By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop)
The Screamer was screamingly screaming blue murder. And to make the banner more screaming, the Salone Times newspaper of Monday 28 November 2016 coloured the headline in red—the official colour of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC). And to make the headline fearfully sharper, the newspaper gave a blue Strapline that was intended to make their historical comparison insultingly shrill!
And thus the Salone Times, under review, took nearly the entire front page to proclaim that: “A True Replica Of Momoh…Koroma Admits Failure.” And their premise for such fallacious statement was premised on some home truths which President Ernest Bai Koroma is alleged to have made last Friday at the Siaka Stevens Stadium, in Freetown, during the “Sierra Leone for Jesus Crusade”. According to that newspaper, the President “…stated that there are challenges everywhere in the country but that the people should have the same faith they applied during the Ebola crisis to conquer the economic challenges the nation is facing at the moment…” And President Koroma is also said to have called “on the people to sing the song: Have Faith in God” (page 3 of the Salone Times newspaper of Monday 28 November 2016).
Now my One Dropian argument: If one should closely look at the alleged statements of President Koroma, above, in their below-the-surface contexts (be they literally or figuratively or even biblically); nowhere could one find any admittance of failure. But rather one will find exhortations in the Churchhillian genre of marshalling the faithful in the face of despair. In their figurative connotations, such statements from the President could be compared to David Diop’s lines of the rejuvenation of hope (The Vultures) or the “Tree” in his poem “Africa”. And in their biblical-ness, the President was trying to energize his compatriots like the Negro spiritualists of yore; that wonderful things would happen to them and their country if they have faith in the Almighty God. So in disrobed English: He is expressing hopefulness and comfort which is quite different from an apology for failure.
But I can understand some Sierra Leoneans’ lack of proper comprehension of the Krio language because it is their second language despite it being the country’s lingua franca (not to talk of the English language which is their third!). But when the President says the nation is at present facing economic challenges; he is not admitting failure but being realistic to the prevailing circumstances in the country. He is only trying to call a sickle a sickle not a cutlass. By noting that there are challenges everywhere in the country; the President is exhorting Sierra Leoneans to work collectively in the nation’s march towards the Promised Land. And despite many Sierra Leoneans are at present weary because of despondency, President Koroma is simply telling them that faith in the Almighty God can move mountains; and that there is nothing insurmountable with God’s help.
And by asking his compatriots to have the same faith they applied during the Ebola crisis to conquer the economic challenges the nation is facing at the moment; President Koroma is also appealing to the collectivistic trait of Sierra Leoneans which they always exhibit whenever the nation is faced with a common enemy. If the President had gone to the Siaka Stevens Stadium and painted a pre-Ebola picture of the country, he would have been economical with the facts. But being a realist, he merely talked about the ailment and gave some prescriptions.
And it is a fact that Sierra Leone, under the sentinel of President Ernest Bai Koroma with his All People’s Congress (APC), was doing quite well before calamity struck. Sierra Leone had one of the fastest growing economies in the world when the price of Iron Ore was pyramiding on the world market. Infrastructural and agricultural projects were seamlessly ongoing countrywide before the Ebola epidemic eclipsed the entire country. Then the world market price of Iron Ore tumbled like Humpty Dumpty rolling down the Bintumani Mountain. But being a realist, President Koroma put in place and announced austerity measures to realistically bulwark further economic woes.
Fundamentally, there is a difference between exhortations and admittance of being a failure. Throughout the President’s discourse at the Siaka Stevens Stadium that night, at no time did he even infer of being a failure but incessantly provoked the religiosity in his compatriots. Asking his fellow citizens to have faith that the current state of affairs in Sierra Leone will be ephemeral, just as Ebola was, is not an admittance of being a failure. Rather, it is an optimistic echo by the President that Sierra Leoneans, generally, have the wherewithal to overcome whatever challenges they are faced with.
And to juxtapose former President Joseph Saidu Momoh with President Ernest Bai Koroma in the same context, on an issue that is unrelatedly unrelated, shows that that writer might have been short on descriptions. And to even remotely insinuate that President Koroma might be a replica of the late J.S. Momoh also shows that some SLPP-leaning journalists’ comprehension of both the Krio and English languages is as shallow as those pre-Colonial chiefs who tried to communicate with Slave Traders.
But as an unrepentant Koromaist; nothing surprises me anymore these days with how SLPP-leaning journalists and newspapers always try to twist the words of President Koroma out of context. They have cultivated the habit of transforming shining gold into dull copper. But one thing that is certain for sure is that: President Koroma has not failed; will never fail, and will never be a failure!