Where the APC has made a difference’, moving the debate further
I am challenged to make a response to Diaspora-based Sierra Leonean, who has taken me on; after my comments in this Column on what had been written earlier by a Niger Republic-based Sierra Leonean, Idrissa Conteh, a.k.a. “Atomic Pen” (one time Editor of the local Concord Times).Â Â Atomic Pen’s article – titled, “Where the APC has made a difference” – has generated a lot of debate in local newspapers, and in cyberspace. One of the most prolific writers in the country today, the octogenarian medical doctor and politician, Dr. Sama Banya, in his own Column, wrote about his “disappointment” at the supportive stance I had taken as regards Atomic Pen’s writing lauding the achievements of the governing APC.
Let us continue with this debate dispassionately, devoid of character attacks.Â Nwafo Nwanko, in the book, titled ‘Press and Politics in Africa’, and edited by Ritchard Tamba M’Bayo, et.al, wrote, ‘One of the most useful socio-political functions of the press is to extend the scope and promote the quality of political discourses…’In recent times, the Sierra Leonean press has actually extended this scope and there have been serious political discourse on issues of national concern, not least, the current political discourse on ‘where the APC has made a difference’Â
In Hassan Lahai’sÂ response to what I had written earlier -Â on ‘where the APC has made a difference’ – he raised a number of points which, in my view, need serious consideration and calls for a continuous, honest and sincere political debate. For the sake of time and space, I limit my arguments on just two points. One has to do with the performance of the SLPPÂ government of then President Kabbah’sÂ – as regards Kabbah’sÂ prosecution of the civil war (or rebel war); and Kabbah’s stance on galloping corruption in his government.Â Then, Hassan contested my opinion that President is so loved by people in Sierra Leone that he is clearly the most popular President in Sierra Leone’s history.
On the aspect of one praise singingÂ a government or a leader, andÂ my brother, Hassan Lahai thus referring me asÂ one that cannot ‘… reduce his fatherhood to the state of dramatizingÂ whatever he does for his two year old daughter’, I can’t go beyond saying that, there Â is a social and family contract between myself and my daughter to ensureÂ she gets; say, the best of educationÂ and when once I am successful in doing that, I see nothing bad in me, saying, ‘I have educated my child’. And this I shall definitely do when in the future, I shall have ensured, my child gets educated.
Now, just for the sake of putting the records straight; what is bad, if one says; this government has performed well during the last couple of years, as compared to the SLPP government?Â There has been dramatic progress in government under President Koroma. I cannot, for one deny the fact that there are key challenges that this government still has to overcome, but the fact remains, they are making a mark. In my rejoinder to the initial article by Atomic, I referred to the aspect of public communication which has been excellent with this government, but, was in my view, somehow lacklustre during the tenure of President Kabba.
My brother, I am not implying that the ex-SLPP government never performed. They did perform, but the fact is, when it came to public communication, all they did was to ‘exile’ the then Minister of Information, Professor Kai Kai who could have performed well under that regime, if they had given him the needed support.Â What about that, brother Lahai?
I will now turn my attention to the aspect dealing with the fight against corruption; it is a well known fact that writing the history of the ACC in Sierra Leone will not be complete if one fails to mention that it was during the SLPP regime that the institution was established to among other functions serve as an independent commission to investigate government corruption. The SLPP government created the ACC with sober and good intentions which I shall never challenged. But let us move a bit further; you pointed out a number of serious cases which were prosecuted by the then government. But honestly don’t you think it is a serious political mark for any government, to have allowed the ACC to prosecute matters of corruption on its won without referring to the Office of Attorney General foe legal advice
My brother Lahai, you were disappointed that people have ‘…lavished praises on this regime for merely strengthening the act to give prosecutorial powers to the Commissioner…’ Two points here my brother; one: don’t be surprise, and two, don’t refer to the decision by government as being ‘mere’. No, people were also going to give the same accolades to the then government if they had allowed Joko Smart or Val Collier to prosecute matters of corruption independently.Â In my opinion, it was a serious and risky political decision taken by the current government to grant prosecutorial powers to the ACC, giving the ACC teeth to fight corruption, whilst the SLPP yanked out the teeth of the ACC by dismissing Val Collier, and replacing him with an in law of President Kabba, who was sent their to ‘sit’ on many ACC cases being investigated against top SLPP partisans. This is my opinion.
And I guess you know why Val Collier was dragged out of the ACC; in my opinion, it was a conspiracy then to ‘kick’ him out of office; he had referred to some parliamentarians as ‘contractors’; that was how his political death started; when I once asked him if he is now enjoying his job as the Public Service Commission, he answered in the affirmative.
On the popularity of Ernest Koroma, I think the less we talk of this issue the better; I need not refer you to investigate when President Koroma, without any security escort, would walk majestically along AbachaÂ Street, ECOWAS Street, etc. and the ecstatic greetings he would receive from the throng of sellers and buyers in these busy thoroughfares.Â My brother, I have not argued that our recent ex-President was not popular. No!! He was popular as well and still loved by the populace; and in fact I recall a story about how ex President Kabba (h) was driving along Kissy road a couple of months ago, and a little girl saw him, and shouted ‘Pa Kabba!! ’, He was almost mobbed by a cheering crowd. So, in simple words, our ex-president was a popular man, but his popularity is dimmed by the overwhelming popularity of President Koroma.Â
As I end, may I inform you, my brother that, nobody has ‘forgotten so soon … to say the SLPP did nothing…’ Some of the achievements of the SLPP were institutional reforms that led to the creation of vital national institutions like NASSIT and NRA.Â Â Â The SLPP could not give us the promised bridge to Lungi, could not give us 24 hour electricity in Freetown, but, they did what they could do – that is ending our civil war; and stimulating democracy and relative freedom of the press.Â Â The SLPP could have done much more if only they had checked uncontrolled corruption by some of their ministers and directors in government agencies.. Again, may I state that the eleven years of civil war should now be put behind us as excuses for not doing this or that..Â The war came to an end in 2002, and the then President was in power till 2007.
May I implore on you, my brother to keep the flame burning and to as well state that, I have my right to take on issues of national concern.Â William T. Stead once wrote that ‘…The can’, that it is not for journalists to do this, that, or the other, is inconsistent with any theory of civic responsibility. Before I was an editor and a journalist I was a citizen and a man. As a member of a self-governing community I owe a duty to my country, of which the sole measure is my capacity and opportunity to serve her…’
I have friends in government, I have friends in the opposition; I will meet and discuss with them, I will call John Benjamin and ask for his reaction on issues, the same I will do with a government spokesperson. So, I am not under any duty to praise sing any body… But the point is, when somebody does well, he should be commended so that he can perform more than the way he did be he would be praised… Indeed, there is a social contract between the rulers and the ruled but in this contract, it is incumbent on us as the ‘ruled’ to tell the rulers that ‘you have been directly, although there are areas you need to look at.,’Â ‘If you speak to a deaf man in a whisper, you might as well have spared your breath. If his house is on fire, you are justified in roaring the fact into his ear until he hears; and it is just the same in journalism.’Â With that, may I extend my season’s greetings to you Brother Hassan Lahai.
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