When political correctness legislates for intolerance – it only organises hatred

Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 February 2019:

There has been a flood of condemnation following the visit of President Bio and his entourage to The Gambia last week.  It is obvious that his visit, among other issues was firmly centred on the bilateral relationship between these two countries.

The relationship between Sierra Leone could be traced back to colonial times, and this was exemplified by the people of both countries. It is therefore not surprising that many families in Sierra Leone had, and continue to have relatives in both countries.

Throughout history, both countries were united by means of cultural similarities by virtue of inter marriages and cultural affiliations.  The ties between these countries were further strengthened in the educational sector as well.

With Fourah Bay College as the citadel of learning in West Africa in those days, The Gambia was the only country, though foreign, whose students were considered as home students.  This meant that unlike other citizens from other African countries, Gambians were treated on par with Sierra Leoneans, and hence required to pay their University fees in local currency.

Until The Gambia had its own University, the majority of its people sought further education from Sierra Leone, and this was conducted on a local level for The Gambian students. In addition to this, there have been a lot of similarities common to both countries.

A typical example of the strong ties between both countries was ably demonstrated in Kono district, where a large population of Gambians, and especially the Sarahule tribe had settled in the mining district. It is not surprising that many rich Gambians could trace the origin of their wealth to the diamondiferous region of Kono District.

Bio’s visit to The Gambia should therefore not come as a surprise to many, as this relationship dates back as far as our mutual colonial history.

Unfortunately, President Maada Bio’s recent visit will be remembered for the wrong reasons, thanks to what has been described as an insensitive display of avarice, during a cultural dance to welcome the entourage.

In the video clip that is doing the rounds on social media, Bio could be seen dancing together with his wife and well-wishers. What is causing most of the angst, especially to his detractors is the part of the clip where the First Lady Mrs Fatima Bio is seen “showering” her husband with foreign currency.

But what is wrong with this? Many people have condemned the gesture as insensitive and politically incorrect.

This piece is not aimed at moralising the pros and cons of either the visit as a whole or the act of “showering” such gifts, but is an attempt to present a balanced view, where practically possible, about the whole saga that is causing such angst. For starters, it is a very common practice that during cultural festivities, we do display such gestures to our griots, dancers and cultural groups.

It is not uncommon to shower the participants with money. It is common place and it is a culturally accepted phenomenon. This is not privy to any one particular cultural group, tribe or otherwise.

From the North of the Limpopo, right down to the South of the Sahara, this has always been an age old practice that has formed part of the richness of our cultures. However, some people may wonder why this one has drawn so much criticism; the Context.

If this was performed by any other person, you wonder if anyone would have batted an eye lid. But because this was done by our President and his entourage, the criticisms have come flooding.  Nevertheless, we should be honest enough to understand the standpoint of the critics and sceptics.

It will be disingenuous to dismiss outright their concerns and criticisms. However, in trying to forge a better place called Sierra Leone, it is worth remembering that we need to be constructive in our criticism.

Let us look at the context of this scenario. One of the main policies or signature feats of the embryonic Maada Bio government is the WAR ON CORRUPTION. As we speak, our country is witnessing an unprecedented drive to fight corruption. Irrespective of your political persuasion, this is a laudable feat.

But against the backdrop of a very harsh economic climate in Sierra Leone today, one the current government has rightly or wrongly attributed to the handwork of the past APC government, it is difficult to see how one can juxtapose the fight against corruption and the display of what many saw as a display of avarice.

Let us be honest with ourselves for a minute here. If our government is happy to tell anyone and everyone who cares to listen that our current economic malaise is a concomitant effect of the reckless behaviour of the erstwhile Koroma government, which has resulted in an unprecedented WAR ON CORRUPTION by way of a Commission Of Inquiry, such a display “wealth”, irrespective of its cultural tenets, will fly in the face of logic.

By implication, such an act of cultural display will seemingly defeat the object, and many will see this as an “own goal “by President Bio. It is difficult to marry the idea of fighting corruption and lamenting the hardship of a country on one hand, and displaying such a spectacle of wealth, irrespective of the amount involved, in the same breath.

As we go to press, our country is facing one of the longest periods of shortages of bread. According to information, our bakers have found the price of flour so astronomical that they can no longer operate a viable and profitable business, and this has led to a serious shortage that we have not experienced for a long time.

