From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Tejan Kabbah is Sierra Leone’s Greatest Leader so far
By An Opinion by Sayoh Kamara
Apr 7, 2010, 17:28

When I read in the Monday, March 15, 2010 edition of the Awoko newspaper Minister Alpha Kanu’s assertion that Sierra Leone has had ONLY three GREAT LEADERS namely: Sir Milton Margai, Siaka Probyn Stevens and the current President, Ernest Bai Koroma, what first came to mind was that the Minister was merely being presumptuously deceitful and sacrilegiously economical with the truth and a deliberate attempt to distort history. How can anyone genuinely grade Sierra Leone’s leaders since independence and leave out Alhaji Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah?

The Awoko newspaper had reported thus: "…Minister Alhaji Alpha Kanu said since independence, Sierra Leone has got only three great leaders. …the three great leaders ever to rule Sierra Leone were Sir Milton Margai and President Siaka Stevens the first Republican leader.

Former President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah

The third he said is the current President Ernest Bai Koroma who he said has shown the world what leadership means. The Minister said even though the country has had about eight or nine leaders, all the rest were better when they departed the scene as all of them have nothing to show for it during their reign. Alhaji Alpha Kanu said President Koroma’s two and half years reign in Sierra Leone has been the best ever as he has economically, socially, infrastructurally and politically made Sierra Leone peaceful and viable….The Mineral Resources Minister said the 24 years of APC brought Sierra Leone to the limelight and if not for the violent overthrow in 1992, Sierra Leone would have been a paradise. He went on: "he is the only President that has ever gathered all 149 chiefs in one area, which shows that he is the best leader for the country…."

Reading through these words as reported by the Awoko newspaper, I noticed a gap in Minister Kanu’s thought processes and it appeared to me that he could have been in virtual delirium as he praise-sang a President who is himself not sure whether he is meeting the expectations of his people. I also thought that Alpha Kanu was perhaps living in the past but was on earth with us as an incarnate and therefore his thought processes and analysis of factual situations are not analogous with his yester parochial thoughts. Alpha Kanu’s assertions are fallacious and discordant with reality. His assertion is sheer rhetoric and an attempt to hoodwink the people through propaganda.

A National Statesman

The fallacious gaps in Kanu’s assertion are many. The most foolish of them is his qualification of President Koroma’s two and half years rule as being the best ever. What is Kanu’s premise for this assertion? Economically, socially, politically and in terms of infrastructure, President Koroma has not done anything to that is remarkable. He is merely implementing development programmes that were designed by the erstwhile government. I have not seen any tangible development initiative that is engineered by this present government that which the people would look up to as his legacy.

Had it not been for the complacency and lacklustre attitude of the former government, by being too silent over what they were doing, I wonder what this President, this government and this Minister will be telling the people of Sierra Leone thirty-one months since they came to power?

The much talked about Bumbuna Hydro project was 95% complete when this President took over; the Kambia/Pamelap highway had been given to a contractor and virtually retaking because of poor performance well before him, the Peninsular road, the Masiaka/Bo road, the Kailahun road, the office of the Vice President, the CID Headquarters, the NEC Headquarters, several feeder road projects were all inherited. So what best ever presidency has been provided so far? Assembling the 149 Paramount Chiefs and Regent Chiefs in one place is no sign of greatness, to me, ascribing this as an exemplification of greatness of a President is foolhardy, naïve and ludicrous. The President is the supreme executive authority of Sierra Leone, commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, fountain of honour and justice and the symbol of national unity and sovereignty. It is therefore no big deal for a President to assemble chiefs or any other group of Sierra Leoneans in one place at any giving time.

By the way, doesn’t Minister Kanu think it is immature for him to rush Sierra Leoneans into making greatness out of President Koroma in just thirty-one months, when he himself has set the deadline for assessing him

at thirty-six months? He had told Sierra Leoneans in September 2007 that within thirty-six months of his presidency, he will turn around the country from its perceived decadent state to one that is alive and running. He had assured the people that he will run the country like a business. It is not yet thirty-six months, and the people are waiting.

I will not attempt to go much into history in my challenge of Minister Kanu’s foolhardy. I will however be brief and precise with certain historical facts. For Sir Milton Margai’s greatness, I have no qualms. He is the father of our political independence. He died much earlier afterwards for him to be prudently assessed.

Siaka Stevens ruled for seventeen years, during which period, he made himself extremely powerful, turning into a virtual Demi god, wielding all the powers of a god on earth; even the life span of certain people were determined by him. Stevens would have been a great leader if he had utilized this country’s resources prudently, devoid of ingrained corruption and misuse. Stevens while presiding over Sierra Leone as a land of diamond and gold, failed to march the country’s socio-economic and infrastructural developments with other countries in the sub region.


