Winstanley R. Bankole Johnson: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 4 May 2019:
Counting down to our 58th Independence Anniversary, our country stands more polarized in the last twelve months, than ever before.
We keep denying it, but that fact continues to be inadvertently acknowledged. And it comes out effortlessly from statements of key government functionaries, each time they speak on non-political issues.
The last time it happened was at a commemorative launch of a project for the Late President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. On that occasion, both the Minister of Health Dr. Alpha Tejan Wurie and the Special Adviser to H.E President Bio, Amb. Umaru Wurie, lamented our parlous state of national unity, whilst heaping praises on the late President as having administered the most peaceful era of governance this country has ever had.
For persons so close to the seat of power, their statements reflected their revulsion over our unacceptable state of political affairs.
For the past as many years, our Independence Anniversary has been marked as a day of “hopeful hopes”, instead of evincing and celebrating tangible development benchmarks and landmarks.
This year’s will be no different, as we shall be celebrating “hopes” again as well, except that this time round as we continue to grope in a political abyss for national cohesion between the South-Easterners and the Northerners of this country, our sincere “hope” is that either of them in the majority from those regions may choose to “blink first”, sheath their swords in this their long-drawn game of vengefully starring at each other interminably because of political intolerance, so that we can begin to grow as one cohesive nation that is serious about building foreign investor confidence.
To achieve that, we will need all hands-on deck to work with a level of sincerity that is devoid of malice and suspicions, so as to prioritize the interests of this country above all else.
So where do we start?
Incidentally, please note that I have deliberately omitted that mythical reference to the “West” in our political conundrum, as in “North-West” because in reality, it is the peoples from the South-East and North that are actually migrating and replicating their intolerance to what was previously the “ancient and law abiding” metropolis.
Anyone wishing to challenge this assertion should just wade into any brawl anywhere and ask the names and origins of the feuding parties.
Those who criticized opposition parties for heeding H.E Maada Bio’s invite to “nuptial” reconciliatory dialogue at State House, certainly never read History as a subject, and so have probably never fully understood the full import of words like “détente”, “truce”, “armistice” or “rapprochement”, to appreciate that even the worst forms of human misunderstanding, conflicts and atrocities have all had to be resolved through dialogue, and President Bio’s outreach to the seventeen political parties was intended as a step in that direction.
I applauded that, just as I would the continued inclusion of heads of opposition-led Local Councils in the delegations of the President, because all Local Councils represent a microcosm of the central government and both must be seen to be working in tandem for good of the entire country.
What I faulted about that State House meeting was the conspicuous absences of representatives from both the political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) and the Ministry of political Affairs, whose actual remit it is to champion inter-party misunderstandings within the law. But that can be addressed with hindsight.
So overall, that State House meeting to me was a God send opportunity for the seventeen political party’s representatives to have raised the vexing concerns of their respective party’s supporters, that were prematurely exited from their tenured positions via “Executive Orders” of President Bio without remunerations.
To date, no political party has had the courtesy to apprise their support base of what transpired at that meeting, neither has the government paid those benefits to the victims.
Like I have said many times before, what is questioned is not the right of the President to “fire” (God forbid!!), but rather his refusal to simultaneously “pay as he fires”.
As things stand, I honestly cannot fathom how government expects to preach peace, reconciliation and national cohesion to a disgraced and starving opposition cadre, let alone recruit credible opposition resources into the secretariat of the National Commission for Peace, Reconciliation and Cohesion.
Even as you read this piece, the creation of the National Commission for Peace, Reconciliation and Cohesion is suffering gestation delays, probably evidencing a lack of genuine government commitment or sincerity to the enterprise.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as the major guarantor, would need to accelerate funding releases as appropriate to fast track conclusion of this phase in our history, without which I do not see us graduating from our present dour and uncertain business climate unto a stable platform for socio-economic development.
We might not be happy with the interventions of the UNDP at various points in time in Africa, as beneath the veneer of their seemingly genuine intentions is always a creation of jobs for their boys (and girls).
But again, by their very commitment to world stability, the UNDP cannot afford to watch passively as we tear each other apart, under the guise of perennial but unnatural and imaginary South-Easterners Vs Northerners divide, that has transformed this once beautiful country into a seeming snake-infested pit of a nation.
So the UNDP is morally obliged to assist us get things right under any guise, until such time as we are able to put our acts together into fully informative, entertaining and educative components, trajecting development aspirations that will make this country worthy of an investor’s confidence.
