Letter from Freetown : We must not keep quiet indeed ! !

As the Presidential , Legislative and Council Elections draw near, Sierra Leoneans have become busier than normal with their pens. Once on a while, we will reproduce some of their thrilling articles, depending on their importance to the current political dispensation in the country . The article below was written by one of Sierra Leone’s knowledgeable journalists , a one-time  BBC Correspondent in Freetown , Mr. Winston Ojukutu-Macauley. It was reproduced in the social networking forum, FACEBOOK, where we saw it.

Mr. Ojukutu-Macauley has been writing very bitingly critical articles against the present government , many of which we do not agree with, but we stand by one of the axioms of multi-party democracy that everybody is entitled to his views. This is what makes Sierra Leone a multi-party Democracy. As a democratic country, only morons like some people who write on behalf of certain opposition political parties expect us all to have the same views on national matters, which is an absolute impossibility. The woods will be be silent indeed ( And very boring and unprogressive  ! ! ! ) if only one bird sang.  There has to be a balance –Some journalists in favour of the status quo and some against it, while there are others who would profess to be independent and neutral ( Though even the best journalism books will tell you that OBJECTIVITY in Journalism is relative ,  just as SUBJECTIVITY in History is real  ). We have never disguised our views . We are on the side of progressive, productive , committed and outstanding Presidency.

We have reproduced Mr. Ojukutu-Macauley’s article here because it helps immensely to throw light on the kind of opposition party we have in Sierra Leone, its barrenness in as far as providing alternative socio-economic and political platforms are concerned, its negative and heinous tactics to depend on scaremongering  and unnecessary complaints to the international community , its refusal to take part in  the Conference on Transformation and Development and the lack of readiness of the military dictator Maada Bio to be the leader he is desperately hungry to be. These are points we have belaboured in our editorials and commentaries , but it is refreshing and educative to hear them  from somebody who has not been labelled a “sycophant ” ( Oh, one of the overworn epithets in the war of sloganeering ) . Mr. Ojukutu-Macauley also challenges other segments of society– The Bar and Medical associations, the trade unions, civil society etc–not to keep quiet in the face of allegations that threaten national security.  We know that SLPP supporters , who cried ‘Hossana’ yesterday when Ojukutu-Macauley criticized the government will cry ‘Crucify him ‘ this time that he has criticized their party, but what to do ? Life mut go on. READ  THE ARTICLE  AND TAKE NOTE :

Letter from Freetown : We must not keep quiet

Frequently in arguing with you by letter and sometimes on the road or somewhere around town, I have had to ask you to read what I say carefully before you rush to paint me GREEN or Red. The other day I enjoyed lecturing a dear friend I met in town who was quick to paint me Red when in recent months he was quite happy with my letters challenging President Ernest Koroma to do more, show strong leadership and authority and let the people know that he is still in charge.

One of the defects in our thinking when it comes to politics and journalism in most part of Africa is the deliberate reluctance by many to accept that one can be independent in their thinking, even IF they are sympathetic to a certain Party or group. I have been privileged to work in other parts of the world where you have journalists, police, and military officers, even bankers and educationist who are very independent in their thinking but are either members of a political party or sympathetic towards a certain party.

This approach to politics is gradually taking shape even in Ghana as we speak. Of course you have many, many journalists one cannot easily defend here in Freetown, when it comes to their methods and thinking or should I say their politics. This group is not unique to Sierra Leone, indeed, I would say they are still crude in their methods and thinking and that one should not trouble him or herself if and when you become a victim of their methods or approach. Believe me, as someone who has had the opportunity to work in a newsroom in London I have seen worse.

“The Press has to reflect the tastes and mores of the age. Either that or we die. We have to stand for election every single day. Get it wrong consistently, misjudge the mood and the paying public will walk away.”

Journalism, unlike the law and politics, doesn’t exist in its own hermetically-sealed bubble. We not only have to contend with the strict law of libel, we have to answer to our readers.
(Most if not all journalists are hard-working men and women who know their patch better than any constituency MP and local Councilor) “They truly understand the real world-which is more than can be said about politicians who run the country at present and the parliamentarians in parliament.”

Of course, our trade also contains cheats and chancers, just like any other line of work. But we are far more sober in every sense of the word, than I have ever known it. What worries me is the impression coming across from many quarters that journalism is cynical and slapdash for any kind of ethical code.”

Stop shaking your head in agreement. Let me disappoint you. This is abridging from the London Daily Mail commentary pages about ethics in UK media published recently. The author, Richard LittleJohn openly supports a political party but well guided by the ethics of the profession.
I thought I should engage you in this matter because over the past three days, I have had to explain to several people including a High Court Judge and an European diplomat (whom I shut up with a reminder of the French Press), that there is nothing wrong in Journalists taking sides, but that on security issues like the alleged “re-armament, deployment and registration of ex-combatants in the South and Eastern Provinces by the ruling APC,” the security of the State must be paramount. No amount of love for one’s political party should surpass the security of the state.

