So here we are at the weekly letter, and very glad I am too; but Heavens- how the days run so slow, don’t they? When I was in London I used to count the days and long for the end of the week, so of course time flies; now a-days when one has go to through so much discomfort physically and intellectually, the whole thing goes on cruelly slow. The hours crawl, whilst the days just sit and wait for one to suffer intolerable nuisance, sycophancy and windbags, on top of unforgiveable acts of inefficiency on the part of some of those who want to govern this country.
‘Help!’ I hear you muttering. Is he going to moralize me this weekend? Cheer up; I’ll try to hold it in. But you know, it is dreadfully annoying when one has to go through some of the things even yourself complain about from time to time, but I will hold my peace, thank God it’s Friday and I look forward to my weekly Johnnie Walker and a good smoke and some quality time with my three Princesses.
I hope you are not alarmed about my topic at the top of the letter? You see, I have discovered that in the political arena of Good Ole Mother Sierra Leone, we have “the Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” all fighting to have a piece of the cake instead of adding to the cake or make the one on the table now more tasteful for all to enjoy.
As most of you will attest, I have been too hard on our dear President since we started this discourse. But that I have never hid the reasons for my displeasures. Indeed the other day at the office of the Conference of Transformation, I met a certain eminent Professor who was in town to support the conference. I had gone to the office to register and BINGO!!! There was I seating down for almost two hours having a conversation with the Professor. He would not give me the interview I begged for several times but can say, “the President is a good man but has too many windbags around him.” OMG!!! I HAVE SAID IT.
Well, those of you who have been engaging with me in this my humble corner would agree that I have always expressed the same sentiment about those around the President. And that I have always faulted the President because he is the one who gave these people a coat of undeserved respectability.
“I have been in town for three days and I have met nine cabinet ministers, seven of them are windbags and only two impressed me with their conceptual thinking about the way forward,” the Professor said to me and three others in the room. I jumped from where I was seating and demanded to know these ministers.
“Oh Ojukutu,” came the cry from one of the other gentlemen in the room. “Sir,” I said, as I took out my tape recorder, and a copy of AWOKO. “Just a ten minutes interview about the conference and your views about present day Sierra Leone,” I pleaded. “Sorry Mr. Ojukutu-Macaulay, but no interviews, let’s give the President more time,” he said, as I put away my tape recorder. But I don’t give up that easily. “Tell us” I demanded, “Who are the two Ministers that impressed you?” He looked at Mr. Massaly, and the two other gentlemen in the room and said, “that chap at the Labour Ministry, Hindolo Tyre, he has some brilliant ideas, I can work with him anytime.”
“Ok,” another Professor in the room said, “give us the nine names and let us sort out the good, the bad and the ugly for ourselves.” I turned to the Professor and quietly said; “Surely, a request from one Professor to another is bound to go down positively.” No chance. No more disclosure and of course no interview, but the conversation went on for another one hour before I was kicked out of the office by a dear friend.
So you see my dear brothers and sisters (Yes, No more ‘old Boy’ I got my head bashed the other day by a darling friend who happens to be a lady and almost stamped my weekly letter “Return to Sender”), but as I was saying, I am not the only one who has noticed the undeserving authority and respect some of our government officials continue to enjoy in this country. Indeed, the last straw poll I took, just after Maada Bio was elected as the flag-bearer of the SLPP, the main concern of all those who continue to support the President was the team he has appointed to work with him.
So the question that begs for an answer is this. Does the President enjoy sycophancy? This question became more troubling for me last Wednesday morning after a text from one Alpha Khan, to Radio Democracy trying to lecture the nation about the Office of the President and the Respect one should extend to it.
According to the Oxford dictionary “Sycophant is a person who flatters someone important to try to gain favour with them.” In other words, Sycophancy is the process of using flattery to win favour from an individual wielding influence. This is also known as supplicating in social psychology. Also, Sycophants are usually pretenders which may also be referred to as strategic self presentation.
