Does president Bio keep sacred cows at State House?

Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 January 2020:

Long after President Maada Bio, his SLPP Party and government would have vacated the seat of power, historians would go to work; and his government would be remembered for many things.

His government would be remembered as one that took the reins of power from an APC party, and boldly declared that it had inherited near empty coffers.

It will be remembered as the party that took an oath and swore blind to fight and rid the country of corruption. Among other things, such as strengthening the muscle of the ACC and conceiving the birth of another Commission of Inquiry, plugging the leakages has since become the trademark of his tenure.

Fighting corruption, especially in the context of an African country, where corruption is so entrenched that any attempt to fight against it may appear a treasonable offence, is a tough ask. It is therefore not surprising that Bio’s pledge to fight corruption has placed his government under more scrutiny than ever.

No one is pretending that corruption is the monopoly of African societies in general or Sierra Leone in particular. Corruption is a universal disease which can never be eradicated but reduced. In every given society, corruption is manifested in various shapes and sizes. The difference lies in the systems put in place to tackle or reduce the tendency or propensity for corruption to thrive.

Unfortunately, and sadly enough, our society sleep walked itself into a system that authorises corruption and a moral code that glorifies it; “Usai den tie cow……” If we are to fight corruption, then ACCOUNTABILITY should be high on our agenda. That is the difference on how corruption is tackled from one country to another, from one society to another and from one individual to another. But most importantly, it is down to how individual societies relate to and see corruption.

With the fight against corruption at the top of President Bio’ agenda, many would not only want to see corruption tackled, but be seen to be tackled. His oath to fight corruption does not make his government saintly or beyond reproach.

We know that some of his government officials have had their names and corruption allegations mentioned in the same sentence. There was this little matter of the $1.5 million deposit that continues to waffle in the air. In spite of all these, the most recent one, which has since been christened as “chinagate” has understandably raised a lot of eyebrows. Interestingly, the responses and opinions vary, and sadly determined by individual political persuasions.

“State House in Freetown today issued a press statement reporting that President Bio has this afternoon sacked four of his senior government ministers and officials. The sacking State House said, relates to serious allegations of corruption involving the sale of several tons of rice donated to Sierra Leone by China to feed the hungry. The four officials involved in what is now dubbed – Chinagate, include the minister of Labour and Social Security – Alpha Timbo, who is also the former minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education; Mrs. Emily Kadiatu Gogra – deputy minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education; Mr Charles Kamanda – Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education; Ms. Mamusu Massaquoi – Director of Nutrition, also in the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education “(Sierraleonetelegraph.com, 10 January, 2020).

As usual, this has been seen through different prisms. Some see the sackings as a positive step and others see the “chinagate” scandal as a blot on Bio’s government.

If you ask me, I am on the side of the positive brigade. My only issue is whether you can sack someone on the strength of an “allegation”. One would expect due process of the law; where the individuals are found guilty, to effect the sacking. Or does the government know something that we don’t.

When former President Koroma was in power, he declared that there will be “no sacred cows” in his government. In Temne, that meant that no one in his government would be insulated or protected against the law, if they rubbed the law the wrong way. So you be the judge.

Let us agree that it was President Bio who appointed these people into positions of trust to serve the people. Such decisions are based on a lot of considerations including trust, integrity, fairness etc.

President Bio is responsible for his own decisions, but hardly for the actions and decisions of these or any other individuals. However, the actions, behaviour and decisions of these individuals or any other in his government would always saddle him with corporate responsibility. This would by any moral, political or legal standards splash a blot on his credibility and that of his government, by virtue of his position as the constitutional head.

In response to such an abrogation of responsibility, President Bio swiftly sacked the individuals involved. In any political setting, that should be hailed and applauded, irrespective of your political colouration.

President Bio has shown in this case, that not even his own handpicked officials are immune to his fight against corruption. They are not a protected species or belong to the society for self-preservation. He has demonstrated the true meaning of “no sacred cows in his shed”.

No one is suggesting that president Bio is perfect, or he is heading a perfect government or system. But when he or his government does something of this nature, we should be honest enough to not only recognize but applaud it. That does not mean that he cannot take some responsibility for the behaviour of his ministers, but his response should be acknowledged.

One can assign tasks, but cannot force people to be accountable; for accountability is an act of will. Perhaps, we should start seeing accountability as a measure of a leader’s height. Sorry Ndakay.

This is what we call accountability. When we elect officials to positions of authority, the electorate and the public must make them accountable and feel accountable to us. As a nation, we should accept responsibility for our actions, be accountable for our results and take ownership of our mistakes.

If we want to ensure the economic and fiscal health of our nation, we should be equally prepared to restore responsibility and accountability. Accountability breeds responsibility; and that is the price of greatness.