Meanwhile, as we continue to grope for “hopes” of national cohesion through yet another low-key Independence Anniversary, permit me to very circumspectly and very respectfully digress with words of advice for two persons who in my contemporary perspective are key to our progress in that direction, and they are our President Maada Bio and Dr. Sama (The Puawi) S. Banya.
I do so, because the former is our Head of State and Fountain of Honour, and the latter who by African tradition is a sage – a wise man – demands profound respect, apart from the fact that he is also my “N’deymia” – an in-law of over 60 years.
I shall start with H.E. President Bio:
President Bio Sir, there is this Mende adage which says that if after the arrival of a stranger in a village, deaths suddenly begin to strike babies, then it is very easy to know upon whom to apportion the blame.
Applying that country-wise, one may be tempted to safely conclude that if in a usually peaceful and stable country the citizens begin to experience deep schisms and divisions each time a particular Head of State holds the reins of power, to the extent that they would always need a national conference to restore that peace, then those citizens can safely conclude who the harbinger is.
In accepting the “Green Paper” heralding the National Commission for Peace and Cohesion at State House, you acknowledged that you were around for “Bintumani 1”; you convened “Bintumani 11”; and you will be convening “Bintumani 111”.
I would urge by God’s Grace that this next one be the last National Conference to steer us out of political and ethno-regional divisions under your watch Sir.
What President Bio’s advisers need let him know, is that the moment he subscribed to the Oath of Office as our Head of State and Fountain of Honour, he automatically epitomized the character of God, envisaged by David in Psalm 24:1 which parodied will read “Sierra Leone is president Bio’s and all that is in it”.
That means, in that position and until he steps down constitutionally as our Head of State, he has absolute authority to deal with me, us and the country as he deems fit (but within the law), which is why we see recent incumbents to that position exercising either “Supreme Executive Authority” or “Executive Orders” as they deem fit.
What is required to enjoy that “Supreme Authority” is for president Bio – like the Almighty God he epitomizes, to use those powers and influences as best he could to steer this country in paths of permanent peace, stability, cohesion and development, even if it means for him to bend over backwards to achieve same.
As a leader and President, what more favours would anyone want from his God to show his enemies that he is now more powerful than all of them combined?
And unless forgiveness oozes from him as our “Fountain of Honour”, no matter how many more “Bintumani 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8” he convenes, under as many UNDP auspices – will come to naught. Void. Because in this game of intolerant politics, someone has to blink first.
Now to “The Puawui”:
Please Sir, at approaching your golden 90 years, your dragon days are over. So, stop breathing fire on your political opponents. Nothing but peace and reconciliation should by now be engulfing your contrite mind.
And as we strive for national peace and cohesion, sages like yourself should be helping President Bio to paper the cracks of disunity where they are evident. And I can find no better person to assist President Bio actualize his dream of national cohesion than someone as resourceful, politically mature and experienced as yourself. And God be my witness, no flattery is intended here Sir.
So no point is served by fanning flames of hatred and drawing ire through your persistent reminder references to “…..the dark days of inept and demonic APC unconstitutional rule of over 30 years aggregate in post independent Sierra Leone……Mafanta Prison construction….What goes round comes around” sentiments.
After all, at various points in time you were an integral cog in the APC and served the Party “diligently” in various lofty capacities such as Ministers of (1) Finance…..(2) Development……(3) Development and Economic Planning….and ultimately as (4) Hon. Vice President…….under the same despicable APC.
Like my other elder brother Hon. Victor Bockarie Foh – also a revered former Vice President of this Republic, no matter how loathsome both of you now are of the APC, it was that same political party that catapulted you both (against all odds) to scenic political heights that are only second to the “Pinnacle” that Satan pitched Jesus upon, during His Temptation in the wilderness.
Perhaps the only difference between your joint experience and that of Christ was that, whereas Christ declined all of Satan’s demands, you both succumbed to the demands of the now demonic APC, leaving this country in the cumulative mess you now want to convince us we are in.
You might wish to cite the imposition of the “One Party Government” at that time as your defence, but I’ll refuse to accept that Sir, because like the Late Hon. Manna Kpaka, “thine arms were not bound…..nor thy feet put into fetters” to join the APC.
And until his transition, the late Hon. Mana Kpaka never joined the APC. So please Sir, let us allow peace to prevail.
Fellow citizens, the conclusion of the matter is this: Our country is poised for peace and national cohesion, and there should be no turning back.
But if after 58 years as an independent nation we are still basking in our primitive South-Easterners Vs Northerners “Tit for Tat” mentality, then I see little chance of that happening; and for years to come we will only be celebrating “hopeful hopes” at each Independence Anniversary.
So, the question now is, who then among these regional divides should blink first so that peace can prevail in Mama Salone?