There are some people who would conveniently conclude that our nation is facing starvation. The hyperbole for obvious reasons would not be lost on anyone here.

Nevertheless, if our country is facing such a crisis, irrespective of how minimal its impact could be, the cultural display in The Gambia could also be described as insensitive on the part of the President and his entourage at this particular time.

If there was any time to engage in such a practice, irrespective of its cultural value, it could be considered insensitive; and one would struggle to argue otherwise.    No one is condemning the cultural aspect of such a tradition.

But against the context of what is going on in Sierra Leone; the economic hardship, the COI and the recent shortage of bread in the country, it is understandable if many people find this very insensitive.

At best, the First lady and the president could have got someone else to do such bidding for them; and in keeping with the traditional side of things.  This may sound like there is a need for some lessons in protocol here. I am not offering though.

This brings us to the role of our First Lady Mrs Fatima Bio. The first lady is the wife of the First Gentleman of the state. She is not a politically appointed figure. However, by virtue of her position as the First Lady, she enjoys the unenviable position whereby her every move, appearance, speech and anything about her will come under the strictest scrutiny.

Such scrutiny and the perks that come with her position go hand in hand in this business. This is not to say that such scrutiny is always justified, but it comes with the territory. It is difficult to join the dance of monkeys and not expect a tail to touch you.

We all know the tremendous job that Mrs Fatima Bio has spearheaded in this short space of time. She has fronted women’s rights, the “Hands off our Girls”, the fight against cancer and many other projects.

It is fair to say that she hardly gets the desired accolades that she deserves. Unfortunately, there is always an endless queue waiting to literally jump on her back each time she appears to step, out of line; according to some people’s standards.

But before we rush to condemn Mrs Fatima Bio for what many saw as an insensitive gesture in Banjul, we need to remember that she is human. In addition, she is an individual who deserves to be treated as an individual and a private citizen.

This means that she has the right to live the life of a private citizen just like anyone of us. She did not become the first lady by means of a political contest. She did not run for the position of First Lady and was not elected to be the First Lady. That is between her and Mr Maada Bio. Her position as First Lady was down to the handiwork of Cupid, and we should not be envious of her for that.

Nevertheless, it is inevitable though, that by virtue of her position as First lady, though a private person, she would double up as a public and private individual. Although the First Lady was in an official role as the First lady accompanying her husband on a state visit, the aria that she displayed during the cultural dance was purely one you would expect from a private individual.

Perhaps, our First lady may be struggling to decipher where her role as a private person ends and that of a public figure starts. Many people will say that she may have been carried away by the occasion, and was consumed or carried away by the ambiance at the time.

Even President Bio could not resist the instinct to “cut aria” at the time. Did they get caught up with the atmosphere? After all, are they not human? I would hate to have a wooden president with no human touch. They are human after all, and they are allowed to display some humanity, some of the time.

This brings us to the curse of political correctness.  What we are seeing here is a call for political correctness. But as a country, should we not be transcending political correctness and strive for human righteousness?

There are some people who see political correctness as a euphemism for political cowardice.  I am sure that Fatima Bio would have come in for the same criticism, had she stood there and not move a muscle while all around her were dancing. She would have been described as “wooden”, proud” cocky, snobbish or an otherwise individual, had she just folded her arms and not tweaked a muscle.

But the moment she obeyed her natural instincts and responded to what makes her human, all hell froze. But if truth be told, the spectacle does not make for good reading back home. As for the First lady, she may need some guidance on protocol in the future. Perhaps, her handlers need to take a good look at themselves, and especially the body responsible for protocol at State House.

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

Don’t forget to attend the COI when you leave the room.

22 Comments

  1. It’s a good thing to engage in political discourse. In spite of our different views, opinions and political persuasions, we all have one thing in common: the hope that “Mama Salone for betteh”. But in expressing our opinions, let us try and keep it civil.

    Remember, this is not Facebook, Instagram or tinder. Besides, this newspaper is a respected medium and we should not abuse the editorial licence that the proprietor and editor has offered us. Let’s concentrate on the issues, rather than personalities. Together, we can move forward. We can disagree all day, but let’s keep it civil. Keep the fire burning.

