Sierra Leone – the politics of dilemma or is it the dilemma of politics?

Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 25 June 2018:

It is an undeniable fact that Sierra Leone as a nation has come a long way. Our collective journey, though tortuous at best, from the days of late President Sheka Stevens’ one party fiefdom, through the period of interregna and out into the nascent democracy, albeit in its embryonic state, is testament to the resilience of our nation.

During this journey, the very existence of our nation has been tested by political, economic, social and most recently natural undesirables. Some of us have been privileged to witness the good, the bad and the ugly, as the nation sleep walked from one adversity to another.

But in spite of all the tribulations and trials, we have survived as a nation and people. It is difficult to pinpoint one single reason for this.

It is difficult to fathom how some people relish undesirable events occurring in our country, simply because their favourite colour is no longer the vogue.

They might be in the minority, as some of these have even done their best to sow the seeds of tribalism, in pursuit of their personal agenda and at the expense of our communities. But like God will have it, those seeds may have germinated but failed to blossom.

There are some who would pat their backs and display national pride that our recent history has seen us conduct seemingly free and fair elections.

Former President Ernest Bai koroma gave us the “Agenda for Change” which seamlessly but indistinguishably morphed into “Agenda for prosperity”. The success or failures of these agendas are open to individual perceptions.

President Maada Bio and his Biovistas, under the SLPP have been ushered under the umbrella of the “New Direction”, which in itself is self-proclaiming.

This implies that the aim is to move from somewhere to somewhere. Our political satellite navigation is expected to take us to a new destination; some will say the Promised Land.  With such an agenda as a backdrop, change becomes the watch word. History will tell us whether, like marriage is for better or for worse.

Now that the wedding vows between the SLPP and the electorate have been exchanged, the question is whether a “suffer ring” will be added in this marriage. It is obvious that one of the most discernible left overs that came from our recent elections was one of vengeance.

There are those, especially on the other side of the political aisle that believe a change of government means, the outgoing party will be the victim of revenge.

Such suspicions are the very things that drive some people to Machiavellian extremes, to do whatever is necessary to gain or hold on to power.

If a society is saturated with such paranoia, even with the best of intentions, every effort to effect change will be met with extreme scrutiny, cynicism and to some extent opposition.

This is not an attempt to moralise, justify or pass judgement on the merits and demerits of the actions of President Maada Bio and his Biovistas.

When the SLPP launched its flagship programme of the “New Direction”, it goes without saying that changes should be expected. It is so glaringly obvious that if the Biovistas are to keep their bond with the electorate; such changes are expected to take place.

There is no question that irrespective of your political persuasion, the hope against hope is that it will be a “CHANGE FOR THE BETTER”.

In order to effect those changes, the agents of change will need to be changed. This could take the form of procedure, personnel, leadership, focus, ethos, laws, rules, regulations, contracts etc. Unfortunately for our country, such changes have not only been met with cynicism but also cries of “foul”.

The Biovista government is yet to hit the 100 -day in office landmark. In the meantime, we have seen a change of guard in major positions; ranging from the legislative, judicial, legislative and right down to the janitor in some cases.

Sadly, and rightly or wrongly, many are not only sceptical about these, but even asking for explanations for these changes.

At face value, one can conclude that our country has come of age; that the electorate is now holding the government to account for its actions. When the government is afraid of its people, it is democracy. But when the people fear its government, it is tyranny.

The Biovista government may be in its infancy, but there is no doubt that it has registered its statement of intent, by way of the appointments that have been made. This is subject to personal interpretations, I know.

When Dr. Ernest Bai koroma came to power, he promised among other things, that there will be “NO SACRED COWS”. He promised us that everyone would be held accountable under the same rules, laws and legislations. He was at the helm for ten years. You be the judge. President Maada Bio never made such bold proclamations. (Photo: President Bio and his cabinet ministers).

The SLPP will never be complete without the Margai name. The Margai family is not only the founding father of the party, but the trench town rock. Despite his flirtations with other parties, everyone knows that Charles Margai’s DNA is SLPP through and through. He was rewarded with the position of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice in the Biovista government.

He was sacked from his position, even before the ink dried on his appointment letter. This was unthinkable. With one fell swoop, Charles Margai earned the unenviable accolade, if we can call it that, of being the minister with the shortest shelf life in government.

It is no secret that this move has been met with consternation, condemnation, criticisms and conspiracy theories in equal measure. But what does that tell us about President Maada Bio and his Biovistas?

While some will see a ruthless streak at play here, some would think that he is not only taking a leaf out of Dr. Ernest Koroma’s playbook – “ An Idiot’s Guide to No Sacred Cows” ( first edition), but actually IMPLEMENTING it. You call it statement of intent?  Since coming to power heads have rolled and others have fallen by the wayside.

There is no doubt that CORRUPTION has been our country’s perennial plague since time began. Many see CORRUPTION as the mother of all our country’s woes; especially against the backdrop of our wealth in resources.

As Sierra Leoneans, we all have a collective responsibility to decontaminate this infestation. And there can be no better place to start than the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

The Biovista government took the scalpel to the entrails of the commission with surgical precision recently. Judge for yourself.

