“What life has taught me”

Dr. Sama Banya – Puawui

26 July 2012

The above is the title of late President Siaka Stevens’ autobiography; it is an interesting book which tells how the son of an ordinary police man attached to government house, had risen to become the President of Sierra Leone.

I gave up finishing the book when I reached the chapters dealing with governance and the President’s constant interjection of ‘putting the country before self’.

It was back in 1959 when I was honorary secretary of the Sierra Leone Students’ Union in the United Kingdom. I saw a sensational headline in the then London Evening News newspaper: “DIPLOMAT IN COURT FOR SEXUAL OFFENCE!”

The story was about our Commissioner (we were still a dependent Colony), having been charged to court for a sexual offense against his English secretary.

I immediately called the Commissioner for confirmation, but his was a complete denial. Without waiting for the court proceedings, I sent a telegram to the Prime minister – Sir Milton Margai and repeated the commissioner’s story, adding that it was a conspiracy, because he had replaced the former colonial officer who had been commissioner since the name was changed from Liaison officer.

I and a large number of Sierra Leoneans were in the High Court when our man took the witness box; to our amazement he admitted to the act taking place, but added that it was with mutual consent.

He was represented by Mr. Christmas Humphrey QC, who put up a brilliant defence. Our Commissioner was acquitted by the jury and discharged. We carried him shoulder high from the Old Bailey into the Strand.

Later that evening, he called me and asked that I should send another telegram to the Prime minister – Sir Milton Margai, expressing the students’ confidence in him. I refused and informed him that I and my colleagues had felt betrayed.

I received no acknowledgement to my original message to Sir Milton. Some months later, after the gentleman had been removed from office, Mr. Taplima Ngobeh was passing through London from Geneva. He was very close to Sir Milton.

Ngobeh informed me that on receiving my telegram, the Prime minister had just smiled and added; “ I don’t think Sama has all the facts of the matter,” just as it had turned out in court.

I have recalled this story in the wake of allegations, with denials and counter allegations between Vice President Sam Sumana and a former business associate of his.

A sum of money in the form of a loan was acknowledged by the Vice President, which he however said he had repaid a long time ago. A mutual business partner of both men has intervened – more or less exonerating the Vice President.

The latter letter however, contains some unsaid statements (reading between the lines is the usual expression), which makes me wonder whether that is the end of the story and that the case file must now be closed.

But is it?

In the meantime, some people have taken extreme positions of their own in the matter, and one wonders how genuine some of those concerns are.

Because of my London experience in a matter about which I was not fully conversant, I shall continue to maintain an open mind, remembering that no one should be pronounced guilty unless proven to be so.

It reminds me of the story of two of Jesus’ disciples before the Sanhedrin, when Camellia advised thus: “If this Jesus story is a fake then it will fizzle out like similar risings before.”

So it is; we may or may not have heard the last in this matter.

That is what life has taught, always to WAIT FOR ALL THE FACTS.

Elsewhere, someone has suggested that George Pessima – the Secretary to the cabinet and head of the civil service, must resign because he had solicited “Kasankay” contributions from civil servants, in connection with the funeral rites of the late Mrs. Alice Koroma.

For Pete’s sake, what is wrong with that? Is it not part of our tradition? Is it not done in offices and other work places?

Was anyone been squeezed to contribute? Is there any suggestion that the civil servants intended to bribe or curry favour by their contributions?

Why turn an innocent gesture – with the best intentions into something else? I wonder what was in the mind of the civil servant who leaked the letter to the public.

Mind you, I would have done the same thing differently, that is by calling a meeting of Permanent secretaries and heads of departments. It’s a point worth remembering.

With the kind of unsavoury publicity, the Koroma family was quite right to inform that they were capable of taking care of their mother’s funeral arrangements, without soliciting funds.

Sadly I believe they too missed the point, but are they to blame?


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