Leadership is not about the next election but also about taking decisions that produce results for generations unborn; especially when you are leading a country. It was the toughest period of the late President Tejan Kabbah’s political career. The Revolutionary United Front rebels had battered every sector in the country; the economy was dead, civilians were butchered on a daily basis and the international community was on the back of the President to negotiate with the RUF. The Nigerian led ECOMOG forces were pouring arms and ammunition to ward off the menacing rebels on all fronts. The city, Freetown was besieged and was in pieces instead of peace. Against this backdrop of tough times, the late President agreed to work with the reclusive and stubborn Foday Sankoh of the RUF. Had Tejan Kabbah relied on his ego, the war would have raged on and on….. The rest, they say is history.
It was the early years of the Ernest Koroma presidency, when he took a notepad and walked down to the famous, STOP Press restaurant to meet the Sierra Leone People’s Party opposition strongman Jacob Jusu Saffa, who had spent an apparent life time criticizing the economic policies of former President Koroma. In his defense, President Koroma informed onlookers that he had gone to the restaurant to listen to JJ Saffa on some of his solutions to the economy. The gesture was remarkable of a leader and a statesman who listened and was ready to learn.
It’s nearly 50 years after the Watergate scandal, and Nixon’s ignominious departure from the White House was hardly a forgone conclusion. The Republican Party had stuck closely with Nixon even through the darkest days of the Watergate scandal. The lawmakers whispered behind closed doors about his guilt and even as public opinion polls showed Nixon was dragging down their party, they had toughened it out-past the indictments of his top aides, past the courts and batting back one attempt at obstruction after another. This continued even after Nixon’s attacks on and ultimate firing of the special prosecutor targeting him. It wasn’t until August 6, 1974, at the regular Senate Republican Conference lunch that Barry Goldwater spilled the beans that finally led Nixon to tender his resignation. Goldwater, even though he belonged to the same party as Nixon, confronted him and advised him to resign in the interest of the party and the country.
Goldwater informed other GOP members that Nixon had lied under oath and obstructed justice; and that it might be disastrous for Republicans in the 1974 elections. At 5:42 p.m., Goldwater walked outside to the press cameras at the White House and reported, “Whatever decisions Nixon makes, will be in the interest of the country”. Nixon subsequently announced his resignation in an address from the Oval Office and the long national nightmare was over… So you see why it matters to face the truth and allow history to etch your name in posterity?
During a recent AYV interview session chaired by Samuel Wise Bangura with the former presidential flagbearer of the National Grand Coalition Party, Dr. Yumkella, he manifested heroism by articulating some of the country’s worst economic problems and solutions. Dr Yumkella acknowledged some of the perennial problems such as bloated appointments, endemic corruption, systemic tribalism and most of the vices besetting the country. There is simmering lawlessness in the country, rumors of the auditor-general’s report being snubbed are rife and the wage bill is killing the economy. The interview conducted by Yumkella has opened a Pandora’s Box for the Maada presidency. This is not about the presidency or ego, but about galvanizing support from intellectuals to benefit the country.
n several occasions, Dr Yumkella cherished the idea of working with the president, provided he was invited or called upon to strategize for the benefit of the country. Dr Yumkella may not be a good politician but he is a wonderful technocrat. The offer from Yumkella to work with the government of Maada Bio should be a clarion call to serve humanity. There may be crooks in the APC party, but also, there are decent and qualified politicians in the party whose potentials can be easily tapped to develop the country. The country is for now stagnated with slow tangible developments.
It is rare to see members of the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party criticizing the leadership of the party for the benefit of the country. It seems to be a rare novelty for politicians to squeeze the truth from their own members of the same party. President Maada Bio may seem to be like another Donald Trump of the Republican Party, a lonely, brooding, solitary figure and a man of his party, a man who had learned and worked the levers of power in the military.
The Sierra Leone Peoples party itself is deeply different than it was in 1996. It is more uniformly conservative than the Tejan kabba era, and allegiance to Maada Bio is the sine qua non governing party membership. Today, the moderates who will stand and tell the president that the country is not being run on good administrative wheels are conspicuously quiet. President Maada seems to have chewed up and spat out of the party. In those days, politicians with guts will tender their resignations if the administration was not going in the right direction. Resignation has never been an option for some decent politicians these days; as principles have become an anathema. Nowadays, politicians don’t seem to stand for anything, and can fall for anything.
Mr. President, if Tejan Kabbah could work with Foday Sankoh to bring peace to the country, if Ernest Koroma could bring all tribes together in his cabinet to foster unity and inclusivity, if the late Thaimu Bangura could work with the Sierra Leone People’s Party government to bring economic development to this country, there is no reason why President Maada Bio should not call opposition leaders to a round table conference and move the country forward.
President Maada Bio should acknowledge the extraordinary services of other people, regardless of their political affiliations, as long as it is geared towards the development of the country. There are far too few people in the public eye today who have earned our respect, and even fewer willing to buck the trend of their party by standing up for principle. The president has a chance to do something grand and magnanimous. It would be another Maada shocker, but could win him many friends among opposition supporters. If we want to know the good from the bad, we should study a man or woman’s history of actions, not their record of intentions. A bad system can destroy good people. But the cure for bad politics is the same as the cure for tuberculosis; it’s in the open.
“A genuine leader should not be a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus” (MLK)
May God bless Sierra Leone?
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