  2. That portion was wrong. National leaders don’t do that. Such displays must be reserved for the parlour and savaged cultural practices. The visit was normal, but a first lady doing such was a sad mistake.

  3. Thank you Mrs. Hawa koroma for your comments. Unfortunately, I am struggling to resist to dignifying the comments with a response. Girl power at work here. Power to our women. Lets have more of our female folk on board the train of political discourse. This is so refreshing.

    I know that you would not believe this when I say, I am genuinely happy to get responses from our women. We have been speaking for you guys for far too long. Its time our women stood up. I thank you so much; for we can only get to where we want to be if our women folk come for the ride. Bravo and keep it up. Power to our women.

    I genuinely appreciate your input, even if I disagree with your views; and I will defend your right to express them. Welcome dear.

    • I agree with you 100% this time Abdulai (I hope it does not bother you if I say Abdulai or Mr. Mansaray). Our women should always stand up for what they believe in and express themselves freely without fear. They should also be encouraged in every respect to join and contribute to the national debate. I am very proud of your positive attitude towards our women. Thumbs up.
      Finally, please don’t criticise me the next time before you leave the room :-)

  4. Thank you Mr. Abdulai Mansaray for your candid analysis that is devoid of any political leanings but the truth as it is only the truth that Sierra Leone needs at this particular time. Unfortunately in Sierra Leone today, most oppose because it is not them that are in powers.

    The first article I read about this incident was on Facebook written by one Kabs Kanu. Kabs Kanu started his article by Tribally insulting the President’ tribe and hastily insinuating that it was a tribally arranged gathering by Mendes for President Bio in Banjul.

    As a Gambian who grew up at Bathurst Street in Kenema, I can understand and speak Mende fluently. My first instinct was to go to the audio posted by the same Rev Kabs Kanu, and to my amazement, it was a Gambian song I heard. That was not my only surprise; I next zoomed in on the money that the first lady was putting on her husband. It was a Gambian currency which makes sense (what use will the Leone be to Gambians anyway?).

    By the time I came to the end of the article, I felt feverish for Sierra Leone, a country I call my second home. Somebody like Rev. Kabs Kanu whom I heard has not travelled to Sierra Leone for over 35 years because of health reasons, and change of nationality is sitting in the comfort of the USA fanning the flames of tribalism, and yet nobody is doing anything about it? It is not politically correct.

    I read that this same Rev. Kabs Kanu was made Minister of a country whose citizenship he had denounced years ago and which land he has not stepped in since he left some 35 years or so. Why is he so much against the new administrators? Is it because those who corruptly made him be (Minister) what he never dreamed of are no longer in power?

    Everything from this man for Sierra Leone and the new government is damnation. Nobody is against that but fanning the flame of tribalism in such a grotesque way is dangerous and should not come from someone who put the Reverend Title in front of his name.

    As for Madam Bio, please be careful what you say or do in public as your position as the first lady makes you by default a Public figure. For sensible people who saw that video clip, it is clear that the money was for the entertainers and to make the occasion humanly as dictated by our tradition. However, to your detractors and people whose wish is for you and your husband to fail and not be happy with the strides you are making, it will be spin and spin with tribal connotation. This is exactly what Rev Kabs Kanu has done.

    I have been keenly following every appointment in Sierra Leone that President Bio has made since he came to power. It is looked at by former government functionaries as Tribal appointment. When a Chief Justice is appointed, even when he is a Krio, it is said he is remotely a Mende. A Kono head of Police and Limba head of the army are all said too to be related to Mendes.

    I looked at a commission report today and all three senior management from the Commercial bank who went before the commission to shed light on political loans all had northern names, but nobody cares. It is the few positions given to Mendes, Konos, and Kissies that are condemned as tribalism by Kabs Kanu and his cohort who do not mean well for Sierra Leone.

    I know from my staying in Kenema that Sierra Leoneans are charming people. The Mendes are very accommodating and it is unfair to call them tribalistic. Have you ever asked why there is more non-Mendes in Mendeland in Sierra Leone? Is it because the Mendes are tribalistic or for being accommodating?

    Thank you Mr. Mansaray for with the likes of you, we know that all is not lost for my second country Sierra Leone.

