In this game of intolerant politics – who should blink first?

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.

“Hopeful hopes”

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.

“Nuptial”

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.

Snake-infested pit

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.

Digress

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.

Intolerant

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.

Conclusion

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?

6 Comments

  1. R.Bankole Johnson is very good in expressing his opinions with the kind of subtlety and spasms which conceals a tendency to apportion blame to produce exculpation. For him to effectively claim that violence has been brought to Freetown by northerners and south easterners protrudes as one example of Mr Johnson’s implicit declaration that a certain group never engages in violence, forgetting that the simple laws of probability dictate that based on the country’s demographic make-up this should be the case. So, as an example, for every Momoh, Sorie, Momodu, etc, arrested in political violence – only one Bissordu may be caught in the net, if his legs fail him in trying to flee the scene.

    I do agree with the article extensively. Our misery started with the passing of Sir Milton, before he could forcefully decide on a successor. The train left the platform before we could get on board.

    It’s past my bed time and I hope to continue in the near future.

  2. Sierra Leone’s Missing Link: The Rule of Law

    The prevailing political circumstances presently inundating our hard won peace and stability is a very worrisome occurrence in the Sierra Leone landscape today. And regrettably, this is not new. At the heart of this phenomenon is “The Rule of Law”, or lack thereof.

    The much revered and authoritative go to reference that does illuminate this phenomenon is the Oxford English Dictionary. But credit must first be given to 16th century Britain and in the subsequent century, to the Scottish theologian Samuel Rutherford who employed in arguing against the divine rights of kings, and by extension to present day political messiahs.

    Indeed, this book of books as far as the English language interpretation is concerned, laid bare The Rule of Law as follows, in verbatim: “The authority and influence of law in society, especially when viewed as a constraint on individual and institutional behavior; (hence) the principle, whereby ALL members of society (including those in government) are considered equally subject to publicly disclose legal codes and processes.

    It goes further to categorically state that “the Rule of Law” refers to a political situation, NOT to any specific legal rule. (End of quote). Additionally, John Locke, an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers, wrote that freedom in society means being subject only to laws made by a legislature that apply to everyone, with a person otherwise free from both governmental and private restrictions upon liberty.

    It is also not an aberration that the rule of law implies that every person is subject to the law, including people who are lawmakers, law enforcement officials, and indeed, judges who are charged with the burdened responsibility of interpreting the laws that must govern a civilized society which we must deliberate under without exception.

    And for far too long the Sierra Leone society and by extension, government has throughout our ominous history deviated from such solemn undertaking which has necessitated (a)war, disasters, corruption, marginalization, tribalism, unhealthy political competition, vengeance, even jealousy in our own personal and professional lives, and the list goes on.

    Indeed, there is even a sense of hopelessness within the most vulnerable members of our society, the young, elderly, the poor, the sick, the uneducated, ostensibly from April 27th, 1961. As a matter of fact it seem as though the baby steps that were ever taken in anticipation of caring for ourselves seem to have been reversed. And all indications are that catharsis has set in.

    The lack of the rule of law and its adherence thereof, has contributed to the neglect and abandonment of a vibrant society, Sierra Leoneans most certainly yearn for. Ignorance or contempt has all contributed to the decay of government institutions and insufficient corrective measures or mechanism for restoring it has not occurred.

    Sierra Leoneans have a obligation to get back to the basics. They owe it to themselves and country. Respect for the established laws and regulations, must be observed without discrimination as a necessary ingredient for a thriving society. No society can develop and survive without due process.

    For the purposes of heightened illumination, I am laying extraordinary emphasis on institutional behavior. The issue in Sierra Leone is institutional elitism. Government officials, members of parliament, well to do individuals, and generally people in power have always expected, and to an extent demanded and perhaps received special treatment from the powers to be. They have the tendency to operate against the grain of laid down policies of governmental institutions or seek special treatment. This must stop.

