Sycophancy: The Mother of Idolised Leadership.

Abdulai Mansaray, author

Some of us have read with some interest the recent piece by Dr. Yahya Kaloko, an APC stalwart, who has called into question “the behaviour of some in the leadership of our country”, and “the depth of their patriotism to the motherland”.  Dr Kaloko acknowledged in his piece, the looting of our country’s wealth by those who have led, sworn to protect and be more concerned about the wellbeing of Mama Salone. According to Dr Kaloko, his particular concern for my country and party-the APC, at this moment is the whereabouts of Ex-President Koroma.  Dr Kaloko makes a very good case to question the whereabouts of former president Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma; especially with the modus operandi. He further makes an attempt to diagnose the current ills that are facing his APC party in Sierra Leone. In his piece, many will agree with him that the APC is experiencing a leadership vacuum; and hence his battle cries and rallying call for a “new and effective leadership, to fight the good fight in opposition”. To all intents and purposes, Dr Kaloko has left us with the impression that the APC is currently a rudderless ship with all sail and no anchor.

There are many people who would share his sentiments, observations and his call out for a repairman. There is no doubt that for our democracy to be effective, functional and viable, our country needs a viable and vibrant opposition. It is the lack of such opposition over the last decade that effectively handed the erstwhile government the audacity to act with so much reckless abandon that plunged our country into near bankruptcy in the first place. The absence of such opposition gave rise to sycophancy at an unprecedented level. It is no secret that in the last decade, Dr. Ernest Koroma had been transformed to a political demagogue and had by default, become Mr APC. Ernest was APC and APC was Ernest. Period.

Many would recall that in the 2012 elections, the only campaign mantra in town was “De pa don woke”. It was not surprising that 4 for 4 became the favoured slogan. Even local and parliamentary elections were not about what the government or the APC party had achieved but what Ernest had achieved. It was all about Ernest Koroma. Most of the APC politicians were readily just too happy to hang onto the coat tails of Ernest Koroma and benefit from his “popularity”. They had nothing to offer the electorate by way of their own individual contributions to the country. There was nothing to show for their relevance in our political blood stream. And so it came to pass not surprisingly though, that with increasing power resting in the hands of one individual, a false sense of infallibility became the ultimate hubris.

During the nomination process of flag bearers for the respective parties, the APC party pretended to give us a semblance of democracy at work. Many were allowed and even encouraged to throw their hats into the ring; only for one man, and one man only to SELECT the flag bearer. If you ever needed proof that Ernest had been allowed to become the life blood of the party, you didn’t need look any further. As if to buttress the point, Ernest appointed himself as CHAIRMAN FOR LIFE of the APC party. Not even Pa Sheki, the founding father of the APC party accorded himself such a title or grip on power. Interestingly, the APC cabal were just too happy to toe the line. When the going was good, all hail and praises were showered on the leader.

Interestingly, even though Ernest was on the verge of leaving office, even though the recriminations that followed the selection of the APC flag bearer were unsavoury, not a single soul raised their head above the parapet to question or protest. Ironically, Ernest became the first causality of the SLPP victory; as all blame for the loss of the APC was placed firmly on his shoulders. And Ernest has big shoulders. It is no wonder that Ernest subsequently promised to step down as the CHAIRMAN FOR LIFE, in the run up to the run off. That must have come after a bout of serious soul searching, you would guess. Sadly, it was too little and too late to change the direction of the wind in the sails of the SLPP. It was this same sycophancy that was the modus operandi of the APC party that turned out to be their political hubris. The sycophancy bred a sense of infallibility in Ernest, and that was largely the final nail in the coffin. His flatterers helped him climb up the tree, and are now taking the ladder away. One lesson to learn from the sycophancy that permeated the corridors of the APC party is that, flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver.

If Dr Kaloko’s piece is anything to go by, it stands to reason that he has engaged in some serious soul searching of late. Sadly, you may question why it took him so long to come to this conclusion, when the facts were glaringly staring at the party? It is better late than never though. What is worrying about Dr Kaloko’s rallying cries is the suggestion and use of the word battle. I am aware of the semantic or contextual implications. However, using Mohamed Kamarainba’s recent brush with the law as a yardstick to measure support for his party or patriotism could be seen as an unwise allusion. As a democratic country, as law abiding citizens and as well-meaning citizens, we all have the inalienable right to assemble. We have the right to peaceful protest. But should we be worried about tapping into plebeian mentality?

Is Dr Kaloko denying that corruption never took place in the Hajjgate scandal?  So what happened to all the monies for the mudslide and Ebola money? During the last decade, is there no evidence to indicate corruption in our country? The very important message here is that CORRUPTION is vile, it is rampant, and as a nation, we are corrupt, full stop. Corruption in our country is not the monopoly of one political party, one tribe, one religion, one region or otherwise. It has nothing to do with whether you support Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool or Kakua Rangers. No single entity has patent rights over corruption in our country. We may not want to admit it but either way, we are victims or perpetrators of corruption.

When Ernest launched “Agenda For change”, he had corruption in mind. When he launched “Agenda For prosperity”, he had corruption in mind. When he sought parliamentary muscle to empower the Anti-Corruption Commission, corruption was central to his plans. When he demanded an attitudinal change to our national psyche, corruption was the theme. During his early years in power, Ernest Koroma set up commissions of enquiry to address corruption in our country. He promised that there will be “NO SACRED COWS”. The outcomes of those commissions are anyone’s guess. 

So what is actually different this time; Maada Bio’s signature? Why has it become a treasonable offence to investigate corruption in our country? Has corruption become so normal now, that it is abnormal to investigate corruption? We have witnessed how predatory elites have ripped off millions of Sierra Leoneans and got away with it over the years. Is that how we want it to be? Should this behaviour be our standard operating procedure? Should we allow this to continue and pretend that corruption never takes place? Don’t we need and want a leader who would at least, attempt to stem the tide of this kind of behaviour?

 At this point, it is worth remembering that President Maada Bio and the SLPP are not saints themselves. But if President Bio and his government are trying to address this perennial problem, shouldn’t we canonise them? Nevertheless, President Bio and his government have a responsibility to pursue this noble act with all the honesty, sincerity and fairness it requires. If the president can pursue this with no tribal, political or regional calibrations as alleged, any attempt by his detractors to weaponise tribalism, religion, political affiliations, or use human shields to mask their corrupt practices would be rejected by well-meaning citizens. Justice should not only be done, but seen to be done. If Dr Kaloko and his band of brethren are asking you to take to the streets in defence of their alleged behaviour, ask yourself one simple question: Dem bin gee me dae?

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

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