Bintumani-III: Transforming Bio-blunder into Bio-700-carat diamond

Oswald Hanciles: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 May 2019:

Bintumani-III (B-3) will debut this week. It’s a fait accompli. To me, the timing of it is another political and public relations blunder by the Bio Administration. It reeks of political capitulation to the majority party in Parliament, the APC – by the SLPP holding the reins of the presidency.

B-3 has offensive odour of the rotten corpses embedded in the 1999 Lome Peace Agreement. Most youth would not know about the RUF rebels’ and AFRC sobels’ strategy and tactics that lead to what I have derided as the ‘Lome Capitulation Accord’.

The RUF,  since it ignited its war against the APC government of President Joseph Saidu Momoh on March 23, 1991,  embarked on a scorch earth strategy  – brutal and nasty murders of the citizenry; maiming of men, women, and children, even babies; arson on private and public property …with a deviltry that rivals Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany’s holocaust on Jews between 1939 and 1945.

The RUF, joined in 1997 by the military junta,  the AFRC, that overthrew the SLPP government of President Tejan Kabbah on May 25, 1997, intensified its atrocities against the people, especially in the January 6, 1999 invasion of Freetown, until…The SLPP government gave in to their demonism.

The RUF rebels and AFRC sobels (regular soldiers of the Sierra Leone Military dubbed “sobels” by the local press because they  behaved as sordidly brutish as the RUF rebels)  were REWARDED in the Lome Peace Agreement  – four cabinet positions in the Kabbah government; and RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, being made “Equivalent to Vice President”, and personally made Chairman of the Strategic Minerals Commission, with more economic and financial powers than President Tejan Kabbah.  It’s like deja vu – Lome like Bintumani- III (B-3).

B-3 is a communications failure.  From what I gauge by talking to ordinary people in Freetown, most of them do not know the rationale of B-3; or, do not buy into its relevance.

Apparently, the propagandists of the APC have successfully picked holes in the probable underlying motive of B-3  – it’s a distraction to cover up for the Bio Administration’s failure to address the economic standstill in the country; and to check the depressed livelihoods of the about 70% of  people in Sierra Leone that the Bio Administration’s 2019-published National Medium-Term Plan (NMTDP) has classified as poor, and 10 percent as “multi-dimensionally poor”.

Speaking Truth to Power

Veteran journalist/columnist/publisher of The Global Times newspaper, Sorie Fofanah, writing in his Manjaroka column, wrote thus: “…’I like people who tell me what I need to hear not what I want to hear’, President Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah (President of Sierra Leone -.1996 to 2007)  recalled after a bitter encounter with one of his advisers at State House. Ambassador Alhaji Morikeh Fofana was a plain-spoken man. He served as High Commissioner to the Gambia…After his withdrawal, Ambassador Morikeh Fofanah was appointed as Adviser to the President at State House with the status of a Cabinet Minister… On many occasions, he had disagreements with the President Kabbah…”.

Are there advisers like Ambassador Morikeh Fofanah at State House with President Maada Bio? I doubt it. If there are truth-speaking advisers at Bio’s State House, why  should the First Lady of Sierra Leone put a curse on those who are giving bad advice to the President in a video that has gone viral?

Sorie Fofanah, now a member of the Bio Administration, subtly supports the ‘sweh-ing’ (cursing) of Lady Fatima by going historical: “During my several contacts with President Kabbah, I saw sycophancy at its worse.

I recalled the reaction in Freetown, after President Kabbah had signed the Lome Peace Accord…It was not a popular decision at the time. On that day, I was in the office of a trusted ally of the President who happened to be a Cabinet Minister at the time.

The President phoned him from Lome and asked him about the reaction in Freetown to the signing of the Lome Peace Accord. The Minister shamelessly told the President that there was jubilation all over the country.

I was shocked… The only excuse (of the Minister) was ‘Na so politics dae…You geh for tell the Pa wae tin e want for yeri…’. Sorie Fofanah points out in his newspaper column last week  that “…since I am now a member of the government, certain concerns I have about the Bintumani 3 conference will not be raised here…”.

He has obliquely spoken truth to power nonetheless in his newspaper column – just like I would do in THE OSWALD HANCILES COLUMN while I was media adviser to President Ernest Bai Koroma at State House between January, 2012 to March, 2018.

That Sorie Fofanah has to write his views of doubts about the timing of Bintumani III (B-3) within a week of the debut of B-3 shows that those who planned B-3 had not consulted him. That accentuates one deleterious mindsets of successive governments in Sierra Leone  – their perception that media professionals are messenger boys who are merely told to issue out press releases concocted by so-called experts; or, to do praise-singing of a president.

That’s a key reason why they fail.  That’s a main reason why poverty has festered in Sierra Leone.  Journalists, especially columnists, are thinkers with their minds honed with grappling daily with complex variables of governance.

Will this president, Retired Brigadier Maada Bio, listen to my almost 41 years post-university experience in Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, largely as a columnist and environmentalist?

