Kabs Kanu: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 May 2023:
Twenty-eight years of politics have taught me lessons I never learnt in all the years of my life, and the most profound being never to trust people and what they say in politics. Also, I have learnt that people are very deceitful, dishonest chameleons , without any integrity and who changes colour whenever political dispensation changes hands.
God brought me purposely into politics to allow me to learn and understand human nature better. I would not have acquired this learning just sticking to religion. Those of you who are afraid or sceptical of joining politics are denying yourselves the immortal opportunity to learn the profound lessons of life. There is no better place for learning certain lessons than in politics. I have not regretted my sojourn into politics because what I have learnt about human nature would not have been possible in other spheres of my life, heading into my 70s.
In politics, professions and manifestations of loyalty, I have learnt, are mainly fake and hypocritical with many of the dramatis personae of politics. Everything many people say and do in politics are fake and are just for the eye-seeing of men or to satiate their self- serving proclivities. With a good number of our politicians, their loyalty and commitment depend on where the bread is being well buttered.
Admittedly, I have met very loyal people, honest, trustworthy, adorned with integrity and true to the political cause; people who will die for their parties and will never desert them, come rain, come shine – like the grand old man of the SLPP, Mannah Kpaka , with whom I shared a cell, along with the children of the executed Chief Bai Makari N’Silk at Pademba Road Prisons when President Siaka Stevens detained us in 1977.
Pa Mannah Kpaka always bragged to us that Dr. Siaka Stevens did not have the money to buy him over from his SLPP to the APC . And when Stevens declared a one- party state in 1968, Mannah Kpaka was one of the few SLPP politicians who never crossed over to the APC.
In Liberia, I was also a neighbour to another SLPP warhorse, Pa Maigore Kallon at Jamaica Road, Monrovia, where both of us were taking refuge. He too vowed that nobody and nothing will ever convince him to cross carpet to the APC. He would rather die in exile. And he lived up to his brag.
But the number of chameleons who changes sides when power is lost is high and predominant. Betrayal constitute a main feature of Sierra Leone politics.
Since I joined politics, I have seen things I never dreamt would have ever happened. If somebody had told me in a dream that these things would have happened, I would never have believed.
I cannot say that I was an innocent bystander of life before I joined politics. I have been in journalism since my primary schooldays and have followed politics for over 50 or so years. I read and wrote a lot about politics and politicians since my late 1960s schoolboy and cub journalism cameos as Sam Blunt in We Yone , the Daily Mail, Shekpendeh and Think. But standing outside the corridors of power and being in the thick of things and an active participant, are experiences that are poles apart and different.
The people crossing over to the SLPP today or deviously making overtures to President Bio to entice him to incorporate them in his gravy train would not have surprised me if they had been erstwhile peripheral characters outside my domain and I had not worked with them in the APC. I would have passed the drama off as normal cross-carpeting, which is not uncommon in politics, if I had been reporting from outside or from the fringes. But because I worked closely with them, listened to them VERY KEENLY , shared commitments of loyalty with them and even covered their professions of never- to – die loyalty to and faith in the APC in articles or videos or audios , I am appalled, shocked , stunned, disappointed at the things some of these people have done to show the deceitfulness of man since the APC lost power in 2018 .
The reasons given for their treachery do not hold water. How can man be so deceitful ? How can man quickly forget what he said yesterday? If men and women cannot be loyal to themselves, their integrity, self- respect, organizations and the words that come from their mouths, how can one ever trust human beings? Why would one’s trust in human beings not be destroyed ? Why would anybody blame me if I stop trusting people in politics?
But another big lesson I learnt was that Presidents and political leaders themselves do not learn, and they are responsible for fostering the culture of disloyalty in Sierra Leone politics. Regardless of their education and academic letters, they become morons that people can fool the moment they gain power. Why do politicians become foolhardy, dim-witted, moronic and idiotic once they gain power? Does power turn people into imbeciles? Why would I put implicit faith in a traitor and not think that he or she will do the same thing to me when I lose power and all the applause ends?
