This past week has been historic for the country and her people of Sierra Leone; being the first entrance into the United States by president Maada Bio after his election. Considering his controversial departure from the United States few years ago, Maada is a man whose integrity and movement as a politician has been a hot potato. Had President Maada Bio been a village son, the Chief of his village would have branded him as an extraordinary son with stubborn good spirit. Maada has defied all the odds against him during his tenure as an opposition leader of the country. He won the election, he is in good health despite rumors of a minor stroke, he is presently visiting the United Nations and delivering speeches outside the confines of the United Nations against all the rumors; that Maada is not allowed to visit any states beyond New York. The accusations against him are endless and he has proved critics wrong and continues to do so with humility.
There is still a long way to go. I think the country has started a good fight in beginning to look more systematically at the qualities required by leaders to tackle the onerous problems facing the country. But the bigger question is, are we interested in who the politicians are or what they bring to the role? Does it matter whether they come from particular groups or are we more interested in whether they are capable of performing their roles well? And what do we mean by being an effective Member of Parliament or President? It is apparent that this is not something most Sierra Leoneans are unable to address. Why is integrity so difficult or is it something to do with the politicians themselves, or the political system they find themselves in? There is a natural tendency for the media to focus on perceived personality because this is a way of describing and labeling individuals. There is a Darwinian culture in politics that assumes ‘the best will succeed’- politicians will do well because of who they are and their innate qualities rather than the support or opportunities they are given. Clearly, politicians require skills, but the reasons why politicians don’t engage in training and development are fascinating in their own right.
Robert Louis Stevenson once said: ‘Politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary.’ I watched president Maada delivering speeches at the sidelines of the United Nations and other organizational bodies. Candidly, the president has grown in articulating the woes of the country. The president is not only making his party proud but the country; and that should be the cornerstone of the thoughts of all Sierra Leoneans. If president Maada is an ‘Abiku’ (stubborn spiritual child), he has proven it to the core. He entered Washington with pomp and pageantry, as if to say, ‘You said I will never enter Washington, but here I am. It is ironical that since assuming power, president Maada has neither delivered a national broadcast to the nation, nor has he paid visits to the rest of the country to thank and explain his policies to the people that voted him into power. Rather, Maada’s message to Sierra Leoneans is to thank all those who voted and did not vote for him. His message of reconciliation and dedication towards the national development should be clearly seen in his handiwork towards national politics, including his appointment to key institutions in the country.
Politicians have no managers- they are elected to represent and take decisions on behalf of their constituents. We may not always like the decisions they make, but we respect their right to make them. This also means that there is no single performance measure .As politicians have to mediate between multiple conflicting views about what is right or wrong; there will always be different views about their performance. This is why many politicians say that the election is the only appraisal they need. The recent demonstrations by some sections of the Sierra Leonean community in New York were a good pointer to our democracy. To some, it was an eyesore, especially to ardent supporters of the SLPP. To others, it shows that a president cannot do what he thinks is unconstitutional and not get checked. If President Maada is a listening leader, there is an underlying message of caution and nationalism conveyed by those standing in his way. The demonstration may not be to his liking, but he should now begin to rule Sierra Leone with the understanding that the world is watching his government and those steps should be taken to forge national unison and development. From the demonstrations, it is crystal clear that the country is polarized on party grounds. One does not need to be a scientist to affirm that most of the pro demonstrations are members of the opposition All Peoples Congress, whereas the anti is predominantly members of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party. The presence of reputable diplomat cum journalist like Rev Kabbs Kanu, and a host of APC supporters continue to remind people that politics is not a one way street anymore in the new dispensation. A party loyalist, Kabba Kamara of Maryland remarked, the SLPP demonstrated against former president Ernest Koroma at the UN Assembly and he smiled in response, so we are repaying SLPP in their own coin.
Although the 2018 general election is gone, it seems as if the country is still in electioneering mode. Philadelphia is like a microcosm of Sierra Leone in the diaspora with ardent, irate and faithful supporters of various parties jockeying for supremacy. A faithful supporter of the National Grand Coalition’s KKY in Philadelphia, Mamud Jalloh, commonly called ‘Ghanaman’ of King Jimmy store remarked that, the commission of inquiry will be a blessing for his party; as that would allow the people of Sierra Leone to see the qualities of their leader after the commission would have imprisoned most of the alleged corrupt politicians. To an ardent supporter of the APC like Abdul Kamara, commonly called CTK, the commission is a genocidal instrument aimed at exterminating the leaders of the party; thereby dismantling the core of the party before the next elections. For Yahyah Kallon of the SLPP, the party is just being transparent and laying a precedent for sanity to creep into the geo-politic of the New Direction.
The cornerstone of Maada’s message in his town hall message centers on eradication of corruption. He propounded on this menace throughout his speech and his determination will be tested as soon as the commission kicks off. In one of his messages, he informed his audience of individuals engaging in corruption with impunity and his determination to break the chain. Is the commission of inquiry an act of genocide on corruption? If it is a genuine genocide, then this will be a new dispensation in the country’s march towards national development. It should be a commission that should treat all accused with fairness, sincerity and considered innocent until proven guilty. The ruling government should not involve any member of the previous government on trips as alleged in the case of Musa Tarawalie, former lands Minister. It smirks of unfairness and suspicion.
I am not sure I could identify an ‘ultimate politician’ –they are all so different, and it just goes to show that there are many different ways to be successful in politics. Ultimate politicians are not afraid to recognize and deal with the demands of conflicted and complex environments. They inspire others to do better and strive for excellence themselves. What they do need to do better, however, is to build a far better public understanding of what politicians do, what realistically could be improved, and practical ways in which this might be achieved.
The people of Sierra Leone need ultimate politicians and not the glorification of politicians that borders on sycophancy. The media and their supporters should stop glorifying leaders and urge them to work in the interest of the people. Over glorifying leaders into ‘Pa Syndrome’ is the best way to destroy good leaders in Sierra Leone.
May God bless Sierra Leone.