Our country has been gripped by the fangs of corruption recently. President Bio’s government has published its long awaited Government Transition Team (GTT) report, and to all intents and purposes, it does not make for a good bedtime story; by any standards. It goes without saying that emotions have been rife and flying about since the publication. There have been various opinions and reactions expressed, ranging from witch hunt, vengeance, and a set-up, blackmail and right down to partisan machinations to bury the accused’s political careers and their political parties with it. The central theme here is one of corruption, and there can be no surprises there. When the Bio led SLPP came to power, one of the first things he shared with the nation was that, Sierra Leones coffers have been ravaged to near bankruptcy.
It is no secret that some of the signature campaign pledges by the Biovistas was about free education, plugging leakages, and tackling graft. President Bio did not waste time in changing the guards and the rules of engagement. Under any political climate, it is natural that any change of government would usher in its own team. More often than not, it will involve replacements, dismissals, promotions, appointments and the like. Unfortunately in our country today, every such move has been met with suspicion, cynicism, and even paranoia. It sounds like every “new” in the New Direction has been viewed against the backdrop of sentiments like witch hunt, revenge, tribalism etc. The fact of the matter is that, if the Biovista is to achieve its contract and pledges to the electorate, it would need monumental sums of money to do so. So how would one expect the government to achieve these on empty coffers; if we are to believe the report?
This piece is not aimed at exonerating or blaming anyone in that report. As far as one is concerned at this moment, all those named in the report are presumed innocent, until proven guilty by due process of the law. As good citizens, although it is tempting at worst, we should try and avoid jumping to conclusions as to the veracity, the outcome and even the intentions of this report. As human nature dictates, it is difficult to resist the temptation to comment or express opinions; as I am doing now. I am Guilty. However, in expressing such opinions, we should all endeavour to do so RESPONSIBLY. It is rather unfortunate that as Sierra Leoneans, there is now a strong indication that party loyalties supersede national considerations; the new form of patriotism. It seems that every fabric of our lives is now being calibrated by the tenets and ethos of our political parties; and that is an unfortunate state of affairs. Interestingly, we have allowed the few to warp our minds into such disastrous limits.
Judging by the reactions of people on social and mainstream media, it is irrefutable that corruption has gone from a mere act of bribe to a complete state of mind and way of life. It seems to have become so acceptable that, any hint to tackle it is seen as a treasonable offence. We should not hide from the fact that the culture of corruption has eaten deep into the very foundation of the society in Africa in general, and in Sierra Leone in particular. According to Transparency International, Botswana is the least corrupt of the developing countries. About 20 years ago they were corruption free, but with growing wealth, corruption started to creep in. They combated it though tools such as a free press which went on to name and shame culprits by publishing front page photos with headlines such as “Is this man corrupt?” There is no indication here that the recent publication of the names of the accused is to name and shame. Like I said earlier, these are accusations, and until proven guilty, they are all innocent in a court of law. This is about a quest for ACCOUNTABILITY. So no wahala then.
Without reference to the on-going situation in Sierra Leone, there are some bitter, regrettable and brutal truths we should face as a people. Africa and corruption are synonymous, thus, our mind set is in dire need of immediate radical surgery. Sadly, instead of us fighting corruption, we embrace it. We all know that our leaders in Africa are the champions and midwives of corruption, and the rest of us can hardly wait our turn to plunder and exploit our national resources. But as long as the masses are still ignorant of their rights, corrupt and opportunistic regimes are still there, political conflicts continue as well as poor education systems, corruption will remain in Africa. There is a romantic saying that “power corrupts” but I believe that it is the fear of losing power that corrupts. Things have gone so bad that it is is now considered unpatriotic to denounce an injustice committed on our behalf.
As Sierra Leoneans, we should remember that there is only one Sierra Leone. We should not allow politicians to use, abuse, and misuse our emotions for their personal gains. We should not allow them to use our tribal persuasions to divide us. Like any lawful system and as their right, those that have been accused, including our former President Dr. Ernest Bai koroma have declared their innocence. If these people tell us that they have never stolen a penny from your child, we should respect that. If they tell us that monies that were meant to build good hospitals, good schools, improve sanitation, make good roads and give us clean running water, were appropriately used, we should respect that. If they tell us that capital from our natural resources was appropriately used to give us 24hr electricity, improve the standard of education in our country and the general standard of living, we should respect that.
If they tell us that, as a result of their hard work, our cost of living was considerably reduced to a point that every family in Sierra Leone has a guaranteed 3 square meal, we should respect that. If they deny owning massive mansions, deny selling government properties illegally, we should respect that. The accused have every right to deny any responsibility in the high mortality rate in our country. They have a God given right to deny any knowledge of the reasons for the high unemployment rate, especially among the youth in our country. With the best of intentions, if they buy 100 buses from our Chinese cousins, and these buses could not even last a year in service, what right have you got to blame them? Are they the manufacturers? One of our golden geese was never sold to foreign owners. We still have Sierra Rutile Company as our national heirloom. The report says that our local banks were nearly run aground by toxic loans taken by the big guys in the previous government; and when they say that this is not true, we should respect that. So when the former President said in his handover notes that he left a robust economy, I believe him. Did you see any Sierra Leoneans risking their lives in any dingy boats, just to get to Europe? Every accused should be given their day in court and a fair trial. So why the fear, or is it a case of the guilty are afraid? It is now up to the courts to prove their guilt, and up to the accused to explain their luck in attracting such alleged wealth, and hence their innocence. We know the salary scales, according to Kingsley Davies revised pay scale.
We know that money is truthful, but if a man speaks of honour, you should make him pay cash. Technically, corruption is authority plus monopoly minus transparency. By implication, that is exactly what the GTT report is asking for here; transparent accountability. But like Patrice Lumumba once said, the tragedy of Africa is that, Africans are in the business of canonising the thieves and demonising the saints. It goes without saying, that corruption is the enemy of development, and it must be got rid of. But if we are to succeed, the government and the people must come together to achieve such a national objective. Corruption should never be seen as our way of restoring our faith in our democracy. If we do, our country will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything. Today, we are faced with corruption and hypocrisy; which are becoming the by-products of our democracy. And that can only be sad for us all.
The accused are INNOCENT until PROVEN GUILTY. Justice must be done, and must be seen to be done. There is only one MAMA SALONE. LIVE IT & LOVE IT.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter (M. L. King).