The National Electoral Commission (NEC) in Sierra Leone has announced the fees for nominations of candidates for the various elective offices for the forthcoming elections in November 2012. The Chief Electoral Commissioner, the outstanding and remarkable Dr Christiana Thorpe, outlined the need for a dramatic increase in fees paid by aspirants: ”The 2012 Elections will cost tax payers of Sierra Leone Eighty Eight (88) Billion Leones (20.1 Million Dollars). This does not include donor contribution of 9.6 Million US Dollars. The prescribed nomination fees will constitute about 23.5% of the cost to be paid by tax payers. This is justifiable as we move gradually towards national ownership of our elections.” Justifiable as the reasons sound, the increase has provoked a serious outcry from opposition politicians, some referring to it as an assault on democracy and abuse of power by the commission. Others are saying it disenfranchises people.
But the fact remains, as the Chair so eloquently outlined, that Sierra Leoneans need to start taking full responsibility of their own electoral process. In the past, elections in the country have been solely bankrolled by international donors, but it seems Madam Thorpe is keen on passing the buck on to tax payers and those who want to compete for a place in the power spectrum of Sierra Leone politics. And there is nothing wrong with that if our democratic initiatives are to take hold. As a country, Sierra Leone needs to move from dependency on foreign assistance to a country that can cater for its own survival.
The outrage expressed by some politicians especially from the SLPP, is just a ploy to frustrate the election process, and to enable them to have an easy way of getting into government and once more wage war on the country’s finances. The reason why corruption has been so prevalent in Sierra Leonean society is because most people who get into politics are often broke and see being in government as a quick way of getting rich. It is simple fact that if you don’t have the money to pay for the nomination fees, you have no business contesting the elections. Why do you want get into politics if you cannot afford the price tag? Sometimes it is necessary to raise the bar in politics in order to frustrate those who see it as access to unlimited wealth. When you run for public office broke and you are given a department with an annual budget of millions of dollars, the first thing you may be tempted to do is to fill your pockets full. And with the current lineup of expert state embezzlers posing as candidates for the SLPP, one cannot rule out anything.
If you are running for President of a country, and you are a renowned playboy with a notorious record of diverting state funds for your personal use, you should have no issues paying your nomination fees! Unless if you have been overspending taking care of members of the opposite sex in style to satisfy your big appetite. One commentator, remarking on the fees increase said the NEC conspired with the government to raise the fees because of its incumbent position that makes it capable of affording the payments. But what the commentator failed to highlight was that most of the candidates that are being put forward by the SLPP are thieves who have had the opportunity of being in government and have a nasty record when it comes to handling fiancees. Thieves who stashed away millions of dollars of the state’s money in tax havens abroad. Thieves who if given another opportunity close to the state’s resources, would swindle the meagre that is left to maintain the steady flow of the nations’s economy.
Madam Christiana Thorpe is acting within the prescribed laws; and the increase reflects not only acting within her jurisdiction, but also on the recommendations of stakeholders. What most Sierra Leoneans may not be aware of is that most of the funding for the elections are coming from stakeholders! Reason being that the West is keen on an election that is fair, transparent and democratic, and one that expresses the will of the people. Madam Thorpe is merely translating the wishes of these stakeholders. In no way would the government be allowed to interfere in the process – even if they wish to do so, it wil prove impossible, as stakeholders are directly involved in how funding they provide, is directly disbursed by Madam Thorpe and co. So those fickle-head opposition cry-babies should get their acts together and know that if they want to govern, or have a place in the politics of our country, they should demonstrate the ability to govern and be responsible. Madam Thorpe and co. also have to give a concise account of the deliberations of the commission to stakeholders. The outbursts from opposition elements is simply gimmick!!
What Madam Thorpe is demonstrating is that the West cannot continue to finance our democratic process. And those who wish to be at the forefront of that process should be willing to take full responsibility of the price to achieve that. If Julius Maada Bio cannot afford to pay the nomination fee, then he has no business running for president. But if he can afford to pay the fees, then he must be asked to refund the money that was stolen from the state coffers and that which he amassed through the illegal sale of the country’s passports to corrupt international businessmen. Julius Maada Bio’s presence in the ticket for president is simply a disgrace to our country’s core values. Those who subscribe to and support his candidacy should hang their heads in shame as history will never be kind to them and they are equally culpable for the gross atrocities he presided over during the NPRC era. Sierra Leone is moving ahead towards economic stability and prosperity, an opportunity that we should all be proud of and seek to maintain, but it seems a few have been so accustomed to be part of a broken system that they can abuse, that they are prepared to do anything to dismantle the progress we are already experiencing.
Madam Thorpe should not budge, and should stand firm in her resolve to institute the provisions of the law; as intimidation from the opposition may not reflect well with the fragile state of our democracy. Sierra Leone politics cannot be allowed to be designed for a few whose intentions are mainly to squander state resources.
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