Titus Boye-Thompson, Strategic Media & Development Communications Unit
Journalism has never been far removed from politics so when the two areas get into an entanglement with each other, there is the unyielding influence of power over Influence. The journalist would take the moral high ground on influence, as the profession sees itself as the conscience of the masses. The politician on the other hand is elected by the people to represent their interests in all spheres of life and particularly so in the socio-economic spheres where multiple demands of health, education and welfare are intermingled with the dynamics of favor and privilege. The politician by nature occupies power and exercises control over resources. The curtailing principle is how any actor would justify their actions within the realms of reasonableness and a duty of care for the sensitivities of the populace.
These are not ordinary times and for such extraordinary times, extraordinary measures are required. For the reason of the national impetus to remain focused on the fight to rid this country of the Ebola virus and its hemorrhagic fever that kills off our people in droves, President Ernst Bai Koroma instituted specific sections of the constitution culminating I n the promulgating of a state of public emergency. The provisions of the state of emergency are wide and flexible in respect to the sweeping powers attributed to the state and its institutions, the most frontal of these being the police alongside the security sector. The dichotomy between arrest and detention becomes more clearer and there is clear blue waters between the two. In effect, the President can order the detention of any person who is found to have contravened the provisions of the emergency powers he has accrued to himself. In that order, there is a presumption of guilt which in the circumstances outplays any attempt of mitigation on the grounds of a public right to know or contort.
The issues raised by the arrest and detention of David Tam Mbayo are therefore contemporaneous when considered under the specific circumstances of his behavior. There also other contributing factors and events that would tend not only to outstretch an interpretation of his motives but also rend another person complicit in the functionality of his act against the State. For that reason, those who would in any event draw parallels with the functioning of the state in a particular fashion and then redirect an allusion of discord between the President and his Vice do so to the detriment of the Vice President and unfavorably so. In the process, they abrogate any right of the Vice President to a dignified distension of his political office while in the throng of seeming to present a sympathetic approbation of his disposition. In short and clear language, some of those who act as if they are being sympathetic to the Vice President play into the wrong hands because in the desperation to make the President look bad in the eyes of the public, they present the Vice President as an emperor without any clothes.
The Office of the Vice President carries specific responsibilities and duties that impinge on the collaborative working relationship between the President and his second in command. Thus far, Vice President Samsumana had presented himself as a servile and pliant second in command and had given no reason or justification to be presented as an underdog in a game for which he is a major player. Until and unless he is given assignments by their President, Vice Presidents are known all around the world to be silent partners in the administration of State Government. No amount of public consternation can be attributed to a Vice President who is portrayed to be left in the shadows when on a very pragmatic level, that is not the case. At this time of a public emergency, the VICE President is expected to build his own niche for himself that is positive and proactive by coordinating different organs of State to rally round the Presidency to make a difference. It is significant that the First Lady, with no official position can generate sufficient interest by her stature to warrant the attention of foreign embassies and institutions in her own efforts to fight Ebola. If the argument always has to be taken as if it is a matter of the President versus the Kono people, then the grave mistake is the dismissing of the First Lady as a Kono person herself and the efforts she displays in not only seeking the Kono interest but rather in acting wholeheartedly as a person of status for the entire country.
Events of the past days have unfolded In such a besmirching of the Vice Presidency that he is no longer to be allowed the space to be himself because those who are supposed to support and protect him have opened him up to ridicule. The intransigence of some of his supporters and youths in Kono and the involvement of family members are in themselves debilitating acts that cause an unseemly wedge between himself and the President. The arrest of David Tam Mbayo is also regrettable because it would seem as if that was a targeting of the Journalist on account of his proximity to the Vice President. The fact also that the Vice President was on the very same program on an extended interview does not help anyone at all. Perfunctorily, people like David Tam Mbayo should desist from making their case a case of the Kono people because that is not the truth. Journalists and politicians are out there for themselves, to further their careers and o make themselves martyrs when things go wrong. No Minister shares his official vehicles with the beggars in his neighborhood so they should have no reason to look to the ordinary man for respite when they fall foul of the law. In the same vein, the Vice President now has an opportunity to disentangle himself from his Kono people and act as the Vice President of Sierra Leone. He should not allow any Kono person who gets into trouble to twist their estrangement to him as if their foibles represent a desire to fight his corner. Let no man fool you, the Vice President is an astute politician, capable of fighting his own battles, but the battles brought to his door by others are more difficult for him to decipher. This is definitely not a time for the entanglement of politics and journalism but one of national focus. This strain of Ebola is the most virulent in the world and it is playing itself in our theatre. This is the time for people of influence and authority to demonstrate a high sense of nationality and individual responsibility.