By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop)
Pardon me, readers. For I have forgotten where I saw or read this anecdote I’m about to retell. It involves former British wartime Prime Minister and one of the twentieth-century’s greatest orators and persuaders—Sir Winston Churchill.
Those who have read British history know that Sir Winston Churchill was an alcoholic. But if you are au fait with British media euphemism; I will safely say he was always “tired and emotional”. The tale is told of how a female British MP chanced upon him one day and exclaimed: “Mr Prime Minister, you are drunk!” And in a flash he retorted: “I know. But by tomorrow I will be sober. But you are very ugly, madam. And even tomorrow you will remain so”.
Again, pardon me for this sort of Sama Puawui Banya-ian intro. But from that anecdote, my point is: In life, generally, things are either temporal or permanent. Even the in-betweens are also either temporal or permanent.
That brings me to the rhetorical question of whether the Koroma-led administration’s blueprinted “Agenda for Prosperity” is crumbling or nose-diving. Candidly, it is not! But realistically, it might be facing some hurdles because of the ramifications of the current ebbing Ebola menace. But for someone to make sweeping generalizations and try to entirely pinhole that national blueprint on the basis of few lapses in some of the Pillars of that policy is like a Professor awarding marks to his students without even opening their answering sheets.
For the last two weeks running, I have been reading SLPP-leaning national newspapers with suppressed giggling because the erratic water and electricity supplies, in the capital city, have given them something to celebrate in the midst of their party’s intra-party squabbling. With derision, they gloated over such national mishaps as if doing so is one criterion for winning the Pulitzer Prize. They proclaimed, and are still proclaiming, doom for the very country which they intend their SLPP to rule in, maybe, twenty years’ time from today. One even sniggered in an editorial about “tales of the fastest growing economy” in the world (Friday 15th May, 2015).
Now to my argument. Before the Ebola epidemic, it was not the Koroma-led administration that first talked about Sierra Leone being one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Those that first gospel-nized it were the World Bank and other international financial institutions based on the revived iron ore and other economic activities that were taking place in the country at the time. Indeed, one of the sprinting economies in the world was snailed by the Ebola epidemic which bulwarked major economic activities in the country.
And for an editorialist to paint a sort of Joseph Saidu Momoh era picture of Sierra Leone in which “needy citizens would start queuing for everything” is like a sheep-headed student reading the Old Testament for an exam when the syllabus calls for the New Testament! This is because since the September of 2007 to date, there has never been any time when a fuel shortage goes beyond three days in Sierra Leone or when “needy citizens” queue up for the staple rice or essentials like soap and paste in shops!
This, again, brings me to the bread-and-butter issues (well, there is a difference between “bread-and-butter” and “bread and butter” without the hyphens) which another APC-hating journalist espoused in a “Special Commentary” (Monday 18th May, 2015). As I see it, bread-and-butter issues are subjective. But let me forget about subjectivity for now and concentrate on two of that writer’s bread-and-butter issues. According to him, “…Only a handful of Sierra Leoneans continue to prosper, whilst majority of the ordinary citizenry continue to wallow in abject poverty and misery”, and that “…the Government is busy propping up a very costly and failed project like the Mamamah Airport Project…”
Now, I will comment on that writer’s first bread-and-butter issue in a hypothetical manner. One of the reasons why I am not comfortable with capitalism with democracy as one of its appendages is the fact that in such a system, only a handful of citizens will prosper and will continue to prosper! This could be further illustrated by the United States of America. In that “land of opportunity”; only about 3% of the population are the super-rich while there are millions of citizens living in poverty and foreclosures are hunting and haunting many millions there. Even in the entire world; less than 100 people are wealthier than the rest of humankind! And that doesn’t mean the United States of America and all countries in the world are not operating based on principles of equal rights and opportunity.
And for a journalist to write that, “…the Government is busy propping up a very costly and failed project like the Mamamah Airport Project…” when a single foundation block is yet to be laid could be likened to a Professor awarding marks to his students without even opening their answering sheets!
The importance of the would-be international airport at Mamamah cannot be over-emphasized. Apart from creating employments for many Sierra Leoneans from the construction stage to even after its completion; it will not only open up the country to international trade but it will give Sierra Leone colourations of modernity. For the information of those journalists; the only reason why President Obama did not come to Sierra Leone on his historic Africa visits was simply because the facilities at the Freetown International Airport at Lungi couldn’t accommodate his Air Force One—the official plane of the United States’ President.
And most of the reasons adduced by those journalists, why they think the “Agenda for Prosperity” is either crumbling or nose-diving, could be liken to the drunkenness of Sir Winston Churchill and the ugliness of the British lady in that anecdote. For while the erratic water and electricity supplies coupled with their imagined fuel shortage are temporal; their anti-APC stance seems to be part of their journalistic DNAs.