Let me commend the organizers for doing a great job.” “Thankfully, President Ernest Bai Koroma has laid the foundation exemplifying a good leadership. He has created the platform in promoting democratic good governance. The Presidential debate was about our democracy and the level of quality representation which was seen in Dr. Samura Kamara,” said Abdulai Baratay-Presidential Spokesman in a mobile phone interview.

    The Chairman/Information Commissioner-Right to Access Information Commission (RAIC
    ) Unisa Sesay says, “This is the best Presidential debate I have ever witnessed. It is a unique opportunity for our thriving democracy.”

    He accused all the Presidential Candidates for “a display of lack of knowledge” about our existing law on Right to Access Information which frowns at speculations on important national issues before making it public as it will result to instability.

    According to him, five Presidential Candidates: Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party; Alhaji Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella of the National Grand Coalition; Mohamed Kamaraimba Mansaray of the Alliance Democratic Party; Alhaji Musa Tarawallie of the Citizens Democratic Party and Alhaji Sam Sumana of the Coalition for Change Party were not able to present an alternating solution/s to the current challenges facing the country.

    “The public knows we have not been able to achieve all our development trajectories yet they were still bent on telling us the same story,” RAIC Chairman said. He added that, “we expected them to give an alternative solution in a more effective and efficient manner.”

    He encouraged the organizers of the trailblazing Presidential debate to present a national documentary that reflects the views of people across Sierra Leone and not limit it to one town or district. He went on to thank the sponsors-OSIWA and partners for their support.

    Guinean Ambassador-Fode Camara says he was satisfied at the level of political tolerance displayed by all the participants (Six political parties). He lavished praise on the organisers (AYV Media Empire and partners) for a giant step in the right direction.

    Lawyer Francis Ben Kaifala espoused that, “It’s also commendable that the Candidates enthusiastically participated. It’s a great step in the right direction for our democracy. I am sure in the future; lessons learnt will inform better organization, engagement and dissemination.

    Borrowing from the RAIC Chairman-Unisa Sesay, “It is difficult to do it better but it is not difficult to learn from past mistakes.” The Voiceless Sierra Leoneans would want to premise its argument on this wise maxim. Indeed positive criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary provided it is done with correction.

    No one is saying AYV Media Empire should not be subjected to corrections but negative criticism for selfish reason tears one apart. This same criticism climaxed the entire Presidential debate. Before the start of the Presidential debate at the Sierra Leone’s prestigious Bintumani international conference center, Aberdeen, Freetown on Friday 15th February 2018, there were numerous slanderous and dangerous social media messages being circulated.

    It was calculatedly done to disrupt the event. One of such was the alleged meeting of Hassan Arouni with President Koroma at the Presidential State Lodge on the eve of the event. In fact the message had AYV’s Director of Communication’s byeline-Abdul Fonti. With all intent and purpose, it was done to link AYV with one particular political party against the others. Such criticism was unpatriotic and evil.

    Assuming one of the Presidential candidates would have used those treacherous messages as an excuse to quit the debate? Why must we reduce our thoughts to mediocrity at the expense of national development?
    The Presidential debate was an eye opener to tell the world that the stage has been set and we are ready to put political pettiness aside and put Sierra Leone “FOS” (first).

    But it will also be foolhardy if one would say “I was not expecting any criticism.” Even if the Presidential debate was organized by the BBC, it would not have been free from criticism. Let us encourage ourselves to do a postmortem of the event and make it a tradition to be organizing such debates during every fresh mandate (Presidential, Mayoral and District Chairmen elections).

    Remember that the organisers (AYV and partners) are not Saints from heaven.
    Let us pause and look at the positive part. The Chief Executive Officer of the AYV Media Empire-Ambassador Anthony Navo Jnr. has not only taken the lead in youth empowerment, he has provided a platform to unleash the potential of young talented Sierra Leoneans. I am a beneficiary to this!

    Instead of vilifying AYV’s CEO with disenchantment, he should be given a standing ovation for such a laudable initiative for bringing all media houses together including Political Parties regulatory body and Civil Society Organisations to provide the enabling platform where our leaders showcased tolerance and peace. That event loudly sent out a peace and non-violence message to voters.

    Having commended the organisers for organizing such a highly spirited but challenging Presidential debate, it is good that we salute President Ernest Bai Koroma for providing the political will to market our nascent democracy. In his capacity as Chairman and Leader of the ruling APC Party, he supported his party’s Presidential Candidate-Dr. Samura Kamara to fully participate. As Fountain of Honour, President Koroma supported the process to bring democratic good governance to the door step of every citizen. Kudos Mr. President and remember that the human tongue is more poisonous than the bee’s sting.
    Do We Actually Need A Political Debate?
    Yes it gives the media the chance to hold the candidates’ feet on the fire.

    It gives voters a way to see how candidates handle the pressure of a big audience in a prize fight atmosphere. It gives the candidates a chance to sell their manifestos and make inroads in the voting market.

    It allows voters from a close range to make an informed voting judgment and know a better suited candidate for the highest position in the land. It is important to also state that voters learnt new information from the Presidential candidates. But this new information is not likely to change many minds.

    Unfortunately, debates does not hugely affect/change who a voter will vote for, instead their party loyalty affects who they believe won the debates.
    Truth be told, the just concluded Presidential debate is a form of self-corrective mechanism whereby the party in power reviews its performance and appeases all its citizens. The participation of all the six political parties created a platform of self- correction.

    By Elkass Sannoh
    This is The Pen Of The Voiceless Sierra Leoneans.