But there is an interesting phenomenon that is trending now, and this is specially so with the social media. There are been an upsurge of demand for explanations, reasons, rationale and justification for almost every appointment or dismissal by the government.

Like I said earlier, this might pass for an increasingly insatiable demand for accountability by the electorate. If our democracy in our country is to work, we need such a binding contract with our leaders; that they are accountable to us. The days of perpetual fear of the government should be long gone by now.

Our leaders should know that they are accountable to us and accountable for their actions or inactions. And with the freedom of speech on the menu, the diet of good governance should make us a happy meal.

But let us face it, the demand for accountability, though well-meaning should be tempered with good will. Against the backdrop of suspicions, cynicism, and downright oppositions, we should be careful not to contaminate the whole concept.

It is absolute crass to expect or demand that every appointment, replacement or sacking should be followed by a press release from the government as explanation.

There is no doubt that there are some that will require explanations for public consumption. Many people will find it nauseatingly frivolous to expect the government to explain or justify why a school principal was sacked, or why a female Attorney General was appointed.

As Sierra Leoneans, we should not allow some people to hide under the cloak of accountability to pursue their personal agendas. There is no doubt that some will oppose for the sake of opposition. But as Sierra Leoneans, if we allow such people to infest such a pillar in our society, the whole concept of accountability from our leaders would be lost in translation. It’s you and me who would lose out.

Those in civil societies should not allow such hangers on to latch on to their coat tails. And to use the actions of the past government as justification for a bad policy, appointment or otherwise is no justification. “But the APC did the same” will not wash. We don’t live in a tit for tat or “do me ar do you world”.

No one should attempt to discourage opposition to the government. If anything, the Biovista government will largely succeed if we have a well-meaning and vibrant opposition. That is what the current government deprived Sierra Leoneans of, for the last 10 years.

It is unquestionably true that the last decade saw the SLPP hand the APC a one-party state; thanks to their comatose state in opposition.

It is now half time, the transfer window came and went, the direction of play changed, and the SLPP is in unfamiliar territory.  It is yet to find out the difference between attack and defensive approach play in this political premier league.

What makes it a mouth-watering league season is that fact that unlike the APC, the SLPP will have to contend with 2 more promoted political parties from league one. This league is going to be interesting, and there will be no need for VAR.

Sadly, to all intents and purposes, President Maada Bio is trying to put the vehicle of his New Direction into gear but already, he is being accused of witch hunt and vengeance. But is it really, or is it a case of the guilty are afraid?  Take your pick.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter (M. L. King).

4 Comments

  1. The unpleasant reality confronting us is that the current and new government is lawless. It neither respects the rule of law nor management and administrative proprieties about the management of changes it desires. It continues to fail in exploiting all Sierra Leone’s Auditor-General’s Annual Reports as one of the tools for optimising Sierra Leone’s condition overall. It would today be unwise for ethical investors to risk their capital in Sierra Leone because “MONKEY NOR DEY LEFF IM BLAK HAN”.

    • Mr. Seton During,

      Where were you in the last ten years when Ernest Koroma and the APC were bastardizing the constitution of Sierra Leone? Is it only now that you have come to realize that Sierra Leone is a lawless nation?

  2. This is reminiscent of Michaela Wrong’s Book ‘It’s Our Turn It’ “This is one of those rare books that deliver more than the title suggests. It is more than a story about a whistleblower, and more than about Kenya. It could have been written anywhere where corruption is endemic, and Wrong disposes of some general myths.

    One is the refrain that the president is an honest, upstanding, god-fearing man; he’s not corrupt, it is his undisciplined children. “In countries where presidents have done their best to centralise power,” Wrong writes, “altering constitutions, winning over the army and emasculating the judiciary, the notion that key decisions can be taken without their approval is laughable.” (The Guardian).

    Supporters of the new administration have also adopted this same doctrine ‘Our turn to eat’. They crave for all the lucrative jobs as Ministers, Heads of Parastatals and Board Members of public corporations while at the same time call for heads to roll – especially those who are perceived as being supporters and beneficiaries of the previous government.

    Moreover, the leadership justifies key decision-making in this honeymoon period by referring to what was done by the EBK government, even though the president himself has vowed to uphold the rule of law.

    Indeed we are supposed to follow a ‘New Direction’ to the promised land; but although the Captain and the Coxswain are different and maybe taking a different route, we are still heading in the same direction of hopelessness, segregation and total disregard for the suffering masses.

    Even the Titanic was sunk after coming in contact with an iceberg. I do not want to be seen as the prophet of doom, but my years of experience studying politics and politicians since my early teens, points to no other direction than the endorsement of the adage same vehicle but different driver.

  3. I hope the new direction will soon come out with the transition report so that citizens can be aware of what exactly was left by the previous government.

    View against this background i would want to wait and see what is in that report, before I could make any judgement about the issue of the 100 days in office and sacking of the ACCA boss and other heads of various institutions for which some civil society organisations are condemning.

    My personal view is that since the new direction inherited a government which was on austerity and given the fact that the president said he inherited the worst economy since independence, it is an open secret that Sierra Leone economy is bad which is why basic food prices continue to increase .

Tell us about your views

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.