A Torchlight Newspaper Feature culled from the COCORIOKO FACEBOOK FORUM :
There is this salacious (or is it?) social-media joke about a 70-year-old man asking his wife if she is jealous whenever she sees him chasing young girls. The woman’s response is a classic, “How can I feel jealous when I know that even dogs chase cars they can’t drive?”
It’s a similar response we got from an APC loyalist when he was asked whether he was bothered about the recent SLPP vilification of the government of President Ernest Bai Koroma over ‘the state of the economy’. He merely quipped in the old elementary-school poetic refrain of Isaac Watts, “Let dogs delight to bark and bite, for God has made them so…”
That really sums up this whole debate of the sudden seeming resurgence of the SLPP as an opposition trying to win hearts and minds that they cannot win.
PRESIDENT KOROMA FAR BETTER THAN ANY SLPP PRESIDENT
The grand old party has lost all credibility in the eyes of the public simply because it has no moral ground to stand on. The people of this country have witnessed a de facto one-party state over the last eight to nine years where if President Koroma had wanted to be a dictator would have done anything and got away with it, just because there is simply no opposition. The APC has had to most of the time create its own opposition from within on certain issues for the good of the nation.
All that the SLPP cares about is selfish aggrandizement wherein its leaders are too willing to take perks from the ruling party and too enthusiastic to fight and stab each other physically and politically – literally and metaphorically.
So let no one tell us about an SLPP renaissance. Spare us the thought. Please give us a break. Because we know, as history has taught us and as the present situation shows, that the worst APC is far better than the best SLPP.
The SLPP brought a war upon this country (the man who started it with Liberia’s Charles Taylor, Alie Kabba, is now one of their flag-bearer hopefuls), fueled that same war ( President Tejan Kabbah told us that Maada Bio stole lots of money and gave fake military contracts to his brother Steve Bio to siphon the nation’s wealth; and then we found out that Bio’s own sister Agnes was the right-hand lieutenant of Foday Sankoh, the ground commander of the RUF killer-machine), extended that same war (by arresting Sankoh after hoodwinking him about peace talks in Nigeria and then inciting a so-called coup against Sankoh when he had sent representatives to Freetown for peace talks, thereby angering the RUF fighters led by Mosquito Bockarie – related to Emerson Bockarie?- to further unleash mayhem on defenceless citizens), and then shamelessly abrogated praise to itself for the end of that same war when we all know that Kabbah was literally forced by America’s Rev. Jesse Jackson to settle for peace and taken away to Lome when the whole SLPP was baying for more bloodshed (… For God has made them so, obviously). And they doubly shamelessly had the effrontery to extend their term in office for the same war!
Invariably, we would have thought that at this time (when, according to their own terms, the economy is in ruins due to the Ebola war), the SLPP, if it were a serious opposition, would be at the forefront to call for an extension of the term of President Koroma – even if only for the fact that the development that Kailahun Court Barry has seen under him has never been witnessed in that SLPP strongest stronghold’s entire history and should crave for more. But also – if it had foresight – the SLPP would have seen it as an opportunity to buy more time to try to really put its broken house in order before elections, so that they can at best peacefully participate in an election that they certainly can never win. Yet they are busy shouting against a government which, in their hearts of hearts and on their pillows, they know has lifted this nation from the Kabbah-tiger kingdom of darkness to the light of the bright shining sun.
So this country is not bothered by the gasps of an aged, ailing SLPP trying to denigrate the current enviable status of Sierra Leone’s transformation. When we see the 70+-year-old Chairman of the SLPP, Chief Somano Kapen, losing breath on television in the vain bid to condemn the government over the current ‘austerity measures’, we laugh our sides out and smh (the social media parlance for ‘shake my head’ in disbelief). A man who has lost all credibility in the eyes of his party’s membership (they locked him in a car for several hours and had to be rescued by the police) and who is surviving on the life-support-machine of an extended term in office cannot sit at home with his grandchildren and tell them Temne stories, but is busy making himself a clown for all to see as he talks about things he knows nothing about? But of course even dogs chase cars they can’t drive!!
You, Chief Kapen, talking about a failed economy? You, Chief Kapen, talking about a failed leadership, when your SLPP is in ruins and fighting over who has stolen how much millions? You, Kapen? Remove the log from your eye first before you can talk about the speck in the eye of your brother! Come on, Kapen, we are not impressed; we are not jealous (ha ha ha this old woman’s response was actually classical) when a 70-year-old is chasing young girls – allegorically!
