By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop)
Last Thursday evening, my four-year-old son asked me to buy him a comedy movie so that he could amuse himself. I told him to wait any time the SierraLeone People’s Party (SLPP) call a press conference he could, certainly, have some sort of comic relief from it. And as fate would have it, on the next day which was last Friday, the SLPPcalled a press conference at their Wallace-Johnson Street headquarters and its members saved me some money which I would have spent on buying a comedy movie for my son. Because the entire press conference smacked of a typical Nollywood comedy; my son who was watching it with me on SLBC (SierraLeone Broadcasting Corporation)’s “News Hour” that day nearly laughed his sides out. And what could be more comical than the SLPP putting up imaginary airs ofbeing the chief sentinel of transparency and accountability in Sierra Leone?
The SLPP itself is as opaque as a shrouded dark night. Not so long ago, the SLPP played Russian roulette when its former Leader and Chairman, John Oponjo Benjamin, accused the SLPP 2012 Presidential candidate, Julius Maada Bio,and his running mate Dr Kadi Sesay of siphoning thousands of United States Dollars and millions of Leones from campaign funds. He accused the duo of lack of transparency and accountability. The gun was then passed on to the duo who also accused Mr Benjamin of lack of transparency and accountability inrelation to party funds of yore. And soon it became a merry-go-round of accusations and counter-accusations of chronic corruption and corrupt practices within the SLPP.
What could be deduced from the above is that the SLPP, as a party, doesn’t have any moral authority to lecture anybody on transparency and accountability. Orto put it mildly: The SLPP is living in a be-glassed house which means it shouldn’t be asking people to hurl stones when it is incapable of casting the first stone (with apologies to my Muslim readers for that Biblical allusion). But, unashamedly, the SLPP is trying to play the role of a sinner playing the part of asaint in a drama written by the Sierra Leonean electorates.
Theirs could be compared to the fabled monkey in Ayi Kwei Armah’s novel, “The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born”, who while climbing higher to defecate on people’s faces doesn’t know that the people have seen its buttocks and have already turned their faces in disguised laughter! And with “disguised laughter” most sane Sierra Leoneans are now receiving the SLPP press release of Friday 28 October 2016. This is because some of the
claims in it are not only laughable but untrue. One example is where it is stated that, “In 2001, the SLPP government suggested in Cabinet to sell government quarters.
After careful policy review, the SLPP government realized it was noting [the] public interest and therefore abandoned the decision to sell the government quarters…” But the question now is: Was it not the SLPP government under the late Ahmad Tejan Kabbah that mortgaged the Low Cost Houses at Kissy Mess Mess, east of the capital? And had the SLPP won the 2007 General Elections, the OAU villas at Hill Station would have gone underthe gavel. If you think I’m sexing-up things here you can ask Mr Kanja Sesaywho reportedly modernized the OAU villa he was occupying with the understanding that it would be sold to him after Solomon Berewa would have won the presidential election! So, the SLPP can tell it to the Marines that they“abandoned the decision to sell the government quarters” not me. And one of the most laughable sections of the SLPP press release, under review, is where they state that “The SLPP is prepared to work with government to design a bi-partisan 20-year National Housing Programme….”
This could be considered as a tongue-in-the-check suggestion because the SLPP had the opportunity to design a national housing programme for 11 years, especially after they realised there was need for it. But they didn’t do it. Instead, they were busy disbanding the national army and arming a tribal militia—the Kamajors—with the aim of furthering the SLPP’s supremacist agenda! And now they are talking about bi-partisan collaboration because the grapes are far away from their grasp. No thanks! It is an All People’s Congress (APC) government; and the APC will do things its way because majority of Sierra Leoneans believe the APC way is much better than the SLPP way. And the SLPP’s talk about “high public spending on ostentatious [services]” is very disingenuous to say the least.
When the APC took over in 2007, Sierra Leone was in a dilapidated state. District headquarters and other big towns had shrunk into villages with bad roads, no pipe-borne water or electricity. Hospitals and health centres were in states of disrepair. Several districts had been disconnected from the rest of the country. Travelling to Kono or Kailahun oreven Moyamba was a life threatening venture. Where would one have started? If the APC government had started in the southern parts of the country the eastern parts would have complained, as would the North and Western Areas; given the country’s political physiognomy. The Koroma-led government then decided to do a national infrastructure development programme and had to stretch itself utilising whatever it could raise from taxes and extractive. The price was, and still is, high but development everywhere comes with a price.
Today, Sierra Leone looks five times a lot better than how she was before the September of 2007. The Free Health Care has made tremendous impacts despite the challenges and downright sabotage from
some SLPPers within the system. And, at least, Sierra Leone is no longer carrying the moniker of being the Darkest City in the world. Though the SLPP is now trying to make political mincemeat of the Koroma-led administration’s investments in infrastructure by describing them as “high public spending on ostentatious [services]”; yet it is better to spend oni mproving social life, generally in the country, than on buying arms and ammunition for a tribal militia—the Kamajors! Or is the SLPP now playing the fabled fox and the grapes?
If SLPP members cannot even run their own party or produce a proper audit report since 2012 todate; I’m still wondering how they intend to be a credible opposition after thenext General Elections.