News bombshells are fast becoming a weekly feature on the Sierra Leonean psyche, and the politicians are taking up front row seats. If they are not manufacturing the news, the news is manufacturing them. While many continue to struggle to pin point the moral compass of those alleged merchants of death (Ebola Gravy- Gate) recently, the Vice President Alhaji Samuel Sam Sumana took, what he thought at the time was an exemplary action, to self-quarantine after his body guard died of Ebola. With our country still wallowing in the cesspit of our tarnished reputation, thanks to the Ebola-Gravy Gate (EGG), you would think that our nation will quarantine itself, and declare a national scandal-free week. But no. Our penchant to make world news, for all the wrong reasons is too tempting; and to do so might result in serious withdrawal symptoms.
The news that the “National Advisory Committee (NAC) of the APC Party has “unanimously decided to expel Comrade Alhaji Samuel Sam Sumana from the party, pursuant to Article 8 of the 1995 Constitution of the party for anti-party activity, fermenting violence, deceit, false statement amounting to fraud, inciting hate etc. and you name it, he did it….” (Party Press Release) has come as a shock to many Sierra Leoneans. If one of the reasons for expelling Sam Sumana from the party was for “false statement amounting to fraud”, many would wonder at the irony that the party has unintentionally generated here. Talk about casting the first stone. Conventional wisdom has it that, political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and by so doing gives an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
To all intents and purposes, and at face value, The APC Party seems to have expelled “Comrade” Sumana (didn’t realise he was a communist) largely on the grounds of MORALITY. But what these chief rabbis of morality may be missing here is that, the morality of a political party must grow out of the conscience and the participation of the voters, and not just “a few good men”. The news of Sam Sumana’s quarantine cum expulsion has generated as usual, a lot of running commentaries in both the mainstream and social media. It has been met with raised eye brows, cynicism, conspiracy theories and the odd shrug of the shoulder. While some have seen it as APC’s way of burying bad news in the wake of the Ebola Gravy- Gate (EGG) scandal, others have just heaved a sigh of déjà vu; and that this latest chapter is a re-enactment of the Siaka Stevens and S. I. Koroma musical chairs. The difference is that S.I. Koroma, like Boxer in “Animal Farm” was not expelled but sent to retire in the knacker’s yard. This is not intended to sound alarmist, but this latest twist in the APC political circus could be seen by many as an affirmation of the notion that “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace in a continual state of alarm”. The sense of déjà vu that this latest chapter of the Ernest Bai Koroma Leadership has generated is understandably causing some palpable unease in some quarters. Among other issues, the timing of the bombshell has been in sharp focus here. Some rumours have it that Comrade Sam was planning to jump ship and form a new Political party; and that the APC decided to take control and push him before he jumped. Comrade Sam has since denied the above. The idea that “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies,” comes to mind here. If a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and that is moral, then it is not a political party; it is merely a conspiracy to seize power. These are some of the concerns that may be sweeping through some political corridors with conscience.
With the pain of the Ebola Gravy- Gate (EGG) still raw on people’s minds, many see this latest dose of political gymnastics as the government’s way of deflecting attention from the EGG saga and a way to bury bad news. As the ruling Party of the day, no one is relegating the importance of the internal wrangling of the APC party to the back burner; but many well-meaning Sierra Leoneans might just be as keen to know who and who were constipated with the Ebola Gravy, as what Sam Sumana had for lunch yesterday.
The expulsion of Comrade (according to the press release) Sumana may have come as a surprise to many; but what is surprising is the surprise with which the news has been treated. To all those who did not see this coming, a diagnosis of political myopia would not be far-fetched. I am sure that Comrade Sam must have seen the writing on the wall for the “unkindest cut of all”; and many expected an “et tu Brute” (Sorry Ernest) sequel to this tragi-comedy of our politics. After winning the 2007 election with a near landslide majority, having VP Sumana as Running Mate for 2012 was seen as a no-brainer. But we were instead taken on a whirlwind guessing game of The Messiah’s Running Mate. It took up to the eve of the elections before the President declared VP Sam as his Running Mate. The electorate was treated to a political orgy of speculations; as the position was prostituted from pillar to post by the rumour merchants. If that was a demonstration of confidence in his VP, then turkeys will be voting for Christmas every week.