    • Mr. Momodu Njie, I respect your views about Rev. Kabs Kanu. But I view them as divisive. Do you agree with me or not? As you rightly said, you are a Gambian and not a Sierra Leonean. There are certain problems or issues concerning Sierra Leone that foreigners should not be concerned about. Especially when they are controversial. You can comment, but make sure that you do so carefully.

      Sierra Leoneans are not interested in divisiveness. All what you are saying about Rev. Kabs Kanu does not interest a lot of people; and besides, his decision to stay away from home for whatever reason does not have anything to do with the article.

      So, please leave Sierra Leoneans to sort out their problems. Sierra Leoneans need no division. We want to heal our country and bring people together. A word for the wise is quite sufficient.

    • Mr. Njie,

      Thanks for the excellent analysis. It’s objectivity is a breath of fresh air. I definitely could not have said it better.

      Almost all the attacks on president Bio and his wife are rooted in tribalism. Fact is, APC surrogates are all over social media launching subtle tribalistic attacks on the president.

      Evidently, there is jealousy relative to the fact that president Bio has accomplished in ten months what the APC could not do in eleven years. And the morally-challenged APC has been in power in Sierra Leone for 34 years – the longest any political party has been at the helm of state in West Africa. Yet the APC has nothing to show for that.

      A political party that is fronted by men of low integrity should have no business competing for power anywhere.

  5. The major problem with the First Lady is she is crazily in love with her husband and sometimes she can’t control herself as compared to previous First Ladies that we are accustomed to. She should have at least try to give our President some breathing space so he can spend some quality time with his side chicks as was rumoured about some of his predecessors. The only advice I have for the First Lady is to stick to our tradition of spraying money on mask devils rather than your husband.

  6. “As for the First lady, she may need some guidance on protocol in the future. Perhaps, her handlers need to take a good look at themselves, and especially the body responsible for protocol at State House.” Abdulai Mansaray

    Mr. Mansaray, pray tell me if the above is not your personal opinion of Sierra Leone’s first lady. You guys should accept defeat and get used to the Bios in State House. They might be at the helm of state for ten years.

    • Oh Binta. Our country is is in a pitiful state. Any time you say something that does not sit well with the government, or make a criticism of it, you are branded as APC sympathiser. This is really sad.

      It is the same sycophancy that made Ernest koroma rule our country like his personal property; because people spent more time praising him and not telling him where he was going wrong.

      As for Mr Matturi, you do not need a passport or an ID card to talk about Sierra Leone. There are people who are not Sierra Leoneans, but may have better intentions for the country than some who profess to be Sierra leoneans. “So, please leave Sierra Leoneans to sort out their problems”. That is so petty-minded.

      This place needs some grown up thinking. By the way, did some of you actually read and understand the title of this article? I doubt it.

    • Mr. Mansaray, did you really read my comment completely? I don’t think so. By just referring to a single statement does not make your point relevant. First of all, I would assume that you know what divisive means. Right? Secondly, I would like you to read Mr. Njie’s comment and compare it with the word divisiveness.

      Thirdly, compare this statement with the statement you quoted from my comment. Read and I quote – ‘There are certain problems or issues concerning Sierra Leone that foreigners should not be concerned about. Especially when they are controversial. You can comment, but make sure that you do so carefully.’

      Finally, I appreciate your criticism. I hope you understand this and please read properly the next time before you leave the room.

    • Mr. Abdulai Mansaray, It appears that you don’t practice what you preach. On the one hand, you call for tolerance on the forum. But on the other hand, you use a self-assured hubris in being rude and condescending with those who do not agree with your views.

      You have every right to believe that you are the smartest Sierra Leonean that ever lived. But what you cannot do is to publicly abrogate the rights of those who do not agree with your views. If you can dish out then you must be ready to receive.

      Ms. Binta Conteh asked you a simple question relative to what she believed was your personal opinion of the first lady, Mrs. Fatima Bio. Instead of answering the question, you go off like a time bomb that has been set to blow away an enemy. There is nothing wrong with you being offended by the first couple of Sierra Leone displaying affection for each other in public. But that state of rage should not warrant a public lecture on what should reflect the contours of public behavior for the first couple. It is plain wrong, Mr. Mansaray.

      Where were you when Ernest Koroma used to shower street traders in Freetown with cash? Was he politically correct to that?

