that could threaten the consolidation of democracy in Sierra Leone should things not go right, He said, â€˜â€˜democracy cannot be built on an empty stomach; my experiences in government as Head of State and reflections since handing over power to a democratically elected government have all shown that democracy cannot be built, sustained and consolidated on an empty stomach. Poverty, illiteracy, underdevelopment and lack of existential necessities of life, that is, food, shelter, clothing and healthcare are a threat to the consolidation of democracy.â€™â€™
Meanwhile, Sierra Leoneâ€™s ruling party candidate Samura Kamara has pleaded with his supporters to remain calm ahead of todayâ€™s run-off with opposition leader Julius Maada Bio.
Maada Bio added that with growing insecurity, grinding poverty, and corruption in high places, the countryâ€™s deserves a replication of the ruling party which would further plunge the country into backwardness after 10 odd years of retrogression.
If performance were the indices the ruling APC seeks to win todayâ€™s elections, Bai Koroma has ruined Sierria Leoneâ€™s economy. Samura Kamara cannot win a free and fair election. â€˜â€˜By the grace of God, my candidature will not only drive away and beat APC, but it will bring development to Sierrialeoneansâ€™â€™, he said.
In a similar linked development and seemingly positive news for both Sierra Leone and Blockchain, where it was alleged that the technology formed part of an election process, it later emerged that there was some misinformation.
Agora, the company that was at the heart of the miscommunication, was called out for proclaiming that they ran part of the African Nationâ€™s election on the Blockchain, when in reality, they were merely showing how Blockchain elections could be done, running it concurrently as a demonstration to the government.
A media storm developed as Agora was caught in the crosshairs. However, they came out with a statement intending to vindicate themselves from any wrong. Agora pointed to the fact they were simply an international observer, underlining that they never claimed to be counting official election results in their trial Blockchain election test.
The fall out of it all did not paint Agora in a positive light. But, along with a statement they sent out, their CEO, Leo Gammar said that â€˜â€˜we had gone to assure the National Electoral Commission (NEC) of Sierra Leone we are sorry for what transpired. The incident has provided us with a steep learning curve.â€™â€™
When THISDAY reached out to Abdulai Bayraytay, spokesman to President Bai Koroma, via phone call, to hear the Presidentâ€™s side of the story, these were his words, â€˜â€˜The election would be free and fair. On focus Africa today, Nâ€™fa Alie the National Electoral Commission (NEC) Chairman was interviewed and said he is very ready and very prepared to be non-partisan to deliver a free and fair election..â€™â€™
The run-off will be held after a Sierra Leone High Court lifted an injunction in an order following accusations of fraud in the first round made by a member of the ruling party.
President Ernest Bai Koroma is stepping aside after his maximum two terms in office.