Capitulation to Predators and Saboteurs

Probably, about 90 percent of the political elite and bureaucratic elite of Sierra Leone have been  shameless predators since 1964.  They see it as their entitlement to steal government money  – they brag about their success after flagrantly  stealing the people’s money,  and are grossly insensitive to the majority of Sierra Leoneans being mired deeper in the murky depths of poverty.

Their egoism is childish – as they seek only their own personal needs.  Their egotism because of stolen wealth is laughably reprehensible.  Where is the Guest List for Bintumani III? Are we going to have the same people – in persons or in type  – who have been like vampires sucking the blood of Sierra Leoneans since 1964 to be managing sessions at Bintumani-III? What could really be the result of it all?

Sterile Talk-Shop

Talk…talk…talk…! PowerPoint presentations. Breakfast, Lunch, Coffee Break… Haa. The Sierra Leonean educated elite and power elite love such meetings in luxury hotels. Since the civil war was declared ended in 2002, there have been hundreds of such conferences, seminars, workshops.

At the end of them, the participants would be self-congratulatory. A foreigner watching some of them could easily get convinced that because of the enthusiastic participation of Sierra Leoneans, our poverty-stricken country would achieve meteoric surge like Singapore. Or, at least post-1994 Rwanda accelerated development.

Sadly, since 2002, real poverty has worsened in Sierra Leone, especially when one adds “Environmental Poverty” + “Slum Poverty” × “Joblessness Poverty”… which will = Ticking Time Bomb problem.

Bio as a Lee Kwan Yew, as a Jerry Rawlings, as a Paul Kigame.

Sorieba Sillah, “courtesy@ PSL” writes: “Facing the reality of another trauma to face our nation will be a shameful and painful symbolism of our nascent democracy.  The proposed motion of BINTUMANI 3 by the President, Julius Maada Bio, and his New Direction government, is a sign of lost control, and does not eliminate the risk of non-compliance by the opposition APC, whose ulterior motive is to bring the country to an ungovernable situation by creating a distraction and a mockery”.

Sorieba’s words I interpret to mean this: Mr. President, you and your SLPP are marching into another landmine of the APC in Bintumani III. What are the ‘escape options’ for the Bio Administration.

Escape Options to Bintumani III

If President Maada Bio cannot endure the ignominy of halting the brakes to Bintumani III at this 11th hour, let the President be prepared to harness the best and brightest and most courageous of the citizenry in post-Bintumani-III engagements.

President Maada Bio has been bragging from Day One of his presidency of more focus on  harnessing the human resources of Sierra Leone. That remains an empty boast. Bio should pick a leaf from Prime Minister Lee of Singapore.  Singapore has always been a “barren rock” of a country.  No marketable natural resources.

About 1962, the GNP per capita of Singapore was about  $600 – that of Sierra Leone was $270. In 2017, the GNP per capita of Singapore was $38,000 – that of Sierra Leone was $800.

Sierra Leone has been endowed with some of the best jewellery diamonds in the world; the best grade of titanuim (rutile) on planet earth; highest grade iron ore; some of the best ocean territorial space for highly Europe-desirable marine life; some of the most idyllic beaches and warm-water ocean ideal for swimmers.

Yet, Singapore with nothing has transformed itself into a first world country within the same period that Sierra Leone with everything has plunged into the abyss of poverty.

What did Singapore use which Sierra Leone has failed to use?

Strong leadership.  Zero Tolerance for corruption.  Inflexible insistence on quality education. Meritocracy in the public sector. It’s something similar that Paul Kagame has used in landlocked Rwanda.  Not appeasement to the forces of evil.

Former foreign affairs minister in the government of President Tejan Kabbah, medical doctor, Sama S. Banya, wrote in the Sierra Leone Telegraph of May 16, 2019, “(For).. what purpose?… Are we operating under the same conditions (for Bintumani-I and Bintumani-II), and is it ideal to have such a conference now? My answer is an emphatic ‘NO’…”.

Dr. Sama Banya, one of the most prolific columnists in Sierra Leone’s history,  speculates on the muted purpose of Bintumani-III: “Is the purpose to assure the 16 APC Members of Parliament who are facing election petitions that they need not worry because we have forgiven them their intransigence? Is it to assure them that the Commission of Inquiry are just a Sunday School picnic and that they may retain whatever they have acquired (STOLEN FROM THE POVERTY-STRICKEN PEOPLE), no matter what?”

The normal sycophants who cling to government are not going to help President Maada Bio answer those questions.  They await for President Maada Bio to fail  – then they would massacre his name.

Like the SLPP blamed President Tejan Kabbah for losing the 2007 presidential election.  Like the APC Ethnic Supremacists are blaming President Ernest Bai Koroma for the APC losing the presidency in 2018.

Within Bintumani-III lurks a 700-carat diamond. And integral with Bintumani-III is a Ticking Time Bomb, made to tick faster.

As I have been writing on social media, President Maada Bio has the choice of being revolutionary or committing political suicide.  I pause.

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