Wednesday August 3, 2005

When a couple of weeks ago the President of Sierra Leone, Ahmed Tejan-Kabba, announced to the people of Portloko, Sierra Leone, that he was tired and needed to rest, I could not restrain myself from giggling aloud. Suddenly, my mind became enshrouded in myriad of rhetorical questions: Tired from doing what? Tired from sleepily listening to fabricated reports from his cohorts without making follow-ups? Tired from avoiding potholes and gallops by touring the country in luxury helicopter? Tired from listening to the noise of his powerful electricity generator while overlooking the perpetual darkness of Freetown? Tired from organizing donor conferences? Tired from admiring other carefully planned infrastructure of the countries he visited? Tired from reading speeches that were professionally written by out-sourced speechwriters? Tired from being tired in his retirement job? The people of Sierra Leone will remember their tired president for tiringly stirring the ship of state for ten tired long years.

Rather unfortunately, the train of tiredness does not seem to end with our tired doubly retired president, but he is frantically, but tiringly, paving the way for another tired retiree. It seems as if all the tired, retired and recycled politicians and career diplomats have discovered that the best retirement job to have is the presidency of Sierra Leone.

As the 2007 election approaches, Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad must begin to perceive the office of their presidency from a totally different perspective from what has been the age-old misconception about the office. This misconception may have been propounded upon and epitomized by the country’s longest serving statesman, Siaka Stevens, who could be remembered as the pioneer of the kleptocratic form of government that has become so entrenched that the people of Sierra Leone will have to muster every atom of their energy to uproot it come 2007. In his usual comedian rhetoric, Siaka Stevens often remarked, ” An elephant’s head is not a load for a child to carry”.  But after deceiving many Sierra Leoneans to hold this fallacy as truism, it has astonished many that the head of an elephant is not a load for old, tired men, either.

Who then should be the ideal porter of this heavy load?

When the nation woke up one April morning in 1992 to find their State house peopled by young Soldiers, mostly in their early to mid twenties, there was jubilation everywhere with the short-lived hope that at long last the much adored philosophy of Siaka Stevens has been thrown overboard. Those military boys (who were actually mentally children in most of their exhibited lifestyles and comportment) however managed to institute an every-last-Saturday-of-the-month mandatory cleaning exercise that helped to give the country (or at least Freetown) a sanitation facelift. But when the baton changed hands again to old, tired men, even that minuscule sanitation accomplishment was undone rendering the country the highest in every negative index and the lowest in every positive index amongst the community of nations. 

Where then does the solution lie and which age-bracket is most suited to carry this heavy load that has now become much heavier than an elephant’s head? Of these two categories of people “children” and old, retired men, who have more stake in the affairs and development of the country?  When Albert Margai, Siaka Stevens, and Joseph Momoh (old men), messed things up, they did not live long enough to wobble in the mire that they had created. On the other hand, Valentine Strasser, Maada Bio and Johnny Paul Koroma (probably hiding in the thick tropical forests of West Africa) hopefully have time enough to live in shame and regret for their childish blunders for maybe another half of their current ages.

With this analogy, Sierra Leoneans must now begin to shift their emphasis from voting in old, retired men into the office of their presidency. Let us face it; why is there a retirement age for the civil service and other professions? The simple reason is that, at a certain age they are deemed too tired to carry on with their jobs efficiently. What makes us believe that if one if deemed unfit to carry on in other professions and jobs, he/she is fit for the presidency? Well, perhaps we have been led to believe that the presidency of Sierra Leone is the most relaxing job to do and thus the State house a retirement home. One major risk that Sierra Leoneans take in voting retired men into the presidential position is that because they do not have much time to live in the country afterwards, their primary focus would be to stockpile wealth for their offspring who would either be living in pomp and pageantry in affluent countries or live as demigods amongst the artificially inflicted poverty-stricken masses of the country. As I go to press, I have had cause to meet some of the children of these tired and retired presidential aspirants moving from one party house to the other, refusing to put in the needed time and energy required to make ends meet and cover their living expenses abroad. In fact, their standard of living surpasses most of the wealthy natives of their host countries. Apparently, these princes and princesses, rely on a free flow of remittance from their devilishly corrupt parents who preside over the plunder of the nation where the vast majority of the people barely get by a single regular meal a day. A country where the words breakfast, lunch and dinner are visibly absent from their daily vocabulary.

Fellow countrymen, 2007 must mark the discontinuity of this vicious circle. The SLAP party is not against old, retired people. As a matter of fact, SLAP has a comprehensive plan for retirees, pensioners, the weak and the invalid of the country. Sierra Leone under SLAP will be one that caters to the needs of every member of the society. The chasm between the haves and the have-nots will be considerably narrowed because every program or policy implemented would use the poorest of the poor as the common denominator.

What the SLAP party has to offer to fellow Sierra Leoneans is a hands-on and not an armchair leadership. A leadership that will get down and inspect the finest details of the implementation phase of any program or project. A routine, random and surprised inspection of all implemented projects will be ensured. The State house, which, up to now, is far detached from the reality on the ground and only receives, edited and doctored reports will be accessible to by all Sierra Leoneans irrespective of age and status. A hotline will be in place 24 hours around the clock not only to respond to callers’ concerns, but also to make swift follow-ups where necessary. In fact for anyone who sincerely desires the office of the presidency of Sierra Leone, not for the paraphernalia that surrounds the position, but to earnestly move the country forward, he/she must be prepared to put in at least 16 hours a day including holidays and weekends. He/she must spend at least 90% of the time in the country and getting off his/her seat to verify reports and ensure the progress and implementation of minor or mega projects. It is not actually an enviable position for anyone who honestly wants to do the job efficiently. For old, retirees, who lack the necessary vigor, energy and endurance, to opt for the position of president in Sierra Leone should cloud the minds of Sierra Leoneans with suspicion as to what their motives and goals are.

Fellow Sierra Leoneans, we have all often remarked, “first fool is not a fool, but the second one certainly is.” Remember, this is even more than the required number of foolishness that is required to make us fools. We are talking about almost half a century of trickery, lies and deception, which is more than enough to make us wise. Please let us show our wisdom in the 2007 elections by voting in able-bodied candidates for the Sierra Leone presidency.

For more information on Sierra Leoneans Advocate for Progress (SLAP) Party, please contact:

John Kanu

422 Mystic Ave.#510

Somerville, MA 02145



Phone: (001) 857-492-2200

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