    Competing institutional agents must not be seen to be a disruptive force in society. They must obey and follow laid down rules and regulations for redress and not to take the law into their own hands. It is a matter of survival so that we can join become members of a meaning people.

  3. Thank you very much Winstanley R. Bankole Johnson for your analysis.
    I believe that, The LEADER, FOUNTAIN head of HONOUR and JUSTICE and The President of The REPUBLIC of SIERRA LEONE, His EXCELLENCY JULIUS MAADA BIO must BLINK first. Father of the Nation must solve the problems of the nation’s children.

    Here is the simple reason, He won the elections and was given a mandate by the people of Sierra Leone to LEAD. So, he must make sure that he does what the people have asked him to do. Reaching out to a very STUBBORN and HOSTILE opposition like the APC to his rule should be a priority for him. It does not matter how stubborn and hostile the opposition might be to his rule.

    The Late Sir Milton Margai succeeded in quelling down the PROTECTORATE and the COLONY tensions. Issues like election or no elections before independence was professionally handled by the late man. President Bio, just like Sir Milton Margai, could still overcome the challenges he now faces. He must blink first to make the opposition and his detractors understand what the stakes are on anything they disagree with him on. He has no other choice.

    He started sometime a go by inviting the opposition to State House for consultation. Although that was a very good idea, it was not enough. I can understand the frustration the President has with the opposition, especially the APC. But he cannot do otherwise. He must keep pushing until he succeeds.

    The opposition might be stubborn as I noted earlier on but, eventually if the President uses his leadership skills which I believe he has, then things will get sorted. He must find a formula for the both the STUBBORN opposition and the EXTREMIST within his own party to go forward.
    So, Mr. President, BLINK FIRST.

  4. This could have been a well-written analysis of the state of affairs of our country. However, it is true that for an analysis to be good you have to look at both the pros and the cons. When one is lacking, it loses the nuance of an analytical article. The writer is right when he posited that the Late Tejan Kabba’s era was the most peaceful era our country has enjoyed of recent.

    However, what he deliberately veered from stating is why did the country move away from that peaceful atmosphere which the late Tejan Kabba was able to inject in a country that was coming from war?

    The writer is a senior member of the APC. He was in the decision making of the APC when the party took power in 2007. As a prolific writer, I am still to find that article from him when the APC leadership led their supporters to attack and burn down the SLPP party headquarters which is adjacent to his former office on two occasions between 2007 and 2009.

    The APC attacks on the SLPP office on both times left Women raped, and two people lost their lives in the SLPP party office. The writer who is a Man of God with a collar turned a blind eye and remained mute. Why? Because it was done to supporters of a party of which he is not a member? Those raped and killed, were they not Sierra Leoneans? Do you think these things will not linger in people’s heads? That is not all.

    In the same 2007, if the writer who sometimes put the prefix of Reverend in front of his name can fear his god, can he attest as to how many people especially people from the South and some part of the East that lost their jobs without remuneration between 2007 and 2008?

    In 2013, something that has never happened in Sierra Leone took place right under the nose of this writer and many whom today want us to believe that they did not know when the seeds of what is germinating today were planted. The Pope in Rome who did not know who belongs to which tribe or region appointed our fellow Sierra Leonean to become Bishop of the Dioceses of Makeni. Makeni incidentally was the home of the sitting president, Ex-President Koroma.

    The people of the North, especially Makeni refused to allow the new Bishop because he is from the South. When the Pope insisted they sent a direct message to the newly appointed Bishop that if he steps his foot into the North, he will be lynched – killed. What was his crime? His is from the South.

    Another foreigner was appointed to become Bishop, and the people of Makeni with a beaming President Koroma welcome him with opened hands. Where was this Reverend Writer? An article from him could have acted as history. No, they were all pleased with certain people from the North treating their fellow Sierra Leoneans in such a way. They banished their fellow Sierra Leonean from stepping his foot in Makeni as if Makeni was only for northerners.

