One man’s opportunism is another man’s statesmanship

Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 June 2019:

As I sat in my brother’s apartment in Philadelphia, grudgingly watching the launching of the Ahmad Tejan Foundation for Peace and Democracy, I could not help but recognize the depth and double edged ironies that were embedded in the whole ceremony.

On one level, the ceremony was a celebration of the late Tejan Kabba’s legacy, and a show of appreciation by the citizens of Sierra Leone, to not only recognize but also glorify his contributions to our country; and by so doing, earn himself a rare but illustrious page in the annals of our history.

Among the numerous accolades and awards accorded to the late man, Tejan Kabba will always be remembered as the father of our democracy; an honour that had hitherto been erroneously attributed to Julius Maada Bio.

Without delving into the history books, Kabba will be remembered as the midwife of our embryonic democracy, especially at a time when war and peace were strange bed fellows on our political and social conscience.

The late Kabba went to lengths and even dined with the devil, in order to ensure that our country enjoyed a lasting peace; after a devastating war.

It is apt that Peace and Democracy were the key words during the ceremony, and therefore not surprising that all the speakers at the occasion were waxing lyrical about the late man; a tribute he deserves in the circumstances.

But what made this launch more telling were the ironies and subtitles that were laced with the whole occasion. This is glaringly so, when you consider the current situation in our country as the backdrop for this launch.

It is an open secret that our country is experiencing one of the most unsettling and testing periods, post the civil war. It is not surprising therefore, that many have gone as far as prophesying an imminent civil war; thanks to our history and the political tension that seem to engulf our two main usual suspects.

But nothing could be farther from the truth. In spite of the comparisons, we had two well armed factions fighting during the war. The doom merchants have been on overdrive.

Among other dignitaries who graced the launch were former Presidents Obasanjo and Sirleaf Johnson, the latter as the former Head of State of Liberia; a country that regrettably boasts of similar war scars, was the star turn.

One of the subplots from this occasion was Ernest Bai Koroma (EBK), who was visibly conspicuous by his absence. Interestingly, EBK and Sirleaf reigned over their respective countries in simultaneous time frames. But that is where the similarities end.

While Sirleaf has taken a quiet and well earned retirement, EBK continues to occupy the central berth of his party, contrary to his professed promise in 2014; to “retire quietly to my village”.

EBK has remained very active with his party politics since his pseudo-quasi retirement.

Most ex-heads of states are usually revered as “elder statesmen”, and as such accorded all the perks that come with the territory.

Many people see EBK’s position as difficult to place, and this has not been lost on the current government, whose dealings with him have been nothing short of confusing.

The government appears to be confused between treating EBK as “an elder statesman” or an opposition leader.

Say what you want about EBK but he deserves the former title. In spite of all the accusations of corruption, we cannot hide the fact that he presided over one of the most infrastructural developments our country has ever undergone.

Yes, I know of the Ebola, the mudslide, Hajj gate, Sam Sumana fiasco and rest. Let’s give him his due. Interestingly, it remains the prerogative of EBK to choose which status he wants for himself; for you cannot eat your cake and have it back.

But can anyone blame EBK? Many are inclined to place the blame squarely on his shoulders. But how can EBK retire from active politics, when his party ordained him as the chairman for life?

By christening him as their chairman for life, many have concluded that it was a demonstration of the hero worship and sycophancy that has dogged and plagued the party right through to its downfall. There are others who believe that, having failed in his bid to entertain the idea of a “3rd term, injury time etc”, EBK is experiencing withdrawal symptoms from political intoxication; hence his recalcitrance to leave the scene.

Many observers are now identifying EBK as the albatross for APC party; thanks to his presence and seeming control that he continues to enjoy. There are also rumours that an internal strife within the APC party is currently brewing, and that a “new generation”, comprising of younger party members has increasingly been calling for an overhaul of the party leadership.

Parts of the party constitution, which many feel are tailored to consolidate power in the hands of a few familiar faces have been questioned. Many are now calling for the Real Agenda for Change.

With the recently concluded Bintumani 3 conference, which was conveniently avoided by the APC party, the absence of EBK to honour the late Tejan Kabba has made the case for his proper retirement more apparent.