By all accounts most of our leaders, even lesser ones, derive joy and satisfaction from flattery and praises, they love and worship titles like the cases of Euthyphro and Socrates, ancient characters where Euthyphro deified himself and proclaimed to be God while Socrates remains intelligent but very humble. Most often than not, people who criticize are often vilified, attacked or even sometimes lose their jobs for thinking otherwise.
Many Political leaders dead and alive, and now struggling to come to terms with their present status can attest to the evils of sycophancy. Not so long ago one of the nephews of former Egyptian President Mubarak complained bitterly to a London Newspaper that all his uncle had around him were nostrum, and that this is what is now responsible for his present condition. President Siaka Stevens died alone at Kabasa Lodge, after over 18 years of praise and worship that he was “a great man.”
I remember very well when Shamsu Mustapha was first appointed by Siaka Stevens as deputy minister of economic planning and devlopment. I was just a cub then….plying the streets of Freetown with no worry about tomorrow, except the battle with my late old man, who wanted me to be a doctor…..How could I, when I had no brain…..and now no respect for authority.
The Ministry was then based at the old UN building opposite Electricity House at Siaka Stevens Street. I took the lift up to the floor where Shamsu’s office was. On arrival I asked the security for direction, he took me to his secretary. After all the niceties, I asked her, “Is Shamsu here?” She turned and looked at me, and pretended not to have heard me. I asked again.
“Oh di Pa nor cam yet,” she said. “No” I replied. “I am not talking about Dr Kanu; I am talking about Shamsu, the deputy minister.” I told her. “Na im Na di Pa een.” she said. I looked straight into her eyes and told her, “Shamsu no to Pa,” with that I walked out of the office. But what that illustrated then was the rush to extend sycophancy in the guise of respect and say it’s our tradition. Rubbish, “row-to rata.”
The daily praises of leaders and treating them like semi-Gods in newspapers, radio, is a bad example of how sycophancy has drowned our governance. Today, the swiftest way of gaining advantage is to become a sycophant and praise our leaders, to high heaven which is inimical to our development. And this runs through in all walks of life, from leaders wives, to student leadership, traditional, music, religious (I can a few), even families, corporate institutions and many others. It is bad for democracy, it is bad for business, and it creates unhealthy relationship between families, friends and even the Gods.
Last week, I argued that few politicians ever get the chance to reshape society at a time of fracture and other palaver, especially amongst the ruling classes. And that I see no signs of imagination from the President to change this country. And I also had doubts about the Transformation Conference, simply because it is elections year.
This argument seems to have created some excitement in certain quarters, leading to foolish naivety at several kindergarten of journalism. Please note, I do not belong, and have no plans to belong as I left Kindergarten many, many, many years ago. If and when I chose to belong, please let me be the judge of that timing and place.
Still on the issue of imagination, President Koroma proved me wrong this week, whilst the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP), under the stewardship of John Benjamin and (Rtd) Brigadier Madda Bio, showed their ugly face again. Vexing over violence and kidnapping in court and trying to drag others with them.
Meanwhile, President Koroma was at Miatta presenting a picture of what Sierra Leone should look like in 20 to 50 years time. Advancement, prosperity, plenty of water, modern energy and of course better standard of living for all. And telling all of us that Sierra Leone belongs to all of us and it is only us who can change it…….Where was the SLPP…..? To challenge anything the President said. No where my dear brother and sisters. This is bad and ugly.
The message from the President at the opening of the conference was visionary and I am told the Vice President (not everybody’s favorite person these days) too was brilliant at the closing ceremony. But where was the opposition SLPP, and their “brilliant technocrats and learned gentlemen and refined ladies?” they always talked about.
I suspect they were in court talking, vexing over violence and kidnapping? I don’t know, should in case any of you found out the whereabouts of JOB or the retired Brigadier, please let me know. This is a very ugly business, for the opposition to be so weak and always complaining whilst President Koroma is showing leadership in grand style. And you tell me you don’t understand why people like him….. Have you ever watched “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”?
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