The alleged rift between the President and his VP was played out in miniature, by their respective media gladiators with perfect impunity. We saw how Tam Bayoh of Monologue fame and Sylvia Blyden, the then Special Executive Adviser (of cabinet rank, she always hastened to add), publically lambasted each other on behalf of their supposedly political paymasters. What was nauseating about all this was how the VP and by implication, his office was ridiculed with perfect impunity. He was publically described among others, as “mago-mago” by the President’s Special Executive Adviser. You wonder how many Heads of States will preside over a junior member of their office publically insult their VP with such reckless abandon. The writing was on the wall for everyone to see. It was just a matter of time before the final curtain was drawn on what looked like a politically arranged marriage.
Talking about marriage brings to mind one of the most openly kept secret rumours of the Ernest Bai Koroma’s leadership. Many have always questioned how Comrade Sumana got the position of VP in the first place. He was not one of those household named political stalwarts. There are some APC grandees who saw and still see him as a usurper that came from nowhere and claimed what some of them see as their rightful position. If truth be said, Comrade Sumana may have been known for a lot of things, but politics was the least to many. So when he became the Vice President to Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, the rumour merchants have always seen his meteoric rise to the APC high table as a payback, for allegedly “bankrolling” the 2007 APC Election campaign. But that is for another discussion.
A cursory look at the reasons given for his expulsion is bound to leave you thinking that the APC party is scraping the bottom of the barrel here. We may not be privy to the dictats or internal investigations, but the party will need to do better than that; if it is to convince its critics or the sceptics that this was a genuinely conceived move. If comrade Sumana is expelled for falsifying information, that ironically brings into question the integrity or calibre of those who presided over this falsehood since 2007. Are we inclined to question the judgment of some people? If so, can we trust these same individual/s to make sober judgments and decisions in our name? Are these the same people who will attend the UN Assembly of Nations and speak on our behalf? Or did this apparent lapse take place in exchange for the alleged bankrolling feat? Hmmmmmm. These are the kind of questions and rumours, not mine, that are doing the rounds in the social media circles.
But what are the potential ramifications here? Comrade (their title, not mine) Sumana received the news of his expulsion while in quarantine. Many will see the timing as not only an “ET tu brute moment”, but also as an act of kicking a man even when he is down. Some are questioning why the committee could not wait until his life was declared safe from Ebola. What was the emergency here; or was it a case of boxing with his hands tied behind his back? Comrade Sumana may not be on everybody’s Christmas list, but this latest episode is bound to get him some sympathy brownie points from some quarters. True to form, his latest response in the media seems to fit in perfectly with the “look at me, I am a victim of a witch hunt” framework. Talking about framework, the political barometer in the social media seems to gyrate towards the notion that Comrade Sam was suited and booted. There are some who have been so incensed that they have resorted to using industrial language aimed at specific individuals. Some expletive responses are so bad that you would need a fresh set of alphabets to come close to reproducing them; something I strongly abhor.
Comrade Sumana’s response was well anticipated. No one was clamouring for a war cry or militant response. I am sure that many of his supporters and sympathisers alike, were hoping to get a robust and dignified response from him. If his response on 98.1 FM was anything to go by, his followers will feel let down by now. It was limp, drooling, apologetic, patronising, and was just 2 centimetres from grovelling. He kept referring to the President as his boss, his brother –in law (Komaneh), his president, as if we needed a reminder. He professed his undying love for the President, his commitment to respect the decision of the party etc.
So to those outsiders who appear to cry more than the bereaved, his response seemed to ask “watin na una yone pan hog money?” Many will see his response as coming from someone that is hugely indebted to the President and the APC party. These things happen in every walk of life; and people can become subservient, indebted, patronising, and flattering, especially if they find themselves in positions that were not gained on merit. His performance has been equally reflected in social media circles, as the barometric readings seem to move from low to high pressure areas.
With this kind of political landscape, it looks like the parties will be devoting their energies to prove that the other party is unfit to rule, come 2017/18. The politicians will do their best to make their selfish desires seem like the national interest. They will try and come as good politicians; which is as unthinkable as an honest burglar. Many will conclude that the APC is just a reflection of the world we live in. We live in a world where finding faults in others seem to be the favourite blood sport. It has long been the basis of political strategy. It is the theme of the media and it sells newspapers. Our default setting is to look for imperfections, whenever we meet someone, especially in politics. In politics, there are no permanent friends, just permanent interests; for Duty has no sweet hearts.
Don’t forget to turn the lights out when you leave the room.