Dr Sama Banya (Puawui): Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 April 2019:
President Julius Maada Bio has received many accolades at the end of his one year in office and rightly so. His scorecard for the period is an enviable one, except for the inherently blind and politically prejudiced.
But even for him, it is not rosy all the way. There are voices groaning with dissatisfaction not so much because of errors or a lack of appreciations but because of a genuine concern over bread and butter, garri and the continued weakness of the Leone against the United States dollar and other major currencies.
The reason for this is obvious to everyone who has followed the economic situation in our country over the last ten years.
And I have to join the many voices who have said that we inherited a sick economy from the last APC government.
The reason for that continues to be brought into the open by the various Auditor General’s reports, by the exposures of financial malfeasance by a small group of kleptomaniacs, and of course from what is also coming out of the three Commissions of Inquiry.
While you and I and a good many others clearly understand the issues here, the vast majority of our brothers and sister have not grasped it thoroughly.
They are some of the people who have said it loud and clear for the President to hear. Their behaviour also pinpoints some fundamental differences between them and their compatriots, the main supporters of the erstwhile APC.
In the mist of high youth unemployment and a downturn in the economy they continued to sing the praises of their leader and even designated him as “Chairman and Leader for life.
Nay, they went beyond that and were laying the grounds so that contrary to the provisions of our constitution, they flattered him to succeed himself.
One heard such phrases, unhelpful expressions of “more time, after you nar you”, etc.
On the main road driving through Mile 91, there was a sign board outside a residence which read “More time secretariat.”
The supporters of the SLPP say it loud and clear that things were not well. Yes, they agreed with all the obvious achievements of their President. For example there are photographs on social media of school buses on their way to Sierra Leone, buses which the President had said would be provided to supplement his Free Quality education programme.
Our APC detractors were already pouring propaganda scorn on the prospect with such silly questions as “where are the school buses that the junta government had promised?” was also all over social media.
From my own office in the Ministerial building in those long-ago days I used to see waiting crowds outside the second-floor offices of the Secretariat building which then and also now houses the ministry of Finance – all waiting to see Francis Minah the minister.
When I teased him about his visitors, he replied with an answer that was common to all of us. They had come with individual problems, mainly of finance which they expected the minister to address.
Those familiar with the practice may recall that while many were genuine, there were equally quite a few which were at once unreasonable. I knew an old lady friend of one of my older brothers during my school days. One day she turned up at my ministry with a request that she had put up a dwelling house to wall height and now wanted me to complete it for her.
Minah told me that on one occasion when one of his supporters was told that the minister was busy with an important delegation, in the particular instance the world Bank, the man replied in a loud voice, obviously for Minah to hear, “So he is now too busy to see the likes of us who had stomped the constituency to secure his victor; okay, I will go back to my village; but when the time comes I and my people will also be too busy to see him.”
Call it blackmail or what you like – but that is the reality. There is much room for political education.
I have been told that many ministers were booed on the President’s recent visit to the SLPP headquarters. The charges were said to vary from being too arrogant, where were they and from where have they suddenly emerged or been catapulted into high positions while they the grassroots supporters had been at the mercy of President Koroma’s security forces and party thugs and vigilantes and such similar derogatory remarks.
One newspaper has remarked that the ministers were subjected to……..embarrassment. I am neither a government minister, nor any longer an elected party leader, but I have heard such complaints so often as if it is from me that the complainants would get redress.
I understand that President Bio was at pains to pacify them to some extent; government can never employ everyone, not everyone will head a government agency or be a board member. The prospects of job provision are good, but it won’t happen overnight.
All it takes is a little patience and politeness. Many ministers devote one day a week or one afternoon (Thursday is a popular day) for such activity. Believe me it pays dividends. It is the same with those who hold various positions at party headquarters. Please arrange to be seen occasionally.
I recall that night in Miatta Conference centre in 2012, when a reporter for the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) asked who I wanted to be flag bearer. A huge crowd of party supporters, mostly young people were gathered along Hannah Benka-Coker Street chanting choruses in support of Maada Bio.
All I said to the reporter was, “Listen to the voices out there.” They are the same voices today, except that their numbers are growing.