  7. This analysis stretches the envelope to the realm of silliness. Notwithstanding the writer’s display of hypersensitivity and blatant misogyny in his analysis, I find it troubling that folks of his ilk believe that Sierra Leone’s first couple should walk on egg shells anywhere they go or that the place of the first lady is in the kitchen.

    The First lady of Sierra Leone and her husband were not pilfering funds from Sierra Leone Commercial Bank or selling off Sierra Leone’s interests in Sierra Rutile as others have done with impunity. They were reacting to a rousing welcome that they had received in a sister Republic.

    Let’s put it this way, like the rest of us, president Bio and Mrs. Fatima Bio are entitled to happiness. Leave them alone.

    • In primary school, we were taught to read a passage twice before answering the questions. If only Bilal did the same here, he would have noticed that I was commenting primarily on what was expressed on social media. I tried to present both views. Unfortunately, Mr Bilal struggles with alternative views.

      I don’t have to agree with you. But I respect your opinion and will defend your right to do so. Unlike you, insults don’t form part of my vocabulary. When people insult others, it sometimes says more about the person doing the insulting. But again. I respect your opinion, to keep us on the straight and narrow. I am sure that not many readers share your opinion.

      Besides, consider your comments necessary, for our democratic process. I am so sorry to disappoint you; I don’t do insults, and I won’t dignify your insults with a response. But keep reading brother. That’s the oxygen we need to keep writing. Sometimes, it can be difficult to soar with eagles, when you fly with crows. Good day bro. Paopa, Salone go betteh.

    • Slow down Brother Bilal… slow down…we all can’t be on the same pool or even see through the same lens…ok?….In my opinion,the writer does not and must not have to see it the way you do..since we all have different opinions..I understand the tension and emotions this has especially at this moment of political times but, being sarcastic to someone for not doing or saying what you want is actually wrong and should be detested.

      Ina leh wi lan for dae agri for disagri ya?…it really hasn’t reached the point yet for you to vent out such a desperate anger because someone made a mere opinion on the president’s dancing techniques….All I kno is: olman geh rite for dance en gladi..jes nor mas porsin een kakto…

    • If only bilal could read and understand the title of the article, may be, just may be, he will enjoy his right and other’s right to alternative opinions. It is the same intolerance the title is portraying. Let’s discuss and avoid the insults. I can get your points without the insults. I don’t lose my temper;no body wants it. Thanks for the uapdate.

    • My friend put away your misogyny thing there. The dancing was good but the money showering was and will always be the wrong protocol advise. You just don’t do that. She could have waited and give out the cash in bulk to the dancers or musicians.

  8. Let me first start by reading the words I heard from the cultural music president Bio was dancing to I saw on YouTube. The music was good to listen to. Oh Boy.

    KAI MAN YAY GA YAY GO, KAI MAN YAY GAY YAY. AY MAADA BIO OH YAY GBA YAY GA. KAI MAN YAY GA YAY.

    I hope the Gambians will correct me if the wordings are wrong. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing wrong with what I saw in that video. People have every right to condemn the throwing of money over the president, especially because of what is happening now in the country with the economy. Besides, the first lady was involved. That is their view and they are right in every respect.

    Because we are humans and not always perfect, such things happen. That is why the presidential entourage should always have people to advice the president on matters that will prove to be controversial or sensitive at every given time. The good thing is to see the president very healthy and active enjoying with his wife and in-laws.

    I now know that the president knows how to dance. MARVELLOUS AND FANTASTIC. Also, we can at least sing a Gambian cultural song. To those criticising the throwing of cash over the head of the president, I say to them, let us give the president the benefit of the doubt and move on. The president just like any one of us can make mistakes. LONG LIVE SIERRA LEONE AND ITS PEOPLE.

    • Bra yu rite!..na GUD tin for mek president en em wef,sef shek bordi….na BETEH tin igen for mek dem Shia kolchoral heritej wit wi neba dem…urldo evidens nor dae,wae pruf say na di kontri em monie dem dae misuse,..bot,bikos of di kontri em situeshon rite naw,e bin for don bi di BEST ting, lek wetin u say,if im advaisa dem bin for don tel am,nor for alaw mek dem troway moni pa am lekeh dat…fiu des ego,di siti pipool bin shurt of brade…wetin dem go se,if dem si dem president na da kine situeshon dae?????..

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