President Julius Maada Bio and his Vice President Dr Juldeh Jalloh have recently concluded a major segment of their national Thank You Tour in Kono District which many and especially his supporters have described as a successful odyssey. The success of the visit has also been attributed to the organisational acumen of some sons of the soil including Dr Robert Chakanda (Deputy Minister of Planning and Economic Development), Mr Phillip Bona (former Coordinator for Labour Market Integration, Syrian Refugee Resettlement Programme, City Administration of Freiburg, Germany), the Mayor Komba M. Sam and Paramount Chief Sahr Y.K Mbriwa, to name but a few. Unlike the President, this was a home coming for the Vice President and the First Lady Fatima Bio, both of whom spent their playground lives in the district. President JMB (for energy efficiency), was thanked for bringing the Free Quality Education, and in his response JMB promised the people of Kono a state of the art University to be proud of.
But amidst the fanfare, pomp and pageantry, JMB took advantage of the occasion to reiterate his drive to rid Sierra Leone of CORRUPTION. It is no secret that among other ventures and policy statements, the fight against corruption has now become his signature stamp. There is no doubt in the mind of any well-meaning Sierra Leonean, that corruption has been our national Achilles heel on our path to development. Irrespective of your political persuasion, corruption affects all of us. The impact of corruption in our society becomes ironically and glaringly hurtful, when you consider that the resources coming from Kono alone, is enough to transform our country into a seeming paradise. If corruption hurts our country, it doubly hurts if you hail from Kono district; where the proverbial man is sitting by the banks of the river and still washing his hands with spittle; even after SLST and NDMC have left.
But in his drive to push home his anti-corruption message, JMB left a lot of tongue wagging, thanks to his choice of words during the ceremony. “Speaking about the commissions of Inquiry, president Bio said they are part of a genuine fight against alleged thieves. He emphasised that the commissions will not target any sect or tribe or region, but will investigate wicked people who have robbed the country of her resources. Anyone who stands in the progress of the Commissions of Inquiry will receive the stiffest resistance from me. There was not enough reason why the country suffered from the civil war, but if fighting is the last resort for the Commissions of Inquiry to progress and stop corruption in the country, then it is a rightful fight that we must do to ensure we eradicate thieving and embezzlement from politics,” the president sternly warned” (Thesierraleonetelegraph.com 19/01/2019).
Many would see this stance of determination as definitive. However, and in view of the political, social landscape and the current state of play, others would take issue with the use of the word “fighting”. JMB is accused of using the word “war” in his speech; to reinforce his determination to tackle corruption. We all know that words have meanings only in context. Unfortunately, the tendency for people to take words out of context can be irresistible; especially if is expected to make political capital on the other side. Some will be inclined to see it as a call to arms, although many would disagree with that assertion. Some people don’t even need an excuse to do so.
It is no secret that our two major political parties are engaged in an eyeballing contest, thanks to the pending Commission of Enquiry. Those in the Red Corner have marked their displeasure with calls to demonstrate. They feel that the commission is a Trojan horse to target APC members. Others have resorted to tapping into tribal and geo-political sentiments to shore up their support. While many would sympathise with the APC party’s call for fairness, transparency and justice, threatening violence could erode every credibility calls for such transparency and the rule of law. We can all agree that in our collective desire to tackle corruption, it is in the interest of all Sierra Leoneans that this is conducted in a fair, just and transparent manner; if the whole process should benefit from the credibility it deserves.
However, we cannot engage in such a necessary national issue by playing Russian roulette with the lives of our people. We cannot do so by engaging in trench talk. We need grown up politics, and not rely on so called artists to promote our policies by way of lyrical invectives on the airwaves; as if this is some hood culture. This is not gang warfare or turf war. The country deserves some grown up politics; at least. It is unfortunate that certain sections of our respective parties have openly threatened war. And they have done so by lacing their proclamations with tribal and regional sentiments. The fight against corruption is fast becoming a battle for the hearts and minds of the public. It seems like a massive PR exercise and battle of wills; as each party tries to draw its own red lines and digs in
With the stage now set for the commission of enquiry to commence, the majority of Sierra Leoneans just want to see the right thing done the right way. The hope and prayer is that all parties involved will do so without the need for adult supervision. But as if on cue, ECOWAS has just been engaging both parties to avert what many people are worried about. This piece is not aimed at generating or feeding into any doomsday scenario. It is not an advert for chaos; but a gentle reminder of our country’s penchant to attract chaos. Nevertheless, it stands to reason that any situation that will engender the memories of our decade long war is bound to send shivers down the spine. Sierra Leone cannot afford another senseless unrest. With all that had gone before, including the mudslide and Ebola, it is safe to say that we have seen and had enough undesirables for 9 lifetimes.
With the exception of a few coups, “revos” and political interregna, the SLPP and APC have always been the custodians of our political mantles. Since the birth of our new democracy, the baton changing has been generally peaceful between these two. We saw the SLPP handover to the APC in 2007. In 2012, although JMB contested the veracity of the outcome of the results, the APC continued to enjoy an unfettered second term; with little consequence. The APC has handed power to the SLPP, following the recent elections.
Unfortunately, the on-going debacle has left some people accusing the APC of its reluctance to accept the decision of the people. There are many people who would have sympathy for the APC’s call for fairness and transparency of the Commission of Enquiry. It is necessary to ensure that the Commission acts, or is seen to act above board. But it is also an entirely different thing to be seen as putting up gridlocks along the way to achieving a fair and democratic process. You cannot shake hands with clenched fists. One cannot achieve justice by violence. Violence as a way of achieving justice is not only impractical but also immoral. We cannot achieve justice by violence, because that violence kills exactly what it intends to achieve. In a democratic society, intolerance can be seen as a way of violence, if it becomes an obstacle to the true democratic spirit.
But interestingly also, there are people inside the political bowel of the APC, who believe that the party is suffering from political senility. There have been Chinese whispers from members calling for the old heads to make way for a new and young generation. This notion gained more traction when Korthor Ernest Bai koroma humbly apologised to, and took the blame for the party’s demise. Many had hoped that this was the turning point of the party, and that Ernest will hand over the reins of the party. With the APC party trying to log a road map for the next election cycle, there is a growing sense of political inertia between the young and the old. While the young brigade feel that it is time for the old hands to give way, the old heads still feel that there is a lot of wisdom left in those old heads to offer. What makes this angst glaringly obvious is when you take a look at the average age of Maada Bio’s government officials. You do the math.
Irrespective of your political persuasion, we should all endeavour to ensure that Sierra Leone is not held hostage by anyone. The people of Sierra Leone should not be used as human shields to shield the alleged crimes of the few. And nor should Sierra Leoneans allow our constitution be used, abused and misused as a political bludgeon. Yeah right. The blood of one citizen is not worth the price for such political insulation. Corruption has to be tackled but not at the price of the lives of the innocent. As Sierra Leoneans, we collectively promised “NEVER AGAIN”. NEVER MEANS NEVER.
We thank and welcome ECOWAS; for the adult supervision.
“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent” (Mahatma Ghandi)
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter (M. L. King).’
Don’t forget to turn the lights off, when you leave the room.