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Every now and then a conversation starts with a new friend with a topic as ordinary as the weather.  However that same conversation is likely to lead to an eye opener.  So it was over the last holidays for me.  It was a small get together, good enough for conversing without screaming. (Photo: Sewanu Kponou)

As Usual?    

I came across a fine, retired gentleman, with whom the usual pleasantries were exchanged.  As is customary for immigrants, the conversation quickly turned to the motherland, Africa and Sierra Leone in particular.  The usual incidences of disgusting behavior of our compatriots, on whom the heavy mantle of leading was assigned to, quickly took center stage.  We went through the usual personal experiences of corruption, nepotism and the like.  I got exposed to new twists on a familiar problem.  The conversation was becoming very familiar when he started down the path of sycophancy.  Not that I was not familiar with sycophancy but in this instance I was taken aback by: a) the level of government at which it was been practiced.  b) the level (perceived) of education of the individual practicing it and c) the timing of the sycophants reaction.     

Opinion Please?  

A slight background is necessary.  A certain Minister in Freetown wants to impress his friend of many decades, the fine gentleman from the diaspora, by giving him audience with our President, H.E. Ernest Koroma.  After pleasantries, amongst other topics, Mr. President proceeds to ask the gentleman his opinion on what he, the gentleman, thought of the trash and filth problem in the city, and what solution he would offer.  The gentleman started out by stating that what he saw was a lack of organization of the operation etc.  He was, by then, giving the President a small brief lecture on what was essentially lacking in the city/country.  Fortunately Mr. President was being nice and attentive.  At some point the Minister, got agitated and started elbowing his friend.  The visit finally came to an end and Mr. Minister and his gentleman friend took their leave of His Excellency.  Immediately the friends were out of earshot of the President, Mr. Minister started to chastise his friend for been so blunt with the President.  When the fine gentleman asked whether he had stepped out of bounds, Mr. Minister replied saying:  “No, but you should not tell Pa such bad things, especially about the inefficiency and all that.”


This type of response shows how it is possible that our leaders are surrounded by people who do not want to face reality.  One wonders what is, believed to be, achieved by not letting the President know that things are not going on quite well?  This was coming from a Cabinet Minister who had pretty decent paper credentials (cannot quantify personality). In fact during a meeting with same minister in F’town in 2009, he openly bragged, to me, that he was the best ever qualified for his position since 1961 (Independence).  Shamed to say that he was re-assigned during the last reshuffle.  One also has to wonder how much of the cabinet and senior members of the administration act like Mr. Minister?  In a scenario like this can the President (Pa):  1)  Claim that he relies on people to give him the right information, when things go wrong?  2) Is the President supposed to be able to tell “yes men” from the progressives?  On ques. 1): The final decision rests on the president and unfortunately all errors under his/her watch rise up to greet him, and as such it is very difficult to claim innocence.  The hiring and continuous assessment skills of the President is always at work and the President has to be on top of his game in making timely mid-course corrections.  On ques. 2):  If the President does not have the ability to tell the types of personalities he is appointing then there is a problem.  If we assume that the President got to the top of his game by getting a good read of his inner circle then there is a further question.  Were the appointments made due to the appointee’s ability to praise sing, or was it welcomed by the President, when later discovered.?  Regardless of what the answer to the last question is perceived as, the idea of the President been surrounded entirely by “yes men” is something that is very worrying for any country.  Let us pray.

By:  Sewanu Kponou, Atlanta, Ga.

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