What His Lordship should be worried about is whether these allegations are true and real. Or whether the country’s main opposition- the Sierra Leone People’s P arty, (SLPP), one of the oldest in party politics in Africa has just got it wrong in their desperation for power? Don’t worry about journalists taking sides. Mistakes are made; we are human, but never underestimate the agonizing dedication that goes into the business of thinking and getting it right. I go through it every week; trying to get it right.

And what Sierra Leoneans should be worried about are the misguided people around the SLPP flag bearer. Who are coming across to me as still immature, and worst, gush at information given to them, by party officials, many of whom are yet to come to terms with the 2007 defeat? My dear brothers and sisters, we have a problem at hand; a President, who surrounds himself with “windbags” and the main opposition leader, being advised by desperate men and women who would do anything to gain power.

At this point, my mind goes to Edmund Burke on two fronts: firstly that “those who have been once intoxicated with power and have derived any kind of emolument from it can never willingly abandon it.” And of course those same people consider people like me as intolerable nuisance, because we challenge them; this is why Edmund Burke also warned that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil (like that Press Release), is for good men to do nothing.”

These are early days, but I wanted a guide, a cushion to fall on, just in case; so I took to the streets of Freetown on Wednesday to get the pulse of Freetownians over these allegations against the APC. I spoke to about 67 people (some did not stop). My question was simply. What do you make of these allegations? And the overwhelming reply was that this is fetid. And personally, I can’t stand the smell.
“Ex-combatants armed with weapons and other offensive instruments have already been ferried to Moyamba, Bo, Kenema, Pujehun, Kailahun and Zimmi.” Further down the release claimed that the government is planning “to declare a state of Emergency and thereby extending the tenure of the President beyond his five year term,” and worst still that
“The APC intends to provoke violence in the SLPP strongholds during the campaign and blame it on our Party supporters to have an excuse for mass arrests of our party stalwarts.”

Where is the Bar Association? Where are the Trade Unions? And hey, do we still have student union in this country; All of these bodies, do they really exist. Moreso, the Bar Association? Why is everyone always looking up to the Media, and then complain about the Media, and no one ever asks what has the Bar Association done?
An inherent problem affecting Sierra Leone today is a lack of real leadership, not just in the political sphere but within the Legal, Media, Medicine, student and of course the Trade Unions at both local and national level. Real leadership is being able to rally the common man and woman and all other sectors of society to face reality and progress. At this time, Sierra Leone is short of real leaders in positions of power and if one takes the next step, our reality is out of kilter.

The Press Release signed by Brigadier (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio, SLPP Presidential Nominee for 2012 Presidential Elections is a direct accusation that the government of President Ernest Koroma is planning anarchy just to stay in power. Does a mother/wife whose husband brother, son or child dies from banditry, malaria or AIDS grieve any less than a mother who’s loved one is killed by ex-combatants? SLPP winning the elections and regaining power (which they let go recklessly) at all cost, to govern is a wonderful drug but, that doesn’t make it a priority when you have accusations like these flying around.

I challenge anyone to say this is not a coherent and legitimate argument. I must confess, for a moment when I saw the Press release, I caught myself being sympathetic to their tactics But then woke-up and realized in truth, this is scaremongering. And what is so annoying if not horrifying about the allegations is not so much what the SLPP is claiming as the audacity to make them.

Mr President; “a popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or Tragedy; or, perhaps both.” James Madison. Talk to Sierra Leone … Mr. President … Talk to Sierra Leone like a leader should do.” If a nation expect to be ignorant and free … it expects what never was and never will be.” Thomas Jefferson … Are we ignorant and free Mr. President?

Sometime soon the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), need to get serious if Ernest Koroma’s government is buckling under the burdens of office (the elections are in November). Brigadier Maada Bio’s SLPP scarcely looks ready for power – spending too much time complaining to the International Community and being very creative about ex-combatant. Hit-and run politics is fine if you expect to stay in opposition. A government-in-waiting (as your party members usually tell us), has to come up with a few answers.
Like what would you do differently about the infrastructural work going on now? How would you address the ever rising costs of living; the poor conditions of living standards across the country, health, housing, energy and water resources, education and of course trade and industry.

Oh I almost forgot they lost their invitations to the Conference on Transformation and Development, so they were unable to contribute to the brilliant debates about how to create jobs and economic security for the hundreds of combatants, they want us to start getting all worried about again.

KEEP U TICK BEYEN DOOR OH….LONTA!!! Have a great weekend. No whisky and cigar for me this week … the combatants are coming to town near you … God Bless Mother Sierra Leone.

 

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