Sirleaf Johnson paid a courtesy call to EBK in his home town in Makeni prior to the launching ceremony. In the meantime, the rumour mill has been on overdrive; that the visit was a quiet word in EBK’s ear to retire from active politics.

While Sylvia Blyden made the case for him to be invited to the launch, others say that he turned down an invitation from the government. Take your pick. Irrespective of what you believe, in spite of your political denomination, and despite your tribal propensities, we can all agree that EBK’s fingers on the APC pulse cannot be all plain sailing for the party.

EBK continues to enjoy an unadulterated loyalty and popularity from the party faithful. That in itself is an asset, provided it is used wisely. But does anyone remember the guy that ran as flag bearer for the APC in the last election?

This question might sound cynical, but that is exactly the point. When EBK selected Samura Kamara as the presidential candidate for the party, his ordination was met by a nationwide “U sabi am?

In political terms, Samura Kamara was a virtual unknown, and it took every political sinew in EBK to introduce him to the country.

But by the time the country came to know him, especially as an individual in his own right, and with all his personal attributes, the election was over.

Fast forward to 2019. To all intents and purposes, while the party continues to lick its wounds from reality, while it tries to regroup and re-energize its base, the name on the lips of its supporters should be Samura Kamara. That is, if he is the man for 2023. With the exception of a few appearances and utterances, Samura seems to have slipped into relative political obscurity. EBK seems to cast a long shadow over him.

At this point in the political life span of the opposition APC, every political undertaking of the party should be spearheaded by Samura. I don’t profess to be politics friendly but if anything, this is the time that APC should implement the real Agenda for Change.

While in opposition, and while serving as the watchdog for the people and as referee for the SLPP, Samura should be mapping out his own alternative vision for the country. You would expect that he should be the axis and fulcrum for the party today.
Sadly, and very sadly, even after 365 plus days since the election, it is still about EBK; a man who did not even contest the last election.

Assuming that Samura will be the presidential candidate for the APC, and I am just assuming here cause you can never second guess the APC chairman, when is Samura going to emerge from the political shadow of EBK? Or are we going to wait for another round of “U sabi am?” Before Samura is cut from EBK’s political apron strings? Is Samura also guilty of an inability to cut the political umbilical cord?

Although many appear loyal to stay the EBK way, there is no doubt that some big hitters are beginning to smell the coffee. Increasingly, we are seeing the Victor Foes and Alpha Khans of the APC making a dash for the door.

But before you misunderstand me, lets clear this point; cooperating with the opposition for the benefit of a country is not tantamount to abandoning your party. It is a synonym for common sense and patriotism. And that is where the SLPP might be tripping the APC.

While the APC continues to accuse the SLPP of tribalism, regionalism and all the isms available, the SLPP on the other hand has successfully created situations whereby the APC has been made to look like the party that supports corruption, the party that does not want peace, and the party does not want the SLPP to successfully govern.

Despite the criticism that has come his way, EBK has presided over some good things in our country. Under normal circumstances, he deserves to be regarded as an “elder statesman”. But until EBK decides on which side of the fence he wants to occupy, many will struggle to place him.

The late Ahmad Tejan Kabba got an added recognition which many feel was long overdue. Sadly, the man who succeeded Pa Kabba did not grace the occasion. If you are looking for ironies in life, look no further.

Our Lives Begin to End the Day We Become Silent about the Things that Matter (M.L. King). Don’t forget to turn the lights out when you leave the room.

12 Comments

  1. Emmanuel again always taking me by surprise. It was just a follow up of Alimamy’s statement which I found convincing. I was in no way trying to support anyone and hope you will be happy with my explanation. This forum is becoming very interesting. We must be very careful about what we say now because, some will applaud you and some will just say you are wrong. Thanks Emmanuel and GOD BLESS YOU.

    • Abdullah Mansaray again expressing paragraphs in just one sentence. What a language puzzle that only the lecturers at Oxford/Cambridge universities could solve easily. Thanks to my former lecturer for explaining the rationale behind Mr. Abdulai Mansaray’s sentence. Who the cap fits, let him her wear it.

      Finally, I will not forget to turn off the light before I leave the room. Thanks Abdulai for your thoughts. GOD BLESS YOU.

  2. Anthony Moiba – for the one millionth time quit wasting you time trying to influence the affairs of the APC – Koroma is Chairman and Leader for Life until he decides on his own to quietly step down.The APC is overcrowded with competent minds that are able to solve its own internal problems.