    Two wrongs do not make one right. I would love to see President Bio move this country forward. However, can this writer and all those looming the idea of bad blood reciprocate to tell certain APCers that the SLPP despite all that the APC did to the South and specific parts of the East especially Kenema, I did not see people from the South and east conniving as a group to sabotage government programmes?

    The Leader of the SLPP in parliament (History will Judge her right) was so supportive of APC programmes even when her home district was deprived of any of development, and her kin was beaten and shot at the slight provocation. Can we have that neutralizing figure in the APC now that the country needs one?

    I would not even catalogue about how Ex-President Koroma and his government turned a blind eye on the people of Kailahun and Kenema District when the Ebola surge started. Even her staunch supporter Dr. Blyden turned her pen against her, and she was provoked, mocked and called names as people perished and suffered at the hands of Ebola. President Koroma only decided to turn his attention after the WHO and other humanitarian writers (not this writer) took the bull by the horn.

    It took the death of the late Dr. Khan who although was from the North, he had a love of his country, for President Koroma to turn his government’s attention to what was happening in the East. It was too late as so many Northerners who were resident in the East had fled to the North and west in the process, spreading the scourge nationwide. Where was Winstanley R. Bankole Johnson?

  5. An interesting, informative, thought provoking article indeed! Once, the Chinese philosopher Confucius wittingly said to his students, “A leader is like the wind and his people like grass; Wherever the wind blows there also will the grass lean” Agree totally!

    Someone needs to try and explain the words of the incomparable Zen master to the President! Listen, If tensions are high in our Country presently and tempers are flaring, and running hot, my brethren look nowhere else to cast the blame but at State House! The blame lies squarely on Bio’s shoulders!

    Since Bio came to power our country has been transformed, overnight from being calm, amicable and friendly, to becoming a wayward jungle, a harsh terrain where bounty hunters are paid to prowl, stalk and hunt the vulnerable opposition…at the same time bearing in mind strict orders to take their victims into custody naked, alive or dead.

    That’s exactly how APC loyalists, members of parliament and supporters feel right now. They are being hunted! I know, because many of them are my friends. Confucius was precise, accurate and right on the money. The way forward is for the SLPP to put aside the grievances they have been holding against the APC for a very long time. Next, engage in constructive dialogue in good faith, without hidden ulterior motives.

    Extend an olive branch to the APC and we will respond in kind…For the APC is like a bride that loves to be wooed, pursued and charmed with sincerity, gentleness, intelligence and kindness. The witch hunts, arbitrary arrests and intimidations must cease. APC will not rest content or be appeased until these come to an end.

    Are they ready to build a prosperous nation? Then wipe the slate clean. Only in still, calm and serene waters can one see the reflection of the radiant moon. Make no mistakes, we love our Country as much or even more than those who question our Patriotism. A friend once said, even a chicken loves and cherishes the coop where it was hatched; and cats and dogs love the cages they call their home.

    True words! We love our Country also. Peace, sustainable, tangible and credible is the only reliable ladder on which anyone can ascend to the heights of success. And who is it among you millions in Freetown that would climb to pluck some fruits from off a tree, without first checking to see if your ladder is solid, firm and secure? Remember, peace guarantees success in all our endeavors…Rising Sun Will Rise Again!

  6. This article would have been a very good tool for promoting peace in Sierra Leone had the writer not succumbed to the same regionalism and intolerance that he appears to be preaching against.

    So, according to the writer, it is only Southeasters and Northerners that are responsible for disturbing the peace in Sierra Leone. What about folks in the Western Area? Who are the folks in the Western Area? Consider the following statement:

    “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.” Winstanley R. Bankole Johnson

    It is a disgrace for the above statement to come out of the mouth of a former mayor of Freetown. What is more intolerant and pejorative than that? Are some of the APC lawmakers that walked out of parliament om May 2nd not from the Western Area? Or is it that, in the logic of the writer, your last name has to sound a certain way for you to be considered as someone from the “West”?

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