Does it not occur to President Maada Bio that, given the flimsiness of their excuses, these same people today condemning and betraying the APC they once professed to love and vowed to die for will do the same thing to him and the SLPP when they lose power?
My experience in politics has left me with no doubt that these same disloyal, flip-flopping chameleons will be on the move again when the SLPP lose power and the very APC they are denouncing, renouncing, badmouthing, betraying and deserting today returns to power. They will not remain with the SLPP. THEY WILL USE EVERY TRICK TO SWING BACK TO THE APC. And my prediction, based on my experience, is that they will fool the leaders of the APC and these leaders will embrace them once again and shun, ignore and disappoint loyal supporters who even sold their houses to help them win and lavish political appointments and sweeties on the sugar ants, who want to taste the sweet nectar of power in every political party that is in power.
Count how many people who benefited from the last APC government were with us in 2007 or 2012 when we were fighting to bring the APC and Ernest Koroma to power. They were not with us and were nowhere to be seen. Some of them even fought us, the foot soldiers of the APC. But after we had suffered and brought APC to power, they came and got far more lucrative positions; and some of them even enriched themselves illegally at the expense of the APC, while there were people who sacrificed the last shirts on their backs to help APC win in 2007 and 2012 who departed this world without benefitting from the party. How can the world be so cruel and unfair?
This same thing will happen in the SLPP. Trust me. You will remember me. There were many people who died for Maada Bio in 2018 who will never benefit from his rule , but there will be many who were not with him and who even damaged his character and almost derailed his presidential ambitions who will suck the fat and delicious bones of power. Watch this and some SLPP loyalists have already started complaining on social media about it.
If Maada Bio wins a second term in June, he will offer big political appointments more to the NGC and APC sugar ants who have already crossed over or will join him before June 24 instead of loyal SLPP members who have been sacrificing sleep, rest, time, money and even their material possessions to help him gain and keep power.
Say all you want about chameleon, watermelon and sugar ant politics being the vogue; I will always respect the late President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah for what he did in 2002 when APC sugar ants and other opposition gravy-seekers sought to abandon their parties and cross over to the SLPP. Pa Kabbah eschewed watermelon and sugar ants political loyalty and he quickly made it very clear.
The political maverick turned down the overtures of the APC sugar ants and gravy-seekers from the other parties and told them to remain in their parties to help strengthen the opposition and make democracy flourish in Sierra Leone. Pa Kabbah was smart. He knew that those sugar ants wanted to join the SLPP not for love of party or country as they were professing. He knew that they wanted to come in to enjoy the goodies and enrich themselves. Kabbah never allowed them to cross over to the SLPP.
If Maada Bio and Samura Kamara can repeat late President Kabbah’s laudable and patriotic example and stop this criss-crossing within their parties for self-aggrandizement, watermelon and sugar ant politics will be a thing of the past in Sierra Leone. But will they? Will Maada Bio or Samura Kamara emulate later President Kabbah ?
The experience I have had is that once they gain power, our political leaders become fools and fall in love with deceitful and fake followers. They get tricked by fortune hunters and carpet baggers, bring them onboard and spray them with goodies more than they offer the loyal and committed servants who faithfully helped bring them blaze to power. They do not only welcome them. They empower them as President Bio is doing now. So , my fear, based on what I have learnt from our politics, is that sugarantism and watermelonism will continue to plague Sierra Leone politics ad infinitum. (Photo: Author – Kabs Kanu).
Why should Politics in Sierra Leone be about eating here today and eating there tomorrow when ascendancy changes hands? Why should once respected men and women change colours like a chameleon whenever a new government comes in? Why do people have no integrity, no self – pride, no self – respect , no moral values , no principles, no conscience? No patriotism either? Why is politics to some people just about the SELF (I, Me, myself)? It is because those who call themselves presidents of the nation encourage and empower it. Shame.