By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop)
The Fullahs have a proverb which, when loosely translated into the English language, says, “A man cannot be running and at the same time trying to scratch his foot.” What that means in my One Dropian disrobed language, as usual, is that an intelligent man who is results-oriented does one meaningful thing at a time.
That brings me to today’s One Dropian dropping. The Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) government of Julius Maada Bio has been proverbially trying to run and at the same time try to scratch an itching foot. And in always trying to achieve such a feat, the Bio-led administration has repeatedly been inducing laughter in situations where laughter is being regarded as a sign of lack of good taste.
Imagine while President Paul Kagame of Rwanda was launching the first ever high tech smartphone factory in Africa; our very own President Bio was turning the sod for the construction of a “tapalapa” bread bakery at Wellington, east of the capital. If I should translate that into figurative terms: it is like while students in China are trying to perfect their drone experiment; lecturers at Njala University are explaining the nutrients value of Cassava Leaves to two-year olds. In plain English: the launching of the high tech smartphone factory in Rwanda and the turning of the sod in Sierra Leone for a bakery do not only show both leaders’ preferences but their mind-sets of where they want to position their countries in the league of progressive nations.
And whereas Abiy Ahmed, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, has won the covetous Nobel Peace Prize for “his efforts to foster peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Sudan and South Sudan and Ethiopian ethnic conflicts”; our own President Bio seems to be implementing policies that appear to be creating chasms amongst ethnic groups in Sierra Leone which might have cataclysmic consequences for the future.
And I was glad when, during the turning of the sod for the would-be construction of a bakery at Wellington, President Maada Bio made a Freudian slip by stating that those Sierra Leoneans who were posting the stabbing and wounding of their compatriots on social media were scarecrow-ing potential investors. Maybe it is because the Head of State is a careered soldier that is why he might be unfamiliar with what professional journalists call “news value”. If a mentally-ill person like “Blacka” could be allegedly stabbed and wounded, by alleged SLPP supporters, for simply making political statements that sounded gibberish; then I think such postings on social media fall under the category of “human interest story”.
And I don’t know if President Bio has come across what is called Social Realism? (I know he might have, considering the fact that he was once a PhD Candidate.) And what might have been posted on social media might not be sexed or doctored photos. They might not even be morphed videos. They might have been pictures of what the pictures really are. Hence the concept of Social Realism coming into play!
And I am, humbly with all humility and respect to the Office of the President, disagreeing with President Bio that posting the plights of victims of politically motivated stabbing and wounding in Sierra Leone on social media will scare away potential investors. If that is the premise on which the president is trying to build his case for the seemingly investors’ disinterest in Sierra Leone, after his countless travels abroad seeking them out, then I will have to remind him that in the United States of America and other countries in Europe social media are bespattered everyday with postings of stabbing and wounding, and even mass killings, yet investors flock to those countries in droves.
I am not in any way justifying the postings of stabbing and wounding of Sierra Leoneans by Sierra Leoneans on social media. But as Chinua Achebe noted in his novel, The Arrow of God, “… a man who brings home ant-infested faggots should not complain if he is visited by lizards.” And I think the first step for the Bio administration to solve this investors’ barrenness is for them to employ The Pied Piper of Hamelin who knows how to catch rats effectively. In my figurative opinion, foreigners who want to invest in printing papers will never think of building a warehouse in a rat-infested country. `
The above is just a hypothetical aside. My point is: genuine investors will always avoid a country in which the government will just wake up one morning and terminate contracts without looking at the contractual small prints in those contracts. No sober-minded investor will go to a country where thugs will storm polling stations and overturn ballot boxes with the ease with which a cow chews elephant grass.
And there is a Chinese proverb that says, “To see what is right and not to do it is the part of a coward.” That’s exactly what is currently happening in Sierra Leone, which might be one of the reasons why investors are treating the country like an Ebola-infested leper! A man cannot be seeking a woman’s hand in marriage and expecting the bride’s parents to pay her pride price. He has to be man enough to do the right thing.
And talking—sorry writing—about being man enough to do the right thing. Common sense tells me that if I am faced with a choice to construct an airport complete with a new city for about $450 million and that of constructing a Bridge from nowhere to nowhere for a cost of about $2.1 billion; I will not hesitate to choose the former even if I am an ignoramus!
And why would any government with strategic thinkers even think of terminating a four-berth project at an established and well-known quay in the capital with the aim of building a $500 million second seaport in the bush? But I can understand the predicament of a carpenter who is tasked to do a welder’s job.