It is true that you cannot soar with eagles when you fly with crows. It is also true that one swallow does not make a season. But for God’s sake, let us agree to disagree that the swift steps taken by Bio are one of the things our country needs. IF only we had such during the “Hajjgate”, “Timbergate” or “Ebolagate”. Maybe, just maybe, you and I could afford a holiday in the Bahamas today.

But that should not blindside us into believing that President Bio’s government is whiter than white. We still have the small matter of that $1.5 Million that needs clarification or resolution. Are the allegations true or not? Leaving such matters unresolved could leave a cloud swirling around.

If the government and especially President Bio is to tackle corruption, he should walk, or seen to walk the whole 9 yards. We cannot afford to cherry pick who gets the sword of Damocles on their necks.

Anyone who tackles corruption must be ready to go all the way. There are no shortcuts. Those who fight corruption should be clean, or seen to be clean themselves. We cannot afford to see corruption as an authority plus monopoly minus transparency.

So for now, let’s hail Bio for his bold step, even if it’s for 90 minutes only.

Don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room.

12 Comments

  1. Mr. David Samura, excellent analysis. I could not agree with you more. I have long learned that some of the guys on this forum are active APC operatives feigning neutrality in politics. The core of their games is to manufacture false narratives against the Bio administration, which they peddle on public forums as the truth. But the SLPP government is ahead of them, which explains their perpetual frustration. The chief minister, as someone alluded to elsewhere, is a vital cog in the Bio administration. Thus, whether APC operatives like it or not, Professor David Francis stays as chief minister.

    Relative to the nonsensical issue connecting the rogue APC journalist to the erudite chief minister, a journalist that is worth his salt in the field of journalism would publish without any hesitation any issue of serious concern relative to the conduct of a public official. Why call the man for clarification if you are not bent on shaking him down? This was the routine practice in the days of Ernest Koroma. Journalists would call public officials and threaten to publish false stories about them if they (the journalists) are not sent a specified amount of money. That is how journalism thrived under the APC kleptocracy. With Bio, it’s game over!!!!

    One thing that the rogue APC journalist should be thankful of is that he was not arrested and forced to reimburse the CID and ACC for the resources that they expended in investigating a frivolous case. These folks really need to have their heads examined.

  2. H.E president Bio’s intention is to turn the whole country into a people’s paradise, and he needs our support to get that done for a better Sierra Leone. We must put mamma Salone above all and show love to her, Keep doing your good work H.E and may God almighty guide and protect you for us all. May God almighty bless the first family in Sierra Leone.

  3. Thank you Mr David Samura for the defence. I have tried to resist responding to your article but has proved irresistible. Let’s attempt some logic here. You described Mr JALLOh as the accuser and insinuated that he harrased the Minister. If I was the Minister, I will feel the same. My take is, if Mr JALLOh is guilty, he should be brought to book, so as to discourage other journalists from yellow JOURNALISM. If nothing is done to resolve this, don’t you think that some people will still believe jalloh’s story?

    In my opinion, that is not good for the Minister, who does not have the benefit from defending himself in the media trial. My take is that such a perception of the Minister can be unconsciously promoted if it is resolved. If Mr JALLOh is guilty of fraud, harassment, blackmail and the lot, he should answer if not for anything, but for ethical reasons. We need a free press, but not at the expense of the freedom of others.

    Stringing a few nouns, verb and adjectives should not be a licence to harass others. By the way, I don’t take responsibility for some of the titles of my articles, which I am sure may have irked you. My editor has that editorial licence. I know the original title of my article. Google it. In politics, the wrong perceptions can be unhelpful. If I were an SLPP supporter, I will go all out to right the kind of perception that is left swirling around this story. Just you know, I have never described myself as a neutralist. I just express my humble opinions.

    the less, I respect your opinion and I am sure, the readership on this forum will make their judgements. I don’t aspire to be popular notorious. My loyalty is to Sierra Leone, and not to any government. The thrust of the article was constructive in my view; to praise when praise is due, to criticize when criticism is due. I believe that this article does just that. Sadly, you missed the spot, thanks to political persuasion. But hey, let’s keep the conversation going. That is the only way we can make Salone betteh. Don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room.

  4. Mr Mansaray, you are more of a patriot than many contributors on the above article. I was of the opinion that you were a government critic supporting the then slpp opposition, but since the change of government in 2018, I continue reading your articles. I have now come to my conclusion that, you are not a Pseudo-neutralists as one mentioned above, rather, you are one of the few who, neither left or right but a neutralist who report issues according to their merit.

    The issue of the Chief Minister in regard to the 1.5 million dollars allegedly deposited in Eco Bank under his name is still not clear from the minds of many citizens, after listening to Salieu Tejan Jalloh’s version of the event and the anti corruption commissioner Mr. Ben Kaifala, the latter who accepted that yes the Chief Minster has a proxy account with the said bank.