Stevens was in power alongside that of the late Felix Huphouete Boigny of Ivory Coast, Leopold Sedar Senghor of Senegal and Gnassimgbe Eyadema of Togo, to name but a few. To a great extent, those leaders did in their respective countries what it takes to be great leaders; buoyant economies, beautiful infrastructure, a consciously patriotic citizenry and a respected state in the eyes of the international community. Those leaders left in their stead very rich visible legacies in their demonstration of their statesmanship, love and sympathy for their countries and peoples. Stevens institutionalized graft, neglected education or caused it to be neglected, precipitated the devaluation of the Leone; with his unwise decision to host the OAU Conference in 1980, presided over the huge indebtedness of the country, institutionalized bad governance (U know wo dat na me?-a principle characterized by stature, connection, nepotism and general disadvantage of the less privileged), and manipulated the judiciary and legislature. It was under his leadership that the army and the police became politicized, with the police in particular becoming tools of oppression and intimidation. In a nutshell, Stevens’s seventeen years were wasted years as far as Sierra Leone’s socio-economic developments are concerned. His period of reign was when the foundation of these developments should have been built for his predecessors to build on. Instead he misused and wasted the country’s much needed resources with reckless abandon and there were no internal means of questioning him.

Yes the National Stadium (Siaka Stevens Stadium), Youyi building (Miatta Conference hall personalized), Bintumani hotel, Aberdeen and Mange bridges etc. were constructed during is reign, courtesy of the Chinese. He should have done much, much more than what his worshippers are basking around with. With the countries riches, had he put them in good use, Sierra Leone should by be comparing with the likes of South Africa, Ivory Coast, Senegal etc in terms of infrastructural development. It is only Sierra Leone in West Africa in this 21st Century that continues to grapple with single traffic lanes as two-way traffic lanes. Sierra Leone was far richer than Ghana, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea, and Mali and to an extent at per with Nigeria. Today, we cannot think of such comparisms, as those countries are now examples for Sierra Leone to copy from. Little Gambia with only groundnuts as its major export item, has made a quantum leap in its infrastructural and other social development strides, while we continue to hail people for doing sweet nothing all in the name of political chauvinism. Ironically therefore, I will agree with Minister Kanu that Stevens was a great leader on grounds that he made himself more powerful than the state and that he set the pace for this country’s backwardness and present decadence. It were because of all of these put together that forced Foday Sankoh and his Revolutionary United Front Rebels (RUF) to wage war on the state in their bid to rid it of its improper nature at the time.

And it was Tejan Kabbah who Allah appointed as the ‘Messiah’ to save Sierra Leone from disintegration and possible dissipation. He used the ending of the war which started as a rebellion against an ingrained political system and has developed into a fratricidal war, as his main campaign agenda and when he won, Sierra Leoneans and the world saw what he did in restoring peace to the people of Sierra Leone. As a man of his words, he gave what he promised the people. Bringing peace and consolidating it was his preoccupation during his first term (1996-2002) and during his second inning, again based on his promise of democratization and revitalization of the socio-economic lives of Sierra Leone, introduced tangible socio-economic development programmes such as the free-market economic policy which made the private sector competitive, introduced the National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT) scheme to save former civil servants from dying in penury, introduced the National Revenue Authority (NRA) in order to coordinate and centralize government’s revenue collection, restructured and restored respect to the police, introduced the Office of National Security (ONS) which concerns itself more with the protection and preservation of human security, introduced the girl-child education scheme which caused the rise in number of girls in schools, introduced the two university system to broaden the scope of university and tertiary education in the country, restored the dignity and respect of Paramount Chiefs and other traditional rulers which had been eroded by Stevens, and also resuscitated the local government system which had also been sent into coma for 30 years by Stevens. He encouraged democratic good governance where respect for the rule of law and separation of powers, freedom of expression and the press were paramount.

The works of Tejan Kabbah that can be seen are numerous for one for want of populism, and sheer deceit, to leave his name out as a great leader of Sierra Leone. In fact, of all the leaders this country has had, Tejan Kabbah proved to be a visionary, a democrat and a true Sierra Leonean more than anyone mentioned by Minister Kanu. Like current President of the United States of America said during his visit to Africa-Ghana, Africa does not need powerful leaders; it needs powerful and strong institutions through which the ideals and principles of its States can be channelled.

If that is what is behind the success of America and what development experts consider as a panacea of Africa’s pull from poverty and backwardness, then Alhaji Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah is the greatest leader Sierra Leone has ever had for the past 49 years!

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