    We don’t need outside intrusions and interferences…Why is it that the SLPP is so desperate to have Koroma step aside? Which hidden agendas of mischief are they anxiously waiting to bring to fruition and promote?

    It’s shameful to see a sitting President being overshadowed by a former one because of his own shortsightedness,intolerance and gross incompetence. Old Stevens taught the SLPP some hard,life changing lessons,but it seems they have already forgotten. Now here they come again, asking and thirsting for more.

    I’ve never seen anyone so unproductive as these SLPP buffoons, ever before – they are clumsy in all they do, low graders,governing our nation in the most substandard and maladroit ways. Leave Koroma to enjoy Peace, he has earned it and deserves it. Take your unthinking heads full of ‘IF’s and ‘BUT’s, WHAT IF’s and WHY’s somewhere else – Just let him be man; it’s time for him to relax and Chill! Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

    • Good day bro. With all your good talk about your party, yet still you governed with the most corrupt cartel ever in our history. What a shame that a man of your calibre keeps defending those corrupt elements of your rising sun. Do you think Siaki days of governing will come to light again? If so, your EBK could have got his third term bid. You keep saying there are intelligent people in your party; if so, where were they when you lost the election. Intelligent – but not constructive. Shame on your rising sun as your political future is doomed. Thanks.

    • Mr. Conteh all political parties registered in Salone have a duty towards our country and should never be mistaken as private property. Although I do not share your once in a while short sighted political views,  but I can sense your qualities.

      Why not throw your hat in the ring…..By the way look at examples in other african countries like, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Cameroon or libya, all these leaders (past or present) had or have one thing in common – they underestimated time.

      Time never waits for us – WE have to respect TIME, otherwise it starts working against us. How happy I will be to see our former President championing issues like Birth Control, Nation Building or Adult Education.
       
        

  3. “Chairman and leader of the party for life”, such title can be found in today’s modern world only in North Korea or in the APC Party. APC under their “chairman for life” has lost the moral legitimacy to fight for Freedom and Justice for us Sierra Leoneans.

    EBK’s unforgivable mistake was and is – his love for personality cult. He forgot to govern and forgot also that the day of judgement will one day arrive on his door steps.

    For the sake of our country, let the progressives in the APC (The Kalokoh Movement and the NRM) take over control.

  4. Indeed. The APC is not only a party too big to break, but too GIGANTIC to DISMANTLE. Thanks Mr. Alimamy Turay for your insight. What you mentioned is not only the fact but the truth. Only Mr. Ball Head will disagree with you. Thanks Alimamy for your insight and GOD BLESS YOU.

  5. Why not just caption the piece as: EBK:the two way straight! Because all I can fathomed from this piece is all about the consequential EBK involvement into politics when he should be retiring.

  6. Some may look at Ernest Bai Koroma as a problem. Sure, a glance at Koroma’s repugnant behavior both in the presidency and after the presidency may lend some credulity to that assertion. But the fact is, Koroma is just a symptom of a larger socio-political malady called the All People’s Congress (APC).

    Since the APC is a moribund organization that lacks respect for democratic processes and the fundamental tenets of the rule of law, one cannot expect Koroma, a product of the APC, to be an altar boy in politics and in retirement from politics. He must be as repugnant and as vile as the organization that produced him.

    Koroma cut his political teeth as an apprentice to the repulsive Siaka Stevens and Joseph Momoh. These two political charlatans and architects of bad governance in Sierra Leone prepared the path upon which Koroma would tread during his presidency.

    Today, although there are calls for Koroma to step down from the chairmanship of the APC, it appears that he would want to hold onto that position for as long as he is breathing. In his political fantasy, the chairmanship of the APC would in some weird way shield him from an aggressive government pursuit of corruption charges against him. But perhaps, more importantly, Koroma wants to have another opportunity of selecting the APC flagbearer in 2023. Let Koroma keep dreaming.

  7. The All People’s Congress (APC) is too big a party to break. Let us strive to consolidate our newfound Democracy – by strengthening and recognising INDEPENDENT INSTITUTIONS – and refrain from dwelling on comparing and evaluating personalities. This might stall socio-economic progress – at the least.

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