    The question one will ask is, why proxy account that does not feature your name in the bank database of it customers? Why arrest an investigative journalist in a manner that appears like kidnaping for apparently asking a high-place public official for clarification of 1.5 million dollar allegedly deposited in his account by a mining company?

    Mr, Mansaray, the brilliant political neutralist, we are waiting for the next article. I’ve turned the light off.

  5. The Chief Minister will STAY PUT! He is not a grassroot SLPP man but very essential in Bio’s government. He will remain innocent and continue his good work until proven guilty!!

  6. But Mr. Mansaray, why the Sierra Leone people should travel to the Bahamas? All? You have such a wonderful country.

    • Mr. Mansaray, the background of my small comment was not sarcarsm. I am really convinced that Sierra Leone is a wonderful country. But the ordinary people are suffering. And if they would have a little bit more money, their priority I believe would not be to think about travelling to the Bahamas. This may be is a thinking of the richer people and part of the elite. May be you belong to them?

  7. Thank you very much Mr. Abdulai Mansaray for this brilliant article. I appreciate the sacking of these government officials very much. Corruption is absolutely unacceptable.

    I really applaud the President in making that decision, even if it’s for 90 minutes.
    The only problem I have is this – why were these individuals not arrested and handed over to the CID and later prosecuted in a court of law till they are proved guilty.

    Is it because some senior officials in the SLPP are involved in this unscrupulous racketeering ring? Is the sacking of the Minister and the other officials the end of the matter?

    I will say this. Bla, If the anyampi den tif the less, den for go na court. Na rye? Or na tloo?

    I will definitely not forget to turn the lights off when I leave the room. Justice must be decided in a court of law on this matter. God bless our country and Mr. Abdulai Mansaray.

  8. I am at a loss as to why the writer is obsessed with chief minister, Professor David Francis. He keeps bringing up an issue that has long been determined as frivolous and lacking any merit.

    The CID and the ACC have long determined that the head of the APC journalist that harassed the chief minister needed to be examined for medical correctness. But it appears that even the CID and ACC cannot meet Mr. Abdulai Mansaray’s standards.

    So what does Korthor Mansaray expect from the government and law enforcement agencies of Sierra Leone? Arrest and indict an innocent man?

    It is common knowledge that the opposition has long targeted certain individuals in the Bio administration for the role that they have played in exposing the previous government’s impunity and kleptocracy.

    But it is important that those of us on the sidelines, Mr. Mansaray included, don’t get caught up in the foolishness of power hungry miscreants who can stop at nothing in destroying the country that we love.

    • Bilal Coleman, do you think that Mr. Mansaray will make a rejoinder to your open question? He knows what he is doing. Repeat a story several times and it will metamorphose into the narrative you want. This is what the main opposition has been doing and this is what Pseudo-neutralists like Mr. Mansarya have been perfecting for them. Mr. Mansaray knows that the issue of the $1.5 million allegation was brought to public knowledge by Professor Francis and not the Journalist Sallie Tejan Jalloh and his so called colleagues from other papers that allegedly had the evidence.

      Journalist Tejan Jalloh has never gone public with his story and the closest thing he ever said about the topic was after his realised on bail by the CID as he tried to explain to his colleagues in a press conference why and how he was arrested. The other journalists who he alleged were also following the story have not written anything or help the investigating authorities with the evidence or fact they purportedly had. Do you know why? Because it was not a true story in the first place but a way to further intimidate the professor and if he was coward enough to extort money from him.

      Today, we expect people just because they are in public places to be called or texted at any time be it odd hours or not on strange telephone/mobile numbers and questioned about things that they had no knowledge about. When has journalist stop identifying themselves to people they want to question? The professor saw this as unethical and rightly he contacted the appropriate authorities because he did not want to hide anything and yet, his forthrightness is used against him several months after the story has been found to be ‘phony allegation’.

      The Professor saw it as harassment. He reported to the appropriate authorities. The story has since become a weapon to the likes of Mr. Mansaray. Just read all his articles since then you would see this story mentioned. The CID and ACC investigated the matter reported to them by Professor Francis. But to serve due diligence, they contacted the Journalist to hand over his evidence to them he refused because he had nothing. To further satisfied the ilk of Mr. Mansaray, the ACC and the Police carried out due diligence on the purported $1.5M.

      The bank refuted the claim, the briber refuted the claim, the bank statement for the professor showed zero transaction and yet, Mr. Mansaray who as a citizen of Sierra Leone (if he still is) has the right to help expose or bring to light the evidence to show that the story of $1.5M is true and that the ACC, The Bank and CID all covered up the evidence or that Salieu has been bribe to not further his threat of exposing the allegation.

      Mr. Bilal, I strongly believe in the words of Michael Hayden who stated that “Accusations fit on a bumper sticker; the truth takes longer”.

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