by Theo Nicol
Early this month, I was invited by the National Conference for Transformation and Development Secretariat to attend one of the many consultative meetings they are holding across the country. This one was with media managers at the former UN building and it was well attended with many editors and station managers in attendance.
We were briefed by the Head of the secretariat, Mr. Herbert McLeod, a man who seems to have so much faith in his country’s transformation, that when he speaks, he keeps repeating the words, “this time around” to alley whatever fears skeptics like us may have concerning the outcome of whatever conference that is organized by government .
I have personally been very worried about the impact a new conference will have on the people’s question, when we have had several conferences and still we are going to discuss issues that those previous conferences should have handled or had handled.
In the meeting we had, I was quite clear on where I stand regarding any national conference that is organized with tax payers’ money. I was, and still am worried about the benefit of conferences to the people. What have we as the people benefitted from conferences that have provided jobs and income for the elites? What has changed anyway since we had the last conference years ago?
These are some of the concerns I raised and Mr. McLeod took the pains to explain to me and the other journalists present that this time around, things were going to be different. At the end of his rather long explanation aimed at convincing us as to why we should not be skeptical, but should join the campaign, I was still left with just the same thought that conferences, whether they are investors conferences or national conferences aimed at transformation and development of our country have not done much for our people.
I still think that we, the people and even the elites, all know the problems ofSierra Leoneand that the political parties have done some work trying to plot the road map to how we can solve the problems in their various manifestoes. I have carefully studied the manifestoes of both the APC and the SLPP and they have both catalogued the various problems of the country and have also suggested ways that they can be tackled if they are elected into office. I have also studied the Agenda for Change of this government and I also carefully looked at the Turn around document that the president released last year when his government clocked three years in office.
All these documents have been carefully written out and are full of well researched findings which I know are now gathering dust somewhere in the party offices. And this makes me conclude that what we need now are not new conferences, but new process of implementing the recommendations in the various documents that are already available. That is exactly what I told Mr. McLeod and he accepted, but still believes that this time around, the conference will come up with implementable recommendations that will change the country’s future forever.
I have no reason to doubt McLeod’s credibility or to be skeptical about his belief. My only worry remains the fact that successive governments have organized different conferences that have not taken us anywhere because the people have not been taken along and the wishes of the people were never implemented after the reports were put together. This time around, McLeod says, it is the people themselves that are having the conference in hundreds of consultative meetings with all stake holders in theSierra Leoneproject countrywide.
But, as a patriot who believes that things will and must change in this country for the better, I will not subject McLeod and his committee to too much pessimism. I will add my support to the conference with the hope that this time around, the people of this country will decide their own future and take the bull by the horn to hold government accountable to implement whatever recommendations the conference will come up with to transformSierra Leonefor the better.
I will also personally hold McLeod, Isaac Massaquoi, Ishmail Koroma and all the other eminent members of the steering committee which has President Ernest Koroma as Chairman responsible if Sierra Leonedoes not transform and develop, both in physical infrastructural terms and human development after the conference would have come and gone.
That is the reason why I had to shelve or shift other previous appointments when Ishmeal Korma rang to invite me to the Steering Committees meeting at State House slated for today, as an observer.
I believe in the Sierra Leone project. But I will only support a conference that tackles the people’s question from a pragmatic point of view rather than some elitist manner that will not change the material condition of our people for the better.
That is my view