The SLPP is totally blind to reality. Only the SLPP cannot see this government’s pre-Ebola development strides, opening the country to foreign direct investment and getting commendation for the new registration safeguards introduced with fast-tracking mechanisms of quickly setting up business, attracting multi-million-dollar investments that saw thousands and thousands of our compatriots gaining employment, attracting large-scale companies like African Minerals, Socfin, Sierra Rutile, London Mining, Addax Bio-energy, to name but a few. Only the SLPP and its surrogates cannot see how the road infrastructure projects have connected cities, interconnected towns, and solidified borders so that a pre-2007 journey of 7 hours has been reduced to three hours, thereby facilitating the quick movement of people and goods.
Only the SLPP would ignore the fact that this government has increased the inherited Le21,000 minimum wage to Le500,000 and has never faltered in paying salaries – a far cry from the SLPP days when workers would go for months without being paid. Only the SLPP will disregard the huge life-saving benefits of the free health care for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five (which saboteurs have tried in vain to undermine), a programme that has succeeded in securing the lives of future generations at their most vulnerable stage. Only the SLPP can’t acknowledge the great strides in the educational sector under the APC, moving Njala University to its Makonde campus (having been forced to relocate to Freetown due to the Alie-Kabbah-created war), the virtual elimination of the ghost teachers left behind by the Tejan Kabbah administration, how school-feeding programmes have been reintroduced after last being seen under the first APC, and how the girl child is being supported from primary school through university. The SLPP can’t talk about the once ‘darkest country in the world’ now having a regular supply of over 150 megawatts of electricity, as compared to the SLPP’s less than 20 megawatts, which was not forthcoming anyway (they can now complain about high tariff when in their days the word ‘tariff’ was replaced with ‘Kabbah Tiger’). Etc. etc. etc. Et cetera. Only the SLPP can’t see.
And now the question is, would all this have been achieved by a failed leadership? Except if the word ‘fail’ has now got an inverted meaning. No reasonable person can blame this government for the causes of our present predicament, which are purely and simply external! No one prayed for Ebola to come. Ebola, unlike the SLPP and the war, was not created by the APC. Of course the SLPP, with the guilt of having created the war haunting them, had thrown the same accusation on the APC when Ebola started. They shouted that there was no Ebola, and that it was a strategy of the APC for political/electioneering purposes, causing many innocent people to die in vain as communities resisted efforts by health workers to save their lives. If Kapen wants a correct meaning of ‘too little too late’, we refer him to the last-minute efforts by SLPP apparatchiks trying to give the impression that they also were field marshals in the fight against Ebola. Yes, Chief Kapen, that’s the meaning of too little too late.
When President Koroma was moving from district to district in an unheard-of presidential sensitization campaign even risking his life on a rickety helicopter, that is failed leadership for Kapen and his ilk. Doesn’t he see how, at the international stage, President Koroma has not only gained the admiration of his colleague African Heads of State but also the most powerful political world leaders like President Barack Obama and outgoing UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon?
If Chief Kapen really wants a laboratory meaning of failed leadership, we refer him to the SLPP’s Tejan Kabbah – who disbanded the military and gave their powers to the kamajors, the President who knew about a coup three days before, did nothing about it, yet when it happened ran away to a foreign country (which in actual fact was his paternal home), and then ordered foreign troops to bomb his maternal home (our Sierra Leone) to smithereens even if only chickens would remain, just so that he would come back and rule those chickens. And then when the mercenary mission was accomplished, they turned on their compatriots, jailing thousands and thousands, young and old, male and female, innocent and guilty – with a broad, elastic and inexplicable charge of ‘collaborators’, bringing the country to a state of nothingness except where it had to do with the shedding of blood like burning neighbours alive with petrol and tyres. Failed leadership par excellence – and the flexibility of Queen Elizabeth’s language would allow the ironic parody. A man got 100% in failure.
If it were for the SLPP, two of the best Chiefs of Defence Staff this country has ever seen (the immediate past CDS S.O. Williams and current CDS John Milton) would have long faced a firing squad along with fine gentlemanly fellow soldiers like AK Sesay, JAS Conteh, Hassan Conteh, female officer Kula Samba, among others (two dozen in all), if those two did not run away and went into hiding. Is a country without its own army really a country? Is a government that disowns and disarms its own army really a government? There was a time in this country when how to run our affairs of state was decided in Aso Rock, Nigeria! There was a time when Maxwell Khobe was the de facto Head of State! President Kabbah said we should do this, Maxwell Khobe said ‘no, we would do it this way’! Nef-cut! And you are talking about failed leadership. You want an evidence of failed leadership, we refer you to a book written by former High Commissioner to Sierra Leone Peter Penfold who worked closely with Kabbah and ended up saying his was a classic example of how not to rule a nation (not the least for using Sam Hinga Norman as a scapegoat and sacrificing him as the black sheep of the SLPP predator family!). It’s there in black and white – Penfold’s book’s title is ‘Atrocities, Diamonds and Diplomacy: The Inside Story of the Conflict in Sierra Leone’. And that’s the leadership that the SLPP is glorifying as the best, and painting the APC under President Koroma as the worst. Come on, ‘let bears and lions growl and fight, for it’s their nature too…” Isaac Watts’ poem continued.
Of course Sierra Leone is not totally out of the woods yet, as President Koroma keeps saying. We are a developing country. Even developed nations are never totally out of the woods. We live in a global village and we know what is happening around the world. Recessions, austerity measures, rising costs of standards of living are the order of the day – which was another reason that caused the drop from our fastest-growing-economy status by way of the fall in the international prices of iron ore which we have in abundance, the exporting of which was greatly cushioning the economy. There are certainly areas that need greater governmental attention like water supply in the city (because pipe-borne water is now returning to provincial cities after decades of neglect), agriculture, fisheries, and tourism. We cannot live in a country that has six months of rainfall, abundant arable fertile lands, sitting by the Atlantic Ocean, and with arguably the finest beaches on planet earth and not make use of those God-given blessings to the fullest. The government can do more, needs to do more – any government anywhere should always want to do more for its people – but not on the basis of what the SLPP is saying in the manner of the gasps of a dying elephant.
The SLPP talking about corruption? Come on, bring another story. When the then head of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Val Collier took the fight against corruption at the SLPP government’s doorsteps, they hounded him out office. When the man indicted a sitting government minister, all hell broke loose and he was summarily dismissed for not obeying his master’s voice. Compare that to President Koroma giving autonomous powers to the ACC, allowing his ministers to be arrested, brought to court, tried, found guilty, and sentenced! Chief Kapen, stop basking in the beauty of the SLBC whose television station was practically dead and buried under the SLPP. Please, chief, go sit at home and tell Temne stories to your grandchildren! Stop exposing yourself to public ridicule!
Apparently, the chief doesn’t even know that what President Koroma’s government has done in what is being bandied around as ‘austerity measures’ is actually a commendable stride. The government didn’t say it was cutting the salaries of teachers or nurses or police officers or civil servants or soldiers or of parliamentarians or of public servants in general. After all, that’s what the oil-rich state of Saudi Arabia has just done due to the tough economic times. But President Koroma’s government has cut down on the benefits due ministers. That is a bold step worth complimenting by a patriotic opposition. But, o ya, what we have in our hands is only the SLPP, an opposition enmeshed in bickering and delighting in mathematics that doesn’t add up. No wonder their immediate past Bank Governor, who we have always known and was receiving salary and now continues to collect pension as J.D. Rogers, publicly said on Radio Democracy 98.1 that those were not his initials but his name was actually, spelling it letter by letter, ‘Jayde’ Rogers. SLPP den nor sabi lie sef!Perhaps he doesn’t want us to know what the ‘D’ stands for, but all official files bear his name as James D. Rogers! Or is it the case of a man having faked his name, and by extension his credentials, and would have actually been guilty of a Freudian slip on radio? We have to check! And Jayde (a strange name in Sierra Leone) would have been our Finance Minister had Maada Bio won in 2012– according to a leaked list that did the rounds in Freetown after the elections.
The SLPP are so narrow-minded and desperate that if a hurricane should hit Sierra Leone today (God forbid), they would blame it on President Koroma. After all, Ebola was by and large a natural disaster, because it’s a disease – a new disease for that matter, previously unknown at such a scale by the whole world and for which the best scientists on earth had not found an agreed cure. ‘O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts, And men have lost their reason’, to quote William Shakespeare.
Clearly and simply, even at this moment of great trial for the leadership of President Koroma, the APC is still far better than the best SLPP. There is currently, and in the foreseeable future, no alternative to the APC in ruling Sierra Leone. The SLPP’s preferred candidate, Julius Maada Bio, is a baggage of maggots (‘it is all rottens and tumbu is comoting’ ha ha ha). We just witnessed last Friday how his main challenger Kandeh Yumkella was again subjected to ridicule by the so-called grassroots, who are actually pa-o-pa – those who in the SLPP’s 2011 Convention reportedly held hostage relatives of delegates, threatening to kill them on the phone if those delegates didn’t vote for Maada Bio – causing many among its ranks, including Usu Boie and John Leigh, to leave the party with further accusations of juju and witchcraft being displayed, thereby earning the SLPP the nickname of “Satanic Lasmamy People’s Party’.
Sierra Leoneans will definitely never allow the NPRC tormentor to rule them again with memories of public floggings, Bambay Kamara-like killings without trial, and looting of state coffers still haunting them. We may be poor, but we can only allow the birds of prey to fly over our heads but we can’t let them build nests there. The people overwhelmingly rejected Bio in 2012; they will overwhelmingly reject him any time the ballot box is brought before them again. Bio has been trying to clone his image by attempting to clothe himself as a born-again politician; but the people can tell when a wolf is wearing sheep’s clothing. No matter how it dresses itself, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck. We have not forgotten the heavily tribal-laden campaign Bio led in 2012, and we can still recall his militaristic effrontery of blocking the presidential convoy at that time in a bid to cause chaos if President Koroma had not displayed maturity and gone high when Bio went low!
Bio’s fellow SLPP flag-bearer contestant Andrew Keilli has just reminded him in his ‘Ponder My Thoughts’ to go read the latest edition of ‘Africa Confidential’ (which used to be a favourite magazine for pro-Bio tabloids but are understandably quiet this time) and answer a few questions raised about his integrity or credibility in the way he has been supping in his borrowed robes.Monkey norba lef e black hand! Let’s listen to the music again in President Kabbah’s own words: “Another instance of the reckless and irresponsible manner in which the affairs of state were conducted by the NPRC regime is in the granting of a general power of attorney to Steven Bio, the brother of the erstwhile head of state and government, to conclude all and at his sole discretion, as the accredited agent of the government of Sierra Leone. By virtue of such unusual authority, Steven Bio concluded a number of contracts running into tens of millions of dollars. There is no evidence that most of those contracts have been performed but Steven Bio has already been paid millions of dollars on them and he is claiming further amounts as arrears of payments… Furthermore, in his capacity as Chairman of the NPRC, Brigadier J.M. Bio himself on the 1st February 1996, few days before he left office, caused the government to pay into the account of his private firm, P. Banga Investment Limited the sum of Le235,000,000.00 in respect of contracts that that firm had purportedly entered into with government for the supply of spare parts for the replacement of helicopter engines which did not belong to government. Incidentally, it was into the account of this same firm in the Channel Islands that Brigadier Bio paid his own share of US$400,000 from the passport deal which was disclosed recently…” Ha ha ha SLPP Chairman Chief Kapen, those who live in rented glass houses should not throw stones!!
One thing for which we would always respect Pa Kabbah was that he realized his mistakes in the end and by way of penance swore not to hand over power to his own party, the SLPP. He ignored Maada Bio’s alleged tantrums that there was a gentleman’s agreement to hand over power to him because he did the same for the SLPP by betraying and overthrowing his boss Valentine Strasser, then got forced by the people to abandon his ‘peace before elections’ campaign, forced to conduct elections after unsuccessful attempts to cower Chief Electoral Commissioner James Jonah, and Bio’s soldiers opening fire on polling day, and at the last minute stole the victory of John Karefa-Smart and handed it over to Kabbah with the Kailahun- court-barry baggage of over-voting.
We would always respect President Kabbah for not handing over power to the SLPP, for looking at the cabal surrounding Solomon Berewa and saying, “No, these are not the people for a better Sierra Leone”. He gave them lukewarm support and refused to interfere with the electoral commission. So they lost woefully, genuinely! That was a great move by Kabbah – too little too late for those who perished under the SLPP-created war, but better late than never for the country as a whole. Because, if had not done that, by now we would not be talking about austerity measures, but about a country once called Sierra Leone – for she would have virtually been lying in total ruins right now. Kabbah came to realize belatedly that only the APC can transform this country, at the back of the knowledge that the foundation stone for Sierra Leone’s transformation was laid by the first APC under President Siaka Stevens.
And it has turned out that the new APC under President Ernest Bai Koroma is the best government ever in post-Independence Sierra Leone – Ebola or no Ebola, austerity or no austerity. If what these SLPP guys are allowed to say today was said under their regime, be sure of ending up in jail as either a collaborator or an enemy of the state. Ask Paul Kamara. Ask Philip Neville. Ask Sheka Tarawalie. You can even ask Tam Baryoh. Ask I.B. Kargbo. Or Ask Vice President Victor Foh who was sentenced to death for being a ‘collaborator’. Thank God, President Koroma has brought freedom and good governance!
Therefore, in a nutshell (as APC USA strongwoman Hawa Yansaneh would put it), the worst APC is still far far far better than the best SLPP. We should not really be bothered when dogs are chasing cars that we know they can’t drive. So, we dae send am go dong! For we are sure that, after austerity – with a history of resilience, phoenix-like – Sierra Leone will rise again in pursuit of the Agenda for Prosperity under the astute leadership of President Ernest Bai Koroma! Lontha ka rabai!!
© The Torchlight newspaper