Governments in developing nations like ours are expected to do everything at the initial stages of their advancement until a strong and dynamic private sector is created as a worthy partner in building a resilient and vibrant economy. It is equally of great significance that our supposedly autonomous democratic institutions are encouraged to act as such and are strengthened and empowered to ensure good governance. This is necessary because only a strong economy and good governance can guarantee and sustain our future prosperity.
Until this is achieved and beyond, the policies, ability and credibility of those aspiring for elected office must and should determine how we vote. Issues of ability, credibility, vision and policies should be the decisive factor in determining the future route our nation should take. A thorough scrutiny of those fundamental issues is necessary if we genuinely want to redeem our poverty stricken nation and guarantee an era of sustainable development.
The old and current order of voting according to our narrow-minded sentiments, be they tribal, regional, family or friend oriented must give way to who we consider most suitable and reliable at a given time or period to address important national issues and challenges that affect all of us. Issues of poverty, the economy, the state of our schools, hospitals and health centers, the limited access and non-availability of clean drinking water and access to reliable and sustainable electricity must be considered by all of us - voters and candidates as basic challenges still facing the people of Sierra Leone, 55 years after independence.
With the existing miserable state of affairs, we must be serious (hold ‘sorbeh’) in demanding answers to serious questions bordering on these issues from our politicians. The electorate must request for the records of performance of candidates for the highest office, their integrity, patriotism and vision to move us out of the abyss and to move us forward as crucial to their vote.
When war break out in Sierra Leone in the 90’s every region, every tribe and every political party felt the brunt of that war. Likewise with the outbreak of the Ebola virus every corner of this nation was in shock and anguish and today everyone is feeling the impact of the current economic debacle and the austerity measures in place. These unfortunate developments can be prevented in future if we make very good use of our votes today, by making informed choices rather than allowing our sentiments to have the better of us when we enter those polling booths.
In a society with a large number of illiterates like ours, the task of spreading awareness and empowering our people to make informed choices might appear daunting but is easily achievable with the combined efforts of political parties, civil society and the media. We might be illiterate but we can still appreciate the realities and challenges we all face in our nation and given the facts and with proper instructions we can make an informed choice.
For a long time a good number of Sierra Leoneans have used politics as an easy path to affluence; through tribal, regional and family sentiments as the main vehicle to achieve that goal. In almost every occasion they have failed to live up to the expectations of the voters because they are ill equipped, unresponsive and lack any form of vision to achieve the set out goals in their manifestos, the contents of which only receive lip service from the authors.
At the end of the day we find it rather difficult to hold them to the pledges in their manifestos and the promises they make, because our votes were not truly based on the issues of the day but rather on blind and selfish sentiments that only continues to further harm our nation.
What values are we fighting for in the 2018 presidential and parliamentary elections? Who are we voting for, and why? What motivates us to vote the way we do? The reasons are as numerous as the sands on Lumley Beach, and how a person is driven to act is as fickle as the wind. When one cast a vote, however, one cannot afford to be fickle in our present condition.
Voting is therefore a force that we must take seriously. It is more powerful than violence unleashed and it is power wielded. It can mean the difference between justice and injustice, between law and order and lawlessness, between prosperity for some over others. Since no human society can exist with perfect equality, the outstanding research initiated by our Founding Fathers has been an invention constantly in the remaking.
Our nation has grown from a colony of land owners who held the franchise, to an independent nation of male and female voters and a community of ethnicities of all manner of diverse backgrounds with the capability of voting and changing the Government. However, it has never been the perfect dream only a far cry from the imperfect state once grasped at by the founders of an independent and democratic Sierra Leone. A state of affairs we must change with our votes by taking the issues and challenges facing us seriously devoid of blind emotions.
Sir Milton Margai, for as much as we trumpet him, did not seek independence alone, why? What influenced the choices of the United Front, and did any one man have any more inherent worth than the other? No. Instead, they were all imperfect individuals making imperfect choices in difficult times. There is no difference from the precipice at which they stood to the one we stand now, as every choice we make in 2018 will influence the next five years and, eventually, generations of people to come after us.
That is the power of the vote which we must take very serious and cast with caution. We must never forget that the power of the vote empowered individuals like Sir Milton Margai to lead an independent Sierra Leone and Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabba to restore peace to an embattled nation. The power of the vote also secured the mandate for men like Dr. Siaka P. Stevens who established a one party republic which laid the basis of an 11 years civil war that commenced during the rule of his successor President Joseph Saidu Momoh.
Your vote is your voice as a Sierra Leonean citizen. It's your opportunity to be heard, to hold elected officials accountable for their decisions and to have a say on important issues that affect your community, your district and your nation. Therefore on Election Day, every vote matters.
Today, we live in a democracy - We have the right to vote for whoever we want to vote for in free and fair elections unlike many other countries where citizens do not have this right. Voting, in all circumstances gives the Government legitimacy - meaning they have the people's support to make decisions; therefore that support must be based on performance and not our ethnic, religious, regional or family relationship with our leaders.
Voting is one of the surest ways for us as citizens to establish influence over elected officials. Because politicians are concerned primarily with the most vocal elements of their constituencies, groups of people who do not vote tend to receive less attention. This ultimately translates into less power for non-voters to affect the formation of public policy in accordance with their own private interest.
Sierra Leoneans!! ; we need to be serious (hold ‘sorbeh’) with our vote this time round to ensure that we vote into public office people who would think more about Sierra Leone and making this nation great again in every way and think less about amassing wealth or empowering their families and friends.