Timbergate: a ‘Looter’ Continua

Random musing, by Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

In the midst of the verifiable achievements and the pillaging and abuse of the past years, there is a compelling need, like Sorious Samura has done in the current 'Timbergate scandal', to gainfully redirect the consciousness of Sierra Leoneans.

Because from all indications, it appears ninety percent of Sierra Leoneans are 'munkus'; five percent are 'semi-munkus' and the remaining five percent are the smart ones 'using' the rest of us as pawns and playing games with our lives, resources and common wealth.

We have always known that corruption is one of the biggest afflictions that this country suffers.

Worst of all, those in positions of power and authority have always been the worst perpetrators of this heinous crime, while making a fetish of their affirmed readiness and willingness to checkmate the scourge.

But the fact is that the ruling class is founded on corruption and thrives on the vice; which is the principal means of acquiring economic and political power. If you look around you, what you’ll see is that four years into the life of this administration, the most thriving industry is corruption.

Evidently, the precepts and actions of our leaders stand poles apart. And we discover that more than anything else, what they – our so-called leaders – need, is a SAT NAV to show them where their conscience is or should be.

I have always stressed that I just cannot accept, that the 'miraculous transformation' of the appearance and worldly possessions of those in power is an accident or the result of prudent spending of their hard-earned salary. On the contrary – I am very much inclined to believe that it is the result of very opulent conditions made available by public funds and dubious transactions.

This is what those who jump on the bandwagon of defending the indefensible should set out to counter.
Transparency and accountability are two principal components of public service all over the world and when these cardinal elements are missing, society suffers stagnation.

There are so many questions arising from the 'Timbergate' documentary – such as:

(a) Is there an iota of truth in the entire programme at all?

(b) Does the VP know the two gentlemen purporting to operate in his name and in what capacity as well as to what extent is their relationship?

(c) Why did the nation’s number 2 man even entertain such a discussion knowing fully well what the government policy was and the fact that a ban agreed by the cabinet in which he is a prominent member was less than 24hours away?

(d) Why did the VP promise to speak to the Agriculture minister?

Vice president Sumana facing anti-corruption investigation

   

(e) Aside the hogwash that it was because that ministry deals with timber issues; does it occur to him that such intervention and subtle pressure is a tacit endorsement of bending the rules?

(f) If the VP saw the team as genuine investors, why did he not discuss other veritable ventures that will be of benefit to a dying economy?

(g) Does it really matter where the meeting took place or the fact that it took place at all especially at a time that the economy is bleeding?

I cannot for the life of me believe that SLBC, funded by tax payers’ money could devote precious airtime to thrash that tries to cast aspersions on mundane aspects of the timbergate exposé, rather than debate the highlights and consequences of the revelation.

Instead of leaving no stone unturned in the protection of the sovereign wealth of the people and the constitutional and social responsibility of keeping an eye on governance, some segment of the mass media in an open display of depravity that borders on lunacy, degenerated to pettiness.

That for you is the 21st century journalism – in our dear country, and little wonder that we have continued to eat our future in the present, without any added value to governance.

So what the programme and its subsequent furore have done is to show what is still inherent in our society; that despite the lip service by this and previous administrations, the political class and the media are: 'six and half a dozen' respectively – when it comes to graft.

Today and amongst the people, those who were carried away by the pretensions and noise about anti-corruption when they were elevated to a state policy, have come to realise that the semblance of action on Kemoh Sesay and Afsatu Kabbah, were mere flukes designed to divert attention from the make believe.

For the avoidance of any doubt, I am not talking of those suffering from misplaced hysteria or who hero-worship and point accusing fingers for the sake of a plate of ‘ebbeh’ in whatever shape or form it comes, but those who have seen through the veil of deception and can smell the stinking dunghill. The stench has been pervasive for sometime but now, it is oozing without let or hindrance.

Timbergate is the opening salvo. That is why there is a dreary and discreditable pattern of denial and delay.

In one of my much earlier piece when the trumpet of the war against corruption first sounded, I wrote inter alia: "President Koroma may mean well and may be zealously determined to fight corruption, but the powers against the fight are formidable. Within his government and party alone, they surround him.

"Those who sold their houses to ensure an APC war chest; those who dabbled into unwholesome activities to raise money and those who sold their very soul in an enormous sacrifice were not blind pitching; they were making investments. Back in the real world, everything appears calculated because the approach to minimising corruption is not systematic.

President Koroma and vice president Sam Sumana

 

"If the messenger in a small office is corrupt, should we begin the fight from that level or from the top?
The answer of course is from the top because before the messenger can be brazenly corrupt, the boss must be corrupt. If the subordinates know that the boss does not condone that sort of thing, they will take caution." (RANDOM MUSING: THE POLITICS OF ANTI-CORRUPTION. 3/11/2008)

Analyse the timbergate scandal and you’ll see what I mean. Those using the VeePee’s name obviously are aware that when the purported investors meet him, nothing different will come out of Israel as he demonstrated by his lack of judgement

Earlier that year, I had similarly written that:

"While he is not likely to wear a garment of greed like most of our past leaders, Koroma should realise that one of the problem is that if a person becomes a public office holder by being dishonest, which includes buying position, there is no way he is going to become a saint when he gets there; no matter what piece of contract paper he signs as the President is mistakenly assuming.

"All that will happen is that he becomes more ingenious – because it is for that very reason that he invested heavily in being influential.

"If you put a saint in a whorehouse, it will take the grace of God for him to remain one. If you employ a thief as security officer it is you who has given the nod for your possessions to do a vanishing act.

"As for corruption, the truth is that whether you open ACC offices in every household or not, nothing will change except the very fabric of our society changes.

"True the country is seething with corruption and it is deep as it is wide. But it is as much pervasive in the highest level as it is in the lowest. The trouble is that the social, cultural and political disposition, about to be employed in fighting the cankerworm called corruption will at best, be like spitting in the air – it doesn’t go farther than the mouth". (RANDOM MUSING: 2/3/2008)

For my writings, I was labelled and called all sorts of names – some unprintable.

But apart from confirming the presence of the elephant in the room that we refuse to acknowledge, what the scandal has also revealed, is that fifty years after we cut the umbilical cord with our colonial masters, the only area we are truly independent, is in treasury looting, kleptomania and political deceit.

As it is, there is a general mistrust about public office holders because of the scandalous and unedifying antecedents of many individuals. These trends seem to be undermining the credibility of the few exemplary individuals, who have maintained sufficient moral decency in discharging their public responsibilities.

But fundamentally, the celebration of public office holders while in office is an anomaly that breeds corruption especially when twinned with the absence of an assessment process for public office holders during and after their tenures.

We therefore need to ensure that the masses have a role to play in ensuring that corruption is eradicated in the society. We need to keep drumming it into them and showing them evidence like the 'Timbergate' TV documentary why they should not just celebrate people because they are in public office.

We need to let them appreciate the fact that it is their right to assess public office holders when they are in office and not to run after them with awards they do not deserve in the first place.

But then we cannot ignore one factor why our leaders have elevated corruption to a way of life: POVERTY.

CORRUPTION has a mother called "POVERTY" and a father named "GREED". The maternal is the lineage of the masses, while the paternal has its umbilical cord in our top echelon of leadership across board.

Having been so traumatized that he has lost every sense of hard work and reward values, the ordinary Sierra Leonean finds it so easy to sing and dance on the street during political rallies and government functions for fees, crumbs and political appointments, than to bother about what is being done in his name. Those in power know this and play on it.

Our resources have been sold to foreigners at pittance and for generations unborn; yet it goes unchallenged by those who now find it convenient to debase a report that points to the unwholesome behaviour of some of those we entrusted our future to.

To tackle the graft malaise head-on, requires a root-canal cure. Let's focus on the right way to clip the wings of this cankerworm that has misdirected state money into private pockets at the detriment of the economy of our nation. No one, and I repeat, no one in government, especially those who refuse to openly declare their assets, is immune from suspicion.

Corruption will stop when politicians and political office holders are not treated as special class of humans and the rest of us considered second class citizens; when politics is not considered a higher profession than other services rendered by the rest of us – and politicians are seen as servants and not masters.

There will be an end to graft when no sacred cow truly exists and just punishment is meted out irrespective of class, status, position or contact.

   

When the goddess of justice acts with the blindfold on her face and strikes with the drawn sword no matter who enters the arena of justice and when every body – big or small, rich or poor, tall or short, dark or fair, Temne, Limba, Creole, or Mende, Lebanese or alien – are truly equal before the law.

When discrimination is considered unconstitutional and equity and justice allowed to take its course in the scheme of things, our society will experience a renaissance. When the thief is called by his name and not given a rousing welcome home with red carpet and celebrated like a hero from battle.

When we reorder our values and condemn what is condemnable and praise what is praise-worthy and Government becomes sincere about the fight against corruption, then corruption will become the exception and not the rule – and corrupt persons will feel ashamed for being identified with the accursed word.

Let me conclude with another reminder of a previous piece:

"Fighting corruption requires a very strong political will. The abuse of public office for private gains is and has been a scourge of politics. And in this age of dependence on foreign aid and reliance on international organisations and companies with money to burn, the opportunity for corruption has taken a more sinister image.

"Tackling the scourge will be the start of a long sanitization process. But how long do we want our society to continue to feel and smell dirty with the putrid smell of corruption? We all have to demand an end to the looting of our collective inheritance starting with those in the corridors of power, the helm of affairs, and in charge of our tills coming to the table with clean and equitable hands.

"The compelling burden of having to establish beyond reasonable doubt, that he is out to run a government of his beliefs and convictions, including fighting an inherently corrupt political, social and economic machinery, is basically Ernest Koroma’s; but one thing is clear, we must stop singing from the hymnbook of fraud and dining with the notorious agents of corruption so that Sierra Leone can at least begin to purr into life". (RANDOM MUSING: ERNEST KOROMA: DARE TO BE DIFFERENT PART 4: (2/3/2008)

Whether Koroma will succeed in steering the ship of state to a place of honour is not only the challenge of the moment but a critical benchmark, in the choice of where we go from here – come 2012.

awogordon@yahoo.co.uk

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Othman Sheriff
About Othman Sheriff 348 Articles
Born and raised in Kenema district, eastern Sierra Leone, Othman Sheriff began practicing journalism during his school days as a youthhood hobby. After studying mass-media and communication, Sheriff is now the Editor in Chief and CEO of Critique Echo Newspaper. While tirelessly using journalism as a tool to place his country’s socioeconomic and political landscape under a magnifying glass, Sheriff is deeply involved in community development projects. Over the years, Sheriff has formulated and implemented billions of Leones worth of development projects with funds from Europe and USA. He is chiefly focused on community infrastructural development and economic resuscitation projects, fostering interethnic, interreligious and sociocultural cohesion among the young population in Kenema district. He is a member of many international peacebuilding initiatives including the United Religious Initiative (URI), International Association of Educators for World Peace (IAEWP), Intercultural Leaders Network and Youth Solidary Fund program of the United Nations Alliance